Category Archives: Cultural Observations

On Taxis, Trains, Buses and Planes

(Ed. note cum Side note: Since I have now officially taken over the writing of this blog, it is no longer appropriate for the asides to be known as Ed. notes, so I have changed it to Side Notes. These are still critically important, yet mostly irrelevant asides which should be shared with you, but don’t necessarily connect directly with the main thrust of my point.)

Well here we are again, spending more of someone’s inheritance, just to make ourselves feel better. We are on Westjet Flight 1876 headed for 10 days in sunny Maui. How good is that!  Photo 27

Being the frugal-minded souls we are, rather than paying for Park ‘N Fly, we took a cab from our house to Lougheed Mall to catch the Skytrain down to Waterfront Station. This gave me an excellent opportunity to compare, in a fair and unbiased manner, transportation systems in Vancouver and Shanghai/Jiaxing.


  1. In Vancouver (ok, ok, Port Coquitlam) you can call a taxi and book them in advance. I did this at 11:00 am for a 1:00pm departure from our house. At 1:05 I called to ask where it was. “Hmm, oh yes I see. Ok. He is on his way and will be there in just a couple of minutes.” Now right then I knew we were in trouble. No one EVER says, “I see. Ok” in a good way. Five minutes later he shows up. He drove a maximum of 5 km/hr below the speed limit, stopped at every yellow light and charged us $42.00. (Side note: I went online for interest sake checked how much a cab all the way down to Waterfront Station would cost us. It said 30km and $70.00. Either we got ripped off big time or – unbelievably – you can’t believe everything you read on the Internet.)
  1. In Shanghai you can’t book a taxi in advance, they drive like maniacs, may or may not stop to pick you up and arbitrarily add money to the meter if it is night time, raining or some other reason you can’t understand because they only speak Chinese and I don’t. (Side note: Come to think of it, the meters are like the white lines on roads and traffic lights – merely suggestions to be followed – or not)

Skytrain/Shanghai Subway

  1. Where to start? Skytrain moves people from A to B. It runs on rails. Since the majority of the line is outside, the views are spectacular.
    Ok - so my photography skills don't match my writing talents...

    Ok – so my photography skills don’t match my writing talents…

    In Vancouver, the Millenium Line has cars which are about one-third the size of any Shanghai subway car. The majority of the people in our car were Chinese (Side note: I am not being racist – I recognized the language, even if I don’t speak it, so there).

  2. "So I'm blonde and not Chinese, who really cares?"

    “So I’m blonde and not Chinese, who really cares?”

    There are two – maybe three cars to a train. The cars hold maybe 50 people sitting and another 50 standing and run every 6-7 minutes. It cost $2.75 to go from Lougheed Mall to downtown. I understand that the “honour” system of paying is going away. Now they have actual turnstiles into which you will eventually put your ticket when you enter or leave. I say eventually because right now the turnstiles are wide open. Apparently it will take Vancouverites another month to learn how to use them. What they will learn then that they can’t learn now is beyond me. Is this just another example of how incompetent Translink is? Close the damn turnstiles!

  1. Shanghai Metro moves people from A to B. It runs on rails. It is 99% below ground – no views. The other 1% just has apartment towers and smog to see. The majority of the passengers are Chinese. (Side note: I am not being racist – we were in CHINA!) Shanghai subway trains are 16 cars long. They hold 60 – 80 people sitting and another 150 – 200 standing. You do the math. They run every 5 minutes. You can go from one side of Shanghai to the other – a trip of about 1 ½ hours on the subway for about $1.00. There is no honour system and they use the “tap-in tap-out” method quite successfully. God help the person who tries to jump the turnstile.


  1. You may still be wondering why we left PoCo yesterday for a flight today and took Skytrain to Waterfront Station. Good observation. Our very good friend Ken lives a 5 minute walk from the station, so we stayed overnight at his lovely home (Side note: Thus avoiding paying for Park ‘N Fly! YES!). In order to enjoy the “downtown experience” we took the bus from outside his front door to the Fifth Avenue Cinema and then back (Side note: We went to see Spotlight. A little background for you. I have a belief in God – whatever He or She may be and a healthy respect for what churches, all legitimate churches, try to offer their congregations. Ken and Terry don’t necessarily share my beliefs. Based on these differences, I thought we might come away with a little bit of interesting dinner conversation. Spotlight is the true story of the uncovering of a major scandal within the Roman Catholic diocese in Boston at the turn of the century. [Seems weird to say that about the year 2000.] Anyway, I came away stunned at what was discovered. Perhaps even more disturbing than what they discovered in Boston, was the list of incidents shown at the end. I cannot recommend this movie enough. If there aren’t at least 62 Academy Awards out of this then it is fixed by you will know who! This was a story I was totally unaware of ie Boston. It still gives me goosebumps thinking of it. GO! Anyway I digress – back to the buses.)

    A Fantastic Movie! GO!

    A Fantastic Movie! GO!

Vancouver buses are clean, comfortable, convenient and quiet. They cost $1.75 a trip if you stay in one zone. You may exit from either door on the bus. They only stop if someone is either at a stop or someone pulls the little cord. (Side note: Last time I was on a Vancouver bus was almost exactly 50 years ago – same cord!)

