Friday, 27 June 2008

Shanghai


I
had been to Shanghai before. Once on the trip to Shaoxing, having arrived at Shanghai, we were whisked without visiting the city to Shaoxing. On another occasion I spent two nights and two days here, with two other teachers from the college. That visit has been documented earlier. I knew that they was so much more to see, and was glad to have nearly a week here.

On our first day we did a one day tour of Shanghai, which took us around the city to see some of the places of interest. Old China town, which we can see from our apartment is near the River Huangpu River, which winds its way through old Shanghai and new Shanghai (or Pudong). There is just so much to see. Old buildings, new buildings - gardens, shops, more shops and so on.

The gardens and temple in Yu Yuan are a sight to see! The pavilion was built in 1784, and houses one of the most popular tea houses here in Shanghai. So many touts, shops, people and things to see.

The Temple with its jade Buddha is well worth a visit, and there is so much of interest there. I have many more photos.

We visited The Shanghai Museum - which is so impressive. One could spend many more hours there exploring the great history of China and Shanghai. Not like any other museum I have visited Modern, clean, with stunning exhibits.

The new area Xintiandi - with its old style "shikoumen" buildings (that is buildings with stone arched doorways and black painted gates) was most impressive. We had time just to have a quick look and make plans to return to see it all. Xintiandi is in part of the old French concession.

We had a quick look at the Bund - getting a view of the river and the stunning buildings on the other side of the river.

We visited Pearl city and purchased some pearls, and the People's Square. So much to see.


Enroute to Australia

What a flurry the last few days were - completing exams, marking, saying farewell, packing etc. I have decided to return to China at the end of the summer holidays, though it is still dependent on getting a visa. So it was hectic.

In the end, around 10 am on Sunday morning I was packed and ready to go. A taxi ride to the "big bus stop", and I was soon on my way to Shanghai. I put my MP3 player on, and listened to Conversations with Richard Feidler from ABC Brisbane, and the almost three hours flew. It was raining most of the way, and the bus was only half full. Pleasant enough trip.

At the bus station it was pouring with rain, so I grabbed the nearest "helper" and managed to get a taxi to the apartment where Ian was surprised to see me so early. It was good to see him after 4 months, and so began an adventure in Shanghai. Oh, what a city.

Sunday, 22 June 2008

Last Day

My adventure in China is coming to an end. Today I leave for Shanghai - where my husband now is. He arrived in China yesterday, and shortly I'll stagger to the West Gate of the college, with my suitcase, two computers, a gift from a student, and me! (OK, it is hot as ..... and I will have my new leather coat, which I might just have to wear as I have no free hands. So it is farewell to Shaoxing.

I will get the bus to Shanghai from Shaoxing, in an hour or so. I don't have a ticket, but that's OK.

It is with sadness that I leave. Maybe I will be back. I have been asked to return in September, so have some negotiation to do with MM and the rest of the family.

Maybe.


I still have many stories and photos to post, and will keep the blog going until it exhausts me. Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, 18 June 2008

New hotel in Shangyu

It is not often one gets to try a very new hotel, but that is what happened last Saturday. We went to Shangyu, which is not far from Shaoxing. It is a new city - still developing. It is reputed to have 1000 umbrella factories. I am sure they will be doing good business this week as it has barely stopped raining. The Chinese though use umbrellas all the time - to keep the rain or the sun off of them.

The Leidisen Winning Hotel was opened earlier this year, and our hosts had booked a room for lunch, but we had an hour or so to wander the shops etc which abound in this area of the city. Many of the shops were empty - but I guess that may not be the story after all the massive accommodation blocks around the place are taking in their new residents.

The hotel foyer had us gasping. It was beautiful. The staff were excellent - most able to converse with us in English. A feature flower arrangement - with a good mix of plastic and real flowers was a stunning welcome.

How I would love to stay there - and I may just do that next time I am here in China. There is a fabulous shopping nearby - but I was not aware of it until afterwards.

The foyer of the hotel features two exquisite hand carved elephant tusks. I'd say they were very old, and worth a small fortune now. Sad about the elephant I know, but it was part of culture years ago.

In one part of the foyer was a wonderful piano bar. No doubt when the sun goes down the pianist would arrive - but the grand piano was silent for our visit.

We did have coffee in the coffee bar adjacent to the restaurant. And full marks. The biscuits were great!

