Friday, December 18, 2009

Family Fotos

So this past week I've been explaining Christmas (as a cultural phenomenon) to the students as well as teaching them a couple of Christmas songs.

Some of the classes have come up just short in terms of time, meaning, I finished all my material and still had about 15 minutes left.

So I showed the students some pictures I had from Uncle Johnny's birthday party September of last year (2008).

Two very interesting comments were made, without fail, in every class that saw the photos:

Interesting comment #1: The students have all said that my father looks like Santa Claus.

Interesting comment #2, and I hope she doesn't get upset by this: The students have all said that my Italian-American (but full Italian by blood) Aunt Rosemarie looks Chinese.

Don't shoot the messenger on this one. I can see their first point, but I don't personally see the second.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

What's Up Doc

So for the last couple of weeks I've been kind of "phlegmy" but not coughy or feverish or really any kind of otherwise ill feeling. Then last Friday I woke up and something was wrong with my left ear. I could still hear out of it, but it was muffled, kind of like how it sounds when you've got water in your ear.

Anyways, I figured it'd go away, but as of Tuesday it had not, so I mentioned to Laura, my boss, that I'd like to go to the hospital to get it checked out.

For those of you thinking, "Why go to the hospital?", in China, they don't really have separate private doctors' offices, so if you're sick, even just for something minor, you go to the hospital.

So Laura arranged for a student whose English was not too bad to accompany me to the hospital. Luckily the wait wasn't very long. Including registration and then waiting for the patients in front of me in the otolaryngology deparement I waited probably a total of 20 minutes. (By the way, that's a new word for me, the English word for the "ear, nose, and throat" division of medecine. Also by the way, the literal Chinese translation of "otolaryncology" is, word-for-word, "ear nose and throat science")

The doctor had a look at my ear and literally 10 seconds later said (in Chinese of course) "You have a cold, and the mucus is just backed up. Once the cold goes away, so should the ear problem.

The doctor was an older man, perhaps 60, and after saying a few other things in Chinese to the student who was with me, he then looked at me and said "Parlez vous Francais?" At first I didn't understand him because A) I was expecting to hear Chinese and so wasn't listening for French, and 2) his accent was very heavy on the Chinese. After that he again spoke and said "Je peu parle un petit peu d'Francais" I then immediately tried to search my brain for "me too" in French, but the only thing my brain could find was "Wo ye shi", which is "me too" in Chinese. Only now as I am writing this blog entry have I just remembered that "me too" in French is "moi aussi." Learning Chinese has been a challenge and an adventure, but darn it if it hasn't pushed out just about all of the quick response expressions I have ever learned if any other language, including the Spanish I studied for three years in high school. I honestly believe that if a Spanish-speaking friend of mine asked me "Hey, como estas?" I would answer "hen hao" (very well).

The doctor then explained that he had worked for 4 years as a doctor in west Africa, in Mali, where they speak French. After that exchange he then directed the student and I to the testing room, where they just ran a couple of hearing tests (push the button when you can hear the sound), and then what seemed to be an automatic hearing test. For the automatic one he put the sensor into my ear and then the program ran played some tones at different frequencies and somehow automagically measured something about my auditory sensitivity. The doctor running the tests said that aside from the slight muting from the mucus, my hearing was fine.

After that, I was given a prescription of a couple kinds of pills and a nasal spray for my cold. We filled it there at the hospital, and that was that.

Just so you guys are aware, here in China, I have no health insurance. So, the doctor's visit, plus all the auditory tests, plus the medicine came to quite a total:

167 yuan, or about $24.50

Now the earnings in China are much lower than they are in the states. But even when you take this reduced earning power into account, this is still relatively cheap, even by Chinese standards. The way I get a "feel" for the cost of something is this: You take the price in yuan, let's call that "Y", and divide it by two, and let's call that "x". So now "Y" yuan to a Chinese would be "like" $x to an American. So in this case, 167 yuan to a Chinese person would be like $83 to an American. Certainly not something you'd like to drop everyday, but that's how much a doctor's visit PLUS medical tests PLUS medicine costs with NO insurance?

Anyhow, as an update, that was Tuesday, two days before I am now posting and my cold still hasn't gone away. Still not serious, but still not gone.

Friday, December 11, 2009

I could be a Part-Time Model*

*But I'll probably have to keep my normal job

I work part-time at this place called "Web International English" here in Huzhou. It's a commercial school for learning English.

On Monday of this week, Apple, my boss (that's her English name) said that there was an elevator company in Nanxun (pronounced Nan Schwinn, one town over, in the same county as Huzhou) that was looking for some foreigners to use in its advertisements and promotional materials, and asked if I would mind going to Nanxun to be a model for them.

The offer, in addition to stroking my ego, paid 1000 yuan (about $140) so I figured, yeah, why not!

On Tuesday, Apple sent me a text message asking if I had a suit, to which I replied, "Not in China." She then asked me for my size so the photographer could bring one that fit me.

On Wednesday she asked me, "Do you have any leather or formal shoes that are not sneakers?" To which I replied, "Not in China."

I think it's safe to say that my formal events and occasions have been few and far between during my last 14 months here.

So today, I went with Apple to the elevator factory in Nanxun. The photographer supplied the suits (there were 2: a blue pinstriped suit, and a gray pinstriped suit), a few shirts (different elevators had different colors and different lighting some some colors were better suited than others), but no shoes. Turns out that wasn't really a big deal, they just didn't include my feet in the shots.

Afterward, I signed a release for them to use my photos and they handed me 1000 yuan cash. As a bonus, since they had purchased those shirts just before and in my size, they let me keep them. The shirts are nothing special, not designer labels or anything, but are still nice shirts, and it was a nice little added bonus.

Within the next couple of weeks I should get some copies of the photos taken, and I'll post them here when I do.

On a side note, Ellis, my American co-worker at the college, went to model for this company a few weeks ago, as well as Brandon, my American co-worker at Web. Their photos came out fine, but the company wanted some more pictures and some different faces. If you want to see their photos you can catch them on Ellis's blog:

Ellis's own photos:

The final professinal ones:

Thanksgiving '09

So about two weeks ago Ellis (the other foreign teacher at my school, remember I am a foreigner) invited many of the Huzhou laowai (foreigners) to her apartment for a Thanksgiving dinner.

It was a nice little affair with food (everyone brought something), conversation, and even a some guitar and singing (real guitar, not fake plastic guitar).

