Category Archives: Jiaxing Living

These blogs describe our daily life in Jiaxing.

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

Things that make me go, ”Hmmmmm”…….and “Yay!”

Things that make me go, ”Hmmmmm”

April 20th we went with the entire staff and our student body to a place where, we were told, we could have a mass BBQ. It was not our idea because what do we know about such places; however, it was terrific—fun, educational and with lots of food. So here’s the thing: the name of this place translates to Plum Island. It is famous for, wait for it, peaches. People apparently come in droves just a week or two before we were there to view the lovely peach blossoms. Nor is Plum Island an island. It’s an old village with authentic buildings, an orchard, greenhouses, and a covered area for BBQs. Hmmmmm.

A sampling of the fare

A sampling of the fare – fish, tofu, shrimp, wieners, chicken

BBQing is the man's area of expertise - even in China

BBQing is the man’s area of expertise – even in China

BBQ fish starts off this way ...

BBQ fish starts off this way …

...and ends up like this.

…and ends up like this.

An old village in the heart of Jiaxing

An old village in the heart of Jiaxing

Inexplicable signs: MadameNarf is a women’s dress shop. Hmmmm. Magic Li has the best store name in Jaixing—Li is pronounced Lee, ergo Magically. Sadly, I don’t know what he does or sells but love the name! And it does make me go Hmmmmm.

Magic Li (Ed. note: Get permission from Magic Johnson?) is not just an Internet Coffee House, but a COMPETITIVE Internet Coffee House

Magic Li (Ed. note: Get permission from Magic Johnson?) is not just an Internet Coffee House, but a COMPETITIVE Internet Coffee House

Who wouldn't buy from Snimay Integrated Wardrobe. And who is Snimay?

Who wouldn’t buy from Snimay Integrated Wardrobe. How would you like to be Sammy Snimay – or Susie Snimay? And what is an Integrated Wardrobe?

Madamnarf? Madam Narf?

Madamnarf? Madam Narf?

At soon to be completed apartment complexes, they always have retail shops at street level. They put names of prominent products implying those companies are moving in. Never happens.

You also will see Stoly, Bacardi, Grand Marnier, Coach, Nike etc etc signs above empty shops.

You also will see Stoly, Bacardi, Grand Marnier, Coach, Nike etc etc signs above empty shops.

Don’t know what Misch Masch will sell.

Real store? Miscellaneous goods?  Or just can't spell ?

Real store? Miscellaneous goods? Or just can’t spell ?

And then there is

Titty

There is a “saying” in Jiaxing that addresses the changeable weather of Spring: “You put your coat on, you take your coat off. You put your coat on and you take your coat off. You put your coat on, you take your coat off, you clean your coat, you put it away. You take your coat out and put it on.”  Can all “sayings” be this long? Hmmmmm.

Things that make me go “Yay!”

The community bicycles have been upgraded! A lot of the old ones were seriously damaged– pedals bent, wheels wobbly, seats that could no longer be adjusted. These new ones are terrific because the frame size is a good 8″ longer than the old ones and much more suitable for the likes of me.   Mind you, young people are growing bigger, now that there is no shortage of milk and other healthy foods (Ed. note: KFC, McDonalds, Subway etc.).

A new community bike.

An old community bike.

Another new community bike.

A new community bike.

We may finally be finished with winter. It’s been warm and looks to be seriously moving in the direction of hot. If so, I may have put my coat away for good. We should see a week or two of great weather before the humidity hits and then we will be complaining about the humidity. But Yay! No more multiple layers!

The Shoe Blog

Another contribution from a loyal reader. Thanks Rich.Gnomes

Don’t think I have showed you these yet.

The Chinese women - and I - like red. Mao's colour, you know.

The Chinese women – and I – like red. Mao’s colour, you know.

Happy New Year

Well here we are – December 31, 2014. On the verge of another wild New Year’s Eve in China. Last year we were on the way to Macau with Ken and the year before in Shanghai. Tonight it is just the two of having a curry for dinner and then working on the jigsaw puzzle I got from Shelley, Rob and the boys for Christmas. I am going to break out and have more wine tonight, though.

