Hangzhou Weekend and Events Surrounding

Chinese word of the day:  剪刀
(jian3 dao1) n. scissors

Ruth’s friend Mary arrived from Minneapolis last week, via Chicago and London.  What?  London?  From Minneapolis?  Really?

Picture: GouGou, the opportunist, has found a new friend to sleep with.  Mary was ready for sleep by the time she arrived at our place.  Jiangnan Universisty, Wuxi, ChinaIt took Ruth three tries to meet Mary at the airport.  The first attempt, she had misread the flight information and went to Shanghai a day early.  Just before going to Shanghai the next day, we got an email saying that Mary’s flight had been delayed by four hours.  Then she got a second email with no mention of Mary at all, just “New flight info” in the subject line and “British Airways flt 169  Arrive April 12 (the next day) 7:10am” in the body of the message.  Ruth checked that flight and found out it was leaving from London.  With no information from the sender that just didn’t make any sense, so Ruth suspected a hacker prank and went to the airport anyway. There she learned that Mary was indeed coming in from London, due to bad weather in Chicago causing a route change, and would not arrive until the next morning.  So Ruth took a room in the airport hotel for the night and met Mary in the morning.  I was able to cover her classes for her.

Ruth could offer Mary a hotel room shower before they caught the maglev into Shanghai.  They took the subway the rest of the way downtown where they walked Nanjing Lu, the wide pedestrian street, down to the Bund, back up for lunch at Zen in Raffles Plaza, followed by a stroll around People’s Square. Then they took the subway to the train station and the train for Wuxi.

Panda wanted to visit some friends in Nanjing, so she jumped at the chance to take Mary with her.  They ended up missing their train back to Wuxi and didn’t get home until almost five in the morning.  They had a lot of fun.

From Panda’s Diary: 

Before I went to the train station I was so excited because I am going to go back to Nanjing and also I was afraid that I couldn’t take care of her so I was a little nervous.  Napkins, snacks, bus card, it seems like I have taken everything however it turned out I didn’t find out that I forgot my ID card until I got to the train station.  Suddenly I felt guilty.  I wanted to guarantee her a wonderful trip because of my careless I wasted both of us almost two hours.  Anyway, we arrived in Nanjing at lunch time.  We went to the Da Pai Dang restaurant on Hu Nan road.  After a so so dinner I think that place hasn’t impressed on Mary.  After that we went to the Massacre Museum and it was closed.  After that we went to the textile museum, which is a very small one, Costa Coffee in Jin Lun Plaza and then Confucius Temple.  We went to Dai Mei hot pot restaurant for dinner.  Mary found it interesting because she has never been to one before.  I told her it is famous in Szechuan area.  My friend Tang Li was there too.

We went shopping that afternoon in Confucius temple market, and Tang Li gave Mary a bracelet.  So Mary was happy about our friendliness and she is very curious about our Chinese food.  Then we were enjoying ourselves at dinner without a time limit.  We didn’t buy our return ticket.  All the while thinking it wouldn’t be a big deal.  However it turned out we only got to the regular train which I showed Mary that morning on our way here.  I was thinking, well, you may never have a chance to take that.  And look, here we are.

We wanted to see whether the buses or taxis would work because the train would take us home very late.  So we returned our train ticket.  But it turned out that no bus or taxi would work, so we got another train ticket at one fifty in the morning.  We stayed at the train station for a couple of hours sitting at a table in the lobby with others staring at us.  After the train came, Mary wanted to take a picture as a souvenir.  I was thinking there was no time.  Which was true since the time we got on the train it started moving.  After a while Mary finally asked will it get any faster.  We both laughed because it was like riding in a horse drawn wagon.  We were joking that if we started walking from the time we waited, we would have been in Wuxi by now.  I think she was tired.  She had a few naps.  By the time we arrived in Wuxi it was almost four in the morning.  I made a bad decision to stop at the East Gate of the university.  Taxi couldn’t get on to the campus so we had a long walk.  It was a peaceful morning.  I found it funny because all the other Chinese are sleeping and yet Mary, the foreigner, wasn’t able to go to sleep.  Yet she is on vacation.  As we got to the gate to the apartments, it seemed like it was closed and Mary was ready to collapse.  But finally we arrived home, which set GouGou barking and woke everybody up, at half past four.  I was thinking, what a big day for a foreign tourist in China. (end excerpt from Panda’s diary)

Mary told us that everything not working out as planned was a part of the fun.  They were laughing all the time, and the Nanjing adventure was a highlight of her China visit.