  1. Chinese buses. Hmm. Sort of clean – when the driver decides to use his dirty mop and dirty water to “mop” the floor and no Grandmother has held her grandchild over the litter basket to do either #1 OR #2. I swear. (Side note: Want proof? Search “images chinese kids poop on buses”) Sort of comfortable – if you aren’t forced back into the final row with about 6” of space between your head and the ceiling or 30 university students going home for a holiday don’t get on with their luggage and fill up the aisle. Convenient – I’ll give them that – lots of them, they go to lots of places with minimal transfers, lots of stops and generally on time. Quiet – not a chance in hell. First, anytime answers their cell phone, it is with “WEI!”. (Side note: I said this while I was chatting with a woman who came from Hong Kong 15 years ago and I thought she was going to wet herself. It is absolutely universal in the Chinese culture) The rest of the conversation is at just a few decibels lower – I mean the only people on a bus who didn’t know what they were talking about was us. Additionally, if you are sitting at the front and I am at the back, who cares – let’s chat/yell. The bus stops at every stop – whether or not there is anyone there or not or whether or not anyone on the bus is planning to get off. There is no cord. You may ONLY exit through the back door – God help the poor foreigner who has the audacity to try and leave through the front. On the other hand a trip anywhere in Jiaxing cost you about 23 cents.


  1. We are flying on Westjet. First of all – THEY LEFT ON TIME. There were no – “We are just waiting for a few more passengers” or (1) “Last call for Mr. Geoff Watt” (2) “Last call for Mr. Geoff Watt” (3) “Last call for Mr. Geoff Watt” (4) “Last call for Mr. Geoff Watt” (5)“Last call for Mr. Geoff Watt” (6) “Last call for Mr. Geoff Watt” announcements – You get the idea.

Since the flight was full, they asked if anyone wanted to check their baggage at the gate for free to create additional overhead space, it would be greatly appreciated. We did.

They announced even before we boarded that we could use our cell phones/tablets/laptops as long as they were in Airplane Mode and that there was Internet available for a small cost onboard ($4.99 for 30 minutes or $7.99 for the entire flight).

I thought I had purchased a couple of sandwiches but when the flight attendant came by, it appeared I bought them for the flight home. No matter, here are two on Westjet, since I wasn’t grumpy or snarky with her. Just imagine. (Side note: ie. the free sandwiches, not me being grumpy or snarky)

  1. We have flown China Eastern, China Southern, China Western, China Northern, Air China, China Air and every other possible derivation of Air, Direction and China. (Side note: We flew so much while we were in China, that this morning the US Customs officer, when he looked through our passports trying to find a blank page, commented that we travelled a lot. He stamped the last one!)

Anyway, THEY WERE NEVER ON TIME. eg “We are just waiting for a few more passengers” or (1) “Last call for Mr. Geoff Watt” (2) “Last call for Mr. Geoff Watt” (3) “Last call for Mr. Geoff Watt” (4) “Last call for Mr. Geoff Watt” (5)“Last call for Mr. Geoff Watt” (6) “Last call for Mr. Geoff Watt” – You get the idea.

We often – and I mean often, had to wait for at least 30 minutes to turn any and every kind of electronic device on and then, just as often, had to turn any and every electronic device off 30 minutes before they even started their “final approach”. That final approach must have put us on glide paths so shallow that we skimmed treetops for 15 minutes before the runway.showed up. (Side note: I know what I mean – you figure it out)

Internet? LOL

Check your carry-on baggage? How the hell do you check 27 bags of Duty Free plus carry-ons plus clearly oversized baggage – let alone oversized carry-ons?

Purchase edible food before hand? If only! We often had trouble eating anything even included on our flights.

Well there you go – a fair, balanced and equitable perspective on two transportation systems.

Chambar - GO!

Chambar – GO!

(Final Side Note: If you find yourself downtown looking for an excellent restaurant, GO to Chambar on Beatty Street at Dunsmuir. Ok, maybe you better find yourself downtown looking for an excellent restaurant after making a reservation. Ken made the reservation on Monday morning for Wednesday evening and it was either 6:15 or 7:45*. It is superb – not inexpensive, but superb. Now we have been away so it may be old hat to all of you, but we thoroughly loved it. It is essentially a Belgian theme – tons of beer offerings and 4 different Moules Frites dishes. So of course, I had a Beety – a fantastic beet juice based cocktail. Terry had Moules Frites Vin Blanc, I had Moules Frites Congolaise and Ken had Sturgeon with a description so long I gave up trying to follow what the server was saying.. As they say in China – A Delicious Meal! Then go next door to the Devil’s Elbow for a drink and some great music! I want to move downtown but more on that in a moment.

*As I said, we stayed at Ken’s. He has a spectacular home overlooking the water in Gastown so we walked back to his place, a total of 6 blocks. I was amazed at the number of packed restaurants and cool looking bars on a chilly Wednesday night in late November at 9:30. As I said, I want to live downtown. I suggested to Terry that we could sell and then rent and move every three or four years to a different area of downtown. Gastown, Yaletown, False Creek etc. After considering my idea for a good 3.2 nano-seconds, she said no. Sigh.)

The Shoe Blog


This is a Public Service Announcement!

One of the positives of travelling ANYWHERE in the world with the exception of the UNITED STATES OF AMERICA is that you are NOT required to remove your shoes. However, when travelling to the Home of the Brave, Land of the Free but Afraid of the Syrian Refugee, is that you do have to take your shoes off. Now, when you are older (like, say, 64) and struggle with back issues and are unable to bend over and tie up those shoes once they are off, you wait until you are able to sit. If in the interim you have a choice to take a people mover/moving sidewalk or walk, then walk. Otherwise, when you come to the end of said people mover/moving sidewalk, your untied lace will catch between the bed and the cover, causing you to come within a hair’s breadth of falling flat on your face, much to the very vocal amusement of the 20 or so people in line at Tim Horton’s (Side note: Why? They are the servers of the world’s worst coffee)

My dear Grandmother used to tell me to tie my shoes. Now I know why.