Terry is just finishing up her blog and we will be taking some photos tomorrow to add to it, but I want to get rid of all the remaining 2014 photos, so here goes.

Signs of China

"Appreciating the beauty of Dress with coffee" What more could one wish for?

“Appreciating the beauty of Dress with coffee” What more could one wish for? (Ed. note: Why capitalize ‘Dress’?)

And literally right across the alley from “Appreciating” is..

Want to know what Pully sells? Well just trip on over to pullpully.com. (Ed. note: I would be interested in your opinion of the website.)

Want to know what Pully On Demand sells? Well just trip on over to pullpully.com. (Ed. note: I would be interested in your opinion of the website.)

Please help me. What do you think

Please help me. What do you think “Annals Deposit Lofty” could possibly mean? Dreams China is the name of the apartment complex being built behind the fence.

Hmm. This is another sign for an apartment complex so I'm not thinking there will be a golf course there. Plus the Chinese think only REALLY rich people play golf, so I don't know who this is aimed at. (Ed. note: I was the model for the golfer on the left)

Hmm. This is another sign for an apartment complex in central Jiaxing, so I’m not thinking there will be a golf course there. Plus the Chinese think only REALLY rich people play golf, so I don’t know who this is aimed at. (Ed. note: 1. Geoff was the model for the golfer on the left. 2. Terry thinks the guy in the middle has a Gumby arm and Geoff thinks he is swinging a cricket bat.)

Terry and Friends

Terry and a Short Santa in Shanghai

Terry and a Short Santa Bear in Shanghai – She couldn’t find anything in Old Navy

Terry and Rudlolf in Shanghai

Terry and Rudlolf the Red Nosed Bear in Shanghai

Listen to ME!

Chinese Domesticity?

Chinese Domesticity?

I was in a Shanghai Starbucks killing some time before my cardio rehab appointment on Monday. First of all, this woman got on my nerves because she was in front of me at the till and was talking on her phone instead of ordering. I finally caught her eye and she moved aside so that I could order, which I did. She then hung up and wanted to put her order in and pay before me – that wasn’t/didn’t happen. Then she went and sat down with a man. I don’t know what their relationship was, but for the next fifteen minutes – right up until I left, he berated her – and in the Chinese way, not quietly. Her face for the entire time was what you see in these two pictures – except for when she just looked down. She never said a word. Now, I left at 10:15 to get to my 10:30 appointment and when I came back past the shop, from my one hour cardio at 12:20 (Ed. note: Yes I know – but this is China and 1 hour can easily be 2 hours) they were putting their coats on to leave. I wish I had been able to stay and see if she ever spoke.

Grand Mercure Shanghai Hongqiao Hotel

This is the view from the 22nd floor (Ed. note: Actually the 20th since there is no 4 or 14). At the bottom is the restaurant. I thought it might be interesting to jump and land in the buffet. Surprisingly, Terry didn’t agree. That painting/mosaic on the right goes all the way to the 28th floor (Ed. note: Actually the 25th, since there is no 4, 14 or 24).

Look down, way down

Look down, way down

For Judith

I took this picture especially for you Judith. You were amazed at how the streets are so clean – and it is all because of this woman – and thousands like her. They each have a block or two and they are constantly sweeping up the leaves and litter. Must be like painting the Sydney Bridge.

She saw me taking the picture and smiled - I know it but it is hard to see behind the mask.

She saw me taking the picture and smiled – I know it but it is hard to see behind the mask, but look closely – those eyes are twinkling.

Travelling in Jiaxing

Dad driving the kids to school - really.

Dad driving the kids to school – really.

The other morning on my way to the bus I spotted this car. The hood was stone cold at 7:10 am, so he likely had left it there – in the middle of the road all night. (Ed. note: Just ahead of it you can see the median.)

"Parking, 50 cents" - where is that line from?

“Parking, 50 cents” – where is that line from?

