Monday, April 25, 2011

Monday, April 25,2011

It's Monday evening. I had a wonderful week-end with my incredible husband and I am kind of sad. I miss my family. My Mom and sister went to surprise my Aunt in Minnesota for her 70th. birthday...I was unable to go because I am here in China. I have not heard from my son who has moved to Atlanta, Georgia...and that weighs heavy on my mind, and my heart. The reasons are many and far too complicated and complex to go into here.
I will be home in the USA in approximately 39 days. WOW! The time has flown by, and I can't believe I have been here for almost 5 months. The plus side is, I actually have enjoyed this fantastic experience and have made many friends and I will miss them when I go home for 4 months.
Now ...on to the week-end. On Friday, Mark took me to the Intercontinental Hotel for an exquisite steak dinner! To say it was OUTSTANDING is an understatement! You are talking to a "Meat and Potatoes" Midwestern gal here....she misses (and CRAVES!) a good steak dinner every now and then. That ain't easy in China, folks....So we splurged and paid for it dearly...but worth every penny if you ask me (or Mark!) :) We then ventured over to their Cigar bar so Mark could indulge in a cigar and we could have a nitecap to top off our evening. It was a great "date night" and I am one lucky gal!
Saturday and Sunday we just relaxed (I had NO homework, school is over and resumes May 4th). We went to Casa Zoe for breakfast on Saturday, then hung out at home. Sunday Mark made me pancakes for breakfast (YUMMY...he makes the BEST pancakes!) then we went to Auchan (EXTREMELY large grocery and superstore kind of store,... think Meijer's or Walmart) for groceries and a new coffeepot. We needed a new coffee pot because I broke the carafe of the old one by leaving it on the hot burner, forgetting to turn it off...and POOF..cracked all along the bottom! Yeah...I'm such a brainiac arent I?? :( While there, I had Mark take a picture (I didn't have my camera with me) of this because it always makes me laugh and grimace at the same time!
Yes it's Lay's potato chips...with the strangest of flavors...Hot and Sour Fish flavor, Blueberry flavor, and Lemon Green Tea flavor...doesn't that sound appetizing and appealing?? "BLECH" There are more weird flavors...I just happened to get those three in a row and thought a picture would be fun!! :)

SO, that was done. A nice, leisurely week-end.
We went to Malone's for dinner this evening (it's Monday!)and had our staple burger and beer for the week. A good burger as usual while Mark had a conference call. It was a balmy 74 degrees out, so we were outside. A nice evening. I also called my friend Celeste to say goodbye and safe travels as she is leaving tomorrow to head home to San Diego till August. I won't see her till I get back in October. I will miss her!! She has been such a good friend to me and I am lucky to have met her...I can't even think about her leaving at the end of the year without being very sad....at least we'll have the Fall before she heads home for good. Time to close and bid adieu till next time....

Friday, April 22, 2011

Class over...

I know that my blog postings have been lax, but it has been for good reason. My school work was taking a lot of my time. I turned in my PowerPoint presentation and my last paper for my class. Thank goodness my wonderful husband is a "PowerPoint Whiz" because I wouldn't have been able to create such a cool presentation without his help doing all the work with the graphics and placement. Now, for a much needed week break. The next class starts May 4th. (we have access April 28th for reading and checking for assignments). I am in need of this break.
It rained all day yesterday, and today doesn't look like it's going to be much better. It's very cloudy and hazy out. I am supposed to meet my friend Celeste for coffee later this afternoon, let's hope I don't have to walk in the rain!
I was looking out the apartment window yesterday....and took a shot of something that is common here, but you don't see people carry things like this at home:
It must have been heavy because he set the load down in the middle between crossing the street. I am still amazed at the loads these people carry like that, or on bikes. It's a sight to see that's for sure!