My dear Grandmother used to tell me to tie my shoes. Now I know why.


Ok – next issue: (Bearing in mind both Terry and I have been to Hawaii once each and I was in 1986) All About Maui!





In light of the horrific weekend in Paris and Beirut, here are some interesting statistics and some articles on terrorism.

Children dying from hunger/poor nutrition/water-related issues: on average 1 child dies every 10 seconds, all day, everyday or 3,000,000 per year

In Canada, the 2015 projections indicate that 214 people will die of cancer everyday or 100,740 this year

In the U.S., in 2012, alcohol-impaired driving crashes killed 28 people everyday or 10, 322 in total

Gun related homicides in the US average 9 people per day or 3348 per year

Terrorism is Overblown

You Don’t Want to Read This

Western Vulnerability

Terror Can Be Beaten

Terrorism is defined as attacks by non-state actors for political or other unknown motives. There were 39 countries where terrorism occurred in 2015.   The 4 “Western” countries are in bold. There were 289 attacks up to and including November 13. In the 289 attacks a total of 2332 to 4332 people were killed. This discrepancy is because although there were 100 fatalities, caused by the Boko Haram when they opened fire on northern Nigerian village, there are up to 2000 are missing.

Afghanistan Iraq Philippines
Australia Islamic State Republic of Macedonia
Bahrain Israel Saudi Arabia
Bangladesh Japan Somalia
Bosnia and Herzegovina Kenya South Korea
Cameroon Kuwait Syria
Chad Lebanon Thailand
China Libya Tunisia
Denmark Mali Turkey
Egypt Niger Ukraine
France Nigeria United States*
Germany Pakistan West Bank
India Yemen

*The attacks in the US were the mass killings in Charleston and a killing at a free speech conference.

And now for something completely different.

The Return of The Shoe Blog

This is actually a wine bottle holder.

This is actually a wine bottle holder at Home Outfitters. Christmas idea, Terry…

This is actually a wine bottle holder.

Living In a World We Can’t Grasp

(Ed. note: 3 disparate perspectives today)

Sam Jones, Kareem Shaheen in Beirut
Friday 11 September 2015

As neighbouring nations struggle to cope with scale of crisis, agencies report that Syrian refugees stranded in exile may go back to war-ravaged homeland.

Conditions for Syrian refugees in the Middle East are so dire that some are now considering returning to their war-ravaged homeland rather than endure poverty, hunger and a futureless exile in the neighbouring nations where they are stranded, the UN has warned.

Some refugees have been reduced to begging on the streets of the Jordanian capital, Amman, or selling flowers and living rough in Lebanon, aid workers say.

Read More…

Photoblog: Syrian Refugee Crisis

The EdmontonJournal sent columnist Graham Thomson to Jordan and Lebanon for two weeks to witness Canadian relief efforts during the Syrian refugee crisis. The trip was partly sponsored by the Canadian Foodgrains Bank, which did not approve or review his work. He explored Syrian refugee camps and overwhelmed Lebanese villages, to report on this growing humanitarian crisis.

Click here to see some of the photos that Thomson took while on assignment.

One of the UN's 250 informal "tented settlements" in the Bekaa Valley.

One of the UN’s 250 informal “tented settlements” in the Bekaa Valley.


Don’t overstate risk of terrorism among refugees, experts say

The risk that some Islamist terrorists could infiltrate Canada posing as Syrian refugees is a valid concern but shouldn’t be overblown, say national security specialists.

“It is possible that among the stream of wretched refugees desperately looking for a way, that there might be some who aren’t exactly the people we want to bring in,” said Reg Whitaker, a security and intelligence expert and one-time advisor to the commissions of inquiry into the Air India bombing and Maher Arar affair.

Whitaker was reacting to comments Wednesday by Conservative Leader Stephen Harper about how national security will dictate the pace of Canada’s response to the Syrian refugee crisis.

“When we are dealing with people that are from, in many cases, a terrorist war zone, we are going to make sure that we screen people appropriately and the security of this country is fully protected,” Harper said at a campaign stop in Welland, Ont.

“We cannot open the floodgates and airlift tens of thousands of refugees out of a terrorist war zone without proper process. That is too great a risk for Canada,” he added during a question-and-answer session.

Harper’s remarks continue a security narrative the Conservatives launched after the fatal terror attacks by ISIL sympathizers in Ottawa and Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu almost a year ago. National security is a key plank in the party’s election platform.

But the government should not be presenting refugee resettlement here as an either/or option with anti-terrorism efforts, says Scott Watson, an associate professor of international relations at the University of Victoria.

“I think it’s possible to do a large-scale operation of assisting refugees that (also) has a thorough screening component for security reasons, if there was enough political will to do so. I think both can be done,” he said.

“The vast majority of the people have no interest in contributing to further violence. There could be a couple of people who are sympathetic to ISIL coming in, but if there’s proper security screening and proper integration once refugees are brought into the country, I don’t think it’s something we need to be concerned about.”

Besides, “there’s much better ways for them (ISIL) to do what they want to do than to use refugees as the means of doing it,” said Watson.

He and Whitaker have done extensive research on the rise of national security fears that have accompanied concentrated waves of immigration to Canada. Harper’s framing of the Syrian refugee crisis in security terms is similar to concerns, ultimately unfounded, that communist infiltrators would accompany the arrival of Hungarian refugees to Canada in 1956, or with the Cambodian and Vietnamese boat people in the late 1970s.

