Monthly Archives: November 2011

Where’s a driver when you need him?

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I actually had to drive myself around Cincinnati today! GASP. I took Anders to work. We are in a hotel next to the office building but HE had to be driven. It may have been raining but I choose to believe he just likes being driven around. As he got out he told me in Mandarin what time to pick him up :-)It was a very odd feeling to be behind the wheel. I think the last time I remember that feeling was the first time I got in the car after getting my license, more than 35 years ago. I haven’t been in the driver’s seat since I drove myself to the airport on August 1. I remember my friend telling me that what took her by surprise when she drove for the first time was how fast she had to go. I know what she’s talking about. Driving on the freeway was a little disconcerting  but it’s like riding a bike. 

When we knew we were going to have a driver in China it was the one thing I didn’t think I was going to like. I thought I was going to feel trapped or like I lost my freedom. No more deciding at the last minute to go somewhere or changing my mind about going somewhere. Set aside that fact that Ben is a wonderful person and I can’t imagine what my experience in China would be without him, I just love having a driver. I love that the gas tank is always full, the car is clean inside and out, the maintenance is someone else’s problem, I don’t have to remember to pay the insurance  and renew the tag. I never give the vehicle a second thought.  I don’t have to Google map my destination and I certainly don’t worry about whether the signs are in Chinese or English or Pinyin. I just call Ben, he shows up, and off we go. If I have a few places to go and no time constraints, I tell Ben what I need to do and let him plan my itinerary. One day we crisscrossed town because I wasn’t able to find what I needed at the first 2 stores I went to. I would have been irritated with myself and probably would have bagged that night’s dinner but I didn’t have to. I apologized but Ben had no problem with it. He likes to drive, I don’t!

After re-reading this post, I may have been deflecting in the first paragraph. I’m the one that’s spoiled, not Anders!

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This is it for a while (I think)

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I apologize that there will probably be no more blogs until I return from the US in the middle of Dec. I may finish my Changchun trip (there is one more day of sightseeing to report) if I have a chance in the States. I’m acutally dragging my laptop with me. This is a first for me except when I brought it with me when I moved to China. Truth is that I will be seeing just about everyone that reads this blog so I think I’m OK 😉

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving. I know Anders and I will. Safe travels.

Didn’t secretly wear my when

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Remember the post I wrote regarding the travel site translations? Well, I went to the place that was the subject of the post. I reread some of the translations and believe it or not, they made a little more sense. What does that say about me? I had no idea what to expect when I decided to go to Jingyue Park. The concierge recommended it and they usually have good ideas, limited as they were in Changchun 😉 The park was a 40 minute ride from the city center. Again, it was interesting to see what was going on along the way. The farther away I got , the more industrial it became. It wasn’t awful, I’ve seen worse industrial areas.

I paid my $4.50 at the ticket window, asked for a map (in Mandarin thank you very much), received one which showed how proficient I am in Mandarin (not really because it was only 3 words), and was on my merry way. It was very cold, I’m sure it was below freezing. There was ice on puddles in the parking lot and along the banks of the ponds. I was glad that I was warned about how cold I’d be and packed my hat and mittens. Do you know how hard it is to take pictures wearing mittens? The sun was trying to come through the clouds but didn’t make it. It definitely looked like winter, minus snow. I knew from the map there was a temple and bell tower. I saw them as soon as I entered the park and getting to them became my goal. They were also the highest point in the park and I always like to go as high as I can.

The park turned out to be beautiful, even in all its bleakness.  There were very few people and I felt like I had the place to  myself. There were several paths and I just wandered, stopping to take photos. I came across a few people fishing. What they were catching is beyond me because the only fish I saw was a very tiny minnow. I saw a sign that said there was no catching fish in private. I did not confront anyone about it because as you can tell from the photo the catching fish is taking place in public. I did not see anyone catching fish in private, which is what you’d expect if they were catching fish in private.

