Monthly Archives: January 2015

This Post Has Absolutely No Theme or Flow and Almost No Shoes

As has become my routine in the last month, Friday morning I was on the 7:15  bus going to the train station for my trip to Shanghai. The infamous #97 bus goes past Jiaxing University. I guess classes were over in anticipation of the winter holidays which, depending on where you are, start tomorrow for most and next Monday for us. Anyway, 21 students (I counted them when we got off) got on the bus with suitcases which looked too heavy for most humans to lift. The first one moved about 40% of the way to the back (Ed.note: Not even as far as the exit), stopped, put her suitcase down and stood there. This of course caused a chain reaction with the rest of them stopping and taking up the space. Now, you have have noticed in previous photos that Chinese buses have two steps up to the last 5 rows of seats. These seats remained mostly empty, since there was no way these kids could have ever lifted those suitcases up the stairs. This was okay though, for two stops, since no one else got on. However at the third stop about 5 people – all older than me had  to step over or around the chaos to get to where those empty seats were. I must say, they all did it without complaining or commenting to the kids – even smiling. I am pretty sure that would not have been my reaction!

Just try to get through!

Just try to get through!

I’m in the cab from downtown Shanghai to the train station – about a 35 minute drive. You know how satellite radio has stations devoted entirely to Jimmy Buffet or The Grateful Dead or 1960 Rock? Well in Shanghai they apparently have one entirely devoted to

That’s right for the entire time I was able to listen to one rendition after another after another… of Moon River. Now I have always like the song and I think my Mom was secretly in love with Andy Williams, but come on thirty-five minutes – and they were still playing it when I got out.

After listening to Andy et al, I went to the wicket and asked for a ticket to Jiaxing. The agent said “No seats, only standing” I said Ok and she punched up a ticket for 28.5 RMB and I say “What about First Class?” She says “Wait a moment” punches up a first class seat for – ready? 28.5 RMB.   TIC!

Also at the train station was this young woman. She must be some kind of animal lover. Sorry, she wouldn’t stop so I could get her in focus.

Tiger Bag and Leopard patten coat and matching hat.

Tiger Bag and Leopard patten coat and matching hat.

These two were parked outside our apartment the other day. Is BMW copying Ford’s style lines or is the other way around? And maybe it’s time to take the bar code off the window?

Which is which?

Which is which?

When I had my little health thing back in October, one of the people who showed up at the hospital was the Minister of Education for the province of Zhejiang, who is also a parent of Crystal, a wonderful girl we had in our class last year. She told Terry then that when I was better she wanted to take us out for a meal. Yesterday was the day. It was a lovely lunch with, as usual, way too much food, but kind of amusing as well. We think she might have been a little nervous about going out with us alone – her English is good but not great, so she invited some extra people who we knew from the big school. There were supposed to be 8 of us, but sadly, yesterday morning three of them informed her they couldn’t make it. Nice. But we had a great time anyway with some of the best food we have had in Jiaxing.

Yaoyun Wu and Terry at lunch

Yaoyun Wu and Terry at lunch. While I was in the hospital Yaoyun also brought me some of the best chocolate I have ever eaten.

One of the things that drives Canadian teachers crazy is that the education bureau does not publish a yearly calendar of holidays etc. (Ed. note: In BC it is laid out out 5 years in advance) They just let you know as the time approaches when it is. For example, our Winter holiday was supposed to be Feb. 1 to Mar. 5 but then it was changed to March 6 and then the Chinese staff was told it wouldn’t start until Feb. 8. Bizarre, I know and like I say it drives people crazy. Why do I tell you this? Because after lunch, as Mr. Zhao (Chinese vice-principal) is driving us home he informs us that it is Yaoyun who makes all the decisions on when holidays are, how long they are etc. etc. He couldn’t have told us this before? We’ll have the last word though. When Crystal comes home from America in June, Yaoyun has invited us to her home for dinner.

My fixation with the parking in the bus terminal continues. They have added a big red STOP sign at the entrance to the  lot – which is an interesting, but clearly ineffective place to put it.

