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The week with Friends!

Hello again!! 

Well, after having friends visit for a couple of weeks, we are back to our routine. Mary-Anne and Boyd Stinson joined us here in Shanghai for a whirlwind of activities and sight-seeing. It was a very sad day for me to say good-bye to both of them, because we really had so much fun with them. I miss my girly time with Mary-Anne already! We became tourists in our own town again, showing them around the city. We were also lucky enough to go to Beijing for the weekend with them and share the experiences there – the Great Wall, the Forbidden City and Tian’anmen Square. Although we only had the weekend there, we packed a lot into our sight seeing! The Great Wall was so much more amazing than I thought it would be, and we met so many friendly people from all over the world. We easily could have spent the whole day there, we enjoyed it that much! However, 5 hours was pretty good for us, and one of the highlights was taking the luge or toboggan run down the mountain! They yelled at me to slow down, but it was too much fun to go fast! Mary-Anne let out a huge scream on her way down that got the whole crowd going in the line up! At the bottom, we had to go through the mandatory souvenir alleys. Think of every gift shop at the end of a ride, just like Disneyland! We picked up some dried fruit, and a few gifts for friends, but held off on most of the things. Surprising for me, I know! 

That afternoon, we walked down to Tian’anmen Square to see the lowering of the flag with the guards at sunset. We became instant celebrities, as everyone wanted a picture with the white people! It was pretty funny, and we got a taste of what it would be like to be famous, since once one picture was taken, a whole bunch of people wanted one done with them too! We couldn’t actually see much of the flag ceremony (especially me, the short one), but Bruce was able to hold his camera up and record some of the soldiers marching by. They were incredibly precise and in time with each other – they must practice marching for hours! After all that walking and climbing on the Great Wall, we were too tired to walk home so we grabbed two tuk-tuks to take back to the hotel. These guys were great, even though they took us home through all the back alleys. I got a bit nervous at one point as they showed us a camera mounted on a building, pointing right at us, and managed to tell us to be very quiet. We then went a different way, but it was kind of scary! Mary-Anne and I laughed about it later….we are such trusting Canadians! 

The next day we went to the Forbidden City. I don’t think I have ever seen so many people in one area at a time! Yet, when we went inside, it was so huge that the crowds were not really that bad. I know that Bruce talked about this on the last blog and posted pictures as well, so I will not bore you with the same stories! However, it was a beautiful, amazing place to see! It’s incredible to think of how long those buildings have been standing, and although some were covered with restoration equipment, it was still easy to see the grandeur of them all. Unfortunately, duty called us, and we had to make our way back to Shanghai to get back to work the next day. Mary-Anne and Boyd stayed an extra night and then went on to Xian the next day to see the Terracotta Warriors and the rest of that beautiful city. They absolutely loved it and said it was worth the trip to get there! 

When they returned to us, we were just finishing a seven day work week (which nearly killed us, but we survived!). On one of the days we were still working, our wonderful friend Wen Juan took Mary-Anne and Boyd to Hangzhou for the day. She was the best tour guide and translator and they had a great time with her! We then had three days off to show them around our favourite places, like the French Concession area, the Bund and Pudong. We had great weather for the most part, and Mary-Anne and I took our chances and went and got a haircut together. Luckily, Wen Juan translated for us over the phone for the price, but they spoke no English at all……I showed them a picture of what I wanted, and he nodded that he understood. However, both guys cut our hair so incredibly short! I have never had my hair this short in my life! I look like a boy!! Mary-Anne and I laughed the whole way home, thinking that if we were on the Bund together, we would definitely get propositioned! Good thing our hair grows fast! Mary-Anne and Boyd are now in Thailand, spending a couple of days in Bangkok before they go to Koh Samui for some r’n’r. After spending time with us, they may need it!

We are starting the countdown to come home – only 8 weeks left before we are back! I will definitely miss many things here, but am looking forward to being home. That’s all for now, but more pictures will come as our weather is getting warmer and warmer each day.

“Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened”(Dr Seuss). Miss you Mary-Anne and Boyd!

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Beijing (Part 2) The Forbidden City

The blog is a little late this week.  We usually have it out by Saturday, but this week we had to work Mon -Sunday in order to have a Mon-Wed holiday the following week. We are looking forward to our 3 days off with MAry Anne and Boyd.  They leave for Thailand on Wednesday.