You’ll be glad to know that I didn’ t have a romp either in or out water. I think if Anders had been with me I may have indulged and had a romp but I was alone.  I didn’ t up cobble either. I was not secretly wearing my when therefore I did not swagger into the woods.

As I was walking around the ponds on the lower level I saw steps leading up to something. I had to know what. I was rather surprised when I got to the top because there was the ocean green sea that someone had written about in the travel review section. Of course it wasn’t an ocean or a sea but it was very large and impressive. There are boat rides but they were shut down for the winter. It was also freezing up there. The lower part of the park was sheltered and when I got to the top of the steps I was hit with a very cold wind. The view was worth it though.

I decided it was time to make my way to the bell tower and temple. I made it to the top of the steps and what do you know? The gate was locked. Closed for the winter. I guess there aren’t enough people to make it worth their while to keep it open. I really wanted to get to the top of the temple for the best view. Oh well.

I spent about 3 hours walking around, taking lots of photos, and just appreciating where I was. I still pinch myself that I get to live here!

The bell tower and temple

The view from as high as I could go

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
4:30PM – 78°

Nanhu Park

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On my first day in Changchun I decided to do something, preferably outside and involving exercise. The only suggestion my guidebook had was the Puppet Emperor’s Palace. I knew that was something I wanted to do with Anders on Saturday when we could go together. The other option was Jingyue Lake. I didn’t have enough time to do that on Thursday so I made arrangements to do that on Friday. I asked the concierge what else there was to do, he suggested Nanhu Park. Nanhu Park (South Lake Park) is the largest park in Changchun and not quite 20 years old. I took a taxi, they’re so cheap it’s crazy not to.  It was a very nice day, the sun was shining, and the temperature was about 45°.

I was dropped off at one of the gates and I just started to wander. There were about a dozen men flying kites. They were all old, the men not the kites.  One man had his kite so high that I could barely see it and only knew he was flying one because he was holding a reel of string.

I heard what I thought were firecrackers when I arrived as well. I wondered who would be shooting off firecrackers at a park. As I made my way around I saw a man cracking his bullwhips. Uh-huh. Yeah, bullwhips. Don’t you think to yourself on a nice day that you’re gonna gather your whips, take them to the park, and crack them? Double fisted cracking too. He was enjoying himself though.

I heard all kinds of music. The Chinese have these little boombox-type things that are on a strap around their necks. I heard people humming or singing to the traditional music as they walked by. A man was playing a brass instrument, it looked like a clarinet/sax combo but it sounded so nice. The song he was playing must have been a familiar one because a woman sang it as she walked along. There was also a man singing traditional Chinese songs over a loud-speaker. He was fantastic. I sat and listened to him for a while . When he finished his set I gave him a quite applause, bow, and smile. I got an enthusiastic xiexie over the loudspeaker. It was sweet.

I walked all over the park and as I was taking a photo of a bridge an older man was coming down the steps and slipped and fell, right in front of me. I jumped to help him up. Fortunately he wasn’t hurt but he was muttering something in Mandarin and smiling and it was obvious he was glad for the help. Three women were watching the whole things and were all grins as well. I would have done it for anyone but the fact that I was not Chinese seemed to really make them happy.

I made it a point to say ni hao to anyone that caught my eye. I don’t mean as in handsome, but I did do that,  I mean as in looked curious. Every single person returned it and most smiled! Not one person ignored it or turned away, like some other people who live in a certain country in Europe. When I ran in Switzerland I would purposely say hello to everyone I went past and keep a tally of how many I got in return. They failed miserably! I rarely had a success rate of over 20%. It’s refreshing to be in a country where people actually take the time to exchange a courtesy.

The grounds were spotless, the gardens were well-tended, the water was clean, and the sky was blue. Winter had definitely set in and most trees were bare but it was still beautiful.

