New Year’s Day 2013 Happy New Year

Chinese word of the day:  按摩
(an4 mo2 literally “press, push down” + “rub, scrape, touch”)  massage

2012 was a good year, full of adventures and new places and new friends.  2013 promises to be even more exciting.  For one thing, we’re hearing that the Chinese government will not approve a work visa for anybody over 65.  So that leaves me out.  Fortunately we were already planning to make this our last year in China, so no hard feelings and we need no excuse for abandoning this college at the end of this contract.  That’s a weight off my mind.

Picture: Snow clearing at Wanda Plaza outside the Starbucks.  Ugly weather in Wuxi, ChinaThe weather in Wuxi has been delightfully varied.  On Saturday we rode our bikes to Wanda Plaza and Starbucks again to do some marking and, in my case, slurp down far too much coffee.  It was raining on the way there, turning to sleet as we arrived, and then to snow.  My feet were soaked.

Our friend Sherry arrived just as we were settling in at our usual table upstairs.  She joined us for some conversation.  I complained about my wet and cold feet.  Ruth suggested I buy socks, and I responded that I can never find decent socks in China.  They are always too thin.  Sherry mentioned that she had found incredibly warm fleecy socks at Century Mart, one of the big grocery stores in Wanda Plaza,  so I left them to talk while I made my way there across the mall.

That was interesting.  I don’t know how often Century Mart beats their employees, but they were an unfriendly bunch and amazingly unhelpful.  There were very few customers.  The woman guarding the entrance looked like she had a hate on for the whole world when I asked for directions to the shoe department, though I did manage to tease a smile out of her at least.  But I found no socks where Sherry had told me they would be, with the shoes, so I asked one of the staff, a sour and lumpy middle aged woman, where they keep their 袜子 (wa2 zi), socks.  She was sitting on a box, talking to some friends, and obviously not at all interested in doing her job.  She said 没有 (mei2 you3) not have, in a very abrupt and dismissive way.

I couldn’t quite believe that a store like Century Mart would not have socks, so I went on a search for them and of course found a whole aisle of socks of all kinds and colours, including the kind that Sherry had recommended.  I took a pair back to the sales woman, who was still sitting on her box,  and slapped them on my hand in front of her face and told her that yes, you have socks, and you are a lazy stupid person.  She seemed unimpressed, but her friends found me very amusing.  I think I’ve been in China too long.

Those socks improved my ride home a lot and are making a great difference to me even now as I type this.  Our apartment floor is like a block of ice, and I usually have a tough time keeping my feet warm even with two pairs of socks and a pair of shoes.  But right now my feet are toasty.  So thanks for the tip, Sherry.

The ride home was into the teeth of a snowstorm.  Fortunately we had no problem, and no major discomfort protected as we were by our ponchos and the layers of insulation, plus the new hippopotamus feet on our handle bars.  We rather enjoyed actually experiencing the elements for a change.

A Visit from William and Visiting Wang Jia Ying

On Sunday our young friend Wang Tao surprised us by bringing our former Chinese teacher, William, around for a visit.  When we learned that their next stop was the club where his wife is recuperating from giving birth to their daughter, we asked if we could join them.

Picture:  Ruth, William, Wang Tao and Lu Ying in the club for new mothers.The postpartum club is the equivalent of a five star hotel, at about the same price per night.  The new mother’s can have spa treatments.  Their meals are served in their rooms.  Husbands can join them, and the babies are taken away at night and cared for by a nurse until they need feeding so that the couple can have some sleep.   What a concept.

Picture: Lu Ying and Wang Tao with baby Wang Jia Ying, Wang + Ying.

Now this is really cute:  The baby’s father is Wang Tao.  Her mother is Lu Ying.  So the baby’s name is Wang Jia Ying.  It’s not the same character, but in Chinese “jia” means “plus”, so “Wang Jia Ying” translates as “Wang plus Ying”.