Our second day in Beijing started with an early breakfast at the hotel. This was a delicious smorgasbord of Chinese and Western style food.  I say western style because it’s the Chinese idea of Western food. For example they know westerners like to eat a lot of bacon so they put lots out but they barely cook it.  Given the recent outbreak of bird flu and the Jiaxing pork catastrophe, you figure they might go for brown.  But no Translucent bacon is the order of the day and no one seems to eat it.  Breakfast over, our hotel is about a block from the Forbidden City.  We have to walk however to the entrance at Tian’anmen square which is a hefty 4 blocks.  We were still a little sore after our five hour trek along the Great Wall, but we were pumped to see the home of all of the Emperors.  This whole place can only be described as huge.  A moat surrounds the entire city and each court yard within was gigantic.  Image

Here is the bridge that crosses the moat.  It is quite large and the locals come and fish in it.  I am not sure what they catch.   It’s probably not marlin or tuna, but they feel the need to have the largest fishing rods I have ever seen in my life.

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The city is also surrounded by  a huge rock wall.  There are 4 gates to enter, the main gate off of Tian’anmen Square in the south, two smaller gates on the east and west side and a gate to the north to exit out.  In order to get to the Emperor’s Palace soldiers would have to attack thru 4 separate court yards.  These are gigantic affairs that are equivalent in size to a Disney parking lot.  Each courtyard had its own huge high walls and giant gates that could be closed when attackers showed up.Image

Even though the walls were so high you could always see the roofs of the buildings inside.  This was because they were all so tall as well.

ImageHere is the entrance way.  They charge you 60 RMB ($10) to get in.  It is well worth it.

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During the times of non-war, these courtyards would be filled with merchants selling food and other wares.

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You can get a sense of the size of this court yard.  The big building in the back is not the Palace of the Emperor.  It was under repair.

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You can get the sense of the height of the buildings and gates.  Those gates were 20 ft high.

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Here is another building under construction.

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The doorways that connected courtyard to court yard were relatively small.  This would stop invading armies from getting thru too quickly.  This is the first of three courtyards before the palace.DSC_0733

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There were lots of ramps for their horses to move wagons and carriages around.

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The doors were huge and heavy.  Once locked they would be very difficult to break down and open.DSC_0736

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Most of the buildings were closes to the public, but you could peer into the windows to see the ancient furniture etc.

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All of the roofs were pagoda style architect.  They were very ornate and beautiful.  The roofs are built not by construction workers but artisans.

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This little sweetie rented the costume so her parents could take a picture of her.  I couldn’t resist asking and she was delighted to pose with a tourist!

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There were large cauldrons everywhere in the square. Not sure if these were for fires to keep warm and cook or for water.

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Here we have the Palace of the Emperor.  He may have sat in that throne.

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There were a ton of tour groups going thru the Forbidden City.  They were all wearing their own coloured hats.

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Here are the gardens just by the north exit.  Lots of cool rocks.

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In some of the smaller courtyards it reminded me of every Kung Fu movie I have ever seen.  I had to do my Kung Fu Crane pose! DSC_0830

Here we are outside of the north exit after leaving the City.  You can see the moat on this side.  The whole city is about the size of Stanley Park.  We only had 4 hours so we didn’t get to see a lot of it, but  the city probably housed over a million people during its hey day.

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We checked Mary Anne and Boyd into a new hotel as the rate went up a huge chunk in the hotel we had booked for the weekend.   Kim and I left them and went to the Beijing South Train Station. As you can see it is a lot smaller than Shanghai’s Hongquoa Train Station. We travelled Second Class as it was much less expensive, very clean and lots of room.  It was a lot like being on a plane with the same little trays that fold down from the seat in front of you and the cute little hostesses dressed in 1960’s uniforms.  We had a nice ride home this time making about six stops on the way.  While the ride was pleasant enough we had to put up with the food that was sold on the train.  It did not have such a pleasant smell.  When you have a train that moves at 300 km./hr.  there is no way to open any sort of a window.  We were trapped inside a fishy smelling dinner car for four hours.  After a while our noses just shut down and it wasn’t too bad.  Maybe we should have bought a First Class ticket after all?  We arrived at the station and splurged on a taxi because we were both exhausted.  The subway would have probably been faster ,  but the taxi took us door to door.  It was worth it!

Our Beijing trip reminded Kim and I how much we enjoy travelling.  Going back to school and seven days in a row of work was a tough pill to swallow.  Look for our blog soon about Mary Anne and Boyd’s adventures in Shanghai!

