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The Man in China Archives
June 1 through August 28, 2009

August 28, 2009 We're Back in China

Chinese farm workers in Richmond, B.C., Canada
No, actually this only looks like China.  This picture was shot in Richmond, B.C., Canada during our
drive to the Vancouver airport.

Nanaimo, B.C., Canada from the plane window.
But now we're on our way.  This is the city of Nanaimo, B.C., from the window of our plane.

Ruth organizes her pictures on the ride to Jiangnan University, Wuxi, China Here's Ruth organizing a summer's worth of pictures during the ride from the Shanghai Pudong airport back to Jiangnan University in Wuxi.

We stepped off the airplane into the heat of a sauna and greenhouse humidity, but the Jiangnan University campus is looking beautiful, richly green and lush with trees, grass and flowers. I've posted my teaching schedule for this term.  As always, students who have the time to audit my classes are welcome, at least until this gets out of hand.

Wrapping up the Summer

David and Ruth, engaged at last.    David and Ruth engaged.  And happy.  

The big news is that Ruth and I are now officially engaged, complete with traditional ring. I got down on one knee in the Starbucks at the airport as soon as she got off the plane from Winnipeg, and made the traditional proposal.  There wasn't a lot of suspense to this, because Ruth had proposed to me over the phone, but I put her off, saying that we needed to do this in person.  I'm one lucky guy to have found a woman like Ruth.  Everybody in my family agrees, (though some have expressed reservations about whether Ruth is as lucky as I am) and welcomes Ruth the clan.

Thea Scott, 86 years old.  Happy birthday mother.  Thea Scott blows out her birthday candles.  Maple Ridge, B.C., Canada

Back in Maple Ridge it was party time for the whole family.  First up, my mother's 86th birthday celebration and our engagement party combined.  Big thanks to my sister, Catherine, for organizing this event and picking up the tab.

Birthday and engagement party, Maple Ridge, B.C., Canada  Ed and Cath.  Birthday and engagement party, Maple Ridge, B.C., Canada Ruth and David engaged.  Thanks for the beautiful flowers, Ed.

Birthday and engagement party, Maple Ridge, B.C., Canada Kathleen at the birthday and engagement party, Maple Ridge, B.C., Canada Martin at the birthday and engagement party, Maple Ridge, B.C., Canada

Sister Mary at the birthday and engagement party, Maple Ridge, B.C., Canada Jerry at the birthday and engagement party, Maple Ridge, B.C., Canada

Birthday and engagement party, Maple Ridge, B.C., Canada  Birthday and engagement party, Maple Ridge, B.C., Canada

Then we were off to Nanaimo, but first a stop in New Westminster to visit some of Ruth's old friends.

Ruth and friends in front of the B & B,  New Westminster, B.C., Canada 
A well preserved West coast classic house,  New Westminster, B.C., Canada

This included a trip into Vancouver to the home of my friend Sharon, a master gardener, for a barbeque dinner complete with veggies from her garden.  Ruth's friend put us up in a bed and breakfast in New Westminster for two nights, and then got up at five in the morning to take us to the Horseshoe Bay ferry terminal where we caught the boat to Nanaimo.  Friendship above and beyond reasonable expectations.

Ruth, Reba, and Gramma Carrie in Nanaimo, B.C., Canada

Reba leans on her new ride,  Nanaimo, B.C., Canada

Reba and Ruth in the waterfront park, Nanaimo, B.C. Canada  From behind Reba and Ruth in the waterfront park, Nanaimo, B.C. Canada

Mydaughter, Reba, met us at the Nanaimo ferry terminal and we rode with her to Victoria to see Godfrey Stephens on his new boat, Mungo/QingTing.

On the deck of Mungo/Qing Ting,  Victoria, B.C., Canada.  Qing Ting means Dragonfly.
Except for the steel hull, everything you see of this boat was created by Godfrey Stephens himself.

Reba below decks on the Mungo/Qing Ting.  Victoria, B.C., Canada  Godfrey Stephens,  artist, at home on his boat, surrounded by his own art and craftsmanship.  Victoria, B.C., Canada

On the way out of Victoria we stopped in to visit my old friend Cynthia Sophia the Baroness von Rhau, then back to Clint's place in Nanaimo.  It was a great vacation.  I managed to at least clap eyes on just about everybody on my list.

Party at Peter's, Nanoose, B.C., Canada Party at Peter's, Nanoose, B.C., Canada With the sunset over the ocean as a backdrop, party at Peter's, Nanoose, B.C., Canada
The party at Peter's place in Nanoose, B.C.

Jeanette and Doug at the Acme Food Company, Nanaimo, B.C., Canada  With Patti at the Longwood Brew Pub, Nanaimo, B.C., Canada
Friends Jeanette and Doug at the Acme restaurant and Patti at the Longwood.  Life is a moveable feast indeed.