I made some spaghetti to bring, and I have to say... it was REALLY good. I only used a Hunt's tomato sauce, but I also added some browned ground pork and some fennel and I let it simmer for about 4 hours. It turned out SO much better than expected. Grandma, you would be proud. I may be a particularly strict critic of my own sauce, but one nice compliment was that Ellis, a self-proclaimed "foodie", immediately asked for seconds after finishing her first helping.
The only thing that would've made it better is if it had been hot, I had prepared the spaghetti and the sauce, but unfortunately we began eating about 90 minutes after we arrived, so it was a little cool (The apartment is not heated).

Now me, always forgetting to bring a camera, I didn't take any pictures, save for one here I took with my camera phone of the spaghetti.

However, Ellis, being inseparable from her camera took several pictures. I'll upload a few of them from her blog here, but she's got several others with annotations at that on her Thanksgiving blog post:

Jean and I arrive first

People Snacking

The Huzhou foreigners dining

Englishman Jack plays the guitar

Canadian Paul and I sing a song (maybe Oasis)

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

New Record

Recently broke my personal record for running up the six flights of stairs to my apartment again:

11/25/09 - 22.8 seconds

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Too Long

It's been a long time since I've last posted, which is due to a combination of blogspot (the blog hosting site) being blocked in China, making it inconvenient, but not impossible, to post, and the fact that I've been a bit lazy to post. (Note, I began drafting this blog post Nov 11, but didn't post it because I didn't have the pictures. I got the pictures and published the blog post Nov 25, despite the fact that it says it was posted Nov 11.)

So here's a quick recap on the last couple months:

A few weeks ago I organized a Rock Band party at my place. I invited over the Huzhou laowai (foreigners) that I know, and a few of the English-speaking Chinese with whom I am friends. I made tacos (thanks to Aunt Mary for the taco seasoning), Ellis baked a delicious cake, and with plenty of beer we had a good time eating, drinking, singing, and playing faux guitar and drums. I've got a few pictures below:

The tacos!

On the left, Canadian Paul and his Chinese wife Annie. In the middle, Englishman Jack, and on the right American Brandon.

My beautiful girlfriend Jean

And here are a few of me REALLY getting into singing "Chop Suey" by System of a Down. When its blurry, I'm jumping.

The excited, happy lad in the chair in those pictures is American Edward... a guy who I'll mention in the next blog post (tomorrow).

Two weekends ago while in Hangzhou, Jean and I went to a restaurant that was recommended to her by a workmate of hers. It is a western-style restaurant (read: not Chinese food) and it was purported that the pizza there was pretty good. When we went in, I noticed that the vast majority of the patrons there were indeed foreigners, something, at that point, I had not yet seen outside of Shanghai. Anyhow, Jean and I sat down at our table and ordered the fried squid, the nachos, and a pepperoni pizza.

The appetizers came out first, and the nachos... they were not Chinese nachos, they were not some Chinese approximation of nachos, they were honest-to-goodness nachos chips topped with chili and cheese, and they were awesome. The fried squid were tasty, if perhaps a little too salty.

On a side note, the expression "fried squid" in Chinese (pronounced chow yo yu) means "to be fired" as in, to lose one's job.

The pizza, pictured here, looked delicious, and seemed to be brick oven baked, the way good pizza ought to be. The flavor was also quite good, better than any pizza I'd had in China thus far. But, I have to say, it may have been one of the greasiest pizzas I have ever eaten.

The pizza would look better, but it was taken with a phone camera.

In any case, I was impressed and I think I now have a favorite restaurant in China. I saw their breakfast menu, and I look forward to giving that a go sometime.

That's all up to recently, but I will eventually be posting the remaineder of the summer Beijing/Xi'An trip, and also, I'm going to have a post pretty soon on some if the minor niggles about living in China (other than the aforementioned blockade of websites).

Friday, September 18, 2009

Fall Semester begins, I'm clumsy

I realize it's been a month now since I've last posted, and I eventually will finish posting about the Beijing/Xi'an trip, but I'm blogging again for now.

The new semester has begun and it's business as usual, though for the first 3 weeks I don't have my freshman classes. For whatever reason the freshmen begin 3 weeks laters, something to do with military training.

So this weekend is an important weekend as I will be meeting my girlfriend's mother for the first time. She lives in Harbin which, geographically, if Huzhou is like Atlanta, Harbin is like Nova Scotia. Just her mother is visiting, not her father. I'm a bit nervous, but to be honest, considering the level of my Chinese, I don't know enough to really make a fool of myself, so I don't have too much to worry about.

In other news, this last weekend I lost my cell phone on a bus in Hangzhou. No one stole it, I think maybe I dropped it while sitting in my seat and I didn't pay close attention. Luckily I had saved all my important phone numbers to a file a few months ago, so I didn't lose anything too important, just annoying having to spend the money on a new phone. That said, the phone I lost wasn't great, and since it had been dropped many times and soaked at least twice, sometimes it didn't work exactly as it was supposed to, so getting a new phone isn't all bad.

I got my new phone yesterday, and I am really pleased, it looks sexier than the previous phone, it's faster, it's more functional, and it was actually cheaper! (In case you are curious, the old phone was a Motorola ROKR E2 which I bought for 600 yuan, about $88, and the new one is a Motorola ROKR Z6 which I bought for 530 yuan, about $78.)

One interesting thing I discovered as I was adjusting all the settings on my new phone: I downloaded the "Opera Mini" web browser for the phone, which lets you browse web pages more efficiently than the browser that comes with the phone. Now, the way it works is, you enter an address, it goes to Opera's servers, they get the page to their servers, then compress the page, and then send it back to you. It's actually faster this way because any images and text get compressed first so instead of waiting for a 100kb page to download, now you are waiting for a 9kb page to download, and when you're talking web browsing on a non-3G network, that is a huge difference.

Anyways, I began to think, this whole system essentially works like a proxy, so, I wonder, let me see if I can access blocked websites in China, such as youtube, facebook, or even my blog right here. So I typed in those pages, and lo, I had access.

I think it's strange that if I go to a computer, I cannot access facebook or (without some mucking around), yet on my cell phone, I can just go right to it. Go figure.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Other Huzhou Laowai

This post isn't really a post for me. It's a link to my friend Ellis's blog.

She has a post on an all too typical experience for her: Chinese people's fascination with foreigners.

Now, it's a very interesting read, and from what I've heard from her and others, not an atypical occurrence. But not for me.