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The Trip to Beijing – Part 1 – The Great Wall and Tian’anmen Square

Kim and I have saved our trip to Beijing for when Mary Anne and Boyd came to visit and this week-end we finally made it into the capital city of China.  Beijing, (formerly known as Peking) is somewhat smaller than Shanghai  with a population just over 20 million people.  While there are lots of skyscrapers in Shanghai, Beijing appeared more traditional with older buildings, and a little more spread out.

This was from the Disney store in the Hong Qiao StationImage

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Yes, even Mickey is wearing those glasses with no glass in them.

We left Friday afternoon and took the subway to Hang Qiao station and caught a fast train to the Beijing station.  We travelled 1200 km. In 4 and a half hours.  The train made 2-3 stops on the way at Nanjing, Tian and one other place.

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Boyd mastered the art of sleeping while travelling at 312 km/hr.

Shanghai (pop.28,000,000) has over 750,000 taxis in the city.  In Beijing their fleet of cabs is only 50,000 so finding a cab at the train station was difficult.  We bargained and ended up paying a black taxi (not licensed) 120 RMB for a 40 RMB trip.  It was about 10:00 pm when we got in.  We were tired and it was not worth waiting in line for an hour for a metered cab.

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Our rooms were beautiful and spacious, but the bed was quite hard.  Note again the glass between the bathroom and the sleeping area.  There is a privacy curtain.   We were up at 6:00 am for a delicious Chinese/Western breakfast.  We hired an English speaking cab driver to take us to the wall as it is an hour and a half drive from the city.  We wanted to leave good and early to avoid the crowds.  It was a great idea.

John’s English and driving were excellent.  He advised us to take the ski lift to the top of the wall, about 800 meters up and then take the luge down.  We took his advice.  Image

Mary Anne and Boyd in the chir lift on our way up into the mountains to see the Great Wall.  Words can’t describe the Great Wall.  There is nothing like this in Canada.  It is between 6-8 meters wide and over 20,000 km long.   The wall was built to keep out the hordes invading from Mongolia.  We’re talking Gengis Khan and his boys from the hood here.   Every 500 meters or so there is a tower.  Some had cannons, all of the towers were fascinating to look at.  Check out the pictures below to get a sense of what it was like.

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And so we started our climb up the wall.  Not too sure how far we went.  Conservatively we climbed at a rate of 5/km an hour, so maybe we went 20km.

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Can you see the white tents in the background.  We were there.  It was a long walk!  There and back!

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Coming down from our climb was a lot faster.  A four hour climb up, one hour to get down again.  Instead of taking the ski lift down to the parking area, we took the “Land Luge.”  This is a little wagon you sit on with a stick.  Push the stick forward and you go fast.  Pull it back and you brake.  This was a lot of fun.  Kim and I got red flagged on every corner as the old Chinese men yelled at us and waved red flags to get us to slow down.  It was very safe and I highly recommend it.

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Now this guy asked if we wanted to take pictures with us and and we thought this would be fun.  He was quite a ham.  I wondered how he made his money.

 

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Soon into the photo shoot this second guy joined in and Boyd and I got into the picture as well.  After the photo he demanded 40 RMB for the picture.  We gave him 10 which was very generous, but he was unhappy because we did not collapse under his ardent protest!

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Like every good attraction, there must be a gift shop at the end.  The Great Wall is no exception.  T shirts, hats, fridge magnets and warm sodas were the order of the day!

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It gets a little crowded here so we manage to wiggle through the crowds. We rode back to the hotel and decided to check out the Street Food Market just down from our hotel and then wander over to see the Changing of the Guards in Tian’anmen Square at 7:00.  Mary Anne seemed very keen to try some new and weird food in Beijing, but we couldn’t believe what they were selling here.  No one was up for this!  See below.

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Merchants sold a variety of very interesting food.  How we even ate near this place was a wonder!

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Would you care for some delicious snake?

 

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Here we have a vendor selling prawns and raw squid.  Yum Yum!

 

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Starting at the top left we have some sort of grasshopper, giant spiders, beetles, cockroaches, some other tasty bug, then the huge centipedes (everyone gets a leg!) water snake and grass snake (Skinned)

 

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Let’s get a closer look at those spiders and beetles

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These centipede were huge.  The water snakes had their heads chopped off.  (That’s where the poison is stored)

 

 

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Beetles, cockroaches and 2 types of snake!

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Starfish on a stick!  Juicy and tasty!

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We couldn’t decide between the big meaty scorpions.

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Or the little crunchy scorpions!