Whitaker concludes many refugee groups now tend to be seen as importers of external political conflicts to the West.

Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) officers overseas are responsible for much of the security vetting of refugees and immigrants. Many refugees understandably have no official identity documents. But, “you can’t go back to the Syrians or an area that’s no longer under Iraqi government control and say, ‘by the way, is Mohammed a resident of Erbil?’” said Ray Boisvert, a former CSIS assistant director of intelligence.

“You try to do your best to interview them and get a decent sense of their background and see if you can poke any holes in it.”

Boisvert, too, says the current humanitarian need outweighs possible risks from terrorism. “It is a very manageable risk if you’re conscious that there is a risk and that you do not undermine the efforts of CSIS assets to do their job in the screening process.”

Said Whitaker: “When you think about these people crossing the Mediterranean in rickety and unseaworthy boats, some of them drowning and many of them being asphyxiated in trucks, and the mobs that are trying to make their way from Greece and Turkey to Germany, and the idea that somehow through all that you’re going to get people who are carefully planted, who are then immediately going to get accepted into Canada and start wrecking havoc is just plain, downright silly.”



Dangers of Visceral Reactions

(Ed. Note: My original thought was to continue to be a glib, flippant observer of societal ills and, in fact, I was all set to publish my first post in that vein, when a friend sent me the following after an evening of discussion and wine. I will definitely be my old where did that come from self, but I think given the seriousness and timeliness of the situation I’ll start with this one.)

Perhaps we are in the midst of a humanitarian crisis or perhaps, as some may suggest, we are in the midst of a massive invasion by terrorists.  Or perhaps, most likely, it is a combination of both. It is difficult to accept that within the 800,000 refuges descending into Europe there are no terrorists. Just as there are thousands of legitimate refugees. It is easy to sit in the comfort of our homes in western Canada and express our views – but they need to be views supported by facts and not just emotional reactions. Over the next while I will be searching the internet for information about this crisis to offer you balanced perspectives on the situation. Hopefully they will contribute to good discussions. If you come across anything you wish posted, send it on to me.

Third World Invasion: Eyewitness Description, September 5, 2015

An eye-witness account from Kamil Bulonis, a Polish travel blog writer, who was present on the Italian-Austrian border on September 5, 2015, as swarms of Third World nonwhites  poured across the border to invade Austria and Germany (A translation from Polish):(Please note: all pictures from the Hungarian-Austrian border)
 Trash 02
“Half an hour ago on the border between Italy and Austria I saw with my own eyes a great many immigrants …
With all solidarity with people in difficult circumstances I have to say that what I saw arouses horror … This huge mass of people – sorry, that I’ll write this – but these are absolute savages … Vulgar, throwing bottles, shouting loudly “We want to Germany!” – and is Germany a paradise now?
I saw how they surrounded a car of an elderly Italian woman, pulled her by her hair out of the car and wanted to drive away in the car. They tried to overturn the bus in I travelled myself with a group of others. They were throwing faeces at us, banging on the doors to force the driver to open them, spat at the windscreen … I ask for what purpose? How is this savagery to assimilate in Germany?
I felt for a moment like in a war … I really feel sorry for these people, but if they reached Poland – I do not think that they would get any understanding from us … We were waiting three hours at the border which ultimately could not cross.
Our whole group was transported back to Italy in a police-cordon. The bus is damaged, covered with faeces, scratched, with broken windows. And this is supposed to be an idea for demographics? These big powerful hordes of savages?
Among them there were virtually no women, no children—the vast majority were aggressive young men … Just yesterday, while reading about them on all the websites I subconsciously felt compassion, worried about their fate but today after what I saw I am just afraid and yet I am happy that they did not choose our country as their destination. We Poles are simply not ready to accept these people – neither culturally nor financially.
I do not know if anyone is ready. To the EU a pathology is marching which we had not yet a chance to ever see, and I am sorry if anyone gets offended by his entry …
I can add that cars arrived with humanitarian aid – mainly food and water and they were just overturning those cars …
Through megaphones the Austrians announced that there is permission for them to cross the border—they wanted to register them and let them go on—but they did not understand these messages. They did not understand anything.
And this was the greatest horror … For among those few thousand people nobody understood Italian or English, or German, or Russian, or Spanish … What mattered was fist law… They fought for permission to move on and they had this permission— but did not realize that they had it!
They opened the luggage hatches of a French bus—and everything that was inside was stolen within short time, some things left lying on the ground …
Never in my short life had I an opportunity to see such scenes and I feel that this is just the beginning.”
Trash 04 Trash 03 Trash 05 Trash 06

Final Impressions

Well this is it. Our final blog from Jiaxing, Zhejiang, China. (Ed. Note: Not necessarily to be interpreted/confused as the final blog posting.)  I debated a long time about what to call this – The Final Chapter, #342 In The ListThe Last Hurrah, The Last Good-bye/Blog/Picture Show,  (Ed. note: Strangely enough, the last two times I have been into Shanghai, I have see two people wearing a t-shirt with The Last Picture Show on it. Anyone else remember that movie from 1971? Great movie!)  And That’s The Way It Was (Ed.Note: Almost the winner), Good Night Irene, Val, Ken, Rich, Petra, etc. etc,   The Final Farewell, Turn the Lights Out, The Party’s Over, Frankly, China, I Don’t Give a Damn, and Hey, Hey, Geoff (Ed. note: Final line from Only Angels Have Wings (1939) Honest!) While there were many many others, when I went back to the first blog we wrote in China, we had started out with First Impressions, so really, there was no choice, was there?