This bus turnaround has just been completed. Apparently, it is for one bus – the 97 which goes back and forth to the train station. Seems like a lot for one bus, but on the other hand it is where we frequently see 3, 4 or even 5 #97s lined up waiting to go. I also wonder how long before the Chinese drivers start parking their cars here. They consistently park everywhere and anywhere and . (Ed. note: See previous photo.)

Bus Parking Only?

Bus Parking Only?

Okay, I am walking bag from getting train tickets today and I come across these cars parked on the street. What is so special about them? Well, if you look at the bottom right photo there is a red dot. That is where the first ones were (photo 9, bottom left). Distance to where I took this photo is about 100 yards. Photo 4 – top right is actually two photos, both Mercedes but different cars. Photo 5 – middle left, has 2 Mercedes in the background and photo 8, middle right is the Audi in the foreground. There are 14 luxury cars here: 8 Mercedes, 3 BMWs, 2 Audis and 1 Lexus. Although I wouldn’t say this is a normal sight, it isn’t unusual either.

Is Jiaxing a wealthy city?

Is Jiaxing a wealthy city?

Terry’s Pastime

Terry has just finished this 1000 piece puzzle. Good job!

Terry has just finished this 1000 piece puzzle. Good job!

The Shoe Blog

First we have a guest contributor. Becky Block, one of the new teachers on staff (Ed. note: And one of the finest young teachers I have come across in my long and semi-illustrious career) spotted these in the airport on her way back from Chengdu. Thanks Ms Block

Straight from Chengdu, home of the Pandas

Straight from Chengdu, home of the Pandas

And now, the final shoes for 2014 (Ed. note: Now actually they aren’t the last, since there are a pair in Terry’s upcoming blog, but they are already in place and if we had taken the photos earlier this week that blog would have already been posted so they really don’t count. Get it?)

From Marks and Spencer cafe. This woman didn’t look too westernish too me but they were quite the boots.

Yipee Kay Yay

Yipee Kay Yay

We are now 4 hours and 30 minutes from 2015. Terry and Geoff want to wish all of you happiness, peace and good health for this year and the many years to come. We cannot tell you how much our friends and family mean to us. Being this far away has only reinforced our feeling for you all.

Happy New Year

Please click to view

(Ed. note: From 1947, this is the only version of this song worth listening to, by the only person who could perform it properly. Although the video which goes with it isn’t what I would have chosen, it is still a good set of photos of the most beautiful woman in the world in 1947.)

Geoff Writes a Bad Word – I Guess

A little story for you to shake your head at and some leftover photos.

Our good friend Tim from South Carolina turned us on to a guitarist named Joe Bonamassa awhile ago. In my limited knowledge about music talent i.e. I have none, he is fantastic. I bought his Live album and play it – a lot and I mean a lot. For example, today I have been working on a 1500 piece jigsaw puzzle and I put it on. When I came to the cut India/Mountain Time I put it on repeat and played it 5 or 6 times – and I could likely do that with every cut. He is a bluesy, Allman Brothers type of guy. Terry says he reminds her of the late, great Jeff Healey.

Anyway, knowing how Paul loves the guitar, I mentioned him to Ingrid while Paul was away. When listening today, I thought why not send him one of the cuts (Ed. note:I know I know but if he buys the album because of being introduced to it by me, that’s a good thing. Right?) So I write a nice email, congratulating him on his recent golf success and then detailing why I have attached the music and hit send. Right away I get a message saying “This message may contain inappropriate content or terminology”. Hmm, I think Big Brother IS watching. So I delete the music, upload it to DropBox and go back to the message, add a line about DropBox and click send. “This message may contain inappropriate content or terminology”.

Hmm, so it was’t the music. I start deleting sentences and trying to send. “This message may contain inappropriate content or terminology”. Finally, it allows me to send it. (Ed.note: I sent all 9 drafts to myself – don’t worry about Paul’s inbox being full.)

Here is what I wrote:
Hi Paul. I hear you are an 8! Congratulations. Do you remember a number of years ago one of the shoe manufacturers had a monogramming program for the heels of their shoes? I had an 8 put on mine and I got there – so I know how you feel. It is hard work, but oh so satisfying.