Mary in Wuxi

Picture: In the Wuxi clay figure museum.  A clay figure painting a clay figure.  Very meta.  Wuxi, ChinaWe took Mary to the Wuxi pottery museum and our favourite places in Hui Shan ancient city (newly restored).  I love the scale of the old city.  It was built for people, not for cars.

Picture: A stree in the ancient city.  I love the scale, built for people, not cars.  Wuxi Hui Shan, ChinaWe had canal boat cruise, museum tours, a visit to Hui Shan ancient village, the newly restored tourist attraction in here in Wuxi, and then we took off for a weekend in Hangzhou to visit our friend Elaine.

And On to Hangzhou

Panda was planning to come with us to Hangzhou, and had purchased a train ticket, but her first big assignment as a medical/dental liaison for foreigners landed in her lap and she had to refund her ticket, drop everything, and head for a hospital to take care of a fellow expat who needed constant attention for a whole week.

The Hangzhou weekend went by in a flash.  We checked in to our clean and comfortable rooms at the International Youth hostel, then wandered the pedestrian street. Elaine joined us the next morning and we met a group of her fellow teachers for a canal boat ride that took us to a recreated ancient street and three museums – the umbrella museum, the scissors and knives museum, and the fan museum.

Mary has a deep love for scissors.  She’d read about the scissors museum in Hangzhou before leaving Minneapolis, and had made it a priority destination.  I’m not sure how many pairs of scissors she took back to Minneapolis with her, but I think she’d collected more than thirty by the time she left China.

Picture:  Mary and Kay on the canal boat, Hangzhou, ChinaWe got Mary back to the Pudong airport on Tuesday, this time for a direct flight to Chicago.  So she’s had a round the world flight to visit us.  On the morning she was leaving, with our favourite driver scheduled to take her to Pudong Airport in Shanghai, I got a call from a young friend in Shanghai who was in an emotional meltdown over personal problems.  So I went in to the airport with Mary to see her off, then took a couple of hours in Shanghai to meet my friend and offer what support I could. Of course I couldn’t do more than just be there and listen, but maybe that helped.  Sometimes it feels good to be an old guy and past all the drama of youth.

A family member of Panda’s client arrived yesterday from America, so Panda was relieved after 9 days of stressful 24/7 duty.  She was pretty happy to get free, and her violin playing has made an amazing improvement in the week she’s been away.  We are so proud of her.  It really looks like her new business can have potential.  She’s developing a very professional attitude and has demonstrated an ability to take charge of any situation.

The weather has been chilly and unpleasant for the past week.  Not terrible, but not wonderful either.  Today we’re back to Spring and it’s glorious, warm and breezy with clear blue skies.  I’m going to take our dog for a romp on the campus island and think about all the things I need to do to wrap up the current course.  Time to evaluate and submit marks.  I’ve been running my informal student polls again, on every subject I can think of.  They continue to surprise me.

Picture: I asked my students whether they are, or want to be, a leader.  Jiangnan University, Wuxi, ChinaInteresting the percentage of students who have no interest in being a leader.

Picture: student poll, should capital punishment be abolished.  Vote no 10 to 2.  Sometimes they don't surprise me. Jiangnan University, Wuxi, ChinaAnd sometimes they don’t surprise me at all.

It’s been hard to get this post up.  So much has been happening, between the visitors, the visits, the teaching, and Panda starting her new business.  Oh yes, and I got knocked down by a cold for a couple of days.  So I have lots of excuses.  And now the post seems scattered and fragmented, a sad reflection of my current reality.  I’ve had a couple of enquiries from future teachers, wanting to know all about employment here.  I’ve given them a temporary brush off, because life has been just too hectic.  But I’ve got a couple of days coming up when I should be able to respond…oh, wait, our young friend Guo Wei will be flying in to Shanghai to spend a couple of days with us next week.  Better get those letters written tonight.