First some observations about the Jiaxing Express itself. We have been very flattered with the comments we have received from all of you. It has been fun writing over the past three years but even more fulfilling has been reading the comments you have offered and the encouragement you have given us to keep going. Thank you so much.

The blog has evolved from mostly text-based posts with a few short, to almost a 50-50 text and photos to a largely photo-based piece of work with a little writing and captions. Maybe it just took me a long time to realise that, yes, a picture is worth a thousand words. It has been fun getting the photos and sometime down the road I hope to do something with them. In our three years here between Jiaxing, Shanghai, China and travelling we have taken over 12 000 pictures. (Ed. note: Who wants to sign up for the August 1, 2015 Slide Show first?)

We have made some good international friends through the blog. If you happen to be coming to Jiaxing and you do a Google search, the Jiaxing Express comes up quite high on the list. Even if we didn’t actually meet Sherrie and Tim via the blog, the two of you have certainly added much to our time here and also to some of the posts! Thank you and see you in Charleston!  We will definitely maintain our friendship Cheryl and Andy from Australia – Perth is on our bucket list! and we do want to get to know Iloana and Richard from Prague even better! We hope that others who come across the blog in the coming years drop us a line to let us know if their experiences in Jiaxing/China are similar.

Fun stuff – in no particular chronological order

For three years we have heard fireworks and firecrackers at all times of day and night – the acceptable times seem to be anytime from 6am to 10:30pm. They have them for births, deaths, birthdays, anniversaries, store openings, moving into new residences and likely many other reasons we haven’t learned about. The goal is to scare away evil spirits. We have no evil spirits around us, but on Monday night Sherrie, Terry, Becky, Dani, Jason, Andrei, Tim, Geoff and a cast of 10 or so neighbours gathered together in the courtyard outside Tim and Sherrie’s building to celebrate our departure. After one round, Sherrie, Terry, Becky, Dani, Jason and Andrei went up to the apartment to watch. Hit full screen, turn up your speakers and enjoy!

Our Last Saturday in Jiaxing

These three young ladies were off to lunch from their careers as “Hair washers” in the salon next to where we get ours cut, thus the similar uniforms/ They were big gigglers and kept looking over their shoulders at me, which is why I took the photo on the left. Then I thought – “What the hell, I only have two days left…” and got around to the front of them.

Not laughing now are you girls!

Not laughing now are you girls!

As we continued our wanderings we came across two municipal workers who had just got off the municipal truck to do some work on the street. As far as we know, there is no duct tape in China – Terry figures the truck was being held together with dirt.

Just another city truck...

Just another city truck…

Next up were the people trying to do their weekly shopping at RT Mart (Ed. note: Think Great Canadian) The scooters took up both sides of the sidewalk for an entire block and then went around the corner and up another block.

Scooters, scooters, and more scooters.

Scooters, scooters, and more scooters.

Then there were the cars trying to get into the parking lot. This was one of the two equally busy entrances which was being used.

With the line comes the cacophony of horns as per usual. I have yet to figure out why someone third or fourth in the line needs to honk. Both of these lines wanted in to the very full and very limited lot.

With the line comes the cacophony of horns as per usual. I have yet to figure out why someone third or fourth in the line needs to honk. Both of these lines wanted in to the very full and very limited lot.

Saturday night we had a very pleasant evening with Andy and Cheryl. Started off with a fantastic Thai meal at The Golden Thai, sitting at a table overlooking the Jiaxing Grand Canal. Overhead were several willow trees with thousands upon thousands of cicadas. Starting at exactly 6:15 and every 10 minutes their noise rose to an almost earsplitting crescendo then dropping off again. It was difficult to hear the person next to you. A couple of anecdotes.

The Jiaxing Grand Canal

The Jiaxing Grand Canal

1. Just after we finished dinner the healthiest, fittest, best fed, most suntanned middle aged beggar we have ever seen came to our table looking for contributions. We ignored him and he stood there jabbering away. I finally gave him 2 yuan to get rid of him. He looked at them and then gave me the most disgusting, disdainful look I have ever received in my long life. Then he looked closer and, unknown to me, realised that I had given him 1 yuan and 1 Philippine peso. He took it out of his plastic bucket, threw it back and walked away. Pissed off is an understatement.

2. As we were leaving I saw this woman wandering along the canal searching for something.

What could she be looking for?

What could she be looking for?

How stupid of me. Of course…

She was looking for the cicadas that had fallen out of the trees. She then collected them and gave them to one of the chefs in one of the many restaurants to fry up. Yum yum!

She was looking for the cicadas that had fallen out of the trees. She then collected them and gave them to one of the chefs in one of the many restaurants to fry up. Yum yum!

Off to Moon River Street for a beer, tea, whiskey etc. But first you get to the Chinese mime lute playing figure. Sure hope he got in before the torrential rain an hour later.

Just another painted mime playing the Chinese lute

Just another painted mime playing the Chinese lute

We returned to the Old Wood Coffee Shop and Bar. Started with a beer then I moved on to a whiskey. (Ed. note: Hey – they have Glenfarclas on the menu. I love Glenfarclas. “Can I have a Glenfarclas please” “Sorry we don’t have that. How about Glenfiddich” “No thank you” “Please wait two minutes.”) I went back to the table to see how they could make a 15 year old scotch in two minutes. What to do? Peruse the menu, perhaps.

Any ideas what spread the fish tofu is? And just how does pumpkin pie fit into this section?