I mentioned to Ingrid the name Joe Bonamassa. I have been sitting here all afternoon doing a 1500 piece jigsaw – can’t do much else. I put his album on and just love it. When I got to this cut, I put in on Repeat – I think I am up to five or six plays. I listen to it and wish I had 1/10th of his talent to play – I know nothing about guitar, but I know it is pretty damn good. I want to come over to your house next summer, put it on your system and crank the sucker right up – you do have sound proofing don’t you? 

I hope you enjoy “India/Mountain Time” (10:14)

Was the offending word Bonamassa? Was it crank? Was it sucker? I have no idea since I had to delete everything after “oh so satisfying”.

I finally wrote a short message, attached the cut and away it went. I don’t know which is worse – the fact that somehow, built into the email I use (Ed. note: hmm – it is the standard Chinese email program, but on Safari) is a cutthroat censor, or the fact that it took me so long to figure it out.
Anyway if anybody else wants to listen to this, here is 10:14 of Joe Bonamassa (Ed. note: It may take awhile to load. If you want, start it, continue reading and see what happens. Sorry)

Now the leftover pictorials.

When they got me to the first hospital, the clerk took my passport and entered my family name into the system as Jeofe. (Ed. note: Where that came from I’ll never know – let’s combine George and Geoff but throw in a J?) It will be that way forever. They CANNOT change it in the system. Thus, every time they print something off, it has to be manually changed by showing them my passport again and then it’s given an official stamp. Also, you know those racks and racks of personal files you see in Dr.s’ offices? They don’t exist here. You have your file and you take it in every time you go to the hospital or doctor. This includes any x-rays, scans etc. If you don’t take it, no service. Plus most of the stuff is written by hand and not in any computer anywhere. Better not lose it.

In China's medical system my family name will be Jeofe - FOREVER.

In China’s medical system my family name will be Jeofe – FOREVER.

We all know that smoking in a hospital is a no no, don’t we? Well, it is – and not just in Canada but at Jiaxing #1 Hospital as well. It says so on the multitude of signs all over the place. Apparently, if you are Chinese, though, you can smoke in the elevator (yes, we saw it), in the halls (yes, we saw it), and in the stairwells.
If I don't turn around, I can say I didn't see the sign.

If I don’t turn around, I can say I didn’t see the sign.

Speaking of signs:

What does this actually mean, do you think?

What does this actually mean, do you think?

Just remember, this is The Official Notice Fence!

Just remember, this is The Official Notice Fence!

Hearkening back to the No Smoking signs,

You can just use an old can...

Since the hospital won’t supply ashtrays, damn them, you can just use an old can…

...or you can take a garbage can fro a patient room and throw a little water in the bottom.

…or you can take a garbage can from a patient’s room and throw a little water in the bottom. At least they scrunched up the plastic bag insert first.

Terry and I are in our Sports Meeting Day shirts as I wait to be sprung. The grade 10 class bought these for the event. Very nice. They have your name on the back. Mine says Mr. Watt - which is an improvement over the first one that read Ms Watt and Terry already had hers.

Terry and I are in our Sports Meeting Day shirts as I wait to be sprung. The grade 10 class bought these for the event. Very nice. They have your name on the back. Mine says Mr. Watt – which is an improvement over the first one that read Ms Watt and Terry already had hers. (Ed. note: Since this photo, I am down 4.2 kg so no peanut gallery comments)

As an aside, if I do have to go back into the hospital, I am going to demand that I have a room on the 19th floor. The rooms are the same size as the one I was in – but they have only one bed – which is 1 1/2 times bigger than the normal ones. Each room has mahogany cupboards and closets, a microwave, a bar fridge, and a tv. There are 2 comfortable arm chairs in each room. The nurses on the floor have elegant pink uniforms. There is a sense of quiet and rest. No yelling – kind of like a real hospital.

They say that if you build a better mousetrap, the world will beat a path to your door. Well, Terry has written about her little visitors so she went out and got this “little” puppy. Surprisingly, she never caught one. Personally, I think it is because even if the door slammed shut behind them, they could wiggle out through the spaces. Maybe this is actually for, oh I don’t know, maybe a raccoon.