My fixation continues

See that lone bus up there? It has stopped between the two rows of parked cars

There was a farmers market at the mall yesterday which was apparently very tiring. Yes, they are both asleep.

Mother and child

Mother and Child

The Shoe Blog

There are no shoes for today, but you must watch this video.

Be sure to make it full screen and turn up your speakers!

 

 

He’s Not The Man He Once Was

We are glad to hear that people are starting to read the French series – we know you will enjoy them.

It has been quite a few days here in Merry Olde Jiaxing. Geoff had his final day of teaching on Tuesday. It has just been too tiring to go into Shanghai three days a week for rehab and also teach, albeit minimally, on the other two days. He is just too old for this so, once again, he is retired. He is pleased with the progress being made with the workouts, though. Between the treadmill, the bicycle, the stationary core work, he is up to losing the equivalent of 600 calories each time. It is hard work though so I hope the benefit to his heart is also happening.

Last night (Tuesday) he was in to see the neurologist. Here’s the problem with using the internet to diagnose medical issues. He has hand tremors which have gradually worsened over the last couple of years (Ed. note: No problem holding a glass of wine, though) and he has restless leg syndrome. Combine those two and the Internet diagnosis comes in at Parkinson Disease. After a series of tests (Ed. note: follow the pen, add these numbers, walk heel to toe – geez, sounds like ones to see if you are sober), the neurologist says no Parkinsons – just aging. That was a relief to both of us.

Chinese buses often have a couple of seats near the front which look to the back. This woman could not stop looking at Geoff – neither could she stop talking to her husband – despite the fact that he slept for almost the entire 40 minute ride.

I know her mouth is closed in the photo, but believe me, it was pretty much the only time.

I know her mouth is closed in the photo, but believe me, it was pretty much the only time.

Some more signs around the complex which brought you the indecipherable “Dreams China – Annals Deposit Lofty” come these three. My Mom used to say “Who has more fun than crazy people?” We’re thinking maybe Chinese to English sign translators?

The one on the left at the bottom says "Hundreeds of Major Brands"

The one on the left at the bottom says “Hundreeds of Major Brands” and don’t forget to Bring a Fancy Show With You” ????????

For those who have seen “The Bottle Opener” (on the right for those who haven’t), otherwise known as the Shanghai World Financial Centre and visited its 100th Floor Observation Deck, well there’s a new tallest in town. The Shanghai Tower will be 128 stories and top out at 2073 feet or 632 metres. Anyone for a race up the stairs? We hope that it will be finished and visitable before we leave.

The newest tallest building in Shanghai

The newest tallest building in Shanghai. They are basically right across the street from each other so there isn’t much of a distance perspective issue here.

Last night Geoff was in downtown Shanghai and had about 35 minutes to get to the doctor’s office which was 6.5 miles away and in heavy, heavy rush hour traffic. He hailed a taxi and even though all of its signs said it was available, the driver said “No” (Ed. note: Then turn off the stupid lights!) Anyway, the guy on the right below was right behind the taxi, pointed at him and then the back of his scooter. Geoff showed him the address, the guy said 50RMB and away they went. The view on the left was pretty much the view they had as they wove in and out of the traffic. And given that it was January it really wasn’t even that cold. They got there in 30 minutes.

A good way to get around

It was a lot of fun – saw parts of Shanghai he had never seen.

After the Dr.’s appointment it was off to stay at Shelley, Rob, Matthew (7) and Zander’s (5) for the night. Now, the boys were quite excited to see Geoff and share many of their toys with him, but his highlight was listening to the adjective Shelley used – FREQUENTLY! – to describe their new pet – Bolt.

Welcome Lightening BOLT

Welcome Lightening BOLT

Here’s the story of Bolt. Matthew’s entire class was invited to a birthday party on Sunday. They had a really good time and not only did they have food and games, there were prizes. When Rob and Shelley showed up to get Matthew, he said he had won a prize, ran away and – came back with Bolt and the cage.  Apparently the parents of the first two kids who “won” Bolt were at the party and provided a couple of sketchy reasons why they couldn’t take him. Rob and Shelley have learned their lesson – always stay at the party! As Shelley said, several times over the course of the evening “Who gives f+%^ing animals away as prizes to 7 year olds?” Aaahhh …the Chinese? (Ed. note: I am still laughing!)

