Saturday, October 29, 2011

The rest of my week...

Tuesday consisted of getting my final paper completed and turned in. That was accomplished. On Wednesday, I had a Tai-Tai outing to Taicang. Taicang City is located in the South Jiangsu Plain and on the southern bank of Yangtze River, close to the mouth of the river. The city borders Baoshan and Jiading Districts of Shanghai on the south, Kunshan City on the west and Changshu City on the north. It was about an hour bus ride for us. We visited 3 different areas of agricultural gardens. A few pictures:

Pretty Finnish Ladies! They have made me an "honary Finn" They even gave me a Finnish name "Key-ah-lou" (that's phonetic spelling because I have NO idea how to spell it in Finnish!) it means lilly of the valley (flower) the national flower of Finland! I love these gals! :)

It was a nice day for it. Not too hot or cold. We had lunch there…here are some pictures of some interesting food choices:

Mark worked late, so I had the evening to just relax and do a bit of leisure reading. Mark got home from work around 8:00PM and we just relaxed the rest of the evening and went to bed early.
On Thursday, Val and I had made plans to take the bus downtown to obtain a bus pass for me. She had gotten one while I was back home and she has become a “semi-expert” on the bus system here and she knew where I needed to go to acquire one for myself. So…we headed out around 10:30am for downtown. We got there and it was very straight forward and no problems. Woo-Hoo! You just never know here…some things are more problematic and you just learn to roll with it. We decided to go down Pingjiang Lu' (Píngjiāng Lù, 平江路) street. We both enjoy just strolling that street and taking in the culture and browsing in a few of the shops. My camera is no pictures but I have posted pictures of this very picturesque street before. After walking around for a while, it was coming up on lunch time, so we decided to head back on the bus and go to Heidi’s for lunch near home. We hopped the bus back; (using my new bus pass) which proved for an interesting ride. Our bus driver was of the belief that his aggressive driving and using his horn would get us there much quicker! Also, this bus’s suspension was nill! It made for a very comical ride to say the least!

We arrived back to Singha Plaza (about a mile from home). We stopped at Summit which is a market that carries many import items for westerners and picked up a few things here. Then we headed over to Heidi’s for lunch. We enjoyed our lunch of chef salad and ice tea and ate outside. We ran into a few of the other expat ladies we know. It was a nice day. We then headed back to our apartment complex. I made spaghetti for dinner and had picked up some garlic bread at the