Happy new Year and Welcome to 2013

Then it was New Year’s Eve, which we spent at our friend Lynn’s apartment.  I managed to put away a third of a bottle of Captain Morgan Original Spiced Gold without really feeling the effects.  It was a very quiet party, with Lise from Montreal, Lynn from Victoria and Ruth and me just munching on finger food and sipping various wines and beverages till after the ball dropped.  GouGou was invited at the last minute, so Ruth went home to fetch her and she became the life of the party.  Just about perfect as a way to see out the  old year and bring in the new.  Ruth and I never watch television anymore since it went digital and we declined to pay for it.  So it was good to see what we’ve been missing on the English propaganda channel.  Seems we haven’t been missing much.

And Then the New Years Day Massage

At the party, Lise mentioned that she goes for a massage once a week to a place that some Chinese friends told her about.  She offered to introduce us, so we were on our bikes for the forty minute ride to Da Run Fa by 1:20pm and by 2:00pm or so we were being prodded and pummelled without mercy.

Picture: Hidden entrance to the secret massage parlour. Wuxi, China

There’s no way in the world we would find this place without guidance.  There’s no visible sign outside and this is the entrance.  Complete with mailboxes that have seen better days.

Picture:  ancient mailboxes, most showing the result of lost keys or theft.  Wuxi, ChinaThis is the kind of location to give a foreigner pause, and no doubt we’d have had paranoid thoughts if we were being lead up those stairs by a Chinese stranger, but upstairs there was a waiting room and a massage room with three tables.  The staff hastened to lay out fresh sheets and blankets.  We lucked out in finding that all three tables were available on our arrival.  Mere minutes later there were customers lining up, and being told that nothing was available until four or five o’clock.

Picture:  My masseur, Xiao Shi, Da Dawei, Lise and her masseur.The business is staffed by two cheerful and professional masseurs and one masseuse, two men and a woman.  For an hour, very little was said by the foreigners.  Although it was a fully clothed massage it went plenty deep.  My masseur frequently asked, “痛吗” (tong4 ma) “Pain?”  I lied and denied.  Painful at times, but in a good way.  We’ll be back, no doubt with visitors from Canada and America.

In contrast to the ugly weather on Saturday, we rode our bikes home through magnificently clear air.

Picture: almost sunset as we rode our bikes over Lihu Daqiao.  Wuxi, ChinaIt was almost sunset as we rode over Lihu Daqiao, Lihu Big Bridge.  We were home in time for our Chinese lesson, and to meet the young student who will house sit for us during the Spring holiday and take care of GouGou while we are in Thailand.  Things are falling into place for a great year already.  2013, here we come.

As always, your comments are welcome.

Mysteries of China

Chinese Word of the Day:  奇怪
(qi2 guai4) strange, odd

This morning we rode our bikes from the campus to the Starbucks in Wanda Plaza, about a forty minute bike ride if we don’t stop to take pictures, which we did a lot of today so Ruth could test out her new camera. (Speaking of which, she’s got some pictures posted now, and more coming daily.) Wanda Plaza is as big and shiny and sparkly new as any shopping mall you will find in the west.  It’s full of upscale, trendy shops and restaurants, including a Papa John’s Pizza, a Pizza Hut, a Dairy Queen and at least a dozen other restaurants with various ethnic themes, plus countless stores, an Apple retail outlet, a Sony retail outlet,  the whole show topped off with a multiplex cinema, .  It’s big.  It’s modern.  It’s shiny.  And this is what I found in the mens’ washroom on the second floor.

Picture: Steam punk invades mall washroom.  Very strange.Chinese plumbing always seems mysterious to me.  Who is responsible for the installation?  We’ve stayed in hotels where the bathtub was supported on bricks, and drained across the floor to a drain near the toilet.  I couldn’t count the number of sinks I’ve seen with no sink trap.  Badly designed and makeshift plumbing are a distinctive feature of China.  Five star hotels and more modern buildings seem to get it mostly right.  Which is why the setup in this photograph really puzzled me. I mean, that’s a pipe coming down from the ceiling, with some kind of  pressure gauge, leading to the hose that terminates in the urinal.  What?

Picture: steam punk washroom fixture.Does anybody have any idea what this is about.  I thought perhaps it’s something to do with a pressurized steam cleaning system, or maybe some kind of vacuum to pick out cigarette butts.  But if that’s the case, why will the hose only reach one or two urinals.  In any event it was designed by a steam punk artist with a taste for whimsy.  What do you think?