On Monday, I had to deal with Mark's bag being delivered from the airline. He made it back from Germany (through Rome) but his bag did not. So, around 3:00 in the afternoon, doorbell. I go to the door, and the man starts speaking Chinese and has a paper in his hand, shows me ...so I figure ok...I'll sign for it. More speaking of Chinese and I am standing there shaking my head saying "I don't speak Chinese" (in English)...oh and as a side note I can count from 1 to 99 and tell time in Chinese...Thank you very much! Too bad he didn't want to know the time or quiz me on my excellent counting skills! :) Ok,this is getting me no where...so what do I do? Well, I call Mr. Shen of course! I have spoken of Mr. Shen before, he is our driver, fixer, problem solver, speaker of Chinese...and quite frankly our savior on many, many occasions! I do not think I would have survived (sanely) without Mr. Shen. So I call him and tell him I need him to speak to this man about,....hmmm...I don't know but I hand the phone to the nice Chinese gentleman and he speaks to Mr. Shen. So, after a few minutes I get back on the phone and Mr. Shen informs me he needs Mark's passport number. Oh, I know where that is..go to get it..NOT THERE! So, call my wonderful husband to inform him that this gentleman has been her for over 10 minutes and I need his passport but it's not where it should be. Mark has it with him...great! So, I get the number from him go to write it on the paper...no ...more speaking Chinese at me and obviously this has still not solved our dilemma of what I need to do to get this man to be on his way and take possession of the bag! So, call Mark again...the man needs something else...Mark hands the phone to one of his colleagues who speaks to the gentleman for a few extended minutes and then... ok here's my phone being handed back to me, he writes down the passport number hand me one of the carbon copies of his quadrupled copies (I don't know what it is over here, but this country LOVES carbon copies and they love to stamp things with a red stamp!!) So, I have the bag, my lovely carbon copy, red-stamped receipt, and off he goes. I get back on the phone with Mark, who is chuckling and he asks "do you know what he wanted?" Ummmm... NO! That is why I've made phone calls to get this resolved. He explains to me that the man was trying to let me know Mark's shaving gel got confiscated on the train because it was pressurized! Really?? The same can that got transported on 4 different pressurized planes...got confiscated on the unpressurized train from Shanghai to Suzhou? Seriously? Well, welcome to China...and if you want to know what time it is ...I can tell you in both English and Chinese!!

Friday, April 15, 2011

Pictures!

Don't ask me why these photos wouldn't load for the previous post...BUT HERE THEY ARE:



The ladies enjoying their Indian lunch

Table shot of the group

Celeste and Pam (two of my favorite ladies!)

Group photo...the poor workers at the Indian restaurant ("Namaste")more and more cameras were given to them so everybody got their own picture!

So here is those lovely little "dragon eyes"

Oh and the grapes....(yes, I'll be eating grapes a lot over this next week!

The down side....

Oh yes...there are down sides to living in a foreign land. The biggest one (besides the language barrier, missing family, favorite foods being unavailable, missing friends from home,...you get the picture...)is making friends in this foreign land of China and having to say goodbye to them because they are going back to the their "homelands".
I attended a lunch for Christine (part of my "Four Friend Posse") yesterday. She and her husband (along with her dog Charley) are heading back to the good ole' USA next Wednesday. I am going to miss her something terrible. She is an absolute hoot to be around and we always have so much fun together on our outings! The plus side, Christine and her husband are going to Michigan! Yes, the greater Detroit area too. We will still be able to see each other this summer when I get home and spend time together! She is not originally from there, but that is where her husband's company wants him...so "Welcome to Michigan!" I lucked out on that one, but I do know it will be extremely difficult to say good-bye to others as they leave and not be able to spend time with them regularly. I can't even think about it without getting a bit teary-eyed. So many of these women have helped me to navigate this adventure by showing me where things are, how to get around, including me in outings and activities, and just being there to let me know I am not alone. What a sisterhood it is here! So, it's really sad to have to say good-bye.
Okay..... pictures are supposed to be here, but I have NO IDEA why the picture icon to "insert image" is not working but I can tell you this...it's annoying me! Sometimes technology just makes me crazy!! Hopefully I can get them to post in a different posting. I will continue to try.
After the lunch, Mr . Shen drove Pam and I to the local fruit/ vegetable market. I needed to get some produce and Pam is always up to go places! :) So, off we go. I picked up some apples, grapes, and clementines. I also got some peppers and potatoes. Oh, and eggs! Incredibly large fresh brown eggs! Again...pics but alas, I am unable to post them. The funny thing was, my bag was extremely heavy, so I told Pam, "I think I have more stuff in here than I should...my bag weighs a ton!" I check, and sure enough I have a bag of 5-6 apples (they are huge!)Plus, the bag of two that I bought. So, I take them back to the vendor...smiles and thank you's! :) We get what we need...off we go to head home. Drop Pam off, then to the apartment for me. Thank Mr. Shen for the safe ride, and off he goes. I get up to the apartment and I discover more things in my bag that I did not purchase! There is another bag of grapes (enough to feed an Army) and some little yellow/brown things (I have NO CLUE what these are!) I feel bad because I did not purchase these items and they ended up in my bag. The only thing I can think of, is one of the lovely girls at the fruit stand put them in my bag, and I put my purchases in too. Well, I'll be eating A LOT of fruit this week!
I had Chinese language class also. Ashley came at 7:00PM and we had class (Mark is in Germany, so this is solo) I take the opportunity to show Ashley my "accidental fruit" to inquire what exactly are these? She tells me they are "Long yan" (Dragon eyes) Oh...really? Hmmmm...she encourages me to try them...and what do you know? They are good! Again...pictures to follow when I can get them to load! So, it was a good day...fun and productive... and I am a fruit absconder!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Homework Sunday.....(BLECH!)

