Sunday, 28 September 2008

Chinese National Day

The National Day of the People's Republic of China is held on October 1st each year. The PRC had its beginnings on October 1st, 1949 and is celebrated with a holiday of one week. Consequently our college is on holiday for this period. Many of the 8,000 or so students will go to their homes, but some will remain at the college.

Often this is a time for foreign teachers to travel too, but it is always so busy. People everywhere at all the transport hubs, and the tourist spots that many of us have decided to "rest" - stay at the college for the duration of the holidays.

Tomorrow some of us are going to Hangzhou - again to the Silk Markets and Foreign Bookshop, but we will go early in the morning and return late afternoon. We have our train tickets, so will not have to stand in line waitig to get tickets and should only have a short time getting onto the train.

National Day is celebrated throughout mainland China, Hong Kong and Macau with a number of government sponsored festivities. There willbe lots of fireworks!

Our college has given us little or no information about it - in fact have not even advised us this time what canteens are operating during this holiday period, but I am sure we will find plenty of places to eat during the holidays.

I still do quite a bit of cooking for myself - but do enjoy eating out at the college and restaurants around Shaoxing.

Saturday, 27 September 2008

Ladies toilets

Strange the world over that architects who design buildings put in the same number of toilet cubicles for the men as for the women in buildings. Regardless of the use of the building.

How many of the fairer sex have had to queue to "go" at the theatre, events and so on. The men folk do not take the same amount of time as the ladies do, and they seldom have to face a queue.

The other day in the college, I pondered just this dilemma again. Here is a college with some nearly 8 thousand students and on each floor there is a toilet block. At any break time there is a long line snaking from the Female WC, and the boys block has no queue.

It is so annoying. I was surprised to see theis scenario played out here in China. I hadn't thought about it before.

Oh, I just wish the planners could be more thoughtful.

Sunday, 21 September 2008

Day Trip to Wuzhen and Haining (3)

It was a short bus journey to Haining, which is known for its leather goods. We seem to be taken to only one place - a huge mall with all leather goods. I had decided that I did not need to buy anything, but in the end bought another back pack. It was quite cheap.

The place is amazing though. So many shops selling leather goods. The main centre is huge, and with leather bags, luggage on the first floor (ground if you are an Aussie.) and the next floor up trades jackets, dresses, pants etc - all in leather. Up the next floor again is more upmarket (and more expensive of course.

It is a shopaholic's paradise. So much to choose from and the "joy" of haggling adds to the excitement.

Outside of this building are more buildings - one of which was the "Shoe Plaza" - with a huge array of men and women's shoes. We wandered around there, but I did not see anything that would fit me. Chinese feet are smaller than mine, and they do focus on the Chinese market there.

Day Tour to Wuzhen and Haining (2)

One place that we visited at Wuzhen this time was the Rice Wine Factory. The Rice wine is made in the same way as it has been for centuries and there were many pottery barrels on display.
There was a man filling tiny china cups with the brew and we could all have a taste. It was powerful stuff. Cleared the head! Fascinating to see it all.
I don't think anyone bought any of their packs of wine - I didn't want to as it mean I had to carry it for the rest of the day. I quite like Rice wine - in small doses. It is cheap. Less than $AU1 a bottle.

Day tour to Wuzhen and Haining (1)

Once a month the college takes foreign teachers on a tour. There is always an element of confusion with these tours - we are given only a few days notice, just the names of the cities or town we will visit, and the day before we are given the starting time. This one was an early one.

7 am we groaned!!! But the trip had promise so around 20 folk arrived at the West Gate to catch the bus. A nice airconditioned bus - it is still pretty hot here, so that was a necessity. We set off for the drive of 2 hours to Wuzhen.

This is an ancient water village - with a long and intersting history. People still live in the village - though it seems to be only the older ones, as the young ones have moved on. Too much for them! I guess having thousands of people tramp through the place, especially at weekends.

And they leave the doors open of their little old homes, and it is intersting to peep inside. Some of them have been updated with tiled floors and modern kitchen, most seem to have television and even computers.

Others seem to be dark and dingy and some have Chairman Mao's picture on the wall. Not in a frame, but just stuck on. I guess there are many who still remember the past well. The village has many narrow alleyways, stone bridges over the canals, and mostly timber buildings that are on either side of the narrow main alley, which winds its way through the village.

There are interesting places all along - the ancient medicine shop (all restored), the Bed Museum (a must - very fascinating), The Rice Wine factory, the fabric place, the home of MaoDun, the Wood Carving Museum, and so much more.