Okay – why is Geoff not the man he once was? Well he has permanently changed his look, thanks to A Tao.

A

A

A Tao

In his own words:

For a few years I have thought about getting a tattoo and after my heart attack I decided that this would be the perfect time. I asked a young teacher in Shanghai where to get one done and he said that Shanghai Tattoo was very good and very professional. Off I went. I talked it over with Lili the owner and told her I wanted it to say “Made in China”. (Ed. note: I have looked over the blogs we wrote around the time of the heart attack and can’t find the story which explains why. Feel free to skip over this if we did and I missed it.)

Short Version: While I was on the operating table Terry was asked which stent she wanted them to use – the Chinese one or the Western one, which cost about 8 times as much. She told them the Western one and then went away to the waiting room. She had barely sat down when the guy came running in to the room and said “Sorry, but we don’t have that size in stock. We will have to use the Made in China one.” So…

Made in China where X marks the spot

Made in China – where X marks the spot for the stent insertion. The top two characters say “China” and the bottom ones are “Made In”. A took this right after he was finished, which is why there is redness around it.

A took about 10 minutes to do it and it really didn’t hurt. Is this the first, last and only – or the first of many? Stay tuned – we are off to the Philippines, you know.

The Shoe Blog

Most of the women here are wearing variations on a theme these days – black boots just to or just over the top of the knee. These are blindingly white.

Hightop, White and Furry

Hightops, High Soles, White and Furry

 

 

 

Sequins and Bubbles – oohhh…

To begin this post, a recommendation. I have just finished this series. Started the first on (In The Woods) on Dec. 30th and finished the fifth (The Secret Place) on Jan. 17th. Now, I know have more time than most of you, but that still is fairly quick for 5 books. Terry is also enjoying them. You can read them out of order, but they really should be in order as each one builds on a character introduced in a previous book. (Ed. note; Geoff may have liked them because when he did a quiz on FaceBook about finding his Inner Nationality, he came up Irish.) Strangely, I thought the last one was by far the best, but it gets fewer Amazon reader stars than the previous ones. Go figure.

The Dublin Murder Squad Series - From Publishers Weekly "Irish author French expertly walks the line between police procedural and psychological thriller in her debut."

The Dublin Murder Squad Series – From Publishers Weekly “Irish author French expertly walks the line between police procedural and psychological thriller in her debut.”

Terry’s Walk

Terry took these the other day on one of her walks in the neighbourhood.

Doesn't everyone cure their sausages and dry their game on the sidewalk.

Doesn’t everyone cure their sausages and dry their game on the sidewalk.

Then she came upon this fellow. Need keys cut? He claims to be efficient and cheap, apparently, and he has his happy wife keeping him company.

Nice hat...

Nice hat… and that’s an interesting way to hold a newspaper.

Trains, Buses, Subways, Scooters

This drives us crazy. When you get to the Shanghai train station there are hundreds of seats – but half of them hold people’s stuff, which they are really reticent to move so that people can sit down. We have both started to be more aggressive about making people move their bags so that we can sit. They do so, reluctantly and with thoughts of “White Foreign Devils” clearly running through their heads.

On the subway, I couldn’t resist getting a picture of these two gentlemen in their matching faux fur jackets.

Where did you get yours?

Where did you get yours?

How many of you have ever ridden a subway? They may be fast, they may be efficient, they may be crowded or the may be empty. One thing they NEVER are, however, is smooth. They LURCH! Didn’t seem to bother this woman, though. She came on, got out her mirror and began to do makeup and lipstick.

PLEASE smear that lipstick all over...

PLEASE, PLEASE  smear that lipstick all over… Ah no…

I watched this guard the other day outside the office. First he shoved that 2 x 2 through the spokes of the scooter and then stood and looked at it. I thought he was trying to figure out if that would stop the owner from driving away. Hey you never know. But no, he was waiting for his partner to come along and help him lift and drag it about 30 feet away to where others were parked. Strangely enough I have often seen the guards dragging them AWAY from where they dragged this one to. Sometimes you can park there, sometimes you can’t – it all depends on which guards are on duty.