Blackberries are still edible in Cedar, B.C., Canada Sometihings in life are priceless.  Like the taste of a blackberry straight off the bush in Cedar, B.C., Canada
Ah, the joys of blackberry season.  Summer in Cedar, B.C., Canada at Goody's place.

Breakfast with Malcolm and Sadie, who will never be ex anything to me.

On board the B.C. Ferry back to Horseshoe Bay, B.C., Canada  View of the Port Mann bridge, from the West Coast Express train window.
Then once more to the ferry and the West Coast Express to Maple Ridge.

Log booms on the Fraser, as seen from the West Coast Express train.
This is one view from the West Coast Express train window. Forest products are still the number one industry in B.C.

And for good measure, my cousin Belle put on a family get together at her new home.  I got to visit my wonderful family, though the time spent with any particular family member was never enough.   

Cousin Belle's imaculate back yard. The grass under bare feet was a sensual delight.   Family and family friends at cousin Belle's place, Maple Ridge, B.C., Canada

The list of people I need to thank is too long to post here, but if I saw you, please know that I appreciate your hospitality and your contribution to my life.
     I do need to specially thank my sister, Catherine, who made three trips to the airport for us, and my cousin Kathleen, who made the final early morning airport run for our departure.  And of course I must mention my cousins Reta and Martin and Belle and Ken with thanks for hosting parties to get everybody together for us, and my cousin Billy and his wife Susan who drove down from the interior to attend. Finally, I must mention my old high school friend Clint and his wife Linda, who not only gave us a bed in Nanaimo, but also provided us with a vehicle.  I'm overwhelmed by the generosity, folks.

One Regret

Conversations with some members of my family have brought home to me the fact that I can have an abrasive personality, and at times offend those who are being so generous to me.  I truly regret this.

To those in my family who believe that we did not evolve from another life form, specifically apes, my apologies for giving the impression that I think you are stupid and ignorant.  I know you are not stupid. 

Rather than saying "How could anybody believe in creationism?" I would like to restate my position as: "I personally can't find any logic in the arguments against evolution."

August 13, 2009 Congratulations Team China 

Celebration of Light competition, Vancouvedr, B.C., Canada Flag of the People's Republic of China It seems only fitting that China should be the 2009 winner of the anual Celebration of Lights fireworks competition in Vancouver.  After all, China is where fireworks were invented.

In the old days I would take my sailboat with a load of friends and family from Gibsons across the Straight of Georgia to anchor in Vancouver harbour for the show each year.  That was the place to be to watch the show, instead of standing in a shoulder to shoulder crowd. Aah, there actually were good old days.

August 3, 2009 The Heat of the Summer

All of B.C. is a tinderbox right now, with wild fires threatening many towns in the interior.  Lilloette has been evacuated.  My ex-sister in law up in Peachland was told she couldn't cross a police barricade to get her vehicle, and had to jump a drainage ditch to get to her home.  I'm enjoying the sunny weather and blue skies.

Not the tar paper shack I was half expecting.  Saltspring Island, B.C., Canada  I must be doing something right to have friends like Clint and Linda.  They lent me their camper for the visit to Saltspring Island. Clint was my best friend from grade seven to grade twelve.

First stop:  Saltspring Island to visit my son Casey and his family and meet my first grand daughter.

A picture of intelligence and confidence.
I know all grandfathers think their grand child is the cutest ever.  But don't argue with me on this.

My son and grand daughter,  Saltspring Island, B.C., Canada  Grand daughter and daugter in law,  Saltspring Island, B.C., Canada

Diaper check.  No action required. 

 Happy grampa with the first grand child.  Saltspring Island, B.C.  Happy grampa with the first grand child.  Saltspring Island, B.C.

She "made strange" for about five minutes.  Then we were in love.

Can you spot the Chinese connection?

Kiri's older brother and his friend enjoy the lake.
 
Older brother, Saorsia, has become a competitive swimmer, and took first place in a recent swim meet.
Congratulations, Saorsia.

The house my son and his wife are renting sits on 100 acres (607 mu) of heavily treed land. There's a beaver lodge right in front of the house, on the edge of a small lake. 

Beaver in the lake.  Saltspring Island, B.C.   Hummingbird at the feeder,  Saltspring Island, B.C., Canada
That faint V in the water is a beaver.  Constant entertainment on the porch.

Every evening and morning we watched a beaver and a variety of wild ducks on the lake.  On the other side of the lake is a tall tree with an eagle nest, where the eagles were feeding their chicks. Hummingbirds buzzed at the feeder hanging from the porch.  Dragon flies swept the air for mosquitoes. A family of quail came up to feed on the seeds scattered under the bird feeder.  all in all it's hard to imagine a more peaceful or pleasant setting for a home.

Older sister with the blue button eyes.

This is the part of his lifestyle that made me jealous.  Casey in his workshop.  Saltspring Island, B.C.
Casey in his workshop, with his favourite bush gun.

There was a dead tree threatening the power line to the property.  Casey,  who has started a business as a tree surgeon, offered to cut it down in exchange for the firewood, an offer his landlord was quick to accept.