But it was the banquet upstairs that really impressed. The room was - well, it had a speechless, it was so beautiful. Right in the middle of the round table was a bowl of roses (you will see the photo on this page) that were fresh and glistening with what appeared to be dew, but of course, was probably from a mist of water.

The food was excellent. Treeeemendous. Wonderful. What can I say? Top marks. Now I wonder what the rooms would be like????





























Sunday, 15 June 2008

Roping the trees.

The Chinese people are devoted to the many gardens that are in and around the cities and towns. The streetscapes are extra ordinary. One thing I find fascinating is the care of trees. In some parts (including Shanghai) the trees are stabilised with bamboo or timber frames, but here in Shaoxing, the trees are roped. When I first asked students about this, they could not explain. But later I was told it was to make the tree strong. Perhaps it forces the growth upwards - the rope that is. The trees have this rope from the base to quite high. In some cases it is rotting and breaking away, but does not seem to be replaced.

Another explanation was to keep it warm in the cold winter and snow. Either way I've not seen or heard of this practice anywhere else.

Saturday, 14 June 2008

My basket of yangmei



This wonderful basket was full of freshly picked yangmei.

Yangmei



A little worker picking fruit.


Fruit growing on trees.

One of the many things we have learned living here, is that the Chinese people have some different fruits - things that we have never seen, and so many of them the Chinese students cannot give us an English name for them. We have seen the yangmei or Bayberry, which has been grown in China for over 2000 years. The fruit grows on a tree and this time of the year (late June) they are ripe for picking. The foreign teachers were taken on a visit to a village, just outside Shangyu, where they grow this fruit in the hills overlooking the village. We have had some pretty wet weather, so we had to walk along a pretty muddy path to get to the trees growing on the side of the hill.

There were family members from grandfather, to grandchildren picking the fruit. They were very generous in giving us handfuls of the fruit to eat. Very juicy sweet fruit, that are often seeped in Shaoxing Rice Wine or similar. They are great to eat straight from the refrigerator.
After a while exploring the village, we boarded the bus for the return trip, and were most surprised to find that a basket of fruit had been provided for us. The fruit was packed into little plastic baskets with fern to stop the fruit rolling around.

Yangmei is on the menu for dinner tonight!

Thursday, 12 June 2008

The final exams

We've had a few dramas with the planning for the exams. In part because we seem to be "ignored" by our college leaders, until things go wrong.

When we arrived we were given a program - in Chinese - despite the fact that we work in the English Faculty. This faculty does not write anything in English. So we are often "kept in the dark".

Last week some of the foreign teachers received an email from the Faculty with some instructions about the upcoming final exams - too late, as many of us have conducted the examinations. Some of us have planned to leave the college on or just after the 20th June, but appears we are expected to remain until 27th of June. Even though there will be no classes for us in that last week. (Perhaps next semester we will get more notice of changes.)

There is conjecture about the poor communication with the foreign teachers. Is is just the language problem? Or is it the way that our leaders here operate with all teachers? Do the Chinese teachers accept this late information without protest? Is it a control thing for the foreign teachers e.g. keep them in the dark and they will have to comply? In all the time we have been here, there has been no staff meeting and little correspondence. Questions asked remain unanswered. I asked for a meeting with the faculty head - a man we have never met.

Initially it was too difficult to arrange - but now it is on today. It will be interesting.

Another funny thing happened yesterday. A student leader was distributing the latest issue of the school newspaper - a fancy full colour glossy mag with stories about the recent ceremony to celebrate the college's upgrading to an university. He came over to chat to me and told me he was giving out the newspaper. I asked if I could have one. His one word reply was "No". When I asked why not he said it was all in Chinese and I would not be able to read it. I replied "Then can I look at the pictures?" as I could see a few photographs on page one. He thought for a moment and gave it to me. Here I am after four months, receiving my first copy of the newspaper, which I might add often includes stories about the foreign teachers. When I opened it , there was a paragraph in English - in fact a speech by one of the foreign teachers at the ceremony! I knew about the ceremony of course, but not the foreign teacher's involvement. We are ill informed in the college. Or not at all.

Maybe today at the meeting we will resolve some of the problems with the final exam - to the satisfaction of the college and the foreign teachers.