A better mousetrap?

A better mousetrap?

The Shoe Blog

As you know I am unable to get out and about, so I have to depend on others to supply me with Shoe Blog photos. For this post, Terry came through. Oh boy, did she come through. This was at Starbucks on Sunday afternoon when the temperature was only about 10º – and no, when she came through the door she didn’t have a coat on. Dani’s reaction was “She’s wearing a phone cover!” Terry said “She must be freezing” I think, if I had been there it would have been “I wonder what she is going to order?”

Gentlemen - Be sure to check out the SHOES, as this is, after all,  The SHOE Blog!

Gentlemen – Be sure to check out the SHOES, as this is, after all, The SHOE Blog! And how about the hearts on those runners and the coloured striped socks. Adorable. In fashion, this is the typical difference between women and … the other sex in Jiaxing.

Meanwhile, back in the salt mine

In the midst of this spectacular Chinese medical care we have received, we still find reasons to smile and think, “TIC!”  {In case you have forgotten, TIC = This Is China, the only plausible response to some experiences}

I had a somewhat urgent mission at school.  Some of our grade 12s are applying to American universities which require that the graduating high school have a code assigned by a board which essentially demonstrates that ours is a viable school–or something like that.  I filled out the form 2 weeks ago and started what I thought would be a fairly straight-forward process of getting it notarized.  Chandler, one of the three Chinese English-speaking teachers who work in our school, has a car so he drew the short straw to take me to the notary office and do the translation.

Trip one:  all eight chairs in the waiting area are taken and a large group crowds the front “reception” desk, where they jostle for position.  One man stands behind the desk and randomly selects proffered documents from one customer at a time.  He looks them over, loudly asks questions and decides whether they will be allowed to pass through a set of glass doors to the inner sanctum wherein reside the notaries (nearly 30 of them in all, judging by the pictures on the wall).  If not, they are apparently told to get things in order and come back.  If yes, he reaches back to a machine behind the reception desk, pulls a number from it, gives it with the papers back to the owner whereupon they join the queue  to see the notary.  It is a stressful job for this man, as you can imagine. Not everyone is happy to be told to come back.  Meanwhile, near the far end of the reception desk sits a young woman whose sole job seems to be to press the button to activate the sliding glass doors.  Not a stressful position, as you can imagine.

Chandler reaches the front of the line and attempts to explain to our man what the form is for, who I am and what I need.  He is not pleased about it, offers an opinion then calls for a young woman who can speak some English. She comes out, listens to the man, listens to Chandler, looks at me.  I smile and try to look like I could be the principal of a school.  After three or four minutes of discussion, the verdict is  that our documents –my passport, business card, application form–are not enough.  I must come back with something that proves the school is a viable operation.

Trip Two:  repeat the welcoming scene of the first experience.  We wait our turn and now proffer additional documents–a letter from the ‘Big School’ with which we are affiliated, stamped with their official red seal stating the BC Offshore School is a legal operation, sanctioned by the government of China; another letter legitimizing the Big School, dates of start-up of both schools, etc.  Another round of scrutiny precedes the call for the English-speaking girl.  This time we are told that we need to provide proof that I am the principal of the school.  We argue a bit but we know we are at the mercy of the man with the number machine.

In the car ride with Chandler to make our third trip to the office of the notary, we had a conversation.  “Chandler,” I said, “just so you know, if he doesn’t let us in to see a notary today, I am going to make a scene.”  “A scene?” says Chandler, “What is a scene?”  So, I describe in detail how I am going to make a fuss, raise my voice, maybe call a few people names, stamp my feet and in general, insist that three trips is enough and that we MUST see a notary today.  He smiles and waits a good few minutes before he says, “Do you remember the first day when we were waiting our turn, when the man got very angry?”  Yes, indeed.  It was because one of the notaries had come out and chastised him, saying he had let people through who didn’t have the correct papers.   I understand that his job is crazy and  highly-pressured and explain to Chandler how he could at least create some order which would decrease his stress IF he moved the ticket machine in to the reception area.  He could still retain his control but at least calm the chaos.  “Who is this guy anyway?  Is he a notary?  Is he trained? educated?  I want to talk to a notary to give and get clear direction.”  Chandler gets my point, then I say, “You and I could make a run for it when the doors open.  We could run into the nearest office and refuse to leave until we get service!” Hmmm, maybe not.