Now I can certainly understand that at first glance I may not get noticed as much as other foreigners, I'm neither glaringly white nor dark, my hair is black, and I'm not too tall. From behind, it might be hard to know that I'm not a Chinese.

Once people see my face, though, they are immediately aware that I am indeed not Chinese. I get some stares, but not the way my other friends seem to.

And as far as something like Ellis's experience at the gym, the well-meaning, yet still annoying pestering while working out... it just doesn't happen with me. The only people that talk to me at the gym are essentially one of two physical trainers that work there. One uses English, and the other uses Chinese. But even then, I wouldn't say they talk to me at length or to an annoying level, it's usually just a hello and a few words.

I'm not complaining. I'm sure this would get old fast. But for whatever reason, even though other gym members can plainly see I'm not Chinese, I guess I just don't incite the same level of curiosity. Or maybe it's because I'm a dude.

By the way, if you don't know, "laowai" (from the subject of this post) means foreigner.

July 23, Tiananmen Square & Forbidden City

The first morning in Beijing we got up early and headed out for Tian An Men Square via, and for the last time, the subway. When we got there, it wasn't too hot, as it had rained that morning and was still cloudy. It would rain later, so it stayed cloudy, but that did make our outing pleasantly cool. We took some pictures in the square.

First Arrived

Facing South

Facing North

Always LOTS of People Everywhere

As you can tell from some of these pictures, there were always lots of people here in the square... which makes this picture Jean took when she was a little girl all the more confusing. There is literally no one else in the square (only a few across the street). I asked her about this, and she said she doesn't know why there was no one, perhaps it was very early in the morning, and perhaps it had just rained. Also, not nearly as many Chinese took touristy trips 16 years ago as they do today, as the Chinese people have more money today than in the past.

Jean, age 8, Tian An Men Square

Later, we decided to get in line to see Chairman Mao's body. First we went to a building across the street to put our stuff in the locker. I knew no pictures were allowed, but I didn't know cameras weren't either, so I didnt put my camera away in the storage place. In retrospect it kind of makes sense, though they don't disallow cell phones, but you do get in trouble if you try to take a picture with one. We waited in line for about an hour until we got to the entrance and the security checkpoint. Since I had my camera on me they denied me entry. What I should've done is stopped taken a deep breath and told my family, ok you guys go through, I'll see you at the exit. Instead I wasnt thinking and I just exited. After I realized what I should've done, I hoped they still would go through, so I made my way to meet them at the exit.

20 minutes later, however, they still had not shown. I decided to wait 5 more minutes, and then if they were still a no show, I'd go to our pre-arranged "get separated" location. But just at that time, I got a phone call. Uncle Jack had borrowed one of the workers' cell phones and called me. They had been waiting at the entrance for me for the last 20 minutes. He asked if I was just going to wait for them at the exit, I said yes, and they went through, and after regrouping I apologized for making them wait there in the first place without giving them notice.

It was all good, and we then went to go eat lunch. We just walked a short way away from Tian An Men square and saw a Chinese Fast Food place. These were NOT the kind of Chinese dishes to show off Chinese cuisine, but we needed to eat, and we didn't really know where anything else was. There could've been a great place right around the corner, or just as easily 10 blocks away.

After that we walked back toward the forbidden city, but made a pit stop along the way. Katy and Uncle Jack needed to use the public facilities while we waited outside.
Uncle Jack returned first, followed shortly by Katy, who shortly began with a disgusting tirade over the state of the bathroom inside and the shortly thereafter labelled "squatty potties."

Afterward we crossed the street toward the Forbidden City. Before we entered, Beth asked me, "If it's a forbidden city, why are they letting us inside?"

Out in Front

Courtyard Inside

Lion Statue Crushing a Baby Lion
(at least that's what I say it is, but when you read
"crushing" you must imagine Borat saying it
and doing the crushing motion with his hand)

We finished the afternoon with an educational (we rented the audio tour device) stroll through the city/palace, shortly after which it began to rain. Luckily we snagged a cab back to our hotel minutes before the rain came down really hard. The driver was different than most other cab drivers I have met in China in that I could more easily understand what he was saying. His Chinese pronunciation was fairly standard, which unfortunately for my comprehension, is something that is a bit rare among taxi drivers.

Friday, August 14, 2009

July 22, To Beijing

The next morning my family was in China, things went well enough, we ate the complimentary breakfast, which had both Western and Chinese style items, and was actually not half bad.

Then we checked-out, loaded our stuff into the van, and headed to the Hongqiao Airport of Hangzhou. We arrived at about 9:30 which was actually PERFECT timing. The solar eclipse for that day had begun at 8:41, but that was just the starting overlap. By 9:30 things were beginning to get slightly dimmer, and by 9:35 it was beginning to look like early evening. And then at 9:41, the moon completely blocked out the sun and it was dark as night. Everyone was shouting and ooing, and I have to say, it was actually a LOT cooler than I thought it was going to be. The sky had been a bit cloudy that day, so the pictures and videos taken with my camera may not be very good, but because of the clouds, we were able to look reasonably directly at it without burning our retinas. It lasted about 5 minutes, and then there was light. And the crowd that had gathered outside the drop-off point at the terminal dispersed and went about their day.

In case the video wasn't very clear:

Dark out...

And a few seconds later.

Lots of people taking pictures

A couple familiar faces in this one

On a side note, as a bit of a surprise, while I was at the airport, I bumped into my school's leader. He noticed me and called out to me and said Hello. Not a big deal, but China is a huge place with LOTS of people and it's always an interesting surprise for me to unexpectedly run into someone I know here. Especially when I'm not in my "hometown."

So, we got our tickets and checked the luggage with no problems, and had about 90 minutes to kill before our flight. Our flight began boarding a bit late, about 10 minutes before the scheduled takeoff, but that can happen from time to time I suppose. The real problem was the waiting after we were already on the plane. The flight was scheduled to leave at 12:20 and land in Beijing at 2:20. We finally landed at 4:00 spending nearly 2 hours on the plane AT the gate with the AC having problems, and then another not quite 2 hours in the air. The others were rather frustrated with that flight, and they should've been especially considering they were still feeling jetlag from arriving the day before. I wasn't as frustrated as I could've been, but that's only because I have one slightly more frustrating... no, one extremely more frustrating flight experience while traveling American Airlines on one occasion... but that's a different story.