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Testicles from bulls and other assorted animals.  Did we have fun at dinner?  Yes sir, we had a ball!

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Here we are munching on our spicy noodles!  Yummy!

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Crab Dumpling – Fairly bland and unexciting.  We also tried Gelatine Potatoes (Yuck – one bite)

Chinese Cheese Casa Dia? Crab Dumpling, Fried Banana, and for dessert a fabulous Fruit Stick (Strawberries, pineapple, Kiwi fruit)

After dinner, we walked the 2-3 km to Tian’anmen Square, where we became yet again movie stars and had our photos taken with so many people who had never seen white people before.

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Mary Anne and Boyd came well prepared with Canada Flag pins and everyone we met was walking around wearing a Canada Flag by the time the ceremony was over.

 

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We had people taking pictures of the people taking pictures of us taking pictures with our new friends.  It’s tough being a celebrity!

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Security was tight and there were many people there to watch the changing of the guard ceremony.  These guys sure know how to march.  I will try to put up my short video on Face book so you can see it.  It’s very impressive.  We were all exhausted by the end of the night and managed to flag down two bicycle tuk tuks to take us back to the hotel.  While the ride wasn’t as scary as the motorized Shanghai counterparts thru the main streets of the city, we were a little nervous because these two fellows took us through the back alleys (now pitch black) to get to our hotel.  We had no idea where we were.  There were no shops or entrance ways here.  We were waiting to be met by a gang of street thugs who would rob us and then cut us up into meat pies for the next day’s food.  Alas, nothing like that happened.  It was very safe.  China is such a safe place it seems.  There is very little evidence of any violent crime.  There were cameras everywhere.  Including the back alleys!  We made it back to the hotel about 9:00, chatted for an hour then went to bed early.  Tomorrow we were going to the Emperor’s Palace located in the “Forbidden City!”

Stay tuned for Part 2!

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Some News and A Visit from Home!

Hello everyone! 

At long last, we have warmth here in Shanghai! The sun has been out (well, it is brighter…..you can’t actually see the sun, hahaha!) and the temperatures are climbing. Apparently, we are going from shivering to sweating, with no in-between! However, I am not complaining, because everywhere, people seem a little happier, and we are all looking forward to some warmer weather. 

As many of you know, we have been asked to return for a second year to teach here in Shanghai. After many sessions of back and forth, pros and cons, we have decided that when we are finished at the end of the school year, we will return home for good. As much as we love the lifestyle, the students, and the friends we have made, we feel that our adventure is finished for now. We miss our family and friends back home – and the clean air! We have had so much fun here, and tried so many things that I never thought we would try – ever! We had a dinner party here in our tiny apartment last week – we managed to squeeze in 13 people! I use the term “dinner” loosely, since I actually only made finger food – we don’t have enough dishes nor table space to fit everyone for a sit-down dinner! We invited the Chinese administration staff to join us so that we could tell them in person that we won’t be returning next year. To our amazement, there were tears, and actual crying as well as hugs and well – wishes! They are not very vocal about how they feel about us, so we never really knew. They really enjoyed the food I prepared, which was good, because it almost didn’t happen! I made beef spring rolls, vodka infused cherry tomatoes, shrimp and tatziki cucumber cups, crab and cream cheese roll ups, stuffed mushroom caps, carrots wrapped in prosciutto with parmesan cheese, Greek marinated tomato and bocconcini skewers( well, actually on tooth picks because I couldn’t find longer skewers!) garlic bread and chocolate dipped strawberries and pretzels for dessert! I had planned more meat dishes, but there was a ban on chicken from the avian flu, no one trusts pork yet from the 16,000 dead pigs that were dropped in the water, and I couldn’t go to the wet markets(think Granville Island) because that’s where they had the live chickens! I was near the end of my rope, fighting a head cold and trying to think of substitutions that I could make instead. However, it all worked out, and we had an enjoyable evening with all the staff, even though they were so sad when they left. Anyway, kind of a long winded story for all that, but now you know that we will be home sometime on July 1st, and Canada Day for us will mean so much more than you know! 