I have been working on a paper that is due tomorrow. I've had all the research and things I needed but, I just didn't want to do it. I just want to be done with this class! it seems redundant; writing about the same thing..over and over again. I need a break from school! Thank goodness there is a week break after this one. I just detest when a class has the imbalance of over 60% of your grade depends on the last three weeks worth of work in an 8 week class. oh and the best part? I have a power point project presentation due for the last week of class (due on Thurs, April 21st.) and I have never used power point for anything! Yes, that's right folks....Michele doesn't know the first thing about how to use it! Thank goodness Mark is an "ARTS and CHARTS" kind of guy sometimes for his job....because he will be doing "helping" me with this project for sure!
For other news... on Friday, I went with the craft group down to Ping Jiang Lu street( the heck with homework!) for an authentic taste of city life in old Suzhou, a stroll down Pingjiang Street's flagstone lanes is probably best. Quiet, leafy and slow-paced, the street is lined with old Chinese houses as well as restaurants and teahouses serving traditional food and drink, upscale caf├ęs catering to the historical chic crowd, as well as a few hostels. The Mingtown Hostel was very nice! We went in to check it out and see what we discovered:
The courtyard of the hostel

family outside their house along the canal

Group picture (except me...I'm taking the pic!)

A canal shot

It was a fun day, and as our day started winding down, we were enjoying a cup of coffee at a little cafe, enjoying the beautiful weather. We were getting the usual stares and people taking pictures of us...when all of a sudden we see a group with a BIG video camera and I say to the group (we are now down to 5 of us, as a few had to go for other obligations)"Hey, I think now were going to be on TV!" Sure enough they come over and explain that they are from CCTV 9 (Chinese English speaking channel) and they work for the travel portion of the show. They wanted to know why we were there...and simultaneously we all say "WE LIVE HERE" Oh, and so the interview begins! Yes, we are going to be part of a travel diary about life in Suzhou! They actually broadcast on the internet as well, so when I know it's on I will definitely post the link. Yeah, a bunch of Western women in China, talking to an interviewer about the lovely city of Suzhou! Go figure!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Oh the (mis)adventures of baking in China!!

So, I ask my friend Pam, what can I bring to the going away luncheon being given for one of the women leaving in the next three weeks? She says a desert would be great. No problem....so bought a small cake mix (8x8 pan size) and figured I'd make it this evening.... Luncheon tomorrow, 12:00 Now, I haven't really used the oven because it's not exactly clear on what these pictures represent on the oven knob. Mark (the darling husband has toasted bread in it and has made his favorite "cheese on toast". I have not had the desire to try to figure it out.
Well, he is here, so I figure we can make this a joint effort. So, I mix (by hand...no electric mixer) the cake batter (in a stock pot...I have NO mixing bowls here), and pour it into my 8x8 pan. I ask mark to convert the Celsius to Fahrenheit on the oven, so oven pre-heated and ready to go. Set the timer (brought one from the USA)and now we wait....After about 15 minute I ask him "does it smell like it's burning to you?" he says "no...smells like it's cooking." Okay...no light for the oven, so we can't see in. Don't want to open the door for fear the cake will not rise and let all the heat out...I just must be overly paranoid.
After about 32 minutes ....DING DING... timer goes off....Here is the result...................


YES...IT'S BLACK!!! A lovely "burnt to a crisp" yellow cake!! Just cooking he says...back to the drawing board!!! Oh, did I forget to mention how much i love living here and dealing with the appliances??