We arrived in Beijing and hopped on a van to the hotel. Uncle Jack did a really great job selecting the hotel as it was really nice, and I'll have a video of it posted soon. Our dinner outing was delayed a bit by some heavy rain, but it didn't last for too long and we went out not long after.

We found a Japanese restaurant not far from the hotel. The reason we went to the Japanese restaurant and not a Chinese restaurant is because the sign said (in Chinese) something that translated to unlimited Japanese buffet. When we sat down, but found that it was not actually what one would call a buffet, but WAS, after talking with the waitress at length in Chinese, an unlimited servings deal. Basically you would sit down around a hibachi grill and you just order anything and everything you'd want off the menu, then they'd bring it out and the guy would cook it right there for you. If you wanted more later, you could order more. You paid one flat fee and the food was unlimited and you did choose it yourself. It just wasn't a typical, get up grab a plate and pick stuff off a bar situation. It was really delicious though.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

July 21st, A Tillman Clan Arrives in China

The weekend before the travelling began I unfortunately fell a bit ill and sported a fever on Sunday while in Hangzhou visiting Jean. Luckily Jean helped take care of me and scored me some aspirin, which did help to break my fever, but unfortunately it returned, and I wasn't feeling well enough to return to Huzhou that night. Monday morning I was feeling a bit better, but not 100%, but I had to return to pack my things for the trip and get my passport so I could fly.

Tuesday morning, July 21st, I left my house at 8:30, arrived at the Huzhou bus station at 9:10, and bought a bus ticket to Shanghai. However the next bus was to leave at 10:20, so I had to just kill some time. As soon as I sat down in the lobby, I realized that after all I had remembered to pack, I had forgotten my passport. So I rushed out, grabbed the nearest taxi, told him I was in a hurry and to go to the Huzhou Vocational and Technical College. We got there in about 15 minutes, and got to the front gate of the school. I asked the guards if they would let the taxi go inside the school because I was in a hurry and needed to fetch my passport, but they said no. The taxi driver had already said he would wait, so I told him I would run. So, I got out of the car and began sprinting the nearly half a mile back to my apartment from the front gate and up the 6 floors to my apartment. I say began sprinting because I wasn't able to spring the whole way. I definitely didn't pace myself well. Half a mile should not begin with a full-on 100% dead-out sprint. In any case I did run the whole way there, grabbed my passport, drank some MUCH needed water, shut off some lights I had forgotten to turn off when I left the first time, and ran back.

Altogether the driver waited for me about 10 minutes, the last part of which I seriously began worrying about whether or not he had waited. If he hadn't it could be EXTREMELY difficult to find another taxi from there in a short period of time, and there wouldn't be enough time to catch another bus. Luckily he still was and upon seeing that I decided I'd give the driver a tip. This may not seem like much, but tips in China are essentially non-existent, so when a service-person we would usually tip receives one, their reponse is usually one mixed of surprise and confusion. In retrospect, I imagine he would've waited for me as I had not yet paid him when I ran to my apartment.

Anyhow, I did finally arrive back at the bus station at 10:00, 20 minutes to spare, plenty of time before my scheduled departure. After boarding the bus, however, I began to question my timing, and soon figured that I might be late. The bus to Shanghai needed about 3 hours, but that is just to arrive at the south station. That put my arrival at 1:20pm assuming nothing went wrong along the way. My family's flight, according to the Delta website I had checked before I left, however, was to land at 1:15 . I knew that there would be a 20 minute delay for checking everyone's temperature on board (a policy China has implemented on all incoming flights from the US and Mexico due to the H1N1 flu), perhaps another 20 minutes going through customs, and then, I guessed maybe 15 minutes getting their luggage.

But I knew that it would take be about 90 minutes to get to the international arrivals terminal once I arrived at the Shanghai South Station, meaning there could've potentially been about 30 minutes difference after their exit through the "Nothing to Declare" gate and when I would arrive, leaving them wondering where to go and having no way to contact me. I really began to stress about this, and so I called my American friend Nellie in Shanghai, to see if maybe, on the off chance that she was free, if perhaps she could do me a solid. My luck had seemingly changed as it turned out she was actually free for a few hours, wasn't too terribly far from the airport, and was willing to help me out.

I finally arrived in Shanghai at 1pm, not 1:20 (so it's 2:40 hours, not 3), called Nellie and tried to coordinate. We then agreed that I would make my way to the non-airport side of the Maglev station. Then I'd give her a call if I had not already heard from her. If my family had arrived, she'd take them to the maglev to me; if not, I'd hop on the maglev to the airport. I got to the maglev station at about 2pm, and she said she still hadn't seen them, and that it was beginning to worry her. She said the boards show that their flight landed at 1:12pm, and that people from other flights landing about the same time had already come out. I got to the international arrivals gate at about 2:20 and saw Nellie but no Tillmans. Nellie had been free up to this point, but did have something else to do later, so she had to go, and I thanked her again for helping me out. I, however, was beginning to worry too. It had now been OVER an hour since they landed and they hadn't shown. I was nervous they'd been quarantined or something. Luckily my fears were not founded and sometime around 2:45 they finally came out. Whew! Turns out it was a combination of A) taking people's temperatures, B) Stopping to take pictures, allowing others to get in line in customs before them, insuring C) a long line at customs, and D) simply having to wait a long time for all their checked luggage.

Tillmans Arrive at Customs

So, we began schlepping our stuff from the Shanghai airport, through the Maglev, then the #2 subway to Peoples' Square, switched to the #1 to the South Railway station, and landed a train to Hangzhou. This bit of travel is not too harrowing if you are one or two people travelling lightly. But if you are 5 people and 4 BIG pieces of luggage, it can be rather more troublesome.

On the Shanghai MagLev Train at 430 km/h
(That's 269 mph in, as Katy put it, "real life")

Anyhow we arrived in Hangzhou, snagged a minibus (a van) to our hotel, the Best Western Premier, showered and cleaned up, and waited to meet Jean to go to dinner. She gave me a call when she arrived at our hotel and I went down first to meet her.

I couldn't find her at first, and we were trying to figure out where the other person was. It was at the moment when we said we were both at the door that I realized that we could not possibly be at the same place. As it turns out there were TWO Best Westerns in Hangzhou, and she was not at ours. So, poor Jean had to hop ANOTHER cab to ANOTHER Best Western hotel in ANOTHER part of town that she didn't know very well. But she did finally arrive, beautiful as ever, and everyone was introduced, and we made our way to dinner. We weren't sure where to go to eat as the restaurant Jean had previously selected was convenient to the other Best Western. So we decided to take a stroll and push our luck. We shortly found a place that seemed nice and took a table.

