Joy To the World

Chinese Phrase of the Day: 少年派的奇幻漂流
(shao4 nian2 pai4 de qi2 huan4 piao1 liu2  “young Pai’s fantastic drift about”) = Chinese title for “Life of Pi”

Wang Tao is a Father

Many students and teachers here will remember Wang Tao (Simon Wang), a student of mine a few years ago.  He graduated and joined the executive work force.  I was honoured to be asked to officiate at his wedding last year.  And now he is a father.

Picture: Simon with the baby gift.  I know that babies love a snuggly.We picked up this snuggly yesterday at our supermarket, and I was happy to learn that they hadn’t yet bought one.  Babies all love to be carried in a snuggly like this one.  It’s a great way to sooth them when they are fussing.  So today we met Simon at a different Starbucks, the one in Bao Li plaza near the train station.  It was great to visit with him, and to share his excitement over becoming a father.  It was also very interesting to learn about the club for new mothers his wife will live in for the next month.  They have twenty-four hour nursing help, exercise rooms, a spa, and lessons on how to care for an infant, a complete support system.  Simon will sleep there with his wife.  The babies are taken away at night to a separate room and cared for by a nurse, so the new parents actually get some sleep.  What a civilized way to live.

Wang Tao and Lu Ying have a baby.  Born November 30.  What a beauty she is.Congratulations Wang Tao and Lu Ying.  This is such good news.

A Visit From Panda

Always wonderful to have Panda come and stay with us for a couple of days.

Picture: Panda at her computer on our living room floor.  Warms my heart to see her.She has become like a Chinese daughter to us.

The Jumper

On a sadder note, there is still desperation and despair in our world and every once in a while somebody decides to put it on display.  We were on our way to Hui Shan ancient village when we passed a traffic jam.  A crowd had gathered to watch this drama unfold.

Picture:  A crowd gathers because a man has climbed a power pole and the police are trying to talk him down. Wuxi, ChinaPicture:  Police try to talk the man down from his high perch on a power pole.  Wuxi, China I have to wonder what it must feel like to be the centre of all this attention at a time when you are obviously not feeling great about life.  Simon told us today that this is becoming very common.  Apparently workers come here from the country side.  If their employer does the paperwork and documents their work, they have to pay benefits and taxes to the government and provide health insurance.  Workers are willing to work with no documentation in exchange for more money.  And this is fine unless something goes wrong and the business won’t or can’t pay them  Then they are out of luck and desperate to get some government attention.  Perhaps that is what is happening in this situation.

Picture: Police and gawkers await an outcome.  Will he come down or will he jump.  Wuxi, ChinaAnd yes, it is not just my imagination.  Bicycle helmets are becoming almost common here.  Early adopters are setting the style trend.  These bicycle riders paused briefly to see what the fuss was about.  Every time I see bike riders wearing helmets, a sight unseen during our first six years in China, I think about all the times I gave speeches to promote bike helmets and predicted that in a few years they would become common.  I would tell the audience that when that day comes they should remember me.  I always wonder whether they will.Picture:  A group of bike riders wearing helmets stopped briefly to check out the scene.  Wuxi, ChinaDid he eventually come down, or did he jump.  I’ll never know.  We didn’t wait to find out.

The Chair Maker

Every once in a while we see something here that looks like old China, the hand crafted, hard working, non-industrial China.

Picture:  A wicker chair maker on the streets of Wuxi, China.  Somethings are still hand made in a cottage industry here.I imagine this kind of work can be quite satisfying.  I’d like to learn how to do it.  Far more useful than making bull whips.

Picture: the back of a hand made wicker chair.  Wuxi, ChinaThere’s No War on Christmas in China

Picture:  A clerk puts a Christmas sticker on her shop window.  Wuxi, ChinaSo here we are in an officially atheist country and there’s no war on Christmas, no happy holidays.  Just good old fashioned Merry Christmas. Tickles my atheist fancy. Picture:  Christmas on sale at our local supermarket.  Wuxi, China Picture: Santa for sale at our local supermarket.  Wuxi, China

Yes, it’s Merry Christmas all the way here.  And that’s just fine by me.  I love Christmas.  My favourite time of year, except for Spring of course.

Picture: Mrs. Santa did our checkout at our local supermarket.  Wuxi, China

The Christmas music plays non-stop now, following us from Starbucks to the shopping malls with no apparent change of play list.  It all makes me just a little homesick.  Sigh.

Another Night at the Cinema – Life of Pi

Our friend Jin Bo was kind enough to look up the cinema where an English print of “Life of Pi” is playing.  His advice was to get there around six and buy tickets before going to dinner.  We should have followed his advice.  By the time we got there the lineup for tickets was huge.  We started at the back of the line around 7:00pm,  This is our view from the middle of the line around 7:30,

Picture:  Half way to the tickete seller, looking back at the line up. Wuxi, ChinaBy the time we got to the ticket seller, the 8:00 screening was sold out.  We got seats for the 10:20pm screening and settled down in the lobby to read our Ipads and wait for the show.  I was falling asleep, and a bit worried that I would not be able to stay awake for a long movie.  Not a problem.  What an incredible movie it is.  I used to know how movies were made, but not any more.  I have absolutely no idea how Ang Lee managed to get such stunning and realistic images.  I assume it is with a combination of live actors, live animals, puppetry, CGI and barrels and barrels of money.  From the look of the credits list all of this is true.  But watching the end result is a bit like seeing a 747 take off and trying to imagine how such a thing could come into existence.

