Friday, 31 October 2008
So we have to go to China Merchant Bank to deposit it in our account or run around with a lot of cash on us, and miss any bank interest.
There is a good China Merchant Bank branch near the city square so it is not a big inconvenience to do it. Though we are annoyed by it.
There is always a guard on duty at the front of the bank, and when one goes inside a service attendant is quickly by your side. They send the English speakers to us - and we are asked if they can help.
"I wish to deposit cash." will result in being ushered to the window of the teller, and usually one that there is no queue on. So very quickly you can complete your business. If we need to exchange some currency we are best going to the China Bank and this too has an identical system where the customer is treated with great respect.
Often as you enter or leave the bank, the "concierge" in full uniform and white gloves will open the door for you.
We have found the banks much better serviced than the banks at home.
Thursday, 30 October 2008
I have some tracksuit pants, but no tops. And I will get one or two of these as well. Especially for the early mornings when I jump out of bed, I need something warm to put on as I don't have a dressing gown and I don't intend to get one here.
Everyone wears scarves and there are some delightful ones around. Very imaginative designs. I do generally wear a scarf during the cooler weather as they really do keep the body warm. I love looking at the scarf designs the students wear and those in the shops, and I do have a growing collection of them.
One of the things that always amuses me here, is that with 10,000 students there is always a parade of umbrellas when it is raining. It is hard describe the scene with so many students leaving the classrooms, and at lunch time or when classes finish at 8.30 pm the long "conga line" of students under umbrellas, often with a strange glow from their mobile phones, as theywalk from the classrooms to the West Gate or to their dormitories.
Speaking of dormitories. I had a phone call from a student last night. His teacher has asked him to invite a "foreign teacher", an English teacher, to the boys dormitory to help them with their English conversation, and he asked me to go on Mondy night. Conversations with Chinese students can often be curious. He did explain that his teacher would be there - but his invitation to come and have fun with the boys in the dormitory I found rather amusing. I sent a text message to one of the other Aussie teachers. "I have been invited by some boys to go to their dormitory to play games and have fun, should I go?" Her reply (and I knew to expect something like this as she does have a wild sense of humour) was "Absolutely" and when I saw her we had a good laugh about that. So that's a story for next week.
So now it is cold I will wear one of my jackets and a scarf, and carry my bag of items for class, and my umbrella. I feel like a pack horse!
Wednesday, 29 October 2008
I reported it, hotping that it could be easily repaired, but was told I had to get it over to the service centre (where ever that is), and a student could help. One of the other teachers had problems with her machine, it leaked. So we arranged for students to take both to the service centre, and as they could speak Chinese we would solve the problem of communciation. Only one student appeared, so I decided to put up with my problem and just use the cold water.
So the student and the teacher took the broken machine from the fifth floor, over to the repair centre, and returned with another machine, mounted the 20 litre bottle, and having turned it on, left her room and came down for coffee with me.
Shortly she went up to her room and moments later my phone rang. The "new" water machine had leaked the 20 litres of water onto the floor and it had tripped the power. She had no power. I took my torch and headed upstairs, and a couple who live on the floor above me also joined me.
What a mess! Boxes of thing she had purchased were wet. Shoes were wet. Bags were wet. We were able to turn the power back on, and the floor was mopped.
So back downstairs again. We had heard that a bar had opened on the campus, so we thought we'd check it and see. What a find. There, within pleasant walking distance is a nice place to sit and enjoy a cocktail. Well, we only had two. But it was a rare treat. Very pleasant.
At the table next to us were four smart looking young ladies. I asked "Are you teachers?" They laughed. "Don't you remember us?" They were my students from last semester. How funny. We all agreed they looked quite smart and far more mature than the students in the class room.
Two drinks later we headed back to our apartments. That will be somewhere we will visit again! We had Brandy Alexanders. Very nice!!! I don't get to have a drink much when we are out as I don't drink beer, and can only get a bottle of wine in a restaurant, so choose to drink soft drink or iced tea. The Bar is a pleasant change!
Sunday, 26 October 2008
We had found a good shop on the Saturday, so did a little Xmas shopping there, before finding an Italian coffee shop. Oddly enough it had a great array of stunning cakes in its menu, but had none. (Must have been a busy day on Saturday) so we had to settle for coffee, which was served in wonderful tea cups - just as if we were at a tea party in Oz.
So back to the lake and we walked in the opposite direction this time. Past the designer label shops. You should be able to see them in the photograph.
Now "third world" this country is not! I've never seen so many of the top expensive label shops anywhere and there seem to be on every street corner here! Not far from here was the Ferrari sow room and the Rolls Royce Show room!
