Well my fine North American, Christmas Celebrating, Friends, it’s time for another blog update.
Being Sick in Shanghai: This blog is relatively calm and uneventful because Kim and I have been fighting terrible colds for over two weeks and consequently have not been out too much. I think I am getting better but not so for Kim. This is probably exacerbated by our wall heater that blows dirty warm air into our bedroom. Kim never misses work but has lost two days this week. She has been up hacking and coughing throughout the night and so she is exhausted. If she sleeps too much in the afternoon, she has trouble falling asleep at night. I have never suffered from that difficulty so when I am sick I can take an hour even two hour nap and still get to be early and fall asleep. If we don’t see some improvement in a day or two it’s off to the Dr. to get some antibiotics. Update: Kim has an appointment for Sunday at 11:00am.
Kim working with a student in September.
The 60 year old gets Monkied: My 60th birthday was relatively quiet. Kim cooked a delicious dinner and we watched a bit of TV and shared a bottle of our favourite Cab Sav. The evening before we mentioned we had been out for a big dinner to celebrate passing our inspection. Kim didn`t mention the `MONKEY INCIDENT.` As we came out of the restaurant there were 3 chaps holding rhesus monkeys on leashes. As the patrons exited the restaurant, these guys get the monkeys to perform tricks and ask for a coin. I watched the first trick and tossed the fellow 1 yuan (about .15 cents) As soon as the monkey saw the money, he grabbed onto my leg and the other three monkeys and their owners started making a B line towards me. Shake as I would and try to move the monkey would not let me go. I was helped quickly out by a number of Chinese friends who all yelled at the man and his monkey and he backed down. It`s not everyone who can say they `Got monkied on their 60th birthday.`
A Note from Home: This is so cute I had to put it into my blog. One of the parents wrote me a note because their child was ill and couldn’t do their homework. Here’s what she wrote:
I am apologize for Chung Lo’s un-homework because of headache yesterday night. So hope you can approve this application for the homework will be make up in the night.
What courage and caring. Sometimes I love my job!
Traffic off of Jing Ling Lu.
The Coincidence: I have been quoting the number 14.75 million people in Shanghai. Today I learned that that is the population of the 3 inner rings of the city. According to Wikipedia the population was just over 23 million in 2010. This is not including the suburbs and cities on the fringe of Shanghai. Other sources say the current population is pushing 26 million. Kim and I know about a hundred people here. You can appreciate how weird it would be to walk into a music store way on the other side of the city (This is near Jing Ling Lu where I ran into Richard in the photo above) to find one of my teachers looking at a guitar. What made it even more bizarre was that he had just said to his buddy who was looking to buy a guitar that “I wish Bruce was here to help you. He knows way more about guitars than I do.” Pretty strange world we live in.
Christmas Presents: Well there is no doubt Kim and I are missing the holiday feeling without our friends and family with us. We went on a couple of major shopping sprees together to buy pretty cool stuff for a number of folks to get us into the Christmas spirit. Kim is great at choosing just the right gift for someone and I am the meanie who will bargain with the merchant for up to 45 minutes to make sure we get a good price. We always come back to the same stores because they know me and we tend to get to the sale price a lot quicker. With shopping done we now had the task of trying to get all of our goodies back to Canada and Florida so that appreciative offspring will enjoy something from us on Christmas day. We have been warned by many not to trust China Post. They said delivery is slow, the workers go thru all of the packages and stuff disappears and fragile stuff is often damaged. We have not experienced anything like that all. Service has been prompt and everything that was shipped to us arrived in tact. Still we did not want to risk any Christmas catastrophes so we sought out the ever dependable Fedex. Kim went to their website hoping to get a pick-up at home. We finally are able to call a number and are told because we are not a business we have to take the parcel into one of the many depots to have the parcel weighed inspected and to complete the customs declaration. It made sense to me. Now, Shanghai is a city with about 26 million people, we have to assume people are shipping parcels everywhere so there have to be Fedex people everywhere. We are both amazed that there are only three depots in the city. One is one the other side of the river which is closest, but really tough to get to in rush hour traffic. The other two are on the outskirts of town. We really did not want to be carrying big boxes on a rush hour subway, so Kim and I hail a cab one day after school and drive for 35 minutes to what appears to be the start of a long, lane. We double check the address and we are at the right place. We paid our driver and set out for a walk carrying two large boxes of gifts. Within five minutes we are greeted by a grouchy guard and two dogs who don’t like Canadians (except for dinner) and we are shown the head office. There is one guy in a tiny office in the middle of a garage who speaks some English. He measures and weighs the boxes while Kim completed the customs forms. Then he quoted us some outrageous amount of money to ship these boxes. We asked if there was a cheaper method. He said the economy method was lot cheaper but took 2 days longer. We had planned well and had extra time so we said we would pay the new price which was still somewhat outrageous but a little easier to live with. It came time to pay and he announces that he only takes cash from foreigners, no credit cards. Shanghai is a cash society, so Kim and I have taken to carrying three to four hundred dollars on us at all times when we are out. Visa is accepted at most places where there are lots of foreigners and it is expensive. Despite our vast amounts of cash we were carrying, we still did not have enough to ship the parcels, however, the fellow gave us a number to call and Fedex would pick up from our home. So once again we braved our souls to an E ticket ride in a Shanghai taxi with our parcels in tow. We made a quick stop at the bank to top up our cash so we would have enough for the Fedex man that evening and then called the number we were given. Welcome to China… That number was now out of service. This was so frustrating. Kim got back onto the web site and called every number she could find and finally we had someone who was going to come and pick up the parcels!!!!! As far as our tracking of the parcels goes, our gifts went to Anchorage, Alaska, New Jersey, Memphis, Tennessee then on to Florida and Vancouver. Finally, we received the news that the parcels arrived safely. We really cut back on our shopping this year as logistics prevented Kim from her usual Black Friday, shop to you drop, credit card marathon!
We want you all to know we will be thinking of you all on Christmas Day and we will spend a large portion of our Christmas Day (That’s Dec 24th) trying to phone and Skype with you guys. We are warning everyone in advance that the PRC has found a way to block the transmission of VPN at the IP source which could mean we have no Facebook or Blog access. It could even kill our internet for a few hours or days. Please be patient with us if we can’t reach you and know if we don’t call, it is not for lack of trying.
Love and Christmas cheer to all of you!
Bruce and Kim
See below a couple more random shots from around Shanghai.