The landlord watches as Casey cuts down the tree.  Casey prepares to climb to get a safety line on the tree.  He couldn't post this picture to his website because he should be wearing safety pants.

  Climing the tree using spurs and safety line,  Saltspring Island, B.C., Canada

It was a dangerous tree,  with fragile branches overhead, so the first step was to get a line on it to make sure it didn't take out the power line on the way down.

Casey makes the undercut.  Note the safety line to guard against spltting.  Saltspring Island, B.C., Canada

Casey bucks the trunk into firewood lengths.  Saltspring Island, B.C., Canada  Splitting wood using a wedge and maul.  Good exercise and my idea of a good time back home.  Saltspring Island, B.C., Canada

Splitting firewood.  Saltspring Island, B.C., Canada

 Oh, I'm a lumberjack and I'm okay... Saltspring Island, B.C., Canada  We figure it's about a chord on the truck.  The bark makes a good clean fire that burns all night.  Saltspring Island, B.C., Canada

Sweat soaked but happy.  Saltspring Island, B.C., Canada

After Saltspring, Dropping in on Old Friends:

On the way back from Saltspring, driving Linda's brand new Mazda (Thanks, Linda.  Your generosity overwhelms me.) I dropped in to see my friend Goody in Cedar.

The famous writer, Goody Niosi, with her wonderful dog, Abby.  Goody Niosi in Cedar, B.C., Canada 

We had a pleasant stroll through the woods near her home,  then I was off to visit my son Victor.

My intention with this website while I'm home for the summer is to give my students some idea of the lifestyle my friends and family enjoy here in Canada.  But as I write this, I realize the futility of trying to document every visit I've been making.  (I forgot to take pictures at Nichole's place.  I forgot to take pictures at Belle's birthday party yesterday,  with everybody gathered around Reta's pool.)  Anyway, I don't really want to bore everybody to death with pictures of people they don't know.  Here are just a few more and I'll wrap this up for now.

Stetching out like big dogs.  Deer in a back yard, Nanaimo, B.C., Canada 
In Nanaimo, the deer lounge around in back yards like so many house pets or lawn ornaments. 

Reba Zee in Nanaimo, B.C., Canada  Madeleine on the beach in Nanoose, B.C., Canada
The best reason to come home for the summer.  My daughter and I had a great day visiting friends.

I find it interesting that it's my generation that is uninhibited about nudity, compared to my daughter's generation.  There's nothing like skinny dipping in the heat of the summer.
Mike and Cindy have put in a pond in their yard in Qualicum Beach.

Kathy shows off her new kitchen, in her new condo.  Maple Ridge, B.C., Canada
My cousin Kathy shows off her new kitchen, in her new condo. 

I really notice the contrast between Canada and China in our kitchens and bathrooms.  Very few of even the wealthier homes in China can match our bathrooms,  and I've yet to see one that has the equal of our kitchens.  This may reflect our priorities.

Big Brother Wants Us To Watch Each Other:

I found this disturbing.  It's a poster on a bus in North Vancouver, B.C., Canada.  It seems to be saying that if I see somebody taking a picture of a security camera in a Skytrain station, I should report this to the police.  What?  I take pictures of anything that catches my eye,  including Skytrain stations and even security cameras if there's something about them that interests me.

What is this silliness?  Is a criminal or terrorist really going to need a picture of that security camera in order to plan their scary attack?  Is this really essential information for them? Do we really need paranoid citizens reporting this kind of thing to the police? Isn't this poster a waste of the tax payer's money, and calling for a waste of the police department's (or at least the receptionist's) time?  Where is this nonsense coming from?

July 19, 2009 Back in B.C. after the Winnipeg Folk Festival

Winnipeg Folk Festival campgrounds.

No,  I'm not in China. Not until the end of August. Summer vacation continues. I've been back in B.C.  for five days now,  but lying low and trying to kick a cold I picked up while camping at the Winnipeg Folk Festival. Tomorrow I'll get over to Vancouver Island to see everybody. 
     I've been spending my sick time updating my sister's website http://www.kidsaremybusiness.com  She's just upgraded to Windows Vista, and for some very strange reason, the people at Microsoft thought it would be a good idea to change EVERYTHING, plus make it incompatible with FrontPage, the program I use to update websites.  When they have everybody trained to use a control panel with an icon that says "Add or Remove Programs",  why would they rename it and move it?  It's as if they are trying to infuriate their customers. After five days on a steep learning curve, I think I like Vista.  But I'd still like a few words with the geek who made all the unnecessary changes. Enough said.

There's no way to adequately describe the fun of camping with friends at the Winnipeg Folk Festival.  Great music.  Mellow crowd.  Wonderful variety in the weather,  which was mostly pleasant but included a torrential downpour and enough wind to make life exciting.  The performers were... well, just incredible.  Pictures say more than words, so here are a few:

A music workshop at the Winnipeg Folk Festival,  Manitoba, Canada
There were half a dozen stages on the site.  This one has a workshop in progress.

