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A Crazy World

It’s a Crazy World out there.  We do things very differently here.  Last week end Kim and I went to the Fabric Market to pick up her new shirts and coat.  We decided to go down to the Cool Docks for a nice dinner.  
There were no taxis to be found anywhere and the subway was not convenient for us at this time.  The only transportation around was a tuk tuk. These are actually quite rare in Shanghai.  We have not once seen a rickshaw while we have been here.  A tuck tuk is the motor cycle version of a Rickshaw.  It is a three wheeled Suzuki motorcycle with a two person bench strapped on the back.  Drivers are not licensed and may not even have a drivers license, but will drive around and pick up tourists.  There is no meter so you have to negotiate your own fee.  We told the guy where we wanted to go and of course being white here in China the fee was ridiculous so we passed.  He bugged us for another 40 minutes while we waited for a cab.  He bottomed lined at 15 yuen and we were only willing to pay 12.  Now this may sound very cheap to know that we were arguing over only 3 yuen ( about $0.25) but we knew a cab would be about twelve and his machine didn’t look that safe.  Finally he gave into our twelve kwi demands and we were stuck.  It was only a ten minute ride.  The was no covering, no helmets, no roof, just a bench on the back of a motor bike.  We climbed in and started out.  First thing we noticed was that it’s very cold at night when you are riding a motor bike.  It wasn’t cold out, just cold on the back.  The second thing we noticed that traffic lights for a tuk tuk are considered suggestions and stopping is an option that this driver was not prepared to consider.  Every intersection was a red light for us and we never stopped once.  His plan of attack was to watch as he drove thru.  If there was no car coming great we just ran the light.  If there were cars coming, he would turn in that direction and join the flow, pull a U-turn and take a right turn so he would have negotiated the intersection without having to wait.  Every sharp turn meant the tuk tuk went up on two wheels and Kim and I supported the process by leaning in the appropriate opposite direction to avoid flipping the bike.  After a ten minute roller coaster ride thru Bund traffic we arrived at our destination cold, but with no broken bones.  We gave the guy the full 15 kwi.  That was our way of saying thanks for not killing us!  Sorry there are no pictures, but we were to scarec to pull out the camera!
The field trip we talked about last blog finally came and went.  Wednesday morning I heard a rumor that the field trip was going to happen on Friday.  I went to the liaison and asked.  He didn’t know either.  I am sure he is quite embarrassed about this.  He recognizes my frustration about last minute surprises and not being included in the decisions about what happens to our kids.  I suppose I should be happy that someone else has taken this decision away from me.  It was a school field trip and buses were ordered and I had nothing to do with it all.  I guess 26 years as a school administrator makes it difficult for me to give away that much power.  I will live with it.  We loaded our buses about 8:00 and arrived at the animal park about 9:00.  We drive thru the park and saw the sea lion show and are done about 10:00.  The animal park was much better than the Shanghai zoo.  Conditions for the animals are much better.  They have more space and the visitors don’t have the opportunity to feed or tease some of the animals we saw.  There were cheetahs, lions, tigers, and bears (oh my!). Camels, deer, gnu, wildebeasts and peacocks, emu and a variety of birds.  
 A curious Grizzly bear checks out our bus.
The only disconcerting thing we saw was the feeding technique.  We were in the lion’s area and noticed one very large pig that was nervously making his way around the compound trying to avoid the inevitable.  The cats all seemed to ignore this pig as they were probably full.  I am quite glad we did not arrive at dinner time.  We have been really blessed with beautiful weather since September, only 4-5 rainy days with the majority being sunny and clear.  This day however was rainy and quite cool.  It was miserable.  Students were told they could stroll around the park and look at the shops which were mostly closed and to meet back at their buses at 1:15.  Teachers were asked to get on a bus and we would be leaving the park to get some lunch.  You can’t help but ask.  Are there any teachers staying behind to supervise the 750 high school students in the park? No!  Where will they eat lunch?  They can buy some from the shops.  The school vice principal was with us as well as the teachers .  So we leave about 10:15 and go off to a hotel and eat in their restaurant.  We were quite surprised to find that this hotel may very well be the same hotel that caters to the TV program Fear Factor.  They served a variety of different foods that we are not used to as North Americans.  We tried most of the food.  Some delicious others an acquired taste.  
Check out our lunch.  Try to guess before you read what it is.  Scroll slowly.
Glazed Roast Pigeon
Pig’s Ear
These are eggs from some bird that have been buried in the sand for 40 days until there is a chemical change and they turn blue with a gelatin covering .
Spicy Squid with onions in a hot sauce
We spent 3 hours in the restaurant eating our lunch, drinking Chinese beer and playing card games while our poor students froze outside in the animal park.  One girl was cold so she took a taxi home, got warmed up, then took a taxi back to ride the bus back home.  When I asked the kids what they had for lunch most of them ate chips and chocolate bars with pop because that was all they could buy.  One girl shared her sushi that she brought from home with others.  She had brought her own lunch because she had been on field trips before.  Not much more to say on this.  
Finally, I want to share a cultural event we saw on the downtown streets of Shanghai.  When a loved one passes it is tradition to get some colored papers and light them on fire and pray for the departed.  As best as I understand it, this is not only a great way to pay your respects, but also helps the departed move quickly into the next world.  With some of the poorer people they cannot afford to buy the colored paper so they use what is on hand. So here I look out of my window and there in the middle of the downtown is a fairly large bonfire on the sidewalk made up of styrofoam casings, cardboard boxes and some garbage that needed to be disposed of and a number of Chinese gentleman praying around the fire.  Waiting patiently beside them is my favorite street cleaner who always greets me providing I am not with Kim.  She figures I might get in trouble.  She waits until the fire is out and sweeps away the cold ashes so traffic can continue.  I was surprised that there no fireworks.  Firecrackers and fireworks are very common here. They signify a birth, a wedding, New Years, any holiday, a store opening or a sale, a party, but apparently not a funeral.  
The Cool Docks at night.
One last exciting note.  Kim has outdone herself researching our winter vacation.  We get three and half weeks off in January-February and we are booked into  a trip to Thailand.  We will spend three nights in the Capital city Bangkok and 14 days on the island of Koh Samui, Thailand, which is a well known tropical paradise! Can’t wait!

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