Sunday, September 30, 2007

Workin' the Weekend

This weekend were workdays for Sue and I.  We have Oct 1 - 9 off, and there are a couple of days off in November, so the whole country works on Saturday 9/29 and Sunday 9/30 to make up the difference. 

Sue had class yesterday, and I had class today.  I was amazed to see nearly 100% attendance on a Sunday!  One of my students left early due to her brother's wedding in her hometown over the upcoming holiday, but nearly everyone else was in attendance!

Even Sophie had school today (Sunday) but we kept her home since she has the sniffles, for a day of recuperation before we go to Xi'an tomorrow.

While Sue had class, I had a home day with the boys, and while I had class today, Sue took Sophie out and bought herself some clothes.  She is definitely becoming more adventurous and her Chinese is getting better!

She loves her Chinese classes.  Her teachers are very patient with her and tonight she and Sophie went out BY THEMSELVES, IN A CAB to find us dinner since our ayi isn't working this weekend.  She would gladly have worked but it just seemed cruel to me! 

Sue went to the local Starbucks and her class today, which are both in the same 18 story building.  To her amazement, she found this beautiful park - where?  on top of the building!

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We have seen this scene a lot - restaurant (or store) staff lined up while they receive direction from their manager.  It looks like some kind of pep talk right before opening.

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They went to the bookstore today, too.  So much for that HOME day so Sophie could relax :).  Here she is with two other girls that played with her in the store while Sue shopped.

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Sophie is making rapid progress in Chinese.  She says, Good Morning, Goodbye, Hello, I don't want it, and can count to 12 now!

Tomorrow we take a taxi to the airport, hop a plane for the 4 hour ride to Xi'An and will spend the next 5 days there.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Meeting My Students

Today I taught for 4 hours so I had to get up early to catch the 6:30 bus for the 1 hour ride to school.  The sun was still low in the sky; it never gets as bright as Arizona due the pollution here.

Hangzhou 023 Hangzhou 026 Some of my students invited me to a delicious lunch today!  After lunch the plan was to go to their dorms (pictured left),and pick up some bicycles, then ride to see the Tidal Bore again on the Qiantang River near the university where there are some good viewing spots.  Unfortunately we were a few minutes too late so we didn't get to see it today!

However, we did have a nice lunch and a nice bike ride around Xiasha which houses 26 universities!


These are some shots of their dorms which are numerous!  The post-graduates have only 2 to a room, but the undergrads are 5 or 6 to a room!

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Here are my students (the 3 boys), and one of my student's sister, Ling, who came with us.  Her English was very good!

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Ling skipped 3 classes to come with us, to practice her English and see the Tidal Bore.  We didn't get to see the tidal bore but she did get lots of English practice!

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Some snack food that was available - they looked yummy!

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Next to the river was this posting:  Danger, don't go beyond the gate!  Many people each year are killed by coming too close to the tidal bore to get a good look!

Hangzhou 034 Hangzhou 036My students couldn't believe I was taking a picture of this old man bombing down the road on his scooter, but I thought he was very interesting looking!








This man was selling some kind of citrus fruit that looked like grapefruit.  It was SO hot that it must have been cooked inside :)

Hangzhou 038Another snack - baked sweet potatoes.  They bought me a sweet potato that is cooked inside this coal fired drum.  It tasted very good!   They were very good bargainers, checking to make sure the seller's scale was level!

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Some of the coal that is used to cook the sweet potatoes.

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... and Ling, eating her sweet potato.  Yum!

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I made it back tonight to see Sue for 10 minutes and she headed out the door to be a guest at a friend's English class at a different university in town.  I'm sure she'll have a great time!

Thursday, September 27, 2007

The Tidal Bore

Today we visited the tidal bore, and I had the kids each write a summary of what happened and what it is:  Here is Peter's summary:

The Tidal Bore - By Peter Lewis

Every month or so, there is something that occurs in Hangzhou called a tidal bore. It is an amazing event where two powerful currents clash together with an awe-inspiring roar of foam. The gravity of the moon pulls the sea inland against the river’s current. As the sea invades there is a roar of water flooding all of the land unfortunate enough to get in the way. Many people die from this because they get too close from the designated viewpoints and drown. The tidal bore can grow to be up to 21 feet high at the best-case scenario. It is a great tourist attraction but to see it you’ll have to wait through the hot, sweaty afternoon to see the phenomenon.  No one knows exactly how long it’s been doing this and I don’t think the amazing spectacle will die out any time soon.