There was no menu, the plates and foods were either on display or on display being cooked and you could choose what you liked. Jean and I chose for our party, and chose carefully for our recently arrived and certainly tired and weary (and perhaps somewhat picky) guests. While we were waiting on the food Katy said she'd like to take a look at some of the things they had, what I had ordered. She approved of the choices, but while looking at the dishes, Katy noticed some caged chickens. Katy mentioned that she thought it was strange to have the live chickens out where the patrons could see them, as if they would point and say "Ooh! I want that one!", and that you wouldn't see that in the states. I replied, "Sure you do. Have you ever been to Red Lobster?"

The food was good and everybody enjoyed most of it. I say most of it, because when selecting, I wasn't sure if deer was too outside the mainstream for my family, and as it turns out, it is. I ate it, but it looked better than it tasted. It was actually kind of bland.

Anyhow, we went back to the hotel, where upon opening the mini-fridge, Katy noticed that the Red Bull cans in China are short, fat, and yellow, as opposed to the familiar, chic, tall, skinny, and grey and blue. There at the hotel, Jean helped us negotiate a better rate from the minibus for a ride to the airport the next morning, and we all took a few pictures, after which Jean went home, and we all went off to bed for an early, action-packed next day.

Jean and the Tillmans

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Trip Posts

Ok, so I returned from my travelling about a week and a half ago. And I DID write a TON of stuff about the trip, but I never posted it because I wanted to be able to post it with the appropriate pictures.

However, since then, I haven't gotten around to doing it because there are loads of pictures to sift through and choose from. As a result, I have been procrastinating doing posting the entire bit. But, beginning tomorrow, I will put posts up from each day of my travels with the corresponding date in the header.

I'll keep doing this on a daily basis until I'm caught up, in which case I'll probably return to my weekly or so postings.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Back in the USSR, er I mean China

So I've been back in China for about a week and a half now and getting back into the swing of things here.

Last week I was working part time at a place called "WEB International English." It's basically a private school, and they have offices in cities all over China. I had been working for them part-time since last semester, but at that time, it was maybe one extra hour a week. This last week however they had me working every evening from 6-9pm straight. I have to say that's not my most preferred schedule in the world, but I also just kind of dealt with it since it was only last week, and these next 2 weeks I will be gone travelling.

It has been fairly hot here since I arrived, and when I would go to WEB, I would ride my bicycle. But when I arrived, my shirt would be soaking wet, especially the back, so each day I brought an extra shirt for me to change into once I arrived.

A couple interesting things have happened in the brief span since I've returned, however. Last week, on Monday I think it was, I was standing at a corner, waiting for the walk signal to light up, and these two girls came up to me and asked "Excuse me, can you tell me where Red Flag Road is?"

Now the interesting thing about this is... In Huzhou, maybe if you're 20+ yards away you can't tell I'm not a Chinese. But if you're standing right next to me, it's pretty clear that I am a foreigner. SO, these girls NOT ONLY decided to ask a FOREIGNER for directions (why they think he would know, I have no clue), but they ALSO asked me in CHINESE! So here they are in a small (relatively) city with few foreigners, and they ask one for directions in Chinese. I really don't understand why they would have thought I could help them, let alone understand them.

The funny thing is, I knew exactly where Red Flag Road was and pointed them in the right direction.

The other interesting thing that had happened is this. In the US, Tampa is very well known. It's not a huge city, it's not a bedazzled city, but at least within the US, Americans all know of Tampa.

However, not too surprisingly, I had never met a Chinese person in China who had heard of Tampa. It works the same way there. There is a city in China called Shao Xing. It's not a large city, there's nothing particularly special about it, but everyone in China has heard of it. But I had never heard of it before coming to China. So it's really just a cultural thing. (Many Chinese have heard of Orlando, but not because of Disney World... because of the Orlando Magic, they are NBA crazy out here.)

BUT, this last week, while I was teaching at WEB, the "never met" changed to "ever met." I was teaching a small class of business intermediate students (by small I mean 2 students). One of the students was a man about age 40. In the last 5 minutes of class I asked them if they had any questions about the lesson, or since this was the first time we had met, if they had any questions about me. They asked me where I was from, and I said "America, Florida." The man then asked me, "What city in Florida?" And I said, "maybe you guys haven't heard of it but, Tampa." With a laugh he slammed his hand on the table and told me that he had actually lived in Tampa for 3 years working at a Chinese restaurant. He couldn't remember the name of the restaurant, but in any case, I've finally met a Chinese person in China who knows about Tampa.

Ok well, I'm off now. I will now be leaving to go fetch my aunt and uncle and their two daughters from the airport, as they will be arriving in just a few hours. We're going to travel to Beijing and Xi'An, finishing the travel next Friday, the 31st. Here's hoping we have a smooth trip!

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Chinese Wedding

Last weekend I had the opportunity to attend a Chinese wedding because Jean's cousin in Shanghai was getting married. (Unfortunately I pulled a bonehead move and forgot to bring my camera along, so, sorry, no pictures.)

Since Jean was her cousin's maid of honor (ban niang in Chinese), she was often busy helping her for much of the day, which gave me the opportunity to practice my Chinese with her aunt and uncle and her cousin's friends. I definitely struggled as this quickly became more than basic conversational Chinese, but I was actually surprised by the level to which I was able to hold my own. This is not to be confused with fluency, mind you, but just that I get a personal sense that my Chinese really has improved while I have been here.

A modern Chinese wedding is a bit of a mix of both Chinese and western traditions. For example, the bride wears a traditional western white wedding dress.

Before the wedding the bride's friends come over to her house help her prepare. Now, in a western wedding, it's bad luck for the groom to see the bride that morning, but in the Chinese tradition, the groom comes over to pick her up.

However, it's not just as easy as that for him. First, the bride's girlfriends will block the way and not let him to her, despite his cries of “I love you” to his waiting bride. Finally, he gives the girls many “hong bao” (红包, literally “red package”) which are red envelopes filled with money to “bribe” his way past them. Later they make him do some extra feats to prove his love for her, in this instance, by doing 20 pushups on the spot. These games and feats are all in good fun.

Next, they head off together to the dining hall for the wedding. Although an American wedding has two parts, the processional and the reception, the entirety of a Chinese wedding is basically the reception. There may be a very brief ceremony on stage for the exchanging of the rings (another western influence), but the rest is just a big dinner.