Our group had two tarps.  One close to the stage,  and one at the back for thos who don't like it too loud.  Night at the Winnipeg Folk Festival 2009

Happy campers at the Winnipeg Folk Festival 2009

An autographed CD from Punch Brothers.  Great bluegrass at the Winnipeg Folk Festival

I'm a fan of bluegrass and Punch Brothers are amazing,  as are the Abrams Brothers and Chatham Crossing.

Buddies on the back tarp at the Winnipeg Folk Festival 2009    Ruth likes to perform with her crystal sticks to the music behind the back tarp.

Arlo Guthrie on stage at the Winnipeg Folk Festival 2009.  Consummate performer.  Arlo Guthrie on the big screen while performing live at the Winnipeg Folk Festival 2009

For me the highlight of the festival was seeing Arlo Guthrie live.  He hasn't lost a lick.  Brilliantly clean guitar playing,  elegant harp work, a surprising switch to the piano for one number, and great between songs stories.  I wanted him to do "Alice's Restaurant" but that would be asking too much.  One of the icons of my generation.
     But the most fun,  the real reason to be there, was for the music circle around the campfire,  and picking up some fiddle tips from Bobby, a visitor from Houston, Texas.  I don't normally like crowds,  but this one was more like a community.

July 6, 2009  How I Spent My Summer Vacatio     As an added bonus,  Chen has caught on to the fact that we want to learn Chinese.  He speaks very little English, so it's easier to keep the conversations in his language.  Once he figures out what we are trying to say, he puts it into correct Chinese sentence structure and shows remarkable patience for correcting our pronunciation while we repeat the phrase or sentence over and over.

Passing on the Flame

William, Falcon, and Simon. Jiangnan University,  Wuxi,  China

Our friend Simon (right in this picture) found us our wonderful Chinese teacher, William, (left ) but William is going to Guilin to work toward his PhD.  So Simon has found us Falcon (center), our new and equally wonderful Chinese teacher.

 Falcon, our new Chinese teacher.  Jiangnan University,  Wuxi,  China  And he even plays the violin!  Wonderful to hear the violin and erhu played together.

We've finished our Chinese lessons for this term,  but we're looking forward to great progress next term.

The Problem with our Chinese Friends

Ruth asked our friend George to help her exchange some money at the Bank of China downtown.  George responded by inviting us to lunch with his cousins, and picking up the tab.

A melted chocolate fountain in the California Restaurant Buffet,  Wuxi,  China

The melted chocolate fountain in the California Restaurant Buffet,  Wuxi,  China  Seems to go well with the polka dots.

And this is the problem with our Chinese friends.  They go so far out of their way to be kind and generous, we'll never be able to repay them.  We're simply forced to live with the guilt.  Thanks for everything Zhu Kai Ning (George). You make us glad to be in China.
     The dress under the clown nose brought up the question,  why are they called "polka dots".  Naturally, somebody else has already asked this question and the answer is to be found on the Internet.  Of course.  Just about everything is answered on the Internet, except for the things nobody knows.  And for those things there are lots of conjectures.  Once again I marvel at this resource we have at our finger tips.

June 26, 2009 A Pipa Teacher at Last

I bought a pipa in Shanghai on our first visit there,  three years ago.  It's been hanging on our living room wall ever since.  Last week I saw a woman in the student cafeteria carrying a pipa case.  So in my fractured Chinese I asked if she could give me lessons.  That's how I ended up with my new pipa teacher.

陈楚阳 Chn Chuyng performs on the pipa.  Jiangnan University,  Wuxi,  China
Double click the picture to download a video clip of 陈楚阳 Chn Chuyng demonstrating the pipa.

Meet 陈楚阳 Chn Chuyng.  This picture is a frame from the video clip I took on my little still camera, which doesn't capture broadcast quality by a long shot. Then it's been compressed to get a reasonable file size (still over 9 megs) , which makes the image jump in a very strange way.  But what a wonderful sound.  
     Unfortunately, the pipa seems to be as difficult as any other instrument I have ever tried to play, and all the plucking techniques are exactly backward to the guitar.  It's plucked with the backs of the fingers, rather than the front.  Sigh.  Another learning curve coming at me.  But it is exciting to finally get started at another instrument.
     The instrument itself seems very crude compared to a guitar.  It weighs a ton, and feels like playing a log.  With no sound hole in evidence,  it surprises me that it makes so much noise.  No doubt it will start to feel familiar after a few hundred practice hours.

June 23, 2009 A Sendoff for William

Our favorite Chinese teacher, William, invited us to dinner with his friends.  He's going to Guilin in September for studies toward an advanced degree. We gathered for another feast in a local restaurant to celebrate his acceptance letter. 

Celebratory dinner.  Wuxi,  China

Celebratory dinner.  Wuxi,  China  Celebratory dinner.  Wuxi,  China  Celebratory dinner.  Wuxi,  China

Celebratory dinner.  Wuxi,  China

No,  it's not the same picture twice.  This time I'm behind the camera and Simon is in the picture.  Celebration dinner,  Wuxi,  China

Congratulations,  William.  And congratulations to Kelly, who will be going to Beijing for her further studies.