Here was Jack's summary:

Dear Dad,

I had a good time at the Tidal Bore.  I can not believe how high the water got on one side it got 20ft tall!!!  I really hope that next time we could go to the other side of the river and watch the Tidal Bore. Yet I think it may not have been worth the wait. Next time I hope we can go out a little later so we do not have to wait an hour to an hour and a half.  I really enjoyed spending time with you and Peter. I hope we can do this again!!!  I hope you enjoyed the Tidal Bore as much as I did.



We sat by the side of the river on this very HOT, SWEATY day, waiting for the "wave" to come up the river.  I took the boys out of school to see this "phenomenon" as Peter calls it, and hired a van to take us about an hour away up the river to see it.  On the spot we sat, the wave takes approximately 2 hours to make its way up the river!  This merchant selling tangerines made a lot of money off of us.  Although they are green they are great inside and they tasted so good.  He also had much-needed bottles of water for sale!

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Some Chinese Dad gave Peter this fan he made out of a plant stalk.  Peter loved it.  Jack drenched himself with his cold water to keep himself cool.

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Yanzi giving Alexis some impromptu train schedule help as we wait for the wave to come...

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And then, off in the distance, we SEE IT!  A huge wave coming up the river at about 25 mph!

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It's about 6 - 8 feet high and it's tearing up the bank.

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We are standing on a road above a sea wall and the wave is raging toward it.

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... and here is the wave, making all kinds of noise as it rushes up the Qiantang River.  Depending on the bank and the riverbed, the wave can be over 20 feet high!

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... and there it goes, fighting against the oncoming current of the river!  The tide is extremely powerful and sometimes people stand in the wrong spot.  Further upstream 8 people were killed last month by being overcome by the water!  So, Mr. Adventure-Dad had to turn back into Mr. Safety-Dad had to make sure we were in a safe spot!

Hangzhou 057Alexis, another teacher, and our friend Yanzi  who organized the trip.

Hangzhou 062 Hangzhou 063Jack designated himself as the sole orange and water bottle carrier.

He was hot but he had a good time, especially because he was missing school to go!







... and here are the kids with our ayi Xiao Xu.  She made another TASTY dinner for us tonight - a beef and peppers dish, a pork and bamboo shoots dish, a mushroom and egg soup, and a beans and garlic dish, and pork and bok choy filled dumplings.  All were yummy!  She also cleaned the house spotless and did our washing.  We love her!

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Sue taught today so she missed out, but we may have another chance tomorrow to go with my students.  We'll see!  

Monday, September 24, 2007

An Ayi is Hired!

Today I taught my class again - lesson 2 today, a pronunciation and reading lesson.  I also received back the students' paragraph homework and thought -ugh, what did I do??? It takes a LONG time to correct 140 essays!  Some were quite humorous.  One young lady talked about the end of her last class - they celebrated the end of the class by playing a game of basketball with their teacher.  She said she played so hard that her "face was as red as a monkey's ass."  I laughed my head off on that one! 

Sue went to the fabric market today and saw loads of fabrics but didn't find the seamstresses that were used to a Western clientele so she didn't get anything.  It was also quite a ways away and she needed to get back for Sophie and to let the ayi in.

Our ayi (which means "auntie"), started today and so far she's terrific!  She bought groceries, cleaned, did laundry, and cooked us dinner, which was delicious!  Sue gave Sophie and the boys some extra attention that they wouldn't have gotten otherwise and I had a happy wife when I got home.  She comes for about 20 hours a week and it costs about US $115 per month.    Having her come clean and cook is much cheaper than going out every night as we have done up to this point.  Such a deal!

Hiring the ayi was quite a challenge.  I met her at a local restaurant and she doesn't speak ANY English.  So I had to use my broken Chinese to explain to her what we do and don't like to eat, what household duties I wanted her to do, and negotiate a monthly rate.  Then I led her back here on our bicycles to show her around, and the deal was done!