Saturday, 7 June 2008

Dragon Boat Festival

Until this year the Chinese people have had a long holiday for Chinese New Year - but for a number of reasons the Chinese Government has changed things and there is a shorter holiday for that period and more short holiday periods during the year.

This week end it is Dragon Boat Festival. One of the students here sent me this information.

"Tomorrow is Dragon Boat Festival ! Happy Dragon Boat Festival !


It is a Traditional Chinese Festival ,The Chinese Dragon Boat Festival is a significant holiday celebrated in China, and the one with the longest history. The Dragon Boat Festival is celebrated by boat races in the shape of dragons. Competing teams row their boats forward to a drumbeat racing to reach the finish end first.
The boat races during the Dragon Boat Festival are traditional customs to attempts to rescue the patriotic poet Chu Yuan. Chu Yuan drowned on the fifth day of the fifth lunar month in 277 B.C. Chinese citizens now throw bamboo leaves filled with cooked rice into the water. Therefore the fish could eat the rice rather than the hero poet. This later on turned into the custom of eating tzungtzu and rice dumplings.
The celebration's is a time for protection from evil and disease for the rest of the year. It is done so by different practices such as hanging healthy herbs on the front door, drinking nutritious concoctions, and displaying portraits of evil's nemesis, Chung Kuei. If one manages to stand an egg on it's end at exactly 12:00 noon, the following year will be a lucky one."

The language challenge

One of the things that I have asked is for a map of the college/university. The reason we were not given one was that it is in Chinese - and I have offered to work with a student and translate - so that we can give new teachers a guide to where they might need to go.

Several times in the past couple of weeks I have had challenges. For example, one day I was told that there was a special dinner that night which I was instructed to attend. (Getting notification at short notice is a feature of life here!!!) But this event was to be held in the "staff canteen". I was most surprised as for the four months that I have been here, I did not know there was a "staff canteen." No where in the information give to us is there any reference to this building, which oddly enough is very close to our apartments! Now I know where it is!

On Thursday I had a note stuck to my door by someone from the International Exchange office requesting that I attend "The Student's Centre" between 1.30 and 2 pm on Friday. The Student's Centre? What and where is that???

I was given instructions by one of the students and proceeded to arrive at the appointed time, only to find this huge building locked - in fact one door had a chain lock on it. We could see people inside - so we did a circumnavigation of what turned out to be the "stadium" where basketball and gymnasium is held. The entrance is a small door on the side of the building.

When I returned to my apartment later, there was a phone call. In broken English I was told that I had to get "fooda" from the office - and it was ten minutes before the office closed. So I went down the five flights of stairs and walked the 1/2 klm to the office and was given two vacuumed packed Chinese delicacy. It appears that this is special food for The Dragon Boat Racing Festival which is this weekend.

I managed to meet up with my Chinese teacher along the way seeking instructions on what to do with it. "It is delicious" I am told. No English instructions. It seems one boils it in water in a saucepan for 20 minutes and then you eat it. I have two varieties, but have no idea what the difference is. Do you think they would give us some English information? I wish!!!!!

Things happen that we don't understand and we are used to "being in the dark" about a lot of things. It is too hard for some staff and students to explain.

More of the mysteries of China.

Lotus Flower





I don't recall that I have every seen these in flower before. I remember seeing the pots in the water feature at the college - pots of soil with dead looking sticks just a couple of inches high. Over the past few weeks I have watched as the sticks began to sprout new leaves and soon there was a lush green growth from each pot. This week I discovered the flowers. Lotus Flowers I am told. They are beautiful flowers - perhaps with a fragrance (I do not know as the flowers are beyond reach in the pond). They photograph well.

Gardenia




Along side one of the pathways between the college and the foreign teachers apartment block is a hedge of Gardenias. I remember the first flower just on two weeks ago, and since then they other flowers have opened up.


Apart from the pretty wonderful sight, the fragrance that fills the air, makes a most pleasant change as the hedge is situated near a sewer, which has a not so pleasant odour most of the time.

The Gardenia flower itself is short lived - but it makes a pretty picture!

(Apparently many people pick the flowers and last year there was a sign in Chinese that may have said 'don't pick the flowers' but the English speaking teachers continued to do so on the grounds that they couldn't understand the sign!)




Sleeping


I've mentioned before about people sleeping in the oddest places and at the oddest times - according to the culture that we know.