Lift and tote..

Lift and tote..

So they build this fancy area for #97 buses – same area frequently used by cars. Maybe this driver didn’t get the memo that he is supposed to park ON THE OTHER SIDE of the island.

"Parking area? I thought that was for cars"

“Parking area? I thought that was for cars”

Aahh, Shanghai taxi drivers. Saturday we were in Shanghai for a friend’s birthday lunch. Had a great time at Shanghai’s Best Mexican Food Restaurant – Maya. (Ed. note: No, I have no idea how many Mexican restaurants there are in Shanghai..). We caught this cab at the train station and as we pull out of the underground he puts his hat on. I’m thinking, oh he is getting ready for when we are in the sun and the brim will block it out – good thinking. No, when we got out into the sun, it was coming from the right hand side of the car. Oh well. We told him where we wanted to go – showed him the address in Chinese and everything. The Best Mexican Food Restaurant in Shanghai is not far from where we usually stay, so we know the way very well.

"Like the cool way I wear my hat inside the taxi?"

“Like the cool way I wear my hat inside the taxi?”

As we are driving along the highway, he signals to take an exit – No, No I say Jing-An Temple. Yes he nods and away we go.

The red - where we went - the green - the way we should have gone.

The red – where we went – the green – the way we should have gone.

When we get to the restaurant, he knows we are pissed off and that we know how he should have gone. So, to be fair, he reduced to fare to what it should have been. So either

  1. He didn’t know Shanghai as well as we did or
  2. He knew he was in deep s*&t for ripping off the foreign white devils – he knew we had taken down his number.

Public Humiliation?

Think of an indoor strip mall with a Safeway or Save-On foods as the anchor. That is what RT Mart is. You go inside to get to it and you pass 6 – 8 little shops inside. Just inside the doors on Friday is this little shop. I think it is into body stuff – lotions, shampoos etc. Anyway, apparently they do other things – lance boils, pull back hair out, make you look like a cartoon dog…and they do it all right out there in the open and right across from where you can buy hot dogs, waffles, ice cream – something like an Orange Julius! Looks like she is having the time of her life!

"Stab me, paint my face, and put me right out there for all to see."

“Stab me, paint my face, and put me right out there for all to see.”

The Shoe Blog

Two… uh … treats for you today.

The other day after my rehab. session, I treated myself to a nice lunch of spicy prawns and rice in a rather upscale restaurant – Bellagio. How do I know it was upscale? Well, first, check out that name and second, where else would you find a thirty-something year old woman wearing sweat pants like these?

Have you ever owned sequinned sweat pants?

Have you ever owned sequinned sweat pants? At least she has high tops!

And finally another entry from our guest blogger Becky. I don’t know if these are:

  1. 3-d water droplets
  2. painted on spots or
  3. Diamonds on the Tops of Her Shoes.

    Nice cozy fur tops though.

    Nice cozy fur tops though.

 

Whoops – Geoff Forgot to Change the Name

(Ed. note 1: Please accept my apologies. We were waiting for photos. Happy New Year wishes are belated by real.)

(Ed. note 2: Before Terry gives you some valuable information, let me tell you that on Dec. 20th the 5 staff of BCOSP plus Kris (Andrei’s girlfriend and Geoff) had the best staff Christmas party ever. We laughed, drank, ate, drank, played Charades – Kris’ first time and she is GOOD!, drank and exchanged gifts. We also had an ugly sweater contest. Now I am not biased, but I think I should have won! What do you all think?)

I'm not saying that personal feelings entered into the voting, but how does the guy on the right get First AND Second while the guy on the left comes in Third!! The fix was in folks!!

I’m not saying that personal feelings entered into the voting, but how does the guy on the right get First AND Second while the guy on the left comes in Third!! The fix was in folks!!