Any ideas what spread the fish tofu is? And just how does pumpkin pie fit into this section?

After 2 minutes it turns out they sent someone to a nearby bar to get…a bottle of Macallan 12 year old. Not Glenfarclas, but for $9.00 a glass not too bad.

We have told you before about The Old Wood. (Ed. note: Watered down whiskey comes to mind.) However, one of the reasons we returned was to listen to David (Michael?). He is good, personable and desperate to learn more English. He even sang Bryan Adams’ “Everything I Do” for us when he heard we were going back to Canada on Monday. Then he launched into his version Dee Clark’s 1961 “Raindrops”. Might need a little more work.

We encouraged him to get rid of Kerry Underwood strutting her stuff around the stage, but apparently the Chinese would rather watch her and listen to him but not watch him. TIC

Last Thursday the school took us out to dinner for a fabulous dinner complete with toasting, gambaying, toasting, gambaying, eating, gambaying, toasting, gambaying, toasting, eating, gambaying, gambaying – you get the picture. Then we left to go to Karaoke. Now in three years, this was the first I had attended. Before we got in we passed the ever-present women who dance and exercise at night on a street corner.

Inside we got down to some serious singing.

Have you no pride, Man!

How Jiangians Spend Their Day – Or Jobs They Do.

Authorise the cashiers at WalMart to accept coupons and then collect and hold them.

Authorise the cashiers at WalMart to accept coupons and then collect and hold them.

Sell hats on the street  - but be ready to whip up that sheet and all the hats if/when the police come by

Sell hats on the street – but be ready to whip up that sheet and all the hats if/when the police come by

Deliver KFC/Macdonalds/Pizza Hut etc. etc

Deliver KFC/Macdonalds/Pizza Hut etc. etc

Sell balloons on the corner of Main Street and Other Main Street in downtown Jiaxing

Sell balloons on the corner of Main Street and Other Main Street in downtown Jiaxing

Hook up a generator and a printer on the back of your bicycle cart and then print photos from iPhones etc.

Hook up a generator and a printer on the back of your bicycle cart and then print photos from iPhones etc.

Make and sell delicious hot bread

Make and sell delicious hot bread

Sweep the garbage off your one block - both sides - over and over and over...

Sweep the garbage off your one block – both sides – over and over and over…

Sell cigarettes and lighters of course, leaving you time to get your grandchild's new sweater knitted.

Sell cigarettes and lighters of course, leaving you time to get your grandchild’s new sweater knitted.

Specialize - sell only U-shaped bike locks

Specialize – sell only U-shaped bike locks

Be a butcher - trim the fat off the meat - but keep the cigarette (blue arrow) going above it.

Trim the tough skin off red onions – but keep the cigarette (blue arrow) going above it.

Sell combs from a basket - and business isn't good, have a nap.

Sell combs from a basket – and business isn’t good, have a nap.

In this case, pick up restaurant refuse and take it who knows where. They also pick up used deep fry oil and take it who knows where

In this case, pick up restaurant refuse and take it who knows where. They also pick up used deep fry oil and take it who knows where

The Shoe Blog

Well here we are. While there may be more shoes displayed perhaps, in possible future postings, it is somewhat fitting to show you these. They are Terry’s.

The Long Awaited Debut of Terry's Handmade Italian Shoes

The Long Awaited Debut of Terry’s Handmade Italian Shoes

I An bhfuil Tar, Been buailte Chun Mo Glúine agus Tite i Grá – Ah Ireland*

(Ed. note: I started this post on Sunday while cruising on the River Shannon. After 31 hours of wakefulness from Monday morning to Tuesday night, 10 hours of sleep and a visit to the office, I will continue from our soon to be vacated home in Jiaxing.)

Last week I told you about the first few days of my Irish Experience. Today, less that 24 hours before I go back to the warmth and humidity of Jiaxing, I will tell you all about the last 8 days. 6 days of golf – 10 rounds for the other three and 6 for me.

On Saturday Lee and I wandered down O’Connell Street. This spire took the place of the Nelson Monument which was blown up by the Irish government in 1966 on the 50th anniversary of the Easter Rising. Now apparently it took 20 or 30 years to be replaced, but at least it happened and it is no longer a monument to Nelson, just to Irish – ahhhhh – creativity.

The Spire and Blue Sky

The Spire and Blue Sky – Coming from China, I don’t know which was more impressive.

From there it was off to Trinity College to see the Book of Kells, an illustrated colour version of the Four Gospels. (Ed. note: Never got arrested in China, but could have been arrested in Ireland as there are ABSOLUTELY NO PHOTOGRAPHS ALLOWED.) It is quite an amazing book, done by four unknown scribes. Every illustration on every page meant something and the illustrations were incredible. The way they corrected their mistakes was also quite ingenious – no whiteout for them.

The Book of Kells from the 9th Century

The Book of Kells from the 9th Century

On our walk, we spied The Brazen Head pub – the oldest pub in Ireland.

The Brazen Head Pub - serving continuously since 1198.

The Brazen Head Pub – serving continuously since 1198.

As we drove in and wandered around Dublin, this sign was quite prevalent. Turns out it was regarding a referendum voted on yesterday (May 23) regarding the legalization of gay marriage.

They lost. Ireland is the first country in the world to legalize gay marriage.

They lost. Ireland is the first country in the world to legalize gay marriage.