I took this photo right in the middle of the city - just metres from the main road. It is strange how easily that the Chinese people fall asleep. No doubt this man has worked very hard pulling his tricycle with its loads. You'd think he'd chosen an unsafe place to take his ZZZZZZZZ's, but everyone would respect his need for sleep and avoid him.

Sunday, 1 June 2008

Technology

Here I am miles away from home and yet in regular easy contact with the folks there. I have my mobile phone (my Aussie one is set that I don't receive calls - as it would cost ME if anyone phoned me from Australia) and I can get text messages. I also have a Chinese phone that I can send and receive messages here in China, and speak with anyone.

(When the Chinese people answer the phone they say Wei Ni Haio, which when roughly translated means What do you want? Hello. So we do too when we answer our Chinese phones!)

I can use SKYPE and see and speak with family members and friends. And it is amazing to see and speak with the grandchildren as I miss them and though I can't touch them I can see them growing up before my eyes.

Family and friends regularly email me, and I know many read this blog to see what I am up to - so the communication is amazing. They can see some of the many photos I have taken - and if I wanted to show them all of them, I could easily do that too.

I also "read" the daily papers - it is easy to go online and read at least the headlines and major events happening at home. As well, I have ABC radio on all the time I am in my apartment. My favourite stations are the Jazz and Classical music - but I can listen to News updates from time to time.

So with this technology we can keep pretty well up to date with what is happening at home, or anywhere in the world. Amazing when you think about it.

The little boy pees


There is a wonderful shopping complex with mostly empty shops near the railway station at Shaoxing. I love the architecture of the complex. Clean and modern with an ancient feel. I don't know why it is not popular but it appears that many of the traders have deserted the complex as perhaps the customers deserted before hand, but there is a Carrefours supermarket there, and we often visit as that has been the best place to get imported food - some of the things we like, but are not available anywhere else.

Near the entrance to the shopping centre is the little boy above. He seems quite lonely - as there is little activity going on around him. In a way it is surprising to see it (is this the reason that customers and traders deserted???) as this hardly fits in with the Chinese high public moral standard.
(I doubt it - it is common to see men peeing in the streets!!!)

A Funny Thing Happened



Yesterday there was a big meeting in the administration building next to the foreign teachers' apartments. As some of the last folk were leaving late in the afternoon, we heard a big bang, and most of us rushed to our balcony to see what had happened. We looked on with an element of amusement. The driver stood in wonderment at what he had done, and shortly afterwards negotiated his car through the damaged pots and plants. It appears that the driver ofthe small car in the car park, must have "thought" his car was in reverse, but instead, when his foot landed on the accelerator, it rushed forward into the garden, demolishing some of the wonderful plants and pots between the two buildings. Within an hour three garden workers arrived and removed all the damage. This morning when I looked out the window, the damaged plants had all been replaced and there was little evidence of the event late yesterday.

Flowers

gh
I am (pleasantly) surprised to see how
flowers are so popular here in China. There are many florist shops and they all seem to do a roaring trade. Certainly the corporate flower work is vry obvious, and occasionally I see other flower arrangements being carried around.

When a new business opens there is always a myriad of free standing bamboo framed flower arrangements. Apparently friends and business acquaintances purchase these and the more one receives the more success the business is likely to have. Gerberas are a popular flower in these.

When there is a special event there are amazing quantity of flowers - and this week when our college celebrated its upgrade to a university there were many many flowers. After the event the flowers were distributed to various offices, and I managed to score a rose and a stem of orchids that fell while being transported.

The photo above is of a display in the Hyatt in Shanghai when we visited a couple of weeks ago
.

Children's Day

Isn't it Children's Day every day? Oh, I jest! Saturday was Children's Day and there were many celebrations. As most families in China only have one child, so I tend to think they are somewhat indulged all the time. If mother and father work, the children are likely to be cared for by their grandparents, and it is no surprise to see so many elderly people carrying their children around.

Children are well loved here - because they are for the most part the only child in the family as there is a strict one child policy here, especially in the city areas.

On this day children would have received gifts and probably attended a party. In Beijing there were several ceremonies, one of which had in attendance children from the earthquake area in Sichuan. There were special efforts to ensure the children of Sichuan had a happy day too.

(Sadly I saw little celebration as I was confined to my apartment with a "tummy wog" that seems to have done the rounds of the teaching staff.)