A great Shanghai Christmas spent with friends, Rob, Shelley, Matthew and Xander. Real turkey and stuffing for dinner, our first traditional Christmas meal in three years. Wonderful meal, wine and company!
Thanks, Rob and Shelley, for including us on this special day — and Christmas Eve.

Matthew, Xander, Shelley and Rob. Great kids, great food, great wine, great Christmas! Thanks again.

Matthew, Xander, Shelley and Rob. Great kids, great food, great wine, great Christmas! Thanks again.

We decided to stay an extra night in Shanghai to celebrate our 14th wedding anniversary with a hot stone massage at Dragonfly Spa and dinner at Bukhara, an Indian place in Hongqiao. Nice!

90 minutes of total aaaahhhh!!!

90 minutes of total aaaahhhh!!!

Perfect timing -Terry's (sorry - Jan's) old ones were just about done!

Perfect timing -Terry’s (sorry – Jan’s) old ones were just about done!

In Jiaxing, I have taken to riding the community bikes, back and forth to work, to the market or just for fun on the greenway or downtown. The weather has been perfect for it, bright and sunny most days. I find myself thinking, “Here I am riding a bike around a city in China and feeling quite at home.” It is still surprising after all this time and yet so common. I ride up to my orange man who parks his truck loaded with fresh mandarins along the sidewalk and he gives me a bag full of oranges for Y5–$1. I have to park to go into the fresh market to buy the rest of my vegetables and the people there also know me. It is surprisingly easy to get by with almost no Chinese but lots of smiles. RT Mart (Da Ren Fa) is madhouse on weekends so I try to get there after school to buy fresh pork (Ed. note: For an interesting and disturbing article on China and pork see “Swine in China” – thanks Ken) —our man there catches my eye and gestures to the tenderloin and ground, which he knows are our staples. Lately, they have had scads of fresh clams of many varieties, which I scoop up and dump into a bag, sans ceremony, unlike the local beside me who examines every clam with care. From there, I loop around and ride home, depositing the bike right outside the gate to our complex. Pretty handy, and since I have had to park and re-rent, I haven’t used an hour so no charge at all. Pretty nice!

One day I rode downtown and discovered that half the main drag is closed for about 10 blocks for resurfacing. Imagine doing that in winter when the roads aren’t clogged with tourists! It might not work on most of the TransCanada or the I-5 but it’s as cold here as Vancouver in winter and seems to work. Give it a try, Gregor.

I am still continuously amazed at the old juxtaposed against the new in China. High end imported cars drive by vendors selling baked yams out of old portable ovens stoked with wood.

Stoke that fire Zhou Su!

Stoke that fire Zhou Su!

Workers in a sparkling new mall sweep their areas with self-made grass brooms and wash their clothes in the sinks of the modern washrooms. Horrendously heavy trucks pull up to our park piled high with small bundles of turf tied with plastic which they drop to the sidewalk so women pushing ancient wheelbarrows can take them away and pat into place. Old people eschew the community bikes for their old beaters, which are inevitably rusty and nearly brakeless but reliable. Every sunny day, modern apartment buildings bloom with colourful quilts hung out the windows to air and street-side, undies and bras share make-shift lines with jeans, shirts and sometimes, fish. It is to wonder.

The natural way to dry your clothes.

The natural way to dry your clothes.

We still can’t use our TD Visas anywhere in Jiaxing – and many places in in the international cosmopolitan city of Shanghai!

We are taking a beating on the Chinese Yuan. When we arrived, we got 6 to a dollar. Now we are down to 5. Ouch! What’s going on? Is the CAD tanking or the RMB going up? (RMB, Yuan, Kwai—all same same. Like dollar, buck, bill.)

And finally, I have realized that all property in China is in fact “borrowed earth.” When an area gets run-down and is in the way of the modern, people are moved and their building destroyed. Slums disappear overnight and wait for the next round of structures but I still marvel at the incredibly green gardens that are in full flight in December all over Jiaxing, wherever there is earth to be planted. It is a way to ensure that all people are fed but I like it for the beauty and ability of the Chinese to be self-sufficient. Hard work is part of life for the elderly, for it is always they who work the hoes to break up the clay-earth for planting. Life is hard, we say in Canada, but it seems a lot harder here if you are our ages. If not gardening in public spaces, you are raising grandchildren. It is your duty! Yikes. “Sorry, I’m going golfing.”