Your comments are always welcome, but I don’t see much here that could motivate a comment.  So I’ll just thank you for checking in on me.

Update on Nurse Panda

Chinese Word of the Day:  帮助
(bang1 zhu4) help; assist; aid

Picture: Nurse Panda consults with doctors at Number 2 Hospital, Wuxi, ChinaAs anybody who has been following this site knows, we’ve been helping our young friend Panda Wang get her new business started.  Panda is setting herself up as an independent medical/dental liaison for foreigners.  She’s ideally suited for this kind of work.  She has a great personality, a good work ethic, excellent English, and most of all she genuinely cares about people and has a real talent for connecting at an emotional level.  I’d trust her with my life, and have on at least one occasion.

She’s been at it for two months now, and as a proof of concept she’s had three clients from our own school, and one client who picked up her brochure at the Blue Bar downtown.  But things have been slow getting started.  And then very recently she got called out to support a “foreign expert” (Every foreigner who works in China gets called a foreign expert by the Chinese government.  Quite flattering, really.) who needs to be hospitalized for several days.

That’s where she is now.  Her presence is a great comfort to our fellow ex-pat, and to his family back home.  I don’t mean to rejoice in anybody’s misfortune, but I’m very happy that Panda is seeing that people really value her services.   And they do.  I’ve heard nothing but raves from her clients.  They all tell me that she’s wonderful. (I know that, of course, but it’s always great to hear it from others.)

Update on the Elliptical Trainer

Chinese Word of the Day:  修
(xiu1) to repair

We missed a couple of days of exercise since the elliptical trainer died. Yesterday we rode our bikes to Auchan for groceries, about an hour as a round trip, which probably made up for the lack of the exercise machine.

Yesterday the repair guys showed up and put a new belt on the elliptical trainer.  I was really surprised at how fast this happened.  I was expecting a month or so to get the belt and then more delay getting it delivered and installed, but thanks again to Panda this all happened with minimal involvement from Ruth or me.

Picture:  Two repair men, one machine, more than an hour at work, all for $19.44 Canadian, including the new belt.  Welcome to China.They charged us 119 RMB, about $20 Canadian, including the cost of the belt, and they were here for well over an hour.  Unfortunately, the first time they put the machine back together, the computer wouldn’t work properly.  It would go up to full resistance, then drop down to a fraction of that, then drop down completely.  They took it apart again, trying to find the problem but finally had to give up.  I told them not to worry about it.

Picture:  GouGou, a very excited dog, waits patiently in her "feng" while the repairmen work.  Jiangnan University, Wuxi, ChinaI set up the machine for full resistance, then pulled it’s plug.  So it works fine as an exercise machine now, except it doesn’t tell us our time or calories burned.  We can live with that.  The iPad has a great timer on it and I’m just going to assume that if I breath hard and sweat a lot I’m probably burning from 500 – 600 calories.

So, 31 minutes on the elliptical trainer this morning, burning about 600 calories or so.  Dripping sweat and breathing hard.  Time for a shower.

Working on the Move Home

We’ve told the moving company thanks but no thanks.  Much as we appreciate their time visiting us and preparing an estimate, we can’t afford $3,500 dollars to move our stuff back to Canada, especially since it isn’t worth that once we get it there.  Well, maybe it is if you add up all the nickles and dimes.  I’m always surprised at what people get from garage sales prices.  But really, most of it is worn out and should be replaced anyway, and the rest has sentimental value that will only clutter up our lives.  We’re stripping down to the stuff we can’t bear to part with, and I’ll explore alternative ways to get it home.

I’ve filled the two big boxes I bought at the post office (10 RMB each or $1.63 CDN at today’s exchange rate), one with books, making it very heavy, and the other with clothing, which is also surprisingly heavy.  I’ll take them to the post office today and see what it will cost to send them to my friend Clint in Nanaimo.  Clint has kindly agreed to store them for me until I return to Canada this summer.  This will let us know what shipping by surface post will cost.  Anything that can’t be shipped by post will either go with us as excess baggage, or remain in China.