When you come out of the laneway, there are shops everywhere, and as we were there on a Saturday, crowds and crowds of people and lots of noise and smoke. (It seems that so many of the men wer puffing away at their cigarettes!)
We had lunch at a restaurant nearby, but three of our group were missing. There was confusing information given when we set out. First we were told that we had to meet back at the entrance, and then later told that we had to meet at the other gate. Not all got the message it appears. One of the students with us was sent back to find the three missing Aussie teachers and bring them to the restaurant and he got a taxi. But the taxi too them somewhere else, and it was all a bit of an adventure for them. They all missed out on a lovely lunch!
Eventually we caught up with them again. In time to board the bus to Haining. Wuzhen is very interesting, but we always regret that we travelto these places on a weekend - it is so noisy and crowded. But for us, there is little choice.

Friday, 12 September 2008

Mid Autumn Festival

This weekend in China it is the celebration of the Mid Autumn Festival, with a public holiday on Monday September 15th. It is sometimes referred to as the Mooncake Festival as wonderful packages of moon cakes are given as gifts at this time of year.

Yesterday I was a speaker at the Shaoxing Government's function to celebrate the mid Autumn Festival at the Shaoxing International Hotel. Many guest spoke about the development of this city. There were many foreign guests as well as leaders from the Shaoxing community.
After the speaking we enjoyed a great luncheon banquet with fantastic food and Shaoxing Wine.
Afterwards the guests were presented with a package that contained an exquisite presentation of Mooncakes in a fantastic box. Too good to eat I think.
Today the foreign teachers were given a gift to celebrate this occasion. I gift voucher for mooncakes or other delicacies from one of the bakeries here in Shaoxing.

Monday, 8 September 2008

Please explain

Some things in China we just never get to understand. While walking in the city of Shaoxing, close to one of the canals and a shopping complex were two Chinese pavilions and this one had this interesting sign.

"Brain Storm Cultural Diffusion." What does it mean? I shall endeavour to find this out, but I think it is a community meeting hall. Somewhere that the locals can congregate to discuss issues. It is quite small, so not a lot of people can fit into the room, but interesting.

This is in an area where folk meet informally in the morning and at night. People might do Tai Chi, or similar in such places.

Saturday, 6 September 2008

Chinglish? Maybe.............

I carry around little note books and put in thoughts, words, ideas, details etc. In my unpacking and setting up of my "new" apartment I found one of my little books, and flicking through the pages came across a list of "Chinglish" - I think these were found when we travelled around Shanghai, Suzhou and other parts several months ago.

Obviously they were on the menu at one or more restaurants.

"Spicey yellow croaker" - Peppered yellow frog?

"Vegetable kidney in XO sauce" - Kidney beans?

"Braised cuttlefish in formented bean curd sauce" - formented?

"Dried meat floss" - Good for your teeth?

"Fried chicken ball with asparagus" Do chickens have balls?

"Saute loin pork with chilli and been sauce" - a has been?

"Fried vegetable with Galic" - OK, a typo maybe.

Anzac Biscuits

Audrey, who was in this apartment last semester, left me some items that I could use. I think I had to promise to bake cookies or something, and as all the ingredients are here, and there is a good little oven (unlike my apartment last semester which was bereft of many useful items!) I am happy to oblige.

So today I cooked my first biscuits in China. I have a student visiting, so thought it appropriate that I bake Anzac Biscuits. I found a recipe on-line. (Wish I had my Margaret Fulton cook book here!)

I did not have treacle or golden syrup, so substituted Maple syrup. No choice. The consistency did not look right, but I cooked a small sample. I was right. Adding more oats and flour did the trick, and the next batch were 100%.

So I have a small supply of Anzac Biscuits - will share them around with the other teachers, or perhaps have afternoon tea.

Now what can I cook next???

Thursday, 4 September 2008

Drama at the supermarket

There are times when I feel very confident in getting around here. I've been to the supermarket many times. Alone. I always manage and in the end did today.

I was only going for a few things - but when I saw the shopping trolley on wheels I bought a few heavy things - bottles of ice tea, orange juice etc. as well as carrots and a big watermelon. When I got to the checkout the price was not on the trolley - so there was a conversation in Chinese - that I did not understand.

Despite the fact that about 6 staff were doing nothing but watching, no one offered to get the price for me. Oh, well. I'll carry it al myself.

When I presented by China Bank card, I was handed the thing to key in my PIN, and when I saw the price I agreed by hitting the green button. Don't we do that at home in Australia? Anyway, I should have just keyed in my PIN - as chaos reigned. It had refused my PIN, so it wasn't my card. About eight staff - none of whom spoke English stood around. "Money. Money" they said. I would if I could. But I wouldn't have used my card if I had the cash.