Our other exciting news is that tomorrow, April 16th, our good friends Mary-Anne and Boyd will be arriving for a whirlwind tour of Shanghai! We are so excited to have visitors from home – we can hardly wait for them to get here! We are taking them off to see Beijing this coming weekend, so expect some more pictures after that! Then we have so many things that we want to show them, there may not be enough hours in the days to get to them all! Unfortunately, both Bruce and I have to work during their stay here, but our good friend Wen Juan, who is married to one of our teachers, has graciously accepted to be their tour guide while we work. Lucky them! Shanghai has so much to offer, it’s hard to pick out what to see and what to let go……I’ll see if I can talk them into doing a guest blog, as our friends Geoff and Terry have done with their visitors on their blog, “The Jiaxing Express”. It’s always great to get a different perspective from visitors who haven’t been here before. I highly recommend reading Terry and Geoff’s blog; it is so funny and you really get a sense of what it’s like to live here and experience the things we live through! 

We will fill you in on all of the mini adventures we have over the next few weeks as we take on Shanghai once again as a tourist! Look out, Shanghai, Kim and Mary-Anne are coming to get ya!! See you all after July 1st!!

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Shanghai – The Fashion City

Spring is here in Shanghai.  Here is a photo essay of our Saturday.  Our day started with us leaving our apartment.  Here is a cyclist on the sidewalk in front of our place.Image

We took the subway under the Huang Pu River to a place called called Century Park.  This park is not for everyone.  They charge 10 RMB to enter the park.  Although that’s just a buck fifty, many families could not afford to pay that. We went there and met up with our friends, Brent and Wen Juan, played some bocci and just camped out and watched the visitor’s walk by and watch them try to sneak pictures of us.  So I did the same. i tried to be subtle so that they didn’t think I was shooting them.  For the most part I think I was successful.  Here are some of the Shanghai fashions we saw on this day!

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This young girl is seen sporting what many folks are wearing.  The short shorts (or mini skirt) with tights and boots with huge spike heels or runners with platforms.  This girl chose the latter.Image

Here we have fur boots and a mini (I think).  Just a quick note that the fashions are not just for young people.  There are a number of people in their 50’s and 60’s wearing the same stuff.Image

Here’s the long shot.  Most of them are either carrying or wearing their coats.  It’s about 22 degrees out and quite warm in the park.  

 

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Also popular here are the ever famous “Sailor Moon Socks”  which come up right past the knee cap.  We have seen a couple of girls aged 18-25 dressed in the full Sailor Moon get up.  

 

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Sometimes a mini skirt just isn’t enough so it has to be accentuated by being a bouffant affair with lots of crinoline.  I say go for it. Just what you need for a day of camping in the park!

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Here is a very popular look.  The very high heels a short mini skirt and a sheer covering. I am so amazed that these girls walk all over Shanghai with these shoes on.  It’s not just the height of the shoes but also the fact that the sidewalks of Shanghai are all cobble stone with a lot of places to twist your ankle or break your heel.  Kim and I find it a challenge just walking in our running shoes.

After our game of Bocci in Which Brent won 10-6-6 we decided to rent one of the boats from the Jingyang Yacht Club.  Here’s what they were renting.

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These little boats had electric motors that could go 3-4 Km./hr.  They charged us 60 RMB ($10) for an hour’s run.  It was beautiful and sunny out and Kim and I restored some of the tan we lost from our Thailand trip.

 

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Brent and Wen juan’s boat didn’t go as fast as ours did.  They tried everything in the book to beat us.  Not a chance!

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The Century Park area is very beautiful and quite expensive to live in.  Check out the high end apartments in the background.

 

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After our boat ride, Kim and I stopped off at the Shanghai Science and Technology Center to visit the Fake mall.  We bought a few little things for Shao Kwai, one of our massage girls as it is her birthday on Monday.

We were looking at hairpieces.  How do you think I would look with bangs?Image

Pretty scary eh?  Have a great week-end.  we love you all.

Bruce and Kim

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Our Visit to Jiaxing

Hello Friends and Family,

We are approaching the last day of a three holiday and head back to work on Sunday for the next 6 days.  We still struggle with the concept of payback in holidays.  We get an extra day but it comes off your weekend.  TIC.

We have had a delightful weekend with friends visiting Terry and Geoff in Jiaxing.  This is a farming community about 150 km. from Shanghai.  We set out and took the subway to the Hongqiao Train Station about 8:30 in the morning.  The subway was very crowded but we shoved our way on and rode the 35 minutes to the railroad Station in a subway car with 200 of our very close Chinese friends.  At least they are friends now.  It’s a pity more of these people do not believe in personal hygiene or deodorant.  Anyways we arrived about 9:30 with the intent of buying a ticket for the 10:00 train where we met Steve H and Lawrence V.

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Steve, Lawrence and I are waiting for the gate to open so we can catch the train.