Trip Three:  welcome area, same same, but IT’S A DIFFERENT GUY behind the desk!   Chandler makes the case and we get a number!  We pass through the doors in record time and are ushered into an office somewhat reminiscent of Dickens, with papers piled high on two desks, and two notaries, presumably, looking at us.  This time I have my contract, stating that I, Terry D. Watt,  am in the principal of the school, Jiaxing Senior High School, starting 2012 till June 2015.  The Big School has provided additional clarifying documents.  I wait while Chandler makes the case, then am told that what happened would depend on whether notarizing the application form was to prove that I was who I said I was OR that I was the school principal.  “What’s the right answer?” I asked Chandler.  He told me, he told them, we moved ahead, then 15 minutes later I was told that in 15 business days, we could pick up the notarized papers.   Hold the phone!  What?!  Yes, they have to send to another department to get the correct paper to create the notarized document.  I am sure I am missing something but no, after a detailed explanation, Chandler assures me that this is the process, it must be on a particular type of paper, etc.  I looked at them a said, “Look, this is an application form.  Once I have your signature and stamp on this, I am going to scan it into my computer and email to the US.  Nobody is going to care about the paper.  The paper will never see the light of day.”  Too bad, so sad, TIC.  I am actually told This Is China, this is how it is done.  The best they can do is 8 working days.

My next big problem will be when the college code people get this letter in Mandarin and my application form, lacking a notary’s signature.

(Ed. note: You know I said updates would be irregular? Well this is the first irregular one. 

I am still at home recovering – although it doesn’t feel like recovery. I think it is the combination of the nine drugs I am presently taking which leaves my stomach feeling nauseous, although I am never sick.
On Thursday evening I felt quite a bit of pain in my chest and back so we decided to go back to the hospital to have it checked out. My blood pressure was fine as was my heart rate. They took blood and the first test one came back no problem. The second one however showed that I have cardiogenic pulmonary oedema, which, according to wikipedia, means fluid accumulation in the air spaces and parenchyma of the lungs. It leads to impaired gas exchange and may cause respiratory failure. It is due to the failure of the left ventricle of the heart to adequately remove blood from the pulmonary circulation. They kept me overnight for observation and let me come home yesterday morning – thank God, since I was coming no matter what why said. I had two terrible roommates! They adjusted my medication and told me not to drink so much water. I am assuming this will clear it up.
I am continuing to experience the same pain – although it feels more like I pulled a muscle in my chest trying to burp. It is going to be a much longer recovery than I thought, which is a little demoralising. Terry continues to be a rock through all of this.
So now you are up-to-date and I am going to rest.)

 

 

A return to Normal (Normality? Normalcy?)

(Ed. note: I think it is time to get back to the “regular” blog topics, don’t you? Enough high drama. Except for an irregular update or two on my progress and perhaps some information about my upcoming scheduled appointment to see the surgeon, we will return to where we were before all of this happened).

Despite the above, a couple of health related issues.

  1. We have been asked several times if this means we will cut short our adventure and come home. The simple answer is no. There is no reason to since I can recover just as easily here as there. Additionally, we have talked about the fabulous care I have received here. I have found out that the Jiaxing #1 hospitals has one of the top cardio units in China. Additionally, it is partnered with the top two hospitals in Shanghai and the doctors in the cardio unit regularly circulate between the three. Although it is highly unlikely I will need it again, I am thinking that if I had my choice between Jiaxing #1 and any facility in the Fraser Health Authority right now, I would choose the former – wouldn’t you? I do know Terry and I would have have a far more extensive support network at home but we have made a commitment to Cinec and we will honour it.
  2. What was the other thing? Damn, I don’t remember, but then  – I have just had a heart attack you know. (Ed. note: Terry threatens that that has a very short shelf life.)