There was a Chinese standoff for a while. Is there at ATM here? No one understood until eventually some customers came to my aid. Yes, there was an ATM, so I left my goods and found my card did work and I got the cash and returned. You'd think the 6 or 7 staff standing around would have got the price for the shopping bag/trolley thing. No way. They just chucked it behind the cash register and I had to carry my goods in a plastic bag. Which I had to pay for!

There's no such thing as customer service as we know it. Anyway, I managed to collect my goods, and get a quick taxi (I'm not joking!) back to the college. I'll try and take cash next time, or not press the OK button.

Elaborate Bacon

I've been setting up my kitchen - bit by bit - there's no door to door delivery, and it is a long walk with heavy items from the supermarket to the apartment door! Even a long walk from the taxi at the West Gate - so it is bit by bit - soon I will be stocked! Not that I really want much, but I have been designated "cook" with the apartment with an oven!

Audrey who was here before has returned to Canada - so "bequeathed" me all sorts of things, each day I discover more.

On my visit to TESCO I stocked up on a few things - including Elaborate Bacon. It is not the brand - it is the product. I think it is "elaborate" because it has more meat on it that the other variety I saw in the supermarket. OK, it works for me.

So today I cooked up an elaborate bacon and mushroom dish in the wok. With a dash of garlic leaves. It is funny as I had never seen these in Australia until a few weeks ago, and I was "hooked" as they say. They are like mini shallots, but just the leaves which I chop up and add to the dish. Just as tasty in China as it was in Australia, I can assure all.

Yum. My elaborate bacon recipe - it worked well. A wonderful taste in my mouth.

I will try and take note of more "Chinglish" words here. They are everywhere really, and some so much fun.

Things do Change.

I recall when I was in China earlier this year, I had problems getting to the Blogger site. I could update my Blog, but not read it. I did find a way, but it was always a hassle to use a Proxy. On April 1st, Blogger and Wikipedia became available in China. In part it was because of the Olympic Games, but in any case it would have been part of the "opening up" of China.

I could access Wikipedia easily, but still could not get Blogger, although my friends in other parts of China could, so I wondered if it was just the system here at the College.

I am pleased to report, despite the difficulties I have had accessing the new internet system in the first few days, that now I can easily access Blogger, and anything else I wish to see. It is great news for me and other Bloggers.

(It makes it easier to post here now!)

Return to China

Shaoxing Boat in canal near city square

Old part of Shaoxing

As usual I literally ran out of time! We all say the same. We try to pack so much into our lives and with a deadline (like a departure date!) it is a struggle doing all that one wants to do. I have not kept up the blog - so much I was going to do, but here I am back in China.

I left Brisbane at 11.45 pm on August 31st en route to Shanghai, with a short stopover in Singapore. My plane landed on time at Pudong/Shanghai International Airport at 1.30 pm. I had my luggage by around 2 pm and had to find KFC where I was to be met - but not until 4 pm. I found two KFC's - rather close to each other but I wondered which one I was supposed to be at. I bought a chicken burger at one and ate it, before discovering the second one, and I had just purchased an icecream and sat down when I saw some familiar faces.

The welcoming party from the College arrived. (Great, I was at the right KFC!) There were a couple of new teachers from France, and eventually another two from Scotland, and one from Korea. But it was around 5.30 pm (China time) that we left Shanghai for the hairraising trip to Shaoxing.

Along the way we stopped for a quick meal - snacks on small plates. Would have probably tasted better if they were hot!

Back on the bus to continue the trip. By now it was dark - which was probably good not to see the traffic that the bus weaving in an out. We arrived safely at some time, and quickly got my luggage into the apartment. On the first floor. (In Australia we'd call it the ground floor.)

I found some food. (Thanks Audrey) I unpacked some necessities. Made the bed, and fell in and was soon sound asleep.

It has been a couple of "lazy" days. Unpacking. Getting the apartment in order. Meeting the other teachers. A welcome meeting. Getting information about our teaching programs.
And the supermarket. The French couple and I walked up to Tesco in the evening - loaded our trolleys and returned to the college late. Still more things to get.
On Wednesday the three of us went into Shaoxing, for a look around. Strange how much has changed in two months! Of course most was familiar. We went for a walk around a park above the city square - where the photos were taken. It is a huge area, and I had not explored all the park before. Even now I know there is more to see, and I look forward to going for a ride around the canals on one of the Shaoxing boats to see more.
There are more teachers due to arrive in the next couple of days, and the students come in over the weekend so we may as well enjoy the wonderful peace while it lasts. There is barely a sound on the campus. Beautiful.