From there it was off to a tour of the Guinness Brewery. It was, perhaps, the least interesting tour I have ever been on, with a couple of exceptions. First was the fact that while there were an awful lot of people touring the place, most don’t like Guinness. With your admission ticket, you get one free pint at the Gravity Bar, on the top floor. Lee and I had three each since most people got their pint, took a sip and offered it to anyone else around. The other impressive thing was the huge marketing machine that is Guinness – if it is made, they have their name on it – shirts, hats, golf accessories, towels or on it and in it – chocolate bars, toffee, potato chips, etc. etc.

The Famous Gates to the Famous Brewery

The Famous Gates to the Famous Brewery

My free pint - ok the tour cost 18 pounds but this was free.

My free pint – ok the tour cost 18 pounds but this was free.

Some of the crowd who get free Guinness but don't drink it.

Some of the crowd who get free Guinness but don’t drink it.

Saturday evening Peter and Mike arrived and we went back to the hotel, getting there around 7. Now remember that the south/Republic of Ireland is predominantly Roman Catholic. At the hotel, which is really just a stopover from the airport, there were two communion celebrations going on. Between the two they had over 250 attendees – of which it seemed that 300 were free running children. Okay, perhaps I exaggerate – maybe only 275. (Ed. note: Yes I Know, I said 250 but I learned all about hyperbole from Terry) I would have thought I was back in China except for all the Guinness on the tables and the crying women in the bar watching the celebration of some guy named Gerrard playing his last home soccer game.

Follow the bouncing, rolling, wind blown golf ball!

Follow the bouncing, rolling, wind blown golf ball! 900+ kms and 15+ hours driving time (Time shown doesn’t include getting lost, driving back to hotels, time getting to gracious Irish hosted dinners)

The next day the golfing marathon started – 10 or 6 rounds, 9 or 6 golf courses. Peter, Lee and Mike teed off at 8am on Seapoint (Ed. note: Right next to County Louth on the map), the first of the links courses to be played.

A Real Links course - County Louth

A Real Links course – County Louth

Did you know that the term links course came from using the unusable land which linked the sea with the arable land? I didn’t. Anyway, after arriving at 6 the night before, listening to screaming kids, little sleep and playing 18 holes, by the time they got to County Louth at 12, the lads (Ed. note – one of the favourite terms in Ireland) were a tad shanked.

Wake us for our tee time, please.

Wake us for our tee time, please.

Just in case you’re lost, the signs in the clubhouse were quite helpful.

If you miss the toilets and the bar, you probably need the exit.

If you miss the toilets and the bar, you probably need the exit.

Monday we were up bright and early for the road south to the Portmarnock Golf Links Course. It was a lovely day with almost no rain, but a strong wind or, as the Irish told us, a gentle breeze. Ha. I purchased a rather fetching fleece lined top.

I subscribe to the theory that if you can't play or ski well, the least you can do is to look good.

I subscribe to the theory that if you can’t play golf or ski well, the least you can do is to look good.

This was the first course we came across gorse – which is actually the Irish word for ball-eating, arm-ripping thorn-covered bramble plant. I know many of you won’t believe this, but in the 6 rounds and roughly 800 shots I took, not one went into this stuff. (Ed. note: 1. They went everywhere else, just not into the gorse. 2. This cannot be said of the other three! Ha)

Delightful to look at....

Delightful to look at….

The Portmarnock Links Clubhouse is a fine old building dating back to the mid 1800’s. In 2002 the hotel added a new wing. Now I don’t know if the “architect” was drunk, bitter at some slight, hated golf or was just a reckon amadain but the addition looks like a prison. It has plain grey walls with windows – no colour, no balconies, no relief. One would not dare to even use the word minimalist. It is as though it is waiting for the final surface to be added. Think early SFU. I looked on the internet to find a better photo, but they haven’t seemed to focus on that part of the structure for some reason.

Sadly, it is difficult to see the clubhouse in the distance.

Thankfully, it is difficult to see the clubhouse in the distance from the 18th tee.

After that it was a three hour drive to Castlerock, where relatives of Peter welcomed us into their lovely holiday home for two nights. We played at Ballyliffin – 4 of us at Glashedy Links, then the 3 at The Old Course. To say that the weather was typical Irish weather means that we saw all four seasons in one day. There was a cold biting wind all day, hail that fell so badly Lee tried unsuccessfully to hide under a three foot stone cairn for protection, rain which drove sideways, and sun that had no impact of warmth due to the wind. Even the pro thought we were crazy to go out. By the afternoon, though, there was just mostly sun and wind.

The wee village of Ballyliffin

The wee village of Ballyliffin

This was not even as dark as it got.

This was not even as dark as it got.

Just a gentle breeze they say. The Irish are Feckin something...

Just a gentle breeze they say. The Irish are Feckin something…

If you do like the weather just wait 5 minutes...

If you do like the weather just wait 5 minutes…

Absolutely spectacular

Absolutely spectacular

Now, to be fair, at this point in time Peter has been in Ireland just about 72 hours and has played 5 rounds of golf. But still,

At least he didn't drool...

At least he didn’t drool… (5 rounds down, 5 to go and only 3 days left!)

The Shoe Blog

The Irish people are wonderful people – friendly, helpful, solid imbibers and very very welcoming. However, I was quite disappointed that I couldn’t understand them very well. I thought that their “English” sounded more like Polish. They have a very large Polish immigrant population. In fact, in walking around Dublin and hearing conversations on the street, in seemed there were far more Poles than Irish. Anyway, these two were waltzing along on Friday evening decked out to party.

Out of respect or something or other, I made the background the Polish flag. Pretty creative, huh?