Okay, when last we wrote we were winding down in Rome, I believe. Those of you who have visited the eternal city will likely remember it for the Vatican, the Spanish Steps, the Colosseum, the Vittorio Emanuelle II Memorial, the shopping, the restaurantes, and so much more. I can now add graffiti to your memories. To be fair, most of what we saw was in San Lorenzo. Where is San Lorenzo? Well it is about a 20 minute walk ESE of the Colosseum. During one of the economic boom cycles, the area was started as a middle to upper class residential area. However just after the boom, comes, as we all know a bust and San Lorenzo was left to fend for itself and people of a lower socio-economic standing moved in. After a period of time students discovered that they could live there cheaply and that the Sapienza Universita da Roma was there. The area looks seedy, but it was totally safe, had a great hotel and some funky restaurants (Pinsa e Buoi is there). (Ed. note: When Terry was getting her hair cut, both the stylist and the receptionist asked us where we were staying. When we said San Lorenzo, the silence was deafening!)  Nevertheless with the students, apparently, came the “artists”.

This is just old fashioned tagging - no real imagination.

This is just old fashioned tagging – no real imagination.

The next three cover most of an underpass – both the walls and the supporting columns display some artistic merit.

#3

#2

#1

This one captured my attention because of its creative location.

#8

Any – and I mean ANY – surface is prone to be utilized.

#10

And just because you have wheels, doesn’t mean you are immune.

A delivery truck

A delivery truck

All three sides of this truck were used to express this artist’s talents.

Ironically, it is a Street Sweeper.

Ironically, it is a Street Sweeper.

Finally, almost every business in Rome has these metal pull down doors to protect it at night from whoever. They also provide canvases.

#6

#7

As Terry said, how disheartening it must be to be come to work everyday and see all of this. The problem is so bad there doesn’t appear to be any kind of solution. When we say that every possible surface has been used (except the street) we mean just that. There is no untouched surface. Although this problem is largely contained in the San Lorenzo area, it seems to me that it is only a matter of time before it either becomes one of Rome’s tourist attractions or grows beyond the neighbourhood border. It was really quite sad to see.

Two signs for you from good old Jiaxing.

This one advertises wooden floors.

This one advertises wooden floors. Warm & love notes?

Apparently Higher Price is a big reason to buy a new condo.

Apparently Higher Price is a big reason to buy a new condo.

The Shoe Blog 

These are the last shoes from Italy. Beautiful - but functional to wander around the vias a Roma during the day? Maybe not so much.

These are the last shoes from Italy. Beautiful – but functional to wander around the vias a Roma during the day? Maybe not so much. On the other hand, and Mal noticed this and pointed it out to me, her matching blue suit was so tight her steps were likely only 12″ – 15″ long.

(Ed. note: It occurs to me that I have now run out of material to write about. As the “Doctor in Residence” has declared that I am limited to 2-3 short walks per day around the complex, it is unlikely that I will be gathering much new information anytime soon. Perhaps a write in campaign to get the “Doctor” to allow me out would work. Thanks for your support. Her email is tdwatt@qq.com)

Tales From the Madhouse Volume 2

(Ed. note: Anecdotal and pictorial remnants from Jiaxing Hospital #1)

Lunch at #1 Hospital

At 6:18am, 11:18 am and 4:18pm the meals are delivered to the nurses’ station. The woman serving yells out – and I mean YELLS – out something and all the caregivers come scurrying out of the rooms to get the meals. They have clearly been well trained since they all line up – just like in Canada.

My Team

My Team. Dr. Xu in the middle with Dr. Hu to her right and the rest

Dr. Xu in the middle with Dr. Hu to her right and the rest of the kids

Daily Entertainment

That would be yours truly. We have always the objects of great fascination here in China, but being a white guy in the #1 Hospital has put them over the top. First of all, it is rare that there isn’t someone standing at the (sometimes 2 or 3) just looking at me. I always wave and say Nie Hao – and they sheepishly slink away.