At an American wedding reception you might see decorations in light color themes like white, purple, light blue, or pink, but at a Chinese wedding the predominant color is red, red, red. This is because red is a lucky or prosperous color in traditional Chinese culture. Also, when the guests give money as a gift, they always give in denominations of “lucky” numbers, such as 888 or 600. The NEVER give anything with a 4 in it. 4 is considered unlucky because the Chinese word for “four” sounds similar to the Chinese word for “death.”

Finally, the bride and groom go around to each and every table at the reception to share private toast with everyone. Meanwhile all this time, food is being served to the guests. And the food is important. I have heard (though I can't remember from where at the moment) that Chinese will sometimes judge the quality of a wedding based on the deliciousness of the food!

Family Feud Redux

So the last week of normal classes I played The Family Feud again with my students. While playing unexpectedly (as is the way with these things) came across some interesting cultural points

The survey question in this case was “Name an animal men are compared to.”

It turns out this question actually has more to do with culture than language, so while I did get some of the expected answers (e.g. rat, pig), some of them have different meanings, and others times I got answers I didn't expect like “monkey.”

The students did say the #1 survey answer, pig, but in American English it can mean a couple things; it can be a fat, lazy person, or it can mean a chauvinistic man or womanizer. In China, it only has the fat, lazy connotation and is used more often for women than men.

A rat in American English might mean a sneaky person who might try to deceive others, whereas in Chinese it means a person is just garbage in general. Similar, but not exactly the same.

Snake is similar to rat in English, someone not to be trusted, but in Chinese this comparison (according to my students) is not common and doesn't really have a meaning.

Fox is used in both languages and, by one definition, a bit similarly. We might say someone is “smart like a fox” meaning they're very sly and clever. In Chinese is would also mean someone is very smart, but in a bad way, sort of a “using one's powers for evil” kind of thing. In English, however, a fox can also be a very sexy woman or man, but this usage doesn't exist in Chinese.

Wolf has almost the exact same meaning in both language-- a guy who chases lots of girls.

The students also suggested “cow” which at first thought seemed a bit unusual, but then I remembered that we might also use “ox.” And the translation of “cow” and “ox” to Chinese is both “niu” (牛). If a man is a “niu” in Chinese it means he is honest and hard-working, while if we say a guy is an ox, it just means he is big and strong. I also explained to my students that we might use “cow” to describe a very fat woman.

Being compared to a lion in English would speak of one's bravery or whole-heartedness, but in Chinese it means one is ambitious.

The Chinese also compare men to tigers if they are strong and fierce... similar to how we might use it to describe a woman of similar characteristics. (The Chinese can also sometimes describe a woman as a tiger if she is strong and fierce, but the connotation implies a bit of manliness to her, like if we might say a woman has balls.)

If a man is a dog, in both English and Chinese, he is generally not a very good guy, perhaps a cheater. However, in English, as slang, it might also be used to describe a very ugly girl.

And finally, while we would never compare someone to a monkey in English without racist undertones, in Chinese it means someone is very clever.

To any of my Chinese friends who are reading this and disagree with my Chinese interpretations, these meanings I got after asking my students what the meanings are, so it is according to them. If you disagree with it though, I'd love to see your point of view in the comments.

Also, to any English speakers who were interested in the survey results of the family feud question, they were, in this order: pig, rat, snake, fox, wolf, bear, and skunk.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Maybe New Record, Not Sure

Well, the last time I timed myself, for the record, running up the flights of stairs to my apartment on the sixth floor, I got 23 seconds. However, at that time it seems I didn't also check the fractions of a second.

Today I timed myself again and got 23.58 seconds. Maybe it was faster than last time, maybe it was slower. In any case, I think 23.58 will be the new standard as it is more precise. Looks like I have some work ahead of me to break the 23 second barrier without also breaking my neck.

In other news, the reason I had been having trouble the past couple of weeks prior to last week updating my blog is because, the website hosting my blog, fell victim to the Great Firewall of China. was blocked sometime back in March, but as recently as this week, it seems there has been a firestorm of firewalling on all sorts of other blog websites, up to and including, Microsoft's, and even the photo sharing site

I didn't know why the sudden extra outburst of censorship, but I read an article on that clears things up a bit. It seems that tomorrow... well, I'll let Ars explain:

The hope is that after this anniversary things will lighten up. For my convenience sake, here's hoping!

Also, recently I was checking out flight info for my uncle and aunt and cousins' upcoming trip to China. I was usinga Chinese airfare search enginer (FYI qu nar = go where) Some of the flights are actually pretty cheap, so, for kicks I decided to search for a flight from Shanghai to Tampa and back, the one I will be making here shortly. I found the EXACT same flight, EXACTLY the same flights for $150 cheaper. Ugh!

I already bought the tickets so there's nothing I can do about it now, but I have at least two more flights I will make from China: one in winter 2010 and my final return in summer 2010. For those I will definitely make sure to add to my airfare research list.

Friday, May 29, 2009


Well I haven't posted in about 2 weeks, a week and a half of which is because I had nothing terribly interesting to write about, the last few days of which have been "technical" issues in accessing the blog.

Actually I still don't have much to talk about. I can't see Jean this weekend because she has gone to Harbin to see her grandmother, who is visiting from Canada. Her grandmother (her maternal grandmother) lives in Canada with Jean's aunt.

The weekend before last I made a sorry attempt at making macaroni and cheese from scratch. Basically, the cheese was not liquidy enough and it gooped together in clumps, so it did not spread evenly around the macaroni.

On the bright side though, while Jean and I were at the grocery store here in Huzhou, we were walking down the ramen aisle when Jean noticed a cheese ramen box. We bought it, made it, and ate it. It was good, but nothing special, essentially the same as boxed mac & cheese back home including the powdered cheese. The noodles were not macaroni, however, they were long, ramen-type noodles, but the principle and flavor are the same.

The big deal about that is that here in little old Huzhou I can now actually purchase easy mac if I so desire.

Also I've been in communcation with Uncle Jack and Aunt Mary about planning for their trip to China. Because the cost of domestic flights is so relatively inexpensive in China, we're going to fly from city to city. The only snag in that plan is that these domestic airlines generally do not accept a foreign Visa credit card.

This weekend is actually a holiday weekend in China. We have Thursday and Friday off. However, as these Chinese holidays often go, work resumes on Sunday to make up for Friday.