She has a nice manner about her and she got along well with Sue today, and Sue managed to communicate with her by pantomiming.  I would have liked to have seen that!   :)

There wasn't much to take pictures of today so here are some extras from our excursion to Hefang street, the Chinese Medicine Museum and West Lake yesterday...

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Sunday, September 23, 2007

Huqing Yutang Chinese Medicine Museum

Today we visited the Huqing Yutang Chinese Medicine Museum, which chronicled thousands of years of study of TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine.

On the way, we ran into this Dad with his son and had to take a quick picture!

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The boys took a break from Runescape to come with us to the Traditional Medicine museum.  On the right is the entrance.

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The buildings that housed the pharmacy and TCM museum were gorgeous...

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This wood carving was traditionally hung by the shop door showing people preparing medicine, and was called a "wound curing pellet" sign board. It was used to show that ready-made Chinese medicine was available.

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Here's the family standing with SunSimiao, the "Medicine King".  He lived from 581 to 682 A.D., (101 years old!) , and was well versed in the Confucian writings and other schools of thought.  He wrote "Precious Vital Prescriptions" and "Precious Ancillary Prescriptions", that were each over 30 volumes.  He summed up all medical knowledge up to the point of the Tang Dynasty in a systematic fashion and is honored today for his contributions and accomplishments in Traditional Chinese Medicine.

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... and a close-up of the "Medicine King".

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The buildings were adorned with many elaborate lights and lanterns; such as this one.

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This is Li Shizhen, who lived from 1518 - 1593 AD.  Among other works, he wrote the "Compendium of Materia Medica", which took him 26 years to write.  The book records 1892 kinds of medicines, attaches over 10,000 prescriptions, 1000 medicine pictures, and is 53 volumes in total for more than 2 million words!  What an accomplishment!



Here's a customer consulting about her prescription.

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Jack looks like he fits right in doesn't he?  There are many windows in this building that open up to charming little courtyards...

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... and here are the boys standing in one of those charming courtyards, with samples of plants to be used for medicinal purposes.

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Medicine can come from many different sources as we can see here!

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Parts of the creature on the left can "promote qi to relieve pain, resolving blood stasis, to stop bleeding, strengthening the kidney to reduce urination." 

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Parts of the monkey can clear "heat and settle fright, sweeping phlegm and stabilizing asthma, resolving toxin and dispersing swelling."  I gotta get Dr. Darr some of this stuff!

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Sophie loved playing in the little courtyards too.  It was a very rainy, misty day so puddle splashing was especially fun.

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Another indoor courtyard that we explored, off of which was the Accountant's Office.

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Here's the accountant's office that was really beautiful.

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In the waiting area, some of the older people were enthralled by Sophie as they waited for their prescriptions to be filled.

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... and here's the pharmacy.  We picked up some cough medicine for Sophie.  We'll let you know if it works!


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... and here are the pharmacists mixing up the necessary ingredients for the customers.

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... waiting for delivery!

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Next we hoofed it to West Lake to take a boat to some of the little islands in its center.  After the Medicine Museum, here is Jack contemplating his "qi".








Getting ready for the boat...

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We saw these packs of playing cards that I just had to get a picture of!

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In the same shop, the kids found electric bubble blowers.  They were a big hit, but kind of a sticky mess!

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Lots of people at the park on this Saturday.  Here's a couple enjoying the lake...

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An interesting little restaurant in the park.  We'll have to go back there.

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We rode on these boats out to the West Lake islets.  Not too rainy now, just a bit misty.

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International Ambassador Sophie decided to share this umbrella with her new friend, while the friend's daughter took their picture.

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Another shot of the boats we took.

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... here are Peter and I having fun with the camera and Sue's umbrella.

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... and at the Mid-Lake Pavilion on an islet out in the West Lake

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The boats weren't stopped by the misty weather and a pagoda is just barely viewable in the distance.

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Jack and Sophie enjoying the flora and fauna.

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This scene is depicted on the 1 yuan note, so we had to get a similar picture!

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Although it was gray and misty all day, we really enjoyed all of the greenery, and all of the water everywhere. 

We had a Thai dinner at a local restaurant, The Banana Leaf and then put the kids to bed early - they were all very tired after a long day of exploration!