Pipa Lessons at Last

It's all arranged.  Tomorrow evening a young lady named  陈楚阳 (Chn chu yng) will come to our place to give me my first lesson.  The pipa has been hanging on the wall since we bought it in Shanghai last year.  It will be good to tune it up and actually learn to play it.

June 21, 2009 Catherine and Belle visit from Canada

Jin Bo, Ruth, David, Panda, my sister Cath and cousin Belle enjoying a feast in my new favourite restaurant.  Wuxi,  China.

I caught up with my sister,  Catherine, and cousin, Belle, at the tail end of their China tour.  Through the magic of mobile phones we managed to meet in the middle of Shanghai in the old city.

Catherine and David in the old city,  Shanghai,  China

There we were in the middle of a tourist shopping Mecca, and the tour wanted to take them to a shopping center?!!  So we pulled Cath away and had a great time looking for silk boxer shorts in the warren of little shops.

Catherine said she wanted to see the real China.  Well,  this is it.  The Haiying Restaurant,  Shanghai

After they checked into their hotel we met them for dinner,  and then crashed their night cruise on the Huang Pu.

That's Shanghai in the background.  Night cruise on the Huang Pu,  Shanghai,  China   That's the Pearl Tower in the background.  Night cruise on the Huang Pu,  Shanghai,  China

Another valuable warning.  Night cruise on the Huang Pu,  Shanghai,  China   That's the famous Bund in the background.  Night cruise on the Huang Pu,  Shanghai,  China

Next morning we caught the 8:14 D train to Wuxi.

Ruth and Belle in the Shanghai train station.  Next stop Wuxi.

Boarding the fast train,  Shanghai,  China  First class in the fast train from Shanghai to Wuxi,  China

Yes,  Belle really did ride a bike in China.  Just not very far.  Jiangnan University,  Wuxi,  China
This was on Belle's agenda.  I think she was making a point for her sister, Reta.

This is the start of the restaurant strip near the East gate,  Jiangnan University,  Wuxi,  China  A real feast in our favourite hole in the wall restaurant.

There was no way Cath was going to get out the door with this puppy.  The owners objected when she even got close to the exit.
Some thing in China you just want to take home with you.

So,  how is your wash day going?  Canal laundry,  Wuxi,  Jiangsu,  China

The day was sweltering and very muggy,  so rather than walk around the campus we called our favourite driver and gave the relatives a drive by tour. 

Air conditioned luxury. My cousin and sister on the canal cruise,  Wuxi,  China.  The canal cruise is a recent addition to Wuxi.  Still a novelty for the locals and their kids.

Then we headed downtown to the local temple market and another boat cruise on the canal.  A stop at Starbucks for coffee and then they were off again to Shanghai.
     I tried to call them last night to make sure they got back okay,  but every number that Howard Johnson's publishes for their many Shanghai hotels,  whether on the web or on the cards they hand out in the lobby, is invalid.  I don't know how they ever get a reservation.  Belle and Cath will just have to wait until they read this to find out I was thinking of them.
     Both Catherine and Belle say they had a great time touring China. Catherine wants to come back.  She's a very highly qualified teacher,  specializing in early childhood education and language development.  Back home in Canada she runs Kindermusik,  a program that introduces children and parents to the joy of learning through music, with amazing benefits for the development of emotional intelligence,  physical coordination,  and mathematical aptitude.  She has a lot to contribute to the children and students of English in China.

June 19, 2009 Letter from Angel

This letter from Angel speaks for itself,  so I'll just let it do that.

Subject:  hello David

Dear David,
Long time no see. I hope you are not forgetting the name Angel. I have been your student since the first grade of college, and i used to be the leader of English fly bar, which held a lot of English corner. You and Ruth devote a lot of time to that. And I always ask for your favor on some translation work. You never get tired of helping me. I'm going to graduate this month, actually I already left the school and now I'm working in a company in Wuxi. It's such a regret that you are not there while we took graduation picture. I do hope you have happy days in China and I look for further contact with you guys.
PS: The girl gesturing victory in the picture is me.
Best regards!
Angel

Angel's graduating class,  Jiangnan University,  Wuxi,  China

Good luck,  Angel.  Congratulations on graduating,  and on finding a job.  I'm sorry to hear that you've left the university,  but I hope you will keep in touch.  Remember, I'm always just an email away if you have a question about English. 
Angel sent this to both Ruth and me,  but Ruth did a much better job of replying to her than I did:

Angel,

Congratulations on graduating! It is an accomplishment that you can be proud of.

And thank you so much for the taking the time to write and express your appreciation. Hearing from students such as you is what makes this job worthwhile.

If you learn and grow and improve in your work life like you did in my Practical Writing class then you will do very well indeed!