I’ve already prepared my 三轮车 (san1 lun2 che1 – three wheeled bicycle truck), which hasn’t been used since last year and had three flat tires, so transport to the campus post office will be relatively painless.

The End of the Elliptical Trainer

Chinese Word of the Day:  很贵
(hen3 gui4) very expensive

For several weeks our elliptical trainer has been running rough.  It felt like running in the dark on a road with unexpected potholes.  Yesterday it started making a scraping sound, and then suddenly there was a snap and a sound like a spring being released and no resistance at all.

Picture:  She's dead, Jim.  Our elliptical trainer is now non-functional.  Jiangnan University, Wuxi, ChinaWe’ve been putting in half an hour on the machine almost every morning since we bought it three years ago.  I guess that’s a lot of use, though a machine built for the health clubs should be able to take it.  It provided a great workout.  I would drip sweat like a shower nozzle and listen to my heart pounding in my ears.  The after workout shower always felt great.  Now that’s over.

I opened up the machine and found the problem, a broken belt between the main wheel and the resistance wheel. We’ll make a phone call to see if we can get a new belt, but other than that we’re not spending any money on the machine.  We only have three more months in China, and the machine is not going back to Canada with us.

I remember the decision to buy this machine.  I had two worries.  I feared that it would sit in our living room unused, a silent guilt trip and rebuke, gathering dust, of which we seem to have a plethora in our apartment.  And I anticipated with horror that it would get used and I’d have to exercise every morning.  Both worries, like most worries in life, turned out to be groundless.  We’ve never regretted buying the professional quality machine, and it’s made a huge contribution to our health and feelings of well being, energy, being in control.  I’m not sure what will fill the gap now that it’s dead.  We went for a long bike ride yesterday, to Wanda Plaza for a Starbucks latte and a stop at Auchan for groceries on our way back, and I’m pretty sure that burned as many calories as the half hour we spend on the elliptical.  The weather is great now.  Maybe biking can replace the living room workout.

The Move Back Home

One my reasons (excuses) for not updating is that I’ve been distracted as we explored our options for our return to Canada.  We had an estimate from a moving company of several thousand dollars to ship our stuff home, which is more than it’s worth if we buy it new in Canada.  Looks like we’re going to have a big yard sale.   I’ll be selling my inflatable boat for whatever I can get for it.  We’re exploring other options, but the post office has a 60cm maximum on boxes, so my almost new life size skeleton can’t be sent by parcel post.  I’m not sure how that’s getting to Canada, but I’m working on it.

Picture: Kulou Laoge and Da Dawei.  Jiangnan University, Wuxi, ChinaToday I’ll stop by the post office, pick up one of their largest boxes, bring it home and fill it with heavy books and such, and find out what it will cost to send it to Canada.  Anything we can’t send by post at a reasonable price will stay in China.

Our biggest surprise was the estimate for sending our dog home ahead of us.  The airlines will not accept a dog after June 20 because of the heat at the airport.  Our contracts keep us here until June 30.  So we tried to set it up to send GouGou to the care of my sister, Catherine, in Canada sometime in early June.  The estimate for that was substantially more than the price of a ticket for Catherine to come to China and return with our dog.  Now that’s what’s happening.  We’re buying Catherine a return ticket to Shanghai.  She’ll get another visit, and finally get that day in Shanghai she wanted but missed on her last visit.  We get something of value other then getting our dog home, and save a bit of money too.  Win win all around.

Another Student Poll

One of the articles we read in my seminar class this term was about a new highrise mausoleum in Texas, which lead to discussions of strange funeral practices.  That, in turn, lead to the question of what we all want done with our mortal remains.  And that lead to this question to the class….

Picture:  Student poll on donating their body to science.  Jiangnan University, Wuxi, ChinaI was quite surprised by this result.  Most of the students who said they would volunteer their body to science were women.  It was the boys who were the reactionary holdouts.

As always, your comments are welcome.