It’s been a while. We’ve been places, visited, seen things, and I haven’t really felt like writing because I don’t feel I’ve been in one place long enough. The semester starts Monday but who knows, maybe next week at this time I will be in a new location. Details will come later. Loose lips sink ships.
After Vietnam we came back to Baotou for a few days and then it was off to Baoding. That’s a 14-hour train ride and it’s my last. I can’t stand it. It’s claustrophobic and just plain irritates me. Shujie, like a lot Chinese people, loves the train and they can have it. We’ve switched to planes. I can’t handle it. We had a 39-hour train trip booked from Harbin to Baotou and there was no way. So that got cancelled.
Visiting with her family is always pleasant. Her younger brother and his family were there from Shanghai (which is good since they speak English). Everyone is more than kind and can’t do enough for me. You enter the house and they are trying to get you to eat fruit and nuts and the sort. Then they want you to go to lunch. I’m kind of full.
We spent 10 days there and Shujie enjoyed it. I was bored (I admit it), but I was happy for her. I think it’s terrible she has only seen them once every year in the last few years. But that’s China.
Her older brother has a new baby (about 6 months old) that was given to them. His wife and him really want a baby but it’s not going to happen. They are not young ones and there may be some other issues involved. Now for the crazy stuff. He knows someone who just had their 2nd child (you pay a fine for that) and horror of horrors, it was a girl. They already had one of those and wanted a boy. They want no one to know they had a girl. So since the baby was born in Baoding and not their official home, it’s not registered against them (don’t ask). They don’t want to take it to their home and besides, they have no time (too busy working to look after this kid). So for all practical purposes this little girl belongs to my brother-in-law and his wife. My only fear is that they could lose her and they would be devastated. What a crazy place. Who has a kid they have no time for? The Chinese. (That was an easy one). Sometimes these people are just so nuts. So I worry because he and his wife are so happy and I wouldn’t want to see that happiness taken away. So we will see.
Shujie’s mother gave me “lucky money”. That’s the money you give kids on New Year’s. I think once you get older the money dries up, unless you are the favorite son-in-law. She felt bad since I don’t really like the food so she gave me a lot of money (and she doesn’t even need to buy my love). I started to argue with her and then I stopped and said, “thank you”. It makes her happy so I should be gracious. Shujie complained jokingly and I told her in front of her mother that maybe if she hugged her mother like I do, maybe she’d get lucky money.
We didn’t do much in Baoding. They build a 2nd Pizza Hut, updated the train station, and a Starbucks is opening soon. The city is going big time. I can’t say I like it but it’s Shujie’s home so it becomes part of my life.
There was nothing there to grab my attention to take a picture so I won’t be showing you the same people you’ve seen elsewhere. The trip was a success. Shujie enjoyed it so I was happy and it was painless for me.
We came back to Baotou for a few days and then it was off to Harbin. Harbin is in the north and the average temperature this time of year is about -20C. It’s freaking cold, but a beautiful city. Harbin has a huge Ice Festival that brings in a lot of people and it also has a Jewish museum. At one time Harbin had the most Jews in the Far East. They were the ones that escaped the pogroms in Russia. There are no Jews here anymore but the museum was fascinating. We enjoyed it.
This ice festival is kind of nice, but if you’ve seen one block of sculpted ice, you’ve seen them all. I can’t believe hat they charge. To get into the ice area it’s about $50 a head. No one in North America would pay this. It was worth $10 or maybe $15 at the most. We went to the snow festival that was about $40 but I guess if the Chinese are willing to pay that, the people are willing to take it. It sounds dumb to me but I didn’t worry about it since I did want to see this famous ice festival. Now I’ve seen it, my life is no richer, but my wallet is a little lighter.
Harbin Beer, one of the official sponsers:
Various pictures from the ice festival:
Coffee can be used to warm your face.
And what festival isn’t complete without a Smurf.
Now a few from the Snow portion of the festival:
That was a tough fight, but I won.
All you need is Love
One other place we visited in Harbin was the Siberian Tiger Park. It was quite interesting with these beautiful looking animals roaming around. We’re on the bus and the tigers are starting at us. Here are some pictures.
“and the tigers come at night”
What! Chicken again! (See live chicken at top)
Hmm, tastes like chicken
And a couple of lions
After Harbin and it’s extremely cold weather (I even wore long underwear for the first time since I was a kid), we came back to Baotou for a couple of days off. Then we went to Hohhot. A student of mine invited to come and visit and meet her family. She’s a doll and I am quite fond of her (as is Shujie). She’s 24 and seems about 15 (they are immature here), but she is a polite and kind person. She is a class act and after meeting her parents it’s easy to see where she got it from. Her father picked us up at the train station and we went to her house for lunch. After lunch her father went to work (he doesn’t need to, he just likes to) and Tina (the student), her mother, Shujie, and I wandered around.
Tina had invited us to stay at her house and I said that I wouldn’t. We agreed to stay overnight (that was a useless mistake) and when we went to the hotel we couldn’t pay. She had gone there, booked the room, and paid for it. We couldn’t take any money out of our pocket. When the Chinese want to be hospitable, they go all out. And you can’t fight with them about it, because you’d be insulting them.
I learned hat-twirling, part of a traditional Mongolian dance.
The lovely and charming Tina.
Shujie, Tina’s mom, and I
In the evening we went to the annual “Lantern Festival” and that was kind of cool. You buy a paper lantern, make a wish, light a fire to fill it with hot air, and let go. The sky is full of them. I’m sorry my picture isn’t better but it is quite the sight.
A few pictures of the Jewish synagogue which is now the Jewish museum.
We’ve been back since Wednesday (I think) just doing about nothing except maybe packing (I didn’t say that). I’m a movie downloading fool. I think in the last 2 months I’ve downloaded close to 200 movies. School starts Monday and I will wing it for the first few days because there only might be the first few days at this less than fine institution. I’m just waiting for my pay (supposed to around the 6th) before anything happens..
I hope you enjoyed the pictures from the last few weeks. Photography is not my strong suit. Next week might be an important post and I’ll be back to regular posting. Seven weeks is a long Winter Break, so it’s hard to get psyched up for school.