Between trips or There must be some kind of way out of this place

We came back from Baoding yesterday.  We spent 6 days there for the Chinese New Year with most of Shujie’s family.  Her brother and his wife didn’t come from Shanghai since her brother had an operation.  He wanted to do it during “time off” so he wouldn’t miss much work.  The Chinese love to work.  Of course if they could deliver the output in 40 hours that Canadians do, they wouldn’t have to work 60-hour weeks.  Their son was there and staying with his grandmother, which was very nice.  He’s a good kid.  He’s 17 and goes to a Canadian school in Shanghai.  They do a B.C. curriculum and it’s half days in Chinese and ½ days in English.  He hopes to go to University in Canada and hopefully medical school.  His English is good but needs work.  I think it takes more than a ½ day of school to get the language down.  You have to start living it.  He says he’s not thinking in English yet but feels he’s close to it.  It will be a big step when he gets there.

We stayed in the 5-star hotel in town.  Shujie’s friend negotiated about a $60 a day rate for us.  We couldn’t really stay with her son since he has no heat in the apartment.  He paid for it last year but it was useless (and I’ve been there in February and it is useless).  He has a wall air-conditioner/heater in his room so he hangs out there.  So it was the hotel for us where it was warm in the room.  Shujie says the average Chinese home has the temperature set to about 16 degrees in the winter (about 59F).  Shujie’s mother’s place is a little warmer at 18 degrees as she has radiators and she’ll leave them on since she doesn’t have to pay for electricity.  Electricity is so expensive so that’s why people have their heat set low.

There really is no central heating in the homes I’ve been in.  They have a big standalone unit for heating/air-conditioning in the living room, with small wall units in the bedrooms.  They suck.  The bathrooms and kitchens are cold.  The apartments are freezing in general due to the way they are built and the materials used.

Most days we just hung out at her mother’s.  It was boring for me but that was no problem as Shujie enjoyed it.  The Chinese New Year reminds me of Christmas in that it’s family time and people visiting on New Year’s Day.  There are no presents except “Lucky Money” for the kids.  You do the Lucky Money thing until the kid is working but we gave Shujie’s son some and her nephew some.

The Chinese love their firecrackers.  I have heard them every day since moving to China as it seems every occasion is an occasion to set off firecrackers.  Birth, death, store openings, bowel movements, whatever.  The Chinese New Year they go a little overboard.  They seem to go on for 24 hours.  It’s 10:15 at night now and they’re blasting away.

Eating is also a big thing.  There is always something to nosh on and someone telling you to eat something.  I say, “but it’s dinner time soon”, and I’m told that it’s not food.  I don’t know.  I think fruit is food.  I think nuts are food.  I think anything you eat is food but you can’t argue with Shujie because she’s a know-it-all.

We ate out several times as a family and had the big New Year’s dinner together.  We had a private room in a restaurant (most restaurants have private rooms).  They don’t cost much and they are rather pleasant.  Her family was thrilled since I ate (black pepper steak and rice).  I amazed almost everyone by doing an amazing feat.

Most Chinese restaurants have a “lazy suzy” in the middle of the table to whirl the food around.  It’s glass and this one had embossed on it the restaurant’s name in Chinese on one side and English on the other.  The restaurant name was 4 words so that’s 4 Chinese characters.  I rolled it around to in front of Shujie and said I would now read the Chinese to her.  I pointed to each character and said it and almost all jaws hit the floor at our table.  “How did you do that”!  It was so funny until Steven the nephew rolls the lazy suzy around to show Shujie the English.  Smart ass!  But I still like him.

The weather was cold.  It was colder there than in Jurong.  We weren’t outside much but when we were, we could feel it.  We made a trip to the cemetery to visit her father’s grave and her mother came.  That was my third time there and the first time her mother has come.  Shujie said her mother used to go with her older brother but since he doesn’t go anymore then she doesn’t go.  You see, it’s a Buddhist cemetery and her brother is a Christian.  So he feels it’s wrong to follow the customs of his parents (burning money, etc.).  I personally think he fails Christianity 101 since he seems to not pay attention to “Honour your father and mother”.  I want to tell him that but Shujie doesn’t want me mentioning religion to her bother and sister-in-law since they are fanatical broken records.  But I must say I’m quite annoyed by his total disrespect for his mother and his inability to make her happy.  I burned money and I don’t believe in it.  It didn’t hurt me.  Of course, I also left a stone on his headstone (Jewish custom) so I had all the bases covered.

I wish there was more I could tell you but that was it.  I survived.  I played on my computer so the time passed.  And as I said, the important thing was Shujie was with family.  So we flew home yesterday and since the heat was off, the apartment was freezing (about 5 degrees Celsius).

The place just couldn’t get warm enough for me.  I hate to wear anything to sleep but last night I had on a shirt, a sweater, jeans, and socks and buried myself under the covers freezing.  Ridiculous but I survived.  Today the apartment is getting better but it’s not exactly comfortable.

Monday morning we leave for Thailand and heat.  I am looking forward to that but I’m sure I’ll complain about the heat.  We will go to Shanghai on Sunday since we leave early Monday morning.  The whole itinerary is in Chinese so I had Shujie translate some of it for me.

It looks like temples and palaces and elephant rides.  And of course we visit stores since that’s how they keep the cost of these tours down.  We’ll see Singapore and Malaysia and I’m sure it will be quite interesting.  I saw on the Internet that our hotel in Bangkok is very prostitute friendly and they will send one to your room if you want and put it on your bill as “business expense”.  Shujie told me in Hainan if someone knocks on the door and asks if you want a massage that means they are offering those same services.  That only happened once.

So just one full day until we’re out of here and still 2 ½ weeks of vacation left.  It’s rough.  I’ll take lots of pictures on our trip and I took none in Baoding.  I have pictures of her family and as much as I love them, I don’t need more.

So no more posts until we return on February 8th (or something like that).

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