Out of respect or something or other, I made the background one of the two or three official Polish flags. Pretty creative, huh? (Me, not the Poles) (Well, I’m not saying the Poles aren’t creative, but I am only talking about my creativity at this time.)


Nest time: Does Geoff get to Skerries?

St patrick Island, off the coast of Skerries from Weldon's Lane

St Patrick Island, off the coast of Skerries from Weldon’s Lane

*The Title of this post:

I An bhfuil Tar, Been buailte Chun Mo Glúine agus Tite i Grá – Ah Ireland or

I Have Come, Been beaten To My Knees and Fallen in Love – Ah Ireland

(Ed. note: At least according to Google Translate, so don’t all you Gaelic speakers come down on me – write Google a letter)


From Outfits to Shoes and All the Sights in Between

Hello. How have you all been since last we chatted? We have been well, thank you. You may have surmised that we are leading quite a sedate life here in Jiaxing, given the increasing infrequency of blog postings, and you would be correct. It now takes a couple of weeks for enough TIC moments to come together to share.

However I now have a few thoughts to share.


Here are a couple of people who thought they looked good when they left the house in the morning. The first is a 50 something woman going to the train station. Now it may very well be quite a comfortable outfit, but really…

Maybe a touch too much Paul Frank?

Oh my, maybe a touch too much Paul Frank? And do you think the plaid backpack clashes a tad?

Sadly this photo does not do the whole outfit justice. The skirt was far more “blowy” than it looks. She then plopped herself astride a motorcycle and away they went.

No - the blue is not a hat; it is just something in the background. Something tells me she wasn't happy about the photo.

No – the blue is not a hat; it is just something in the background. Something tells me she wasn’t happy about the photo.

Aaahhh The Kids

Terry and I went to get our hair the other day. This little guy was a hoot. He didn’t cry at all, but kept his eyes scrunched up everytime the stylists put the scissors in his hair and gradually lowered his torso until his head was almost touching his knees and the stylist would pull him up and start again. Amazing patience shown by the stylist!

Looked pretty cool at the end though.

Looked pretty cool at the end though.

This little guy was on the train going in to Shanghai. There is no story but check out those cheeks!

I'm thinking he is not missing many meals.

I’m thinking he is not missing many meals.

Let’s go back to the salon for a minute. This young woman is the hostess or greeter at the door. Between welcoming clients she sits on her stool and – wait for it – uses a qtip to clean her ears. Now behind her and also on the counter are piles of tea boxes which you can also purchase from the hair salon. Oh, and all those liquor bottles on the shelf and the wine glasses – just for show. Can’t even get a warm – let alone a cold – beer!

At least they are clean!

At least they are clean!

These two guys belong to a shoe maker. The cat is resting on the modem and keeping warm. The Westie was just so darn cute!

For all you pet lovers

For all you pet lovers

The User 

(Ed. note: Sorry – no photos) I was at the Shanghai train station the other day charging my phone and portable power pack at one of the power kiosks they have. I had charged it for about 5 minutes when a young Chinese man comes over and shows me his iPhone 6. Very nice – I have a 5. Then he shows me that it is almost out of power and asks if he could borrow my cable so he can charge his phone. I am somewhat taken aback, but the new flexible, sensitive Geoff says sure and gives it to him. Now my phone won’t be charged enough to get me home with my book and my reading, but one more Chinese citizen thinks Canadians are great.

The Stalker

I am at the Jiaxing train station to go in to Shanghai for my regular cardio rehab. A woman sits down on a stool about 25 feet away and starts clearing her throat. This is not an uncommon occurrence in the PRC so although I hear it, I pay little attention and don’t look up. Then she starts making unusual sounds and I finally look up to see that she is looking and smiling at yours truly. I quickly go back to my book. She is not to be ignored however and starts to yip like a little dog. Stupidly I look up and she is still looking and smiling at me. When I look down, she starts making louder attention seeking noises, but thank goodness the train is called and I am out of there.

Don’t fear – there is more.

I get on the train and settle in for the 30 minute trip. I have the window seat and there is someone next to me. About 8 minutes out of Shanghai, the man across the aisle from me gets up and moves off down the train. Guess who immediately plops herself down in that seat – and progresses to continue to stare across and smile at me. Yes. But I am okay because I am protected by my seat mate. That lasts for about 2 minutes until he decides to leave. Now she is ecstatic because she is sitting right next to me. I am less ecstatic, but manage to get a photo for you – for which she poses. On the back of each seat back is a fairly large knob for hanging your coat on. (Ed. note: You can see one on the seat across the aisle.) As we approach Shanghai – 2 minutes out, I stand up and she puts her hand on the knob blocking me from getting out. Now the people around are watching all this – waiting to see what happens. I just stand there – keeping my mouth closed and making no movement – I do not want an altercation with a Chinese woman – particularly a crazy one. After a little bit she drops her hand and moves out into the aisle. I break all the rules and go out the other way never to see her again.

She is looking at me and not into the camera...

She is looking at me and not into the camera…

What more can I say? At 63 I am still a chick magnet!

The Shoe Blog

We were in Shanghai last weekend for an admin conference – well Terry was there for the conference, I was there as a change of Starbucks pace. I took this from the Starbucks at the Shanghai Indoor Stadium – it is about the size of the Agrodome and the area around it is all these paving stones. The young woman in blue left this spot and walked all the way around it – took about 25 minutes to do. I would bet she needed a foot massage by the end of the day!

They look good with the jeans and sweater.

They look good with the jeans and sweater.

(Ed. note: Terry has promised to produce a blog this weekend regaling you with tales of the American Medical System at its … let’s go with most unbelievable.)