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Sometimes where you’re in another country living and working you don’t have the chance to play tourist. If you’re lucky, you do!

Exploring outside Nanjing

We’ve had our first “outing”. We all got to go to Suzhou (pronounced Sue-joe) to visit Tiger Hill and then The Humble Administrator’s Garden. They were both lovely, but it’s decided to be quite hot here rather than the normal mild Spring. Our guides were Kelly and Christine who work with mum while she’s here doing her translations – oral and written – for her lectures and workshops. Kelly had looked up all about the garden and was being a good tour guide as well as listening in on the official guides’ descriptions and sharing them with us. Our driver, Mr. Wong, found a nice place to eat and they all worked to do the ordering for us. Such a feast! there were more dishes than we could finish with six of us. Two fish dishes, a green veg, a fat back pork dish, eel (my personal favorite), and about three other dished I can’t recall. Our girl liked the pork and fish the best. She’s been really great about trying dishes and finding what she likes and what she doesn’t.
As we were finishing up Christina told us that the government had passed a new bit of legislation stating that there must be no food waste so we must finish off all the food that was in front of us. I thought perhaps she was playing a joke on us. She convinced poor Kelly that this was true but she hadn’t heard of this new rule and Mr. Wong asked us what we thought of it all. Mum said that the idea behind the rule was a good one – not wanting to be wasteful – but perhaps the rule was not fully thought through. The idea of helping people not make so much food they will not eat, or not order so many dishes that there is too much waste is good. Kelly in the meantime was trying to do her part in eating as much as she could. Finally, Christina told Kelly is was a joke and that there was no such rule. She was a bit surprised that we took her so seriously. As mum and I talked it over later we realized that through our western eyes we could believe that there might be such a new rule to be followed, and found it interesting that Christina couldn’t imagine people thinking it could be true. Just goes to show there are still many miles and hurdles to overcome for understanding between the two cultures.

The evening found us in Wuxi (that’s woo-she and we won’t worry about being tonally correct here) for supper with the principal and director of a middle school that mum was to speak at the following day. As the conversation progressed she offered my knowledge in the mix as she would be talking to mostly English teachers and they were wanting to know about American teaching and techniques. So, we’ve created the team of Prof and daughter. We stayed in a Ramada which had a fabulous shower! Oh the joys of really hot water and great water pressure – heaven! The bed looked wonderfully soft, but proved just as hard as the beds in the flat where we are living. What is it about the Chinese that feel they have to sleep on hard surfaces? There seems to be only the difference of a thin quilt pad between sleeping on the floor or the bed. A. thinks that after seven weeks here when I get home I will think the bed at home much too soft – I have my doubts. The nice thing about the occasional western hotel is that the breakfasts have traditional western fare as well as chinese. There is something rather nice about having a breakfast one is used to having. A. had cornflakes. I had American toast (it was actually what we know a french toast, others might know it as eggy bread.) and mum had cereal as well. I took a few of the small pots of jam to bring home as it’s not easy to find in the grocer’s in Nanjing and I’m not ready for another Carrefour adventure just yet. We’ll probably venture into a department store where they may have those options, but not just yet. After breakfast it as off to the middle school for our meeting, but not before a rescue of A’s lovey, Gecko, who had been left hiding in the duvet in the room. Catastrophe was diverted as the hotel staff found her and brought it to a much relieved little girl, whew!

Our meeting was a good one. The worries and concerns of teachers are the same worldwide – how to deal with mischievous students, what to do with those that don’t do the homework and on and on. The other things were how to be more creative while preparing students for the examinations. Things that US teachers are concerned about now that education is in the midst of a test driven trend with little end in sight. Mum and I made a good team with her curriculum and development expertise and my teaching the age group and having taught in China. Mum has kept up with the trends as she’s had to with work. I have been out of the classroom for sometime so I have not kept up other than my conversations with mum about her work and to lament what I see happening in the US with regard to education. However, I did not feel like I was too far out of things when talking with this group of teachers. While mum and I were meeting A. was kept entertained by Kelly and Mr. Wong and we found her having eaten 4 underripe nectarines and a banana. And Kelly had given A. the charm off her phone. If she’s not careful Kelly will have given her the shirt off her back! I will have to help Kelly understand that it’s all right to tell our girl, “no”.

Lunch was nice and then we were taken to the place where the 84 episode epic, “The Three Kingdoms” was filmed. It’s still a place used to film historical stories, but mostly it is a tourist sight where you can explore the places in the film and take pictures dressed up as emperors and empresses. The place is expansive and the attention to details is really quite something. The village market stalls, the poor houses of poets, the elegant homes of administrators and the pond with a miniature navy battle, and a buddhist temple or two. Again, pictures to follow when I can. Following our tour is the filming location we went to a lovely park built on and around large ponds and set apart as wet lands for all the enjoy for years to come. It’s good to hear and see that the Chinese are concerned about quality of life and not merely expansion of buildings and more buildings. At least in Wuxi there seems to be a desire to preserve nature and also the old style buildings that are so representative of China to the rest of the world. It’s a nice change from the attitudes of the past – new is better, the past has no place in the future and the old buildings are merely representations of an oppressive regime of empirical rule. The other nice surprise is the number of Smart cars to be seen on the roads. After our short walk in the park it was time to head back to Nanjing and our little flat six flights up.

I’ll end for now. So, until next time…