Then of course there is me and my daily “toilet” as they used to say. Mine consists of me brushing my teeth – and even weirder with toothpaste. Every time I do (Ed. note: I can’t get up except to go to the bathroom, so I have to do it in bed) – even if it is 2 or 3 times a day, everyone in the room stops what they are doing and watches for the duration. Ever had a number of people watch you spit into a cup? Classy. I am a fascinating tooth brusher.

Next comes eating. I am not eating whatever it is they sell off the food carts. I have two yoghurt for breakfast and two more for lunch. Terry or Becky and Dani provide dinner. It is the strangest thing. There are hundreds of different kinds of yoghurt in the grocery stores and yet it seems that the people in our room have never heard of it – in fact one of the teachers had to take Mr. Wang down to the store in the hospital lobby to show him what it was so that he could purchase it for me. Anyway, my friends are mesmerized by me pouring some muesli into one of the cups of yoghurt and eating it. They refuse to accept that I can/want to eat cold food.

Scarred For Life

The insertion point for the probe.

The insertion point for the probe. A lifetime disfiguring scar.

Politeness in Chinese Society

Remember back to when you were 5 or 6 and you slurped your soup or milk and cereal and smacked your lips or ate with your mouth open? Remember your Mom telling you to stop that? It was rude and not done at home or in public? Well it seems that in China it is rude NOT to do it. We have commented on this before, but imagine, if you will, a standard sized hospital room with anywhere from 5 – 12 people all having dinner together. They are all being polite Chinese diners.

My Watchers

Two of my attending watchers having a wee rest.

Two of my attending watchers having a wee rest.

I Am The King of the Ward

Despite, or perhaps because of all these little anecdotes, I am The King of the Ward. How do I know? I present the top 10 reasons I know I am The King of the Ward:

10. One night I got up to go to the bathroom and my caregiver was sound, sound asleep. Before I had taken two steps, the wife of the patient next to me was yelling at him to wake up and help me. If he’s not around either they will help me or not let me get out of bed.

9. Everyone who comes in looks to me for leadership – or at least as an object of curiosity.

8. When I cast a quick, but dirty eyeball at the noisy, rambunctious, undisciplined 5 year old grandchild of the new guy in the room, I hear a “Blah blah blah blah Janada (Canada)” and he is whisked out of the room and earshot by the parents and Grandma immediately, returning an hour and a half later for a 10 second good-bye to Grandpa.

7. Nurses regularly bring in 3 or 4 of their colleagues to stand at the foot of my bed, look at me and talk about me.

6. A group of nurses came in to take a photo of them “communicating” with the foreigner. It will likely be used in some kind of promotion. Sadly, no royalties are likely to flow to the King.

5. When a king has a temper tantrum, he gets rewarded. On my last night, after the lights were turned out, the new guy in the next bed (Ed. note: See #8 – undisciplined grandchild) made so much noise – knocking over a water bottle and then laughing and talking about it with his wife, answering the phone and talking for 5 minutes in the normal loud voice, talking with his wife after that, that I left (Ed. note: Ok – stormed out) dragging a chair with me into the hall (Ed. note: Probably a no no for a recent heart attack victim), taking my phone and glasses with me. After about 10 minutes Mr. Wang found Dr. Xu, Director of the Cardio Ward and they found me a bed in a classroom, where it would be quiet and I could have the best sleep of my stay. Now, I know that many of you think that a true king would have just had the guy executed, but since the heart attack I have become more a benevolent “you’ll get yours one day” kind of king.

4. The Minister of Education brought me flowers and chocolates.

3. The “leader” of the company that provides the nurses aides has been in twice to have her picture taken with me – the second time she took off her jacket and sat/cuddled up on the bed for the photo. Some might think she was hitting on me.

2. The nurses feel badly when they stick two needles a day into my belly. I won’t share the photos – apparently they are disgusting, but I have a bruise 2 inches in diameter on either side of my navel.

 

And the number 1 reason I know that I am The King of The Ward

 

  1. Everyone laughs at my jokes.

 

The Shoe Blog

We return to the outside world with a pair of pretty cool shoes which are adorning Terry’s feet.

These babies are shiny

These babies are shiny