We waited an hour in line, the whole time glaring at those folks who dared to try and jump the line because they were far too important to wait.  One fellow tried, but Steve made short work of him by asking the person he stood next to if they were together.  A negative response resulted in the gentleman finally moving.

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The station was big but the crowds were enormous.  Note to self, never travel on a holiday week-end.  After an hour wait, we boarded the fast train and 22 minutes later pulled into Jiaxing.

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Rural China is beautiful.  Despite the fact there is more land available once you are outside of Shanghai, there is a tendency to build upwards as opposed to outwards.  All available land is used for farming.

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There are small rivers and irrigation canals to water the crops and also provide an opportunity for the farmers to fish.

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Here is the fast train.  Each car hold about 180 passengers and there are 16 cars on our train.  There were about 6 trains that left for our destination and beyond every hour.  That’s a lot of people!

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Steve, Lawrence and Kim at the Jiaxing Station.

Although it is a farming community it still has a population of 3 and a half million people. That’s twice the size of Vancouver.

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Our bus ride from the station to the downtown was 40 minutes.  Here is our driver.  Mark, this picture is just for you!  Every time the bus stopped bells started to ring, buzzers flashed and a Chinese voice came on.  I think the voice was either announcing the stops, telling people to be careful or just thanking them for riding with the bus service.  Perhaps all three.  It sounded as if the driver was playing a video game.  He was on level 19 and had three extra lives because he had run a number of lights.  Who knows.  I appreciated the fact that he takes my view on speed bumps.  If you are going fast enough, you can hit the first bump, get airborne and land just after the last speed bump.

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Here is the view from the roof of Terry and Geoff’s place.  100_6493

Terry and Geoff were wonderful hosts.  They had lovely snacks waiting for us and took us on a tour of Jiaxing.  The city is beautiful.

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We got a tour of Geoff & Terry’s school.  Here is the Reading Room/Library .

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This was a tourist center in downtown Jiaxing.  There was almost no one there.

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Here is the museum in Jiaxing. It was a huge impressive building, but we didn’t go inside.  It was just too nice a day!

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There were lots of funky little boats on the lake.

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This Teahouse was right on the lake.

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This handsome fellow was standing around looking pretty groovy in his costume and seemed to understand I wanted a picture, so he took on this serious face, I made the shot and he was all smiles again!

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We went on a boat tour, saw the Chinese junk (a boat) where the Communist Manifesto was signed and climbed a 6 storey pagoda.DSC_0487

Here is the Junk where the Communist MAnifesto was signed in Jiaxing many years ago!

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Here is a beautiful Pagoda beside the lake.

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Steve is a relaxed tourist and like us all took lots of pictures!

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Here is the pagoda we climbed all of the way to the top. All very cool!

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The view of the lake and the city in the background from the top of the pagoda.  This is certainly not your typical BC farming community.

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Here we are at the top.  Proof we climbed up!

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The highlight was dinner at Krabi Thai Restaurant. It was very low key, we brought our own wine, ate a ton of delicious Thai food, listened to the fabulous Charlie and the Cowboys Filipino Band.  (I even got to dance with the girl lead singer.)

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Yes we had a great time!  The entire evening was $12.50 each.  I love China!  We stayed at the Leedum Hotel where the clerk spoke some English.  It seems we always do much better when they speak no English at all.  Our hotel room faced the main street so Kim and I had quite a noisy night being woken up regularly by the buses, which sound a lot like video games every time they stop.  The hotel itself was pretty nice and very modern.  It was like our hotel in Suzhou, where one of the walls to the bathroom is glass.  This meant I could watch Kim while she took a shower.  Yeah, that wasn’t going to happen….

We woke up about 7:00 and had the hotel breakfast. It was more like a Chinese dinner buffet with some very old noodles, rice, some deep-fried chicken cardboard sawdust treats, and something called a fungus tablet. I wasn’t sure whether we were supposed to eat that or put it between our toes.  Then we discovered they also had fresh omelets, delicious watermelon and honeydew melon.  They also had a fresh pot of coffee.  You just have to look to find the rainbow sometimes.  Unfortunately, Kim and I had already eaten some of the other less delightful fare that was offered and we both suffered from upset stomachs for the rest of our day.

We met Geoff and Terry at Starbucks then Terry, Lawrence and Steve, braved the rain and went for a walk while Kim, Geoff and I stayed high and dry back at their apartment and solved all of the problems of the world.  Jiaxing is a beautiful City.  Terry and Geoff have a great school and a beautiful apartment.  I understand why they have chosen to stay another year.