Good luck to you in your future. Feel free to write again, especially if you have any questions about English or Western customs.

Warmest regards,
Your proud teacher, Ruth

June 17, 2009 back from Guangzhou

Torrential rain,  a daily Springtime event in Guangzhou,  China.

It was a whirlwind trip.  Twenty-six hours in a soft sleeper compartment down to Guangzhou,  a morning meeting,  one night in a hotel, and twenty-six hours in a soft sleeper back to Wuxi.  That's a lot of time on a train in three days,  from 4:00am Sunday morning to 8:00am Wednesday morning.  I lucked out on the way down,  and had the whole compartment to myself for all but the last couple of hours.  This meant that I got in a lot of erhu practice.
   I was almost as lucky for the ride back, even luckier in some ways, sharing the compartment with a young mother and her four year old daughter.  That was fun,  and included a bit of Chinese practice.  They even put up with some erhu practice.

Always better to have a clown nose and not need one, than to need a clown nose and not have one. In the soft sleeper compartment from Guangzhou to Wuxi,  China.  Travelling companions in the soft sleeper compartment  from Guangzhou to Wuxi, China.
                             I'm getting to be quite Chinese with my automatic "V for Victory" salute.              - David Scott photo

So,  was the trip worth it?  Hard to say.  Nothing definite came from the meeting, other than I have a deeper understanding of the bicycle helmet industry in China.  Mr. Jiang and his boss,  Mr. Li Jr., and their assisgent met me at the Guangzhou train station.  They took me for a great dim sum breakfast,  which turned out to be the same style of dim sum that I'm used to eating in Toronto or Vancouver,  but hadn't found in China.  Delicious.  We talked about helmets.  Then they took me to visit the factory,  and to meet the founder of the firm,  Mr. Li senior.

David Scott and Mr. Li at the Chao Yue Sports Equipment Co. Ltd.,  Foshan,  China.

It's obvious that Mr. Li,  and the other helmet makers here that we've contacted, do not think they can sell to the Chinese market, at least not at a price that makes it worth while.  I've been giving this a lot of thought.
     A businessman looks at the consumers and tries to decide what they want,  and then provides that for them.  An advertising man, on the other hand, looks at the consumers and tries to "create a need" for a product that the consumers do not know they want.  I guess I'm much more of an advertising man than a businessman.  And of course there's the big question:  is it possible to create a need for bicycle helmets in China.  Right now everybody thinks they get along fine without them, despite the fact that China has seven times more head injury fatalities per rider mile than western countries.  That's a lot of heads getting broken.  But the danger is not immediate and obvious to the bicycle riders,  so they don't think a helmet is important.  Then there's the issue of price.  I have been selling helmets for just 10 RMB,  which almost covers my cost.  But I haven't been happy with the quality of those helmets.  Mr. Li's company makes high end helmets of obvious superior quality,  but also at a much higher price.  I would be barely breaking even if I sold them for 100 RMB.  Many of the students are riding bikes that cost just a couple of hundred RMB.  It's going to be hard to convince them to spend a hundred or more on a helmet.
     I think what is called for here is some testing.  Some testing and a marketing plan to test.  The plan will be my summer project.

Note on the erhu Practice:

I almost left my erhu behind in Wuxi, just because I didn't want to carry it around. I'm so glad I took it with me - the train practice session was extended and intense.  I've been trying to master a bowing technique on the erhu that has the rhythm of horse hooves. On the train, I finally found this sound.


Double click for a video clip of the bowing technique.

      It's so strange the way these things must be discovered, a bit like whistling,  or bending a note on a harmonica.  You can never teach anybody to do these things. You can only show them that it's possible, and then they have to put in the time and experiment endlessly until they figure out how to do it.
     It's been the same with this bowing technique. Every time I picked up the erhu, I could tell I was a little closer to finding it. And now it's easy. Well, almost easy. But I would never be able to describe the movement (though I think I could give good hints since the learning curve is so recent.). No more than our teacher could accurately describe it to me.

June 13, 2009 Soft Sleeper to Guangzhou

Yesterday, Panda went with me to the train station.  On the way she gave me a Chinese lesson, and we stopped in at a music store to pick up some strings for my sister's 古筝 gǔ zhēng (A 21 stringed instrument that looks like a giant zither. I took a spare set of strings to Canada when I delivered the gǔ zhēng   but managed to break two strings, the same strings of course, on the first tuning.). At the train station, Panda helped me buy a soft sleeper ticket to Guangzhou.  Train tickets here are a bit of a mystery.  It's as if they have never heard of computers.  I couldn't get the soft sleeper ticket on campus,  but one was available at the downtown ticket office.  Return tickets are not sold anywhere.  Very strange.

A still from my new bike helmet public service spot.  Double click for the video.

I'll be on the 02:21 train.  Yes,  that's two in the morning,  which really feels like very very late tonight, but it's okay because it's a soft sleeper. I'm taking my little public service spot (see the June 11 posting below) for a meeting with the execs of a helmet manufacturing company. 
     I'm looking forward to 26 hours on the train.  I love traveling in a soft sleeper compartment,  watching China roll by outside the window.
     This morning I'm checking out a Chinese dentist.  Expect a report this afternoon.