Friday, 24 October 2008
But today (Friday) was the big opening ceremony. Just like the Olympics. But it was at 7.30 am and I managed to get up and onto the sports ground in time for the start. I'm so glad I did.
There were officials on the dais, and much shouting in Chinese - officials giving their thoughts and encouragement to the students I'd guess and then the parade started.
Groups of students - some in sports uniform, teachers in their uniform (I have one, but have not worn it yet!), students in dance costume. There were around 100 students carrying pigeons that were let fly during the ceremony. There were girls carrying balloons, and others carrying flowers. It was quite a parade - even with a strange looking Mickey Minny Mouse, followed up at the end by a dragon. Hundreds of students cheered them all on.
The group of students carrying the Chinese flag goosestepped across in front of the dais, and later as the flag was hoisted on the large flag pole the National Anthem of China was played. Hardly Olympc Games standard, but all impressive just the same. The balloons (filled with helium) too were all released en masse during the ceremony.
And the winners of the Aerobics Competition of the nights before also performed. And then the action began.
Students were high jumping, doing the hop step and jump, sprints, long distance running, javelin and more.
Quite impressive really, and my students were thrilled to see me there.
Sunday, 19 October 2008
After lunch at a traditional Chinese restaurant opposite Longman we boarded the bus for the journey to Fuyang and our next stop, which was the bamboo paper making place just out of Fuyang's history goes back to the Qin Dynasty (221BC-206BC) but is now a modern city - but as usual in China a good mix of the ancient and the new. You can read a little about this city here.
The bamboo is pulped and is held in big vats. Boiling water and crushing creates the pulp, and the worker will drop a frame into the pulp, bring it out, and transfer it from the frame to a pile of pulp which is easily seperated in the next part of the process.
These huge piles of paper are ready for sale. We went into another room and were able to use a wood block and some bamboo paper to make our own prints.
There were parts of the establishment that looked somewhat neglected and we found rooms with old things - old manufacturing items. One was the wooden pulp making equipment - where the worker would use a wooden arm to help crush the bamboo.
Our next stop was the inevitable shop - but a little disappointing. The books and paper were expensive and mostly in Chinese. I wondered what my family would do with this expensive Chinese sourvenir when I no longer want it. There was one book, with the Tao instructions, in English but it was 800 RMB. More than any of us would enthusiastically want to spend! Perhaps it would have been nice to be able to purchase some wood blocks - but we have found they are available in other places anyway.
Last semester we watched as the rice was planted in the fields around this part of China. Now it is harvet time. Some fields are not quite ready, and others are being harvested. Around Longmen we had a chance to see different stages of the harvest. In the fields, the rice is harvested in differing ways. It appears that the smaller fields are harvested manually, and other places a machine takes off the heads of the rice.
In this field - a small one - you could see a little of the process, including the burning off of the stubble. in a court yard in the ancient city women were raking the rice to keep the drying process going. I would imagine they would rake it up and night and put it in bags, and do the same again the next day. Very labour intensive this way.
Building in ruins
"During the governing years of Emporer Jiejing in Ming Dynasty Longman area once suffered against severe long drought against which a righteious man named Sun Chao spent all his wealth givng relief to the local hungry people. and even handing in all public grain tax for whole village. In order to praise Sun Chao for his rightous deeds, the local feudal government built an arch way with two words "Righteous Gate" on it personally written by Xi Pu, the county magistrate. The virture RIGHTEOUS brightly reflected in Sun Chao's has been passed down in Sun family for thousands of years."
An old alleyway
In a museum
I found reference to Zheng He interesting, as in material for my course last semester, he was reputed to have discovered Australia. You will see a photo models of ships that were used to travel around the world. A small musem of models of these is at Longmen.
The village is quite large and I have no doubt that we saw only a small proportion of it. People still live there - mainly older people and they still carry out their daily chores, just as their descendants had done. However, there is modernisation. They do have phones, electricity, computers, televisions and no doubt other modern appliance behind the ancient timber and stone walls.
Thursday, 16 October 2008
Sell photos on photrade By Elly
Sell photos on photrade By Elly
I am not sure what the folk who invented Pizza's would think (as it the Italians?) but here in the college canteen there is a pizza available. I ordered one yesterday and have to say it was very tasty.
What especially amused me is that it came with (a) a pair of chopsticks - the little bamboo disposable chopsticks that seem to appear with any take-away Chinese meal and (b) a pair of plastic gloves - which I assume was to keep the pizza from dirtying my hands. In any case I used neither.
When I got back to my apartment it was cold, so I popped it in my oven to heat it and sat down with a knife and fork, but really ate it with my fingers when it cooled down. Plastic gloves to eat a pizza? I think not.
