It is already December – I can’t believe it is here already! Christmas is coming for all of you, but not really for us! We have noticed some of the stores around Shanghai have put up decorations and messages of “Merry Christmas”, but it’s not really the same. It’s going to be a quiet one for us, as we only get Christmas Day off. However, I can’t complain because at the end of January, we will be getting 3 weeks off for Chinese New Year – this is much bigger than Christmas here, which is why we are able to jet off to Thailand for a great holiday in the sun!
A few weeks ago, we were lucky enough to pick up tickets to go see Elton John, at the Mercedes Benz Arena here in Shanghai. The arena looks like something out of Star Trek and is supposed to be state-of-the-art, but they people who rated this venue conveniently forgot to sit in the nosebleed section to find out what the sound was like! It was really cool to see Elton (he is much shorter than I thought, haaha), but the sound was terrible. Being married to a musician makes me even more critical, especially after Bruce pointed out that they didn’t even have one of the speaker banks on during the concert! However, Elton sang for 2 1/2 hours, played all his hits and entertained a tame but appreciative audience. All the people who had floor seats actually stayed sitting for most of the concert! Quite different than home, that’s for sure!
I am sure you have heard us say that everyday is an adventure here. Some are big adventures (riding a tuk-tuk at night) and some are small (eating experiences). This past week was a little stressful as we had an inspection team come from BC to take a look at how things are going with our program. Due to the fact that this is the first year for the English program at this school, it has to be inspected and passed in order to receive the BC Offshore Program status. Basically, they just want to make sure that we are doing everything we are supposed to be doing, and that we have things in place to continue this program even if we don’t stay another year. It was much more work for Bruce than me, with tons of paperwork to be organized and filed, and then inspected. However, we got great news, as we passed with flying colours and the inspection team was so impressed with everything! Apparently, in nine years they had never had a school pass without at least some things they needed to improve or some suggestions on how to do things differently! We were the first! What a relief! That night our Chinese principal took all of us out to dinner to celebrate and there we had another adventure – what food would we get? Sometimes, I think they pick the things that will freak us out the most, just to see if we will try them, and then to see our reactions. We had chicken, duck, beef and pork. That was just the warmup. Then we moved on to abalone(like an eyeball staring back at you!), goose foot(yes, you read that right….a.goose’s foot. In gravy), some pork intestine thing(a little rubbery), a huge fish, head and all, in a bowl of slimy liquid(not even the Chinese teachers touched that one!), and some stinky tofu (it tastes like it’s name, and the locals just love it). Our saving grace was that they knew it was Bruce’s birthday the next day so they bought a huge 18″ round cake for him and sang Happy Birthday! It was delicious and sure beat the red bean paste we had for desert! For Bruce’s birthday I convinced him to get a coat made – not just a regular coat, a cashmere one! It will be ready next week so I will post a pic of him wearing it next time. They are a fraction of what we would pay back home! For his birthday dinner, I am going to take him out to one of his favourites – they are opening an Outback Steakhouse right down the road from us, so although they don’t open until next week, it’s still pretty close to his birthday and he will be able to have steak, rather than goose foot for his dinner, hahahaha!
I am happy to report that we finally got our parcels sent off to both Canada and the USA. That was one of our frustrating adventures, since everyone told us not to trust China Post. We were told to go to Fedex, so we located the nearest depot to us, and took our boxes by taxi – a 40 min ride. When we got there, they told us how much it would be (2100 Chinese dollars). We only had about 1500 with us, and they wouldn’t take our credit cards. Back in the taxi to bring the boxes home and call the number they gave us for Fedex to come and pick them up. (I had tried to arrange that online, but they wouldn’t do it for me unless I had an account with them, and then they wouldn’t do it because I wasn’t a business!). I called the number when we got home only to find that it didn’t exist. Back online again, trying to find a way to contact them. Finally got a number with an English speaking person who realized what I needed. The Fedex guy showed up that night, with a scale and measuring tape, and told us something in Chinese. We did get “Monday” out of him, but I’m not sure if the boxes would go out that night and arrive Monday, or if they would go out Monday and arrive ???? Who knows? I just hope that everything is still in the boxes when they do arrive! This is what I call a small adventure – not very exciting, but in the spirit of trying to stay positive with our experiences here, it’s a way I can look back on them and laugh!
Last weekend, I took Bruce all over the place picking up little things to send back home. He got a taste of what I do near Christmas time at home, as I am usually in charge of shopping for all of the gifts – lucky guy, he only has to look after me! However, nothing makes me happier than shopping for things for other people; I love doing it and I get great joy from it. I am also very good at shopping with other people’s money – just ask any of my friends! I should have been a personal shopper for someone! I did run Bruce a little ragged that day, which may be part of the reason we are now both battling chest colds. However, we have come to the conclusion that during the day, it is warmer outside than it is in our apartment. In the area we live in (or maybe all of Shanghai?) there is no central heating in the apartments. Each room, except the kitchen and bathroom, has it’s own wall mounted heating/ac unit. If we close the doors to all the other rooms, then our living room is kept quite warm. However, with hot air blowing on you all the time, it can get too hot so we turn it off. Within 10 minutes, it is FREEZING in the room again, so back on it goes. Our walls are only covered with a thin layer of plaster, so they are cold all the time – and makes picture hanging near impossible. We have an electric blanket for our bed so we turn it on about an hour or so before we go in and take it off the bed. Our bed is nice and toasty, so we didn’t think we needed the heat on. When we started waking up in the night with runny noses and freezing heads, we realized that we need to have the heat running all night. It was as if we were sleeping outside in a tent! It probably contributed to our current state of chest colds as well. We seem to learn things the hard way here, hahaha!
I am still amazed and surprised at the traffic here. It is just not possible to describe how crazy it is with mere words. I highly recommend our friend’s blog, The Jiaxing Express. Terry and Geoff are administrators/teachers from Coquitlam, basically doing the same thing as us but in a city about an hour or so north of us. They have amazing adventures as well, all told with a very funny perspective and great pictures. They have also posted a video showing the traffic at a busy intersection, and it is well worth a look! It continues to surprise/amaze/flabbergast me that there are not more accidents here everyday. Absolutely crazy!
Well that’s about all for now; I am off to go shopping for a Christmas present for Bruce – without him! Bruce is the most amazing bargaining person you will ever see in action, so it will be a learning experience for me…….wish me luck!