An Evening of Dance

Not flames.  Dancers in performance.  Jiangnan University,  Wuxi,  China

Yesterday I got a call from our boss,  Ms. Liu,  with the news that she had two tickets for a dance performance that evening.  Ruth had to pass on the experience,  because that was when the car was coming to take her to the train station.  She's off to Xi An and points west with her old high school friend Doug,  her co-star in the public service video we just finished.

Dancers in performance at Jiangnan University,  Wuxi,  China.  Double click the picture for a video clip.
Double click the picture for a video clip.

 I could and did attend,  and as usual was blown away by the talent of the students here.  It was a wonderful evening of high energy and very accomplished dance,  with some numbers like the one in the clip above demonstrating amazing acrobatic ability,  and some like the clip below showing some stunning Chinese beauty.

Dancers in performance at Jiangnan University,  Wuxi,  China.  Double click the picture for a video clip.
Double click the picture for a  second video clip.

Once gain,  thanks to Ms. Liu and the folks in the administration office.  Great seats.  You make my life here very rich.

Teeth So Clean it's a Shame to Use Them

For the past three summers I've been to see my dentist,  Dr. George,  back in Canada for my annual  checkup and professional cleaning.  But this year I decided that if I'm going to earn Chinese wages,  I'd better get a Chinese dentist.

Note the gloves and mask. Comforting in an uncomfortable situation.  Dr. Zhou Wei An cleans my teeth,  Wuxi,  China
                                                                                                              - David Scott photo

Enter Dr. Zhou Wei An.  He's on campus two days a week to look after the students' dental problems, and I met him here when I needed a front cap glued back in place.  He speaks excellent English. He told me to come to his office downtown for the cleaning. 
     I think finding a dentist in a foreign country is naturally going to cause a waiguo a bit of anxiety.  But Dr. Zhou's equipment and methods are the equal of anything back home.  In fact, he used one technique I've never had before - following the standard ultrasonic descaling with something very similar to sand blasting with baking soda, followed by the standard mechanical cleaning.  He did a great job.  The price - 230 RMB ($37.63 Canadian at today's rate).  A bargain.  I'm not sure what I've been paying for a cleaning in Canada,  but it's always one of my major expenses of the summer.

June 11,  2009 The Bicycle Helmet Campaign Heats Up

Classes are finished for the term.  I've done my assessments and paperwork.  Now I have a little free time to devote to the helmet campaign. 
     I've come to realize that nobody will put on a bike helmet out of fear.  The danger of brain injury is simply too remote.  But there are other things that motivate the youth of China.  Competition for the top jobs is one of them.  With this in mind,  I just finished this 30 second public service spot, aimed at the Chinese university grads.  Hopefully it hits its target.  I'm going to try to get it on the television stations here,  but you can get a preview by clicking a still from the video. 

Still from the bike helmet public service spot,  with unavoidable artifacts.  Double click for the video.   Still from the bike helmet public service spot,  with unavoidable artifacts.  Double click for the video.
Double click either picture to download the video.

The file is 3.935 megs,  so it will take a few minutes to download.  Hopefully it's worth it. The Chinese narration on this is:  竞争中,你必 须出 类拔萃。(jng zhēng zhōng, nǐ b xū chū li b cu。- In the middle of the competition, you must stand apart from the others.) And the tag at the end is 带上 头盔,尽显 风 采。 (di shng tu kuī, jn xiǎn fēng cǎi. Wear a helmet. Look smart/elegant/sharp/stylish/cool - all implied by fēng cǎi)
     I'll be taking this to Guangzhou next week for a meeting with a helmet company.  I'm not sure what will come from that meeting,  but I'm looking for allies,  and helmet manufacturers seem like an obvious place to start.  Sooner or later, somebody is going to see the potential of the Chinese market for bicycle helmets,  and then we're going to save some lives.  That's a nice thought.
     Many thanks to my cast - Doug, Ruth, George and Simon - and to my boom person,  Panda.  Also thanks to Simon for the translation and Chinese narration.  Great work guys.  Oh yes,  and thanks to the Foreign Affairs Department of Jiangnan University for permission to film in their boardroom.  I appreciate all the help,  cooperation,  and encouragement.

June 05, 2009 RIP David Carradine

It was a shock.  Last night this text message came in:

TheFlyingGodesssays:        6/4/2009 10:48:13pm
not in the mood to chat ...but got a call...now on the news...found david...carradine,..dead in his hotel room in bankok lon location...i'm... very upset...talk later ok?jjust wanted to let you know

The Flying Godess is also known as Marina Carradine,  David Carradine's former wife.  I drove down to Los Angeles with my kids to attend their wedding.  So very thoughtful of her to let me know when she must have so much on her mind.