I read the book when it was first published, back in 2001 and of course really enjoyed it.  But somehow the ending of the book left me dissatisfied.  Not so the movie version, which is very true to the book.  With the movie, the ending made perfect sense.  It’s one of those movies that stays with you for days.

When I see a movie like “Life of Pi” I have to wonder how such movies will impact the global culture.  It was so international, with a Chinese director and Indian star, set in India, Mexico and Canada.  When a teenager in a small American town sees a picture like that, showing middle class India, not the India they have been trained to expect, with slums and lepers and hordes of scrambling people, it must do something to raise consciousness. I would expect an effect similar to that of the black sitcoms, destroying the illusion that our differences are huge and other cultures are very strange.  We are living in one world.

Army Boots

Chinese Word of the Day:  长靴
(chang2xue1) boot

It was a beautiful day with clear blue skies at Nan Chan Si, the temple market.  Ruth wanted to spend some time taking pictures from the top of the pagoda.  I had a mission.  Last summer I made myself a cargo kilt, but couldn’t afford the Doc Martens to complete the outfit.  At Decathlon last week I asked the security guard where he got his nice shiny army boots and he told me this is the place.  Two hundred RMB, he said.New boots to go with the kilt I made last summer.And he was right, except the price was only 150 RMB ($23.21 Canadian), about a quarter of the price of used boots back in Canada.  I was so shocked at not being asked the foreigner price that I forgot to bargain, and the shop girl set off to someplace else to get my size.  The fact that they had my size was the next shock.

Picture: Ruth Lin talk camera over lunch.Ruth took three hundred and something pictures.  I’m sure some of them will be up on her Flickr site soon.

Picture: Ruth eats squid on a stick at the temple market.That’s squid on a stick Ruth is enjoying.  Very tasty.

Picture:  It used to be bicycles.  Now it's electric scooters, the ubiquitous dian dong che.It used to be bicycles.  Now it’s 电动车 (dian dong che, literally electric move vehicle), scooters.

A Big Box Day

Today we arranged to meet our friend Lin and Xiao He, our favorite driver,  at the North Gate.  Off for a shopping run to Metro and Decathlon.  On the way to the gate I snapped this picture.  Usually the basketball courts are full but this was a moment of serenity.

Picture: Lovers by the almost deserted basketball courts.There were about five of the “black taxis” (unlicensed freelancers) at the North Gate when we got there.  Xiao He was waiting for us.  The other drivers can’t seem to figure out why he gets all our attention, but the last time we rode in one of the other cars it stank of cigarettes.  Besides, Xiao He speaks no English but he is always willing to help me learn Chinese.  We have great conversations.

Picture:  Outside Decathlon, a big box sports store that even carries my sizes.Decathlon is a huge sports store.  We bought our elliptical trainer here, and it’s the only place I know of that carries my shoe size at reasonable prices.

Picture:  Inside Decathlon, a big box sports store in the New District.Ruth was looking for socks.  I bought some socks, a cotton tai chi suit that actually fits me, a pair of sandals for our trip to Thailand during Spring Break, and a pair of sweat pants.  Oh yes, and another bicycle horn for both of us.

Picture:  Xiao He drives us places and waits while we shop.  Xiao He drives us places and waits while we shop.  He’s always very reasonable and we trust him to take care of us.  Today’s trip was 130RMB (about $20 Canadian) for three hours of driving and waiting and Chinese lessons, split three ways.  After a couple of years of this luxury treatment it feels like having a private chauffeur.

After Decathlon we went across the street to Metro.  In the past Metro has carried a good stock of import foods, but today was a disappointment.  My Highland Way, very cheap but tasty scotch, is no longer stocked, nor were Breezers.  Ruth couldn’t find any Muesli, and there was no Monterey Jack cheese or French bread.  I settled for a bottle of Sambuca and another of Campari, plus something mysterious in a beautiful green bottle for only 17 RMB.

When we got home again, Xiao He managed to get on campus and drive us to our door.  It’s getting more difficult and we have no idea why, but I suspect it’s because the black taxis won’t bribe the guards.

Yesterday my bike had a flat tire.  I took Ruth’s bike and headed to the post office to pick up the flash drive with the pictures George took of Catherine visiting his mother’s school.  They were supposed to get here in time for her to take them to Canada, but didn’t make it.  I’ll copy the pictures and then send the drive to her.  When I got back from the campus post office I pumped up my tire, intending to ride it to the bike store and get it fixed.  But it seems to be holding air.  So I just went and picked up tomatoes and green onions and mushrooms at the campus veggie store.

The basketball courts were jammed as I rode home.

I was up until after four in the morning last night working on various computer issues.  Ruth is now cooking salmon for dinner.  Lin is joining us.  We have a Chinese lesson at seven.  Maybe I can catch a ten minute nap.  It’s been a busy day.

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