This weekend I've been fiddling with my computer, and have been toying with the idea reformatting my computer and testing out Windows 7. We'll see how that goes...

Anywhow, less than a month in this semester to go which means summer vacation and flying home for a couple weeks, which I am definitely looking forward too!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Funny New Word

I just learned a new expression today in Chinese.

Apparently, this usage is becoming less common in China, used more primarily among the older generation, but Chinese can say "hai zi ta ma" (孩子他妈) or "hai zi ta ba" (孩子他爸) to refer to their wife or husband respectively.

What makes this funny is that, "hai zi" translates to "child" and "ta ma" translates to "his mom" (while "ta ba" is "his dad").

So, "hai zi ta ma" and "hai zi ta ba" are quite LITERALLY "baby mama" and "baby daddy."

Wednesday, May 13, 2009


Well, my aunt and uncle and their family have their tickets ordered and they will be coming to China in July.

I also have my plane tickets set, and I was actually able to find a reasonably priced ticket ($1025) for a flight leaving near the end of June and returning 2 weeks later in July. Anything else at any other time in July or in August varied from $1650 to over $2000.

As they will definitely becoming to China now, I felt obliged to find some examples of traffic here in China so that they are not shocked and stunned on their first ride in a Chinese cab.

So, I scoured youtube and found a few good representations.

These videos are not mine, they are other videos people have taken of traffic in China.

One thing you will notice right away is the seeming messiness and randomness of traffic in China.

When riding in a taxi here, more than once you would probably just want to close your eyes. It takes some getting used to, but after a while you begin to realize that although the drivers here are perhaps a bit crazier than in the states, they are REALLY REALLY good at it. Despite this, even now, I occasionally catch myself hitting the imaginary brake pedal while riding in a taxi, but not nearly as often as at first.

For most of the drivers, the lines separating lanes are literally just suggestions. I remember saying that jokingly after my experience in Beijing in 2004, but the truth is, I'm so used to it now, that it doesn't even seem funny, rather, just the way it is, very mundane.

It's like when a recipe calls for 1/2 cup of water or 1/3 cup of milk or 20 grams of sugar, you don't sweat being too precise about it, because close enough is close enough. Now, notice my example there. It's not funny, its just ordinary and mundane. And that's how the Chinese drivers see lines on the road.

This video is a typical small but busy intersection on a busy night. In Shanghai and Beijing, most places aren't like this because most places have bigger intersections and are better organized for pedestrian traffic. But here in Huzhou (this video is from I don't know where) a scene like this on a Friday or Saturday night is typical, with cars trying to poke their way through and motorbikes, bicycles, and pedestrians just going wherever they damn well can.

I also came across this video of Nanjing Road in Shanghai. This is generally a very busy area in Shanghai. This video is titles "Crazy traffic Nanjing Road in Shanghai" However, perhaps it is just that I have gotten used to it, but this really doesn't seem all that crazy to me:

Here is another example of an ordinary taxi ride, this in Beijing:

And finally this video is a bit longer, about 2 and a half minutes, of an intersection in Harbin. This is a prime example of what happens at a busy intersection in China. While seeming scary and crazy, this is not at all unusual. FYI while this video is a bit longer, it's worth it to watch the whole way through:

Thankfully, even the worst intersection I've come across here in Huzhou isn't as bad as that last video. However, the close calls you saw in that video ARE par for the course. Another note, for those loved ones (Mom) who might worry that I ride a bike in this kind of stuff, A) It's not quite as bad in Huzhou, and 2) I have quickly learned to avoid more congested intersections by taking roads with less traffic per space, even if it means pedaling an extra half a klick. It often is faster despite this.

Oh one more. This video though, this one is crazy even by Chinese standards, especially starting at around 0:20 seconds:

Monday, May 11, 2009


Well this last weekend was Mother's Day weekend, and unfortunately I wasn't able to see my mum, but I did give her and my grandmothers a Skype call to wish them a Happy Mother's Day.

It may not officially be summer, but summer weather is HERE. Today the daytime high was around 97 degrees (Fahrenheit) and yesterday it was only a few degrees cooler, with a high around 91-92.

One big difference between here and back home is you see LOTS of girls breaking out their umbrellas as parasols, which at first glance struck me as kind of funny/silly, but then at second thought, actually makes a lot of sense. In Florida it gets hella hot and humid, but for the most part, you don't spend too much time just outside. Either you're inside, or you get in your car to go somewhere, and once you arrive, you walk maybe 20 meters into the nearest building.

The exceptions of course are if you are laying out on the beach or something like this, but then in THAT instance, you DO see people with umbrellas.

Anyway, here at school the students primarily walk everywhere, and its a half a mile walk to the nearest bus stop, its actually pretty reasonable as protection against the sun.

The good news is that the weather is supposed to cool down a bit later this week with a forecasted high tomorrow of around 89 and then Wednesday and Thursday highs of 71 and 75 respectively.

On a completely unrelated note, I was listening to the "Lingua Franca" podcast the other day, a podcast published by the ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) whose episodes are each about 15 minutes long and whose subjects are always based on language. It's really quite interesting. Anyway, I listened to an episode recently that was talking about Latin and its influence, and at the end of the podcast, the host read this passage, which I found tickled my brain rather nicely:

An emeritus professor from my alma mater had been advising me to write my magnum opus. She offered to provide some bona fides for me to her publisher, but when I finally did carpe diem and write the thing, I became persona non grata with the publishers. When I tried to send them a facsimile of my masterpiece it caused a paper jam. I suggested, almost as a non-sequitur, that if I fixed their fax machine for them pro bono then, as a quid pro quo, they should publish my magnum opus et cetera. This, as my professor has since been telling me ad nauseum, was not a good idea. What I should've offered them was a mea culpa.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

One More Year

So last week I told Laura (my boss) that I would like to renew my contract and stay here at Huzhou Vocational and Technical School for one more year. There are a few reasons I decided to stay here as opposed to somewhere else.

For one, I only plan on being in China one more year, and if it's just going to be one more year, I'd prefer to be someplace that I am familiar with that I know will be a good, comfortable, safe situation. It's not that someplace else couldn't be better. But, from stories I've heard on the internet and from other foreign teachers, I got pretty lucky landing here. It seems that teaching college kids is preferable to younger kids, the hours are pretty decent, and Laura, Hebe, and Violet (the ladies who help us with any problems we have) have all been fantastic, bending over backward to assist when either Ellis or I would have any problems. In addition they've all become really good friends.