Wednesday, 15 October 2008
Tuesday, 14 October 2008
Monday, 13 October 2008
The buses in particular have loud horns and more than once I nearly lost my balance as a speeding bus tooted to let a car or cyclist know that it was passing. So loud!
On the side of the road there was a woman killing a chicken - poor think was tied by the feet and hanging upside down from a tree as she killed it with a knife. I kept riding.
Some of the gardens are wonderful along this route - even little lakes and canals surrounded by beautiful gardens. I turned up Yang Ming Lu (Road) following the route to the golf course, but did not get close to it really, though it looked fabulous. As with all housing, golf and other estates there are guards at the gate. I did pass what I now believe to be the police academy - which was a huge building surrounded by gardens and the parade ground. Looked pretty fancy really!
Across the road from the academy was an amazing building that seems to be unfinished for quite a while. It was quite a handsome building but something must have happened to stall the progress. Weeds grow up around it, and it looks rather strange. Just so exotic.
I discovered a young lady trying to ride a bicycle while she carried her baby. The baby was around 8 or 9 months old I think, certainly sitting up by itself and made it quite impossible to ride. She carried the baby in one arm, while trying to steer the bike with the other and going up hill found it impossible.
The area was beside a mountain, and the rocks, lakes and shrubbery made a pretty picture. I peeped through a huge brick wall and saw a flock of ducks enjoying a swim in a lake. Having their last swim before they become someone's dinner?
It has been threatening to rain for several days, but as yet not a spot of rain, however, it was getting late in the day, and the sky was getting darker so I pedalled bck to the campus.
Being a blonde around here is quite funny - people nearly lose balance on their cycles as they gawk at me as I ride by.
A great ride though - I was gone from the campus for over and hour and was quite worn out when I returned. Made for a good sleep though.
Sunday, 12 October 2008
We made it! We made it to the Opera! The Chinese Opera!
Last semester when I arrived in Shaoxing, I discovered the Opera House. Apparently modelled on the famed Sydney Opera House. As one of my goals was to learn as much as I could about Chinese culture, I was keen to attend a performance of Chinese opera. I asked students, and at our International Exchange office. I think everyone thought I had lost the plot. Chinese opera is not popular with the young folk of China now, anyway, and despite the promises of a number of people to get back to me with information, none did. I did visit the box office of the Opera House but no one spoke English, and I came away with a flyer, all in Chinese, and in the end didn’t get anywhere with it all.
In the second week after I returned to China, we met a distinguished gentleman from the local opera, who promised to get information to us about local performances, but he too failed to do so.
So one day I again approached the box office of the Shaoxing Opera House, and found out that a famed company from Sichuan was performing this week, and we duly booked tickets. That in itself was hilarious. We had decided to pay top money for the tickets – and when attempting to negotiate our preferred seating found some challenges. No English spoken again. But we did get our six tickets in the front row. Sign language, some Chinese, and lots of pointing. The girl seemed to indicate that the theatre would be full. Anyway, we felt it quite an achievement when we left with our tickets.
Later another couple expressed interest in attending with us – and they easily managed to get tickets. The theatre was certainly not booked out!
So last night, in good time we arrived at the impressive theatre on the edge of city square in Shaoxing. The “opera house” if that is what it is really called, was a spectacular sight, all lit up. We easily managed to get in and into our seats. The theatre was quite impressive. Comfortable seats and even the information to the audience about not taking photos etc was in Chinese and English. I wondered if they did that only on nights when they knew a few “foreigners” were in the audience.
The performance started right on 7.30 pm, and continued until 8.45 pm. No interval. The performers certainly worked hard during that time. Chinese Opera is a mixture of singing, acting dance, and acrobatics. The story was of a heroine, and a bad man. But what the whole story was about we did not understand. The performance was in a traditional ancient Chinese language, and on either side of the stage were electronic signs that featured the dialogue in Chinese characters. Of course we did not understand.
The costumes were amazing. Colourful, different, beautiful. The sets were excellent, the performance was most interesting, despite our obvious challenge in understanding all that was going on. The acrobatics were great. There was even fire spitting!
Between the stage and audience, and hidden from us all was the orchestra pit. Almost 20 musicians played traditional Chinese instruments. One of my favourites is the halusi.
At the end, the full cast appeared on stage to much applause and the key performers were given bunches of flowers. There was a standing ovation and people walked to the front of the theatre to applaud and peep down at the orchestra.
When the performance was over, our group congregated in the foyer to discuss briefly what we had seen. We were the last to leave – it seems that everyone left the theatre environs immediately after the show. Yes, we did have our photos taken in the theatre by audience members. Nothing unusual for us though.