When it came time to come home I had to flag down a taxi. It wasn’t that easy. I stood in what I thought was a good spot but not one even stopped. Let me tell you, there were a lot of taxis zipping by. So I moved a bit and while a few stopped they were not interested in taking me to my hotel. One driver motioned me to move on down the road so I did and still no takers. Remember the Met Andrew? It was like that only not pouring. Finally I gave in and asked someone if he spoke English and explained my problem. I thought perhaps I just wasn’t in a good spot or wasn’t on the right side of the road. I had no idea where I was in relation to the hotel. He too tried flagging them down, got some to stop, but even he couldn’t get anyone to take me. I thanked him and assured him that I would be OK and he could continue on his way but he stayed with me to the end. I ended up flagging down my own taxi but this man was so nice to wait with  me. He didn’t leave until I got in the taxi. In the end it took about 25 minutes and the driver was a grump. Ben taught me how to tell someone where I want to go. This guy had seen the hotel card and knew where I was going  but I thought I’d say it anyway. I was doing my part to show him that Americans can speak the language.  He acted like he hadn’t heard me. I called him the Mandarin name in my head that I knew and I bet that if I had said THAT out loud he would have acknowledged me!

The afternoon was in a word – perfect!

3PM – 80°

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Changchun random thoughts

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View from the hotel the first morning

I think it’s best to start with some random thoughts about Changchun. I apologize that there are no photos. The photos are there, I just can’t get them from my camera to my computer and I have no idea why.  This may be due to a camera/computer malfunction. More than likely it’s a brain malfunction. I’ve done it before.  I guess I’ll just have to overload you with photos when I solve the problem. Got ’em! I’m not so stupid after all 🙂

Honking. It is “illegal” in GZ to honk your car horn in the city limits. I don’t exactly see people getting tickets for it but everyone seems to honor the law. Changchun could use a similar law. It was unbelievable. They are quick to honk and will continue to honk until you do what they want you to. If you don’t jump off the green light they honk. If you get out of a car and don’t move within 1 second they honk. If you even put a foot on the street to cross they honk. The taxi rides were annoying, sleeping with the window open was impossible because they start early, and in general it was irritating. I never realized how disruptive car honking is. It’s nice to be back where honking is not allowed.

I had ice cream! The hotel had a breakfast, lunch, and dinner buffet. I had a tiny scoop of chocolate one day at lunch. It was delicious!

Typical street scene

There was very little Pinyin. Pinyin is the Romanized translation of the Chinese characters. Without it I don’t have a chance of knowing what anything might be. Now, it’s slim that I will have a chance with it but some odds are better than none. At least with Pinyin, I can pronounce the Chinese words.

Changchun must be the karaoke capital of China. I lost track of how many KTV places I saw when I was out and about. On the way in from the airport just blocks from our hotel, we counted 4 huge KTVs in 2 blocks. I guess that’s what you do for entertainment when winter starts in October.

No idea what some of this is but it was delicious.

We’re were someone’s first foreigners. We had dinner with a young woman who Anders was working with and she told us at the end of the night that we were the first foreigners she ever ate with! She very wisely told us at the end of the evening otherwise I would have been a bit more conscious about how I acted. Now that I think about it perhaps it would have been better to know at the beginning. She may never eat with a foreigner again.

Like GZ, there is a lot of construction. They are building high-rise apartment complexes, shopping malls, office buildings, car factories, and government buildings. I saw an apartment complex that was called Whistler, as in Whistler, B.C., Canada. The apartments looked like ski lodges, big ones mind you. They also had shops and restaurants and you have thought you were in western Canada. If I was going into business in China, I would manufacture construction cranes!

No tree is a lost cause. I saw so many trees that were supported (with trees that I guess they did give up on). They don’t just yank them out and replace them, they nurture them back to health. It was amazing.

People continued to talk to me even though I told them several times in Mandarin that I didn’t understand. They have something to say and they’re going to say it. I found it charming.

A boy of about 10 years followed me from the lobby of the hotel to the elevator and watched me intently until the door closed. I’m telling you, if your ego needs a boost just come to China. Saying ni hao to them lights up their faces. They get a kick out of it and they almost always say hello back. They love to say hello and bye-bye in English.