If you get a chance to read Terry and Geoff’s blog, it’s very funny and informative.

http://jiaxingexpress.com/2013/03/08/wwmt/

They are going through the same sorts of issues as we have with one huge difference.  There are very few white people in Jiaxing so we really stand out.  It turns out that watching foreigners in a subtle, quiet or unassuming manner is not a strong point of the Chinese.

People would openly gawk at us, take our pictures, or just sit and stare at us.  Geoff is a lot like me.  He has takes the view if you get to stare at me, I will greet you and interact with you as much as I can. It turns out that the Chinese really like this.  So we have many new friends.  The rain washed out plans of a day roving around Jiaxing, so after Steve and Lawrence finished their quick walk about with Terry, we bid them good-bye and trained back to Shanghai. The return trip was much faster with no bottle neck at the train station again.

I like to point out cultural differences as I notice them, to help our readers better understand our experiences and also help them learn more about Chinese culture. This week I want to talk about temperatures.  It seems we Canadians are a lot more accepting of the cold and the Chinese do better with the heat.  Now before you jump on me and accuse me of making a huge sweeping generalization let me provide some evidence…

Evidence 1:  On Thursday, Kim and I are walking to the subway station on our way to meet Steve and Lawrence and I can only describe it as being quite hot.  Even Kim who is always cold stopped to take off her fleece coat.  Every person we passed was wearing a winter jacket. It’s 17 degrees and sunny, but still the winter coats with lots of layers.  We have heaters in our classroom and we turn them on, but our students will sit there with their winter jackets and 3-4 layers of clothing on in case it gets cold?

Evidence 2:  We arrive at the hotel in Jiaxing and it is modern and comfortable.  By western standards, this place is easily a 3-4 star hotel.  The room is complete with a mini-bar.  The water here is not drinkable so all hotels provide a few bottles of drinking water to brush your teeth, however, the water is warm. So Kim and I put the water in the mini-bar fridge.  We love our cold water.  We get back to the hotel and want a drink of water to find that our water and all the drinks in the fridge are warm!  The fridge is never turned on or plugged in!!!!

Evidence 3: Now Geoff has already spilled the beans about this in his blog, but it bears repeating.  Our Thai dinner was delicious and spicy and a round of water was in order.  We asked and the waitress brought us a pot of hot water as though we were drinking tea.  We asked in English for cold water and she just looked at us in disbelief.  I thought she didn’t understand us as her English wasn’t great so I asked in Chinese.  I asked for ice water.  (Editor’s note:  The word for ice is bing in Chinese. It’s pretty hard to mess up that word so it wasn’t my lousy accent.)  She kept asking bing?  Bing?  Bing?  We kept saying yes.  Ice water.  Cold water.  She shook her head and went off and returned 2 minutes later with an ice bucket filled with ice and a large pot of steaming hot water.  Clearly it had just been freshly boiled. She lifted the lid off of the tea pot and steam floated gently thru the air.  She then picked up the ice tongs and carefully dropped 3-4 ice cubes into the steaming hot water.  She then looked at us as if we were all crazy and left.

The defense rests.   Enjoy your weekend.  We miss you all!

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The view from our hotel room.

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This is wonderful.  In case of fire, they leave you a couple of smoke masks you can wear to get out safe!!  I felt so safe in that hotel!!!!

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The Birthday Weekend

Hello Friends from around the World. 

It’s time again for another Random Weekend Blog.  It is beautiful and sunny here is Shanghai with temperatures up to 16-17 degrees.  We had a beautiful warm stretch in February and then it got cold again. We are hoping spring is here to stay now.  Shanghai is so much more beautiful and interesting when it is not cold outside. There are people out and many things to see and do.  Most of you know that Kim celebrated her birthday this week.  It was a very busy week but we are managing to stretch the celebrations out right to the week-end. On Wednesday we had Claudio Morelli (Anne Morelli’s husband) and Henry Contant here from the Ministry of Education to do our inspection.  They had to give us a thumb’s up so that our school is officially certified as a BC School.  This means our kids graduate and can get into Canadian and American universities easier because they have a BC Dogwood certificate instead of a Chinese High School leaving certificate.  We passed with flying colours with a number of special commendations.  More on that on another blog.  That evening we went out for a wonderful Chinese dinner courtesy of Mr. Tang our principal.  I had mentioned to the folks from the ministry that every time they did an inspection Kim or I had a birthday the following day (Our last inspection was Dec 3rd. Mr. Tang found out it was Kim’s birthday and immediately sent out for a cake.  While it looked delicious, we were so full from dinner, no one wanted any.  So we carted the cake home with us and brought it to school the next day to share with everyone.  Thursday evening was actually Kim’s birthday but she and I were exhausted so I cooked her a delicious beef tenderloin dinner with fresh veggies and mashed potatoes!  Friday night we decided to have a relaxing at home night and cooked up some BLT’s and watched the movie Alex Cross.  Kim was delighted to open her birthday card from her mom and dad (It had arrived at Christmas, as well as a package that was sent from Mary Anne and Boyd and Nolene, Joelle.  It was filled with some little chocolates, deoderant and Twizzler’s red licorice, which we are not able to buy here! Yummy! 