Just before we were asked to leave, there were a couple of people standing looking at us – and the young man said he was so impressed to see so many “foreigners” in attendance. We got chatting as we left the theatre and it appears that he, a Chinese from Sichuan province, is also a teacher at the same university as us. He quickly gave me his name card, and has offered to keep us informed of other cultural performances in Shaoxing.
We all agreed it was a good night, well worth going despite our obvious lack of comprehension of it all.
I can tick that off my list of things to do in China.
Saturday, 11 October 2008
In any case armed with the correct about of money, we set out to buy 6 tickets to a performance from the Sichuan Opera Company. It really was hilarious as we used sign language, our book of Chinese words, a few Chinese and English words, and eventually we got front row tickets for the performance tonight.
Then, happily we went to the supermarket. The big Trust Mart in the centre of town, to buy a few snacks for a trip on a canal by boat that we did last night. Venturing into a supermarket is always and adventure. Young people will approach us for our cell phone number, a chat, a photo - any one or all of these. Older people will stand and stare at us, and even look into our supermarket trolley to see what we buy. See what we eat.
Finding one's way around the supermarket shelves is not too difficult. These days many of the familiar brands from home are easy to identify - so for most things it is easy. Fresh food, packaged food - well that is different.
The supermarket has a lot of live fish and animals. A huge tank where you catch your own fish. Smaller tanks with frogs, tortoises, eels, crabs, prawns etc. Catch them yourself. Meat is sitting on beds of ice - and the locals handle it all, looking to see which piece has the most meat, or the least fat, or the least bone.
The food handling procedures that we are familiar with, are not yet part of the scene in China. Although they are clean. Workers wear clean uniforms, rubber boots, hair nets, and gloves. There are some times when we just shudder a little as we pass by.
Yesterday we were looking at cakes - the Chinese make marvellous cakes - when a bag of something jumped up on another supermarket trolley. A huge fish, recently caught from the tank, was protesting it's capture in the big plastic bag and much to our surprise leaped as if trying to escape. Quite frightened us!
Then when we had eventually completed our loading of our trolley, we got on a queue to get to the cash register. They actually have televisions so that you can while away the time on the queue. It took nearly half an hour to make it to the cash register. Shame we could not understand the telly.
The joys of shopping in China.
Monday, 6 October 2008
Saturday, 4 October 2008
Oddly we see very little of the celebration of this National Day. When we have asked the students, they say that it is "celebrated" by being with family and shopping. Shopping is the favourite hobby of Chinese. They say it. Shopping is what friends do together.
I would like to see more traditional Chinese celebrations. Perhaps national dancing, music or similar, but if these sort of events are held, we don't know where they are. We don't see them. Maybe the many Chinese posters advertise these sort of events, but we can't read them. In any case, the students don't know. They say the celebrations are just visiting family and shopping.
Certainly the city shopping areas are busy. This is the time when many sales are held. It is the beginning of autumn so winter clothes are appearing in the fashion shops, and the stores are getting rid of summer stock at discount prices. The shopping frenzy that Chinese people seem to participate in is quite amazing. It is hard to register that much of the world think that China is more third world. Anything but in the affluent cities.
Our visit to Hangzhou on Monday reminded us that a holiday period is not a good time to travel around here. Even in Shaoxing the crowds have been hard to deal with. The busses are packed. Standing room only. No limit on the numbers on a bus here. Pack them in. Tightly. Hang on to your purse. Pickpockets find these times easy pickings.
Sue and I did go to Lu Xun Walk this week. Again it was packed. Lu Xun was one of China's best known modern writers. He wrote several books including Diary of a Madman and Medicine. He was born in Shaoxing, and left here to study abroad. He eventually returned to China, was forced to hide in Shanghai when the Kuomintang determined that his books were unsuitable. H eventually died in Shanghai.
Along Lu Xun Walk is his former residence, a memorial hall, and his former school. We did not go into the exhibits but strolled the street looking at the shops, and scenery. We found a restaurant along the walk and dined there. Much to the amusement of the passing traffic. We had a great meal there, and found the staff spoke English and the menu was in English too.
Later we went in a Shaoxing boat. A rather hilarious journey (overspriced) along a small stretch of canal, where I had to "duck" frequently as the boat went under low bridges and I might have been 'beheaded' if I had kept my head up. It made for a lot of laughs.
We bought a few things. Sue looks great in her new Shaoxing hat - the black heavy felt cap the older men wear during winter. Looks great on her.
We left the Lu Xun area, wandered around the old markets and eventually ended up at a restaurant called Brigadoon. Now the names of some places in China are completedly strange. I had never been before, but it was quite a nice little restaurant. English was spoken a little. We discovered they make great cocktails, so we will visit on another occasion.
Save the crowds it was a good day.
Thursday, 2 October 2008
Two hours later we had had enough of the Silk Market and ready to move on to our next destination.