Everywhere they can, the locals plant vegetables. What you can't hear is the freeway about 30 feet the other side of the elderly man.

Everywhere they can, the locals plant vegetables. What you can’t hear is the freeway about 30 feet the other side of the elderly man.

The Shoe Blog

These puppies were on the subway. We went four stops and that right foot never moved. Must have some strong calf and thigh muscles…

The Coureur de Bois Look

The 2015 Coureur de Bois Look

The Most Interesting Blog In The World

Okay, maybe this isn’t the most interesting blog in the world, but I wanted to come up with a catchy title for you. We we went into Shanghai to meet a couple of young friends for lunch on the weekend. Lindsay and Mason are working in Qingdao for the year. We were to meet them at noon and at 11:20 they phoned to say that they were on the way to the Canadian Consulate – Mason had misplaced his passport. He lost it during a pub crawl on New Year’s Eve. Now, you need to know that it is almost impossible to move around China without your passport – no planes, no trains, no hotels – maybe bus and hostel at best. It was interesting to watch Mason deal with it – I would have been beside myself but Mason was (externally anyway) totally cool and relaxed with it. I always thought that the Canadian Consulate/Embassy was there to help Canadian citizens.  This, apparently is not the case. Although the website says that if you lose your passport you are to go to the nearest office, once you get to the Shanghai consulate they tell you that you have to go to Beijing. They were definitely not helpful.  While Mason was filling out the police report his friends checked out the last pub they had been at – and guess what – someone had turned his passport in! Alls well that ends well! (Ed. note: This is the abbreviated version. Also, if you go to the consulate site, it seems that their job is to encourage tourism in Canada and to tell visitors how safe Canada is. Your tax dollars at work.)

Mason and Lyndsay in Shanghai

Mason and Lyndsay – What? Me worry?

The other morning I followed this woman out of the apartment. She was wearing one house set and carrying the jacket of another. She had on rubber boots and was carrying a number of bags of miscellaneous stuff. Then she got into the Lexus. Moral: Don’t judge a Chinese person by what they wear.

"I have at least 2 house sets... and a Lexus"

“I have at least 2 house sets… and a Lexus”

On the bus the other day this little guy fell asleep. His grandmother is just gently holding him. How he managed to stay asleep in that position is beyond me – but now I understand when the Chinese start learning to sleep on the subway, on the sidewalk, on the scooter…

Sleep Training

Sleep Training

Also on the bus is this guy. We got on near our house, drove to the Grocery store across town – 30 minutes – spent 30 more minutes shopping and got back on the bus to come home. This young fellow was on when we first got on and still on when we came back. What is he doing? Watching a movie on his phone. I guess Mom told him to go outside…

The Most Interesting Movie in the World.

The Most Interesting Movie in the World

The two girls across the aisle got on the bus with me to go to the train station. We are sitting near the front. They drop these bags on the aisle and proceed to laugh about it. Everyone after them had to step over the bags. Thoughtful.

Don't move my stuff!

Don’t touch my stuff!

You know how at airports and big train stations they repeatedly tell you not to leave your belongings unattended. Well, these belongings were left unattended at the Hongqiao Train Station for a minimum of 10 minutes with no one anywhere near them. On the other hand, they are bags of LOVE.

Are these your belongings?

Are these your belongings?

Do you remember this photo? It was on the last blog and I asked how long this “Bus Parking Only” would last. I took it on Dec. 29 at 3:30 pm.

Bus Parking Only?

Bus Parking Only?

Jan 1, 2015 at 12:20 pm:

Well..At least they are sharing it.

Well..At least they are sharing it.

This is one of my favourite poster ads. I have no idea what they are advertising.

O

The short person on the left has a one piece bathing suit and a man’s face – while Lenin looks on. There must be something immoral here somewhere!

The Shoe Blog

Just outside Starbucks the other day.

Another Chinese Allstar

Another Chinese Allstar