Everything closes early. We were at a restaurant and we closed the place at 9:00. We were told that because it gets so cold that most people go home after work or if they eat out return home immediately. I guess I would want to be tucked in at home too if the temperature dropped to -40°C in the winter too. Trivia, -40°C is equal to -40°F.

Last morning

I mentioned that we woke up to snow Sunday morning. It was only about an inch or so but the roads were nothing but ice. They didn’t salt or plow. They did however use people to sweep and shovel in places they can get to on the roads, sidewalks, and bus stops. At the toll plaza they were salting but people were actually shoveling and carrying the snow across the traffic lanes! Unbelievable.

I ate pig’s blood. Yep, not beef, not chicken, not yak, but pig’s blood. It’s a delicacy. One of our friends told me that the pig’s blood in GZ is better than what we had in Changchun but I don’t think I’ll be making that comparison. I have no idea what else I may have eaten but it’s best that way. I liked just about everything with the exception of the blood.

The Chinese order a lot of food. They want to be such good hosts and they are. I never poured my own tea and I never had an empty tea-cup or corn juice glass. I’m telling you, our trip back to the States next week is well-timed. I have to have my ego put back in its proper place 😉 BTW, Jilin province is the corn belt of China.

ML in Paris this is for you – I ate spaetzle with chopsticks and washed it down with gluhwein.  Funny n’est-ce pas? The only night we had dinner at the hotel was the last night and they had a German buffet! They had Weihenstephaner beer so both Anders and I were happy. The waitresses were even dressed in Bavarian costumes. It was VERY multi-cultural.

I hugged 2 people! 🙂

6PM – 75°

Changchun expectations

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Changchun was wonderful.  It exceeded my expectations. Now I’ll make sure that I go on every trip possible with Anders. I can’t say enough how warm, welcoming, and friendly the Chinese are.  It was nice to come home to 82° and sun. I’ll have more to write this week and I have some nice photos of places I visited.

1) I expect to lose 1-3 pounds  Doubtful, we had too many great Chinese meals. I may have gained.

2) I expect to be stared at  Let’s just say that Changchun isn’t much of an international city. I did not see one other western woman at the hotel.

3) I expect to have my photo taken once, either on the sly or with someone  I had several photos taken on the not so sly, starting at the airport in GZ.

4) I expect I won’t be as cold as everyone thinks  I was colder than everyone though. It snowed overnight and there was still a light snow falling when we left.

5) I expect to eat all the granola bars and drink all the Starbucks VIA coffee I packed I brought some of each home.

6) I expect to do a lot of reading  Barely cracked open the Kindle.

7) I expect that I may break my Golden Rule and eat at McDonald’s (if there is one)  I continue my streak of not eating at McDonald’s while traveling.  See #1.

8) I expect to have a lot of good stories next week 😉 I have some very nice stories.

9) I expect to have a blast no matter what happens!  I had a lot of fun, learned a lot of Chinese history, met great people, and would go back again! (in the summer)

6PM – 74°

Off to the North country

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This is going to be fast and unedited. I haven’t eaten all day, have no make-up on, must gather up all my gadgets and chargers, empty the dishwasher, finish the laundry, and figure out what Mandarin supplies I want to take. Other than that I’m ready for Ben to pick me up in an hour. Oh yeah, I have to write this post!

I have a few expectation for the next few days.

1) I expect to lose 1-3 pounds

2) I expect to be stared at

3) I expect to have my photo taken once, either on the sly or with someone

4) I expect I won’t be as cold as everyone thinks

5) I expect to eat all the granola bars and drink all the Starbucks VIA coffee  I packed

6) I expect to do a lot of reading

7) I expect that I may break my Golden Rule and eat at McDonald’s (if there is one)

8) I expect to have a lot of good stories next week 😉

9) I expect to have a blast no matter what happens!

4:15PM – 63°    (43° in Changchun and the sun has already set)