  
  David Carradine,  1936 - 2009

     He was a remarkable man, and an amazing artistic talent.  He could take a big lump of plasticine and turn it into a perfect likeness that looked like it had come from the hands of Rodan.   He could take a smashed Martin guitar and patiently repair it to playable condition,  and then play it.  He could sing the blues.  He could compose songs of his own. He could do a passable piano lounge act.  He could tap dance. He also wrote books.  Actually wrote them himself,  and they were not only readable,  they were fascinating.  Most of all he could act.  He could act far better than most people will ever know.  Take a look at "Bound for Glory",  the Woody Guthrie story,  if you want to see David outside of his Kwai Chang Caine persona.  The guy had chops. 
     One episode of "Kung Fu,  the Legend Continues" stays with me.  It was really Chris Potter's show,  and Chris was putting his heart into it,  doing a great job.  David only had one line - to walk through a surrealistic nightclub where his beloved wife,  deceased, was sitting at a table,  pause and say: "I can't talk now.  I have to save our son."  David,  who at that time,  was drinking heavily,  walked into the scene,  paused,  delivered the line, and a single tear rolled down his cheek on cue.  When I called "cut" the crew applauded. A rare event on any jaded television series set.
     On his way off the set,  David turned to Chris and said, "Top that,  kid."
     A bit later,  sitting on the curb outside the nightclub where we were filming,  I said to him:  "David,  you're a prick."
     "No I'm not," he replied.  "I'm mischievous."  And he was.  This,  after all,  was the guy in the fringed buckskin jacket who rode his horse to the take out window of the Dairy Queen.
     I don't mean to take anything away from Chris Potter by telling this story.  Like I said,  Chris was doing a great job and is a talent in his own right.  He really aced that episode ("The Bardo" for all you K.F.T.L.C. fans.) But David was a star,  and everybody knew it.  He lit up the screen,  as he did in his big come back movie, "Kill Bill".  He had his demons.  But what I loved about him was that he was human all the way.  He gave me insights.  He talked to me, and he didn't get mad when I talked back. I'll miss him.

I should add that I expected David to be dead within months of the cancellation of his series.  Booze was obviously killing him. It's a tribute to Marina that he had a few more good years, and a comeback career.

June 2, 2009 One out a Billion Plus.  But it's a Start

The other evening our old friend and former Chinese teacher,  William, came by with the news that he was going to ride his bicycle from Wuxi around Taihu,  the big lake near our campus, to Suzhou.

Satelite view of our part of China.  It's half an hour from Wuxi to Suzhou by the bullet train,  but a lot longer by bicycle.

This is some serious bike touring.  He said he needed a helmet,  so of course I gave him one.  I'm thrilled to think that there is at least one Chinese head protected by a helmet.  Then today we got this report,  along with a few pictures.

Dear Ruth and David,

I`ve returned from Suzhou after two days` travel by bike.

With the help of compass and Google Map, and the red helmet you presented, I arrived in Suzhou smoothly. I met with a friend of Soochow University at Tiger Hill (虎丘). It is regarded as an eastern Leaning Tower of Pisa. We also walked along the ShanTang Street(山塘街)which is one of the most oldest street in china with a lot of traditional architectures. The next day we had a tour around Suzhou and enjoyed ourselves by bicycle!

(Some pictures attached )

Best wishes!

Yours William

 William on bicycle tour in Suzhou,  China   Tiger Hill  (虎丘) Pagoda in the background.   William on his bicycle tour to Suzhou.  So good to see a helmet on a Chinese head.

   Way to go,  William.

GouGou likes to fight the mop.  Fortunately only when it's in use.

Street Food

Today we went into the nearby village market to pick up some supplies.  Couldn't resist a street food snack.  This is a husband and wife team.  She bakes the bread in a charcoal oven,  and he takes care of the hard boiled egg,  pork, noodles and veggies filling.  Mmmmmmnnnnn good. 

Street food in Wuxi,  Jiangsu,  China.    Ruth Anderson enjoys the street food in Wuxi,  Jiangsu,  China.
Double click either picture for a short video clip.

This is one of the things we enjoy about China.  Just watching street food being prepared is fun,  and then we get to eat it.  Ah, the simple pleasures of life.

What Will They Think of Next?

Light weight and lots of fun.  It collapses into a backpack.   Or if I try to ride it,  it collapses into a garbage can. I bought this folding bike because I fell in love with its design.  It does an Inspector Gadget trick and collapses into a backpack.  It's also pretty easy to ride.  What a great idea,  a bike you can take on a bus or train.

Unfortunately it achieves a light weight at the expense of durability.  It came with a warning that the load limit is 187 pounds.  I should have taken this seriously,  because I've broken it already.  I haven't been 187 pounds since high school.

Oh well.  Fun while it lasted.

Time to archive again:  So soon.  So much has happened in the past few months.  The really good stuff is in the archives,  folks.  I hate to bury it back there,  because I fear that nobody will ever click on the links.  But you should.  Really.  I promise.       

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