Further, the school takes care of us pretty well. The on-campus apartment they provide is not only pretty nice, it's pretty big, and, by virtue of being on campus and behind the guarded gate, it's safe. (Which is an even bigger plus for Ellis... unfortunately for her, she's been harassed by her share of creepy guys here, both Chinese and foreign.)

Also, they will still give us the airfare bonus stipulated in the previous contract, and the new contract will be effective as soon as the old one ends, meaning it will begin in July and run through next June. This means that they will even pay us in full for July and August... when there are no classes.

I have to say again, in this experience, I feel really lucky to have been connected with this school.

In other news, this last weekend I was asked to be a judge for the Huzhou city oral English competition. There were students competing at six different levels: college kids, high school kids, middle school kids, and 3 levels of elementary school kids, divided by age. It was an all day affair. It wasn't so bad, though it was a bit repetitive at times.

I was surprised to see that, to me at least, it seemed that the middle school kids had a higher level of proficiency than the high school kids. Laura said the same thing and suggested that perhaps it was because high school kids spend so much time preparing for the college entrance exam. (On that note, the college entrance exam in China, is something akin to the SAT, except longer and FAR more important. In the states, your SAT scores can vary in importance depending on your high school grades and extracurricular activities like sports or volunteer work or leadership roles. This means that the SAT, while important, counts for anywhere between 20% and 50% of your admission criteria. The Chinese college entrance exam counts for 100% of the admission criteria. They don't care what you did in school, what your extracurriculars were, the difference between going to an "ok" school vs a "good" school vs an "excellent" is ONLY your score on this exam.)

With the primary school kids we had to watch them give a minute-long presentation, after which we would ask them one question. We (the judges) were given a list of questions to ask the students. It was actually pretty rough, because after you ask a question, you hope and pray that the student says SOMETHING. Too often though, especially with the younger children, they did not, and we were just left with an awkward silence.

On the whole, however, I was very impressed with the English abilities of these kids. And even if their level wasn't fantastic at such a young age, I believe the younger you begin to learn a foreign language, the better, so more power to 'em.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Interesting Pictures

Last weekend in Hangzhou, while Jean and I were in the mall, they had an art exhibit of sorts, one of which was a bust of "Abraham Obama".

Someone had combined the likenesses of Lincoln and Obama and made a bust of it:

In the same area, they had this for some unknown and unexplained reason, but I thought it photo worthy anyhow:

Today, I was headed toward a restaurant to get a quick dinner when I came across this:

Apparently somebody busted a water main. In any case, this eruption created a river in the street, so I would've been unable to get to that restaurant without getting my shoes and socks totally soaked, so I ended up eating eslewhere.

Ridin the Bike

My bike is nothing special. Just a $60 one-speed.

I of course get passed by cars and motorcycles all the time.

The electric scooters they have an awful lot of here pass me sometimes, it depends if it's a fast one or a slow one, but I'd say I pass about 60% of them.

But, since being in China, I have NEVER been passed by another bicycle. And I intend never to let that happen.

On an unrelated note, I hope this swine flu deal back West turns out to not be as serious as the news reports make it seem now.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Jean's Sister

Since Jean's sister lives and works in Japan, she doesn't get a chance to see her sister often. However, this last week, her sister came to Shanghai on business. As such, they of course took advantage of this opportunity to hangout.

Jean also wanted me to meet her sister, but Saturday they were doing things in Shanghai, and I was in Changzhou. Sunday I was free, but they had plans to just go shopping all day in Hangzhou, so Jean suggested I meet them in Shaoxing on Monday, another city here in Zhejiang province.

Come Sunday night, Jean called me and told me they were really tired, and to just meet them in Hangzhou, which was not a problem.

So I met up with them, and we went out to West Lake. Now, Jean's sister has been living and working in Japan for 10 years, so she can speak Japanese fluently. However, she knows little English, and my Chinese, while not terrible, is far from complete, and not quite conversational. So, unfortunately for Jean, the brunt of communcation was either directly between she and I or she and her sister, with smatterings of translations when I didn't catch something important.

By the time we got to West Lake, it was about 11:30, and I was starving because I had eaten at 6am, and then only a bowl of cereal and an apple. The times Jean and I had gone out to West Lake before, I had noticed this bar/restaurant called "Borassa" which seemed fairly nice and had some outside tables with a nice view of West Lake. We decided to try that place for lunch. However, once inside and looking at a menu, Jean's countenance saddened and she said disappointedly, "This is a Chinese restaurant, not a Western restaurant." It's not that anyone dislikes Chinese food, it's that they were looking forward to having something a bit different, and the decor and style of this place screams foreign, and yet, they served Chinese food. So we ended up just ordering some beers and french fries and talked about where to go for lunch.

I originally suggested a German restaurant: it's certainly different enough from the norm, yet still tasty, and not too bizarre. However, after a quick internet search, it seemed Hangzhou lacked a German restaurant. We finally decided on Papa John's which was about one block away. After a nice thin crust pizza and some ribs as an appetizer, we grabbed a Blizzard from DQ, and went for a stroll around West Lake to help all of our stuffed bellies feel a bit better.

We walked around, chatted, rested, took turns sneezing (all 3 of us seemed to be sneezing that day, I'm not sure why, maybe a high pollen count), and took a few pictures when the opportunity seemed appropriate. Later, we headed back toward downtown as the girls wanted to get a little bit more shopping in. At about 5 o'clock, I boarded a bus back to the Hangzhou North Bus Station, because I had to return to Huzhou that day for a class on Tuesday.

Jean's sister seems like a very cool chica, and when the two are together they are constantly laughing. She also invited us to come visit her in Japan this summer, so I may get to go to Japan after all!

Tuesday, Jean accompanied her sister back to the airport in Shanghai and said goodbye. After Jean left the airport in Shanghai, she got on a bus to the Shanghai South Train Station, waited 30 minutes, boarded a train for Hangzhou, and from there took the late night (and often crowded) bus back to her apartment.

The worst part for Jean is, after all that, when she finally arrived back at her place, her sister had at the same time just arrived back at her home in Japan. In the time it took Jean to get to the airport in Shanghai back to her apartment in Hangzhou, her sister hopped an international flight and was fetched from airport to her home. This says two things: A) Japan isn't all that far from Shanghai, and 2) Traffic in China, especially buses, is a pain the ass.

Update: Jean tells me they weren't shopping in Hangzhou on Sunday, but instead were in Haining, where they sell lots of leather goods.