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Saturday we spent the day exploring more of the French Concession.  It seems every time we go there we are there at night and it’s hard to see what’s happening. The FC is an older area with less high rises and a lot of refurbished funky shops and restaurants to eat in.  This building here was built circa 1925.  

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I love this skinny apartment building.  Very old, but funky.  

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They were refurbishing the insides of this building.  We saw a bunch of people walking out of it when suddenly a gust of wind came up and blew whatever chemicals they were using into my face.  I coughed for about 5 minutes and my eyes went all red.  Not sure what it was but it was a heavy duty chemical!

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We saw this bride and groom trying to cross the street and were astounded to see what they were wearing.  The groom is wearing saddle shoes and the bride is going to the church in this shorty wedding dress.

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We recognize that this isn’t our taste in clothing, but we told her she looked very beautiful and she was happy to pose for us while we took a picture.  

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Not sure if this is where the wedding reception was going to be, but there was a beautiful spread laid out in the restaurant here.Image

 

 

This included these beautiful flowers hanging from a trellis entrance way.

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We get to meet a lot of people because we are pretty friendly and people are interested in meeting foreigners.  We met this lady and her mom.  We always are delighted whren they allow us to get a picture with them.

ImageThe FC has a very high population of ex-pats living there so we don’t get the stares as often as we do in Luwan area.   We wandered the streets for about 3 hours.  Oscar’s Pub is one of the many Ex-pat pubs.Image

The streets are beautiful and tree lined.  It was a great day for a walk.  We went into a piano bar and I got to play with two pianists who were studying at the Shanghai Conservatory of Music. The girl was studying improvisational jazz and I certainly enjoyed playing with her.  The fellow was interested in Latin music.  We plan on going back one evening to play some music with them.  ImageThey have two lovely Yamaha pianos there to play.

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Here I am tickling the ivories!

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Just a little ways down from the Shanghai Breweries, a great pub in this neighbourhood, is this place.  We didn’t go inside but I get the sense it would be a really fun place to go!  

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Like Vancouver, Shanghai is filled with these dark little alleys.  There are two differences.  These alleys are much more narrow, I don’t feel safe walking the alleys in Vancouver.  

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Would you park your Audi in an alley in downtown Vancouver?

We ate out at a Greek restaurant and the food and the service was amazing! Image After dinner we met this hungry fellow begging for money.  We sat with him and helped him beg for some money,  gave him some cash and Kim gave him one of the breakfast pastries we had purchased for our Sunday breakfast.  We eat too much anyways!

Sunday we woke up about 9:00 and we are doing a bit of online grocery shopping and then going for our weekly Starbucks – Foot Massage treat!    Check below for our random photos!

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Strawberry season in Shanghai runs from December until May?  The strawberries are big, sweet and delicious.  Our fruit stand lady will not give a bad berry!  If they are going soft, she points this out and drops the price.  Image

I know lots of you are on vacation during Spring Break.  Yes we are very jealous.  We would love to be in Maui with our buddies the Trumleys.  So we did the next best thing.  We had a glass of red wine and shared a bag of these bad boys.  Sweet Maui Onion Potato chips (Made in Connecticut by the way)  

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This covered scooter is not too common here in Shanghai, but ever time I see one I can’t help but think if Fred Flintstone drove a motor scooter, this is what it would look like.

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We wanted to get the coffee and the free WIFI, but where was it?  Where?  Where? Where?…….Somewhere….

ImageYes, I’m singing and dancing in the rain with my hand made coat and my Van Gogh umbrella!Image

It is sunny, but still the smog persists.  We are waiting for the wind direction to change so we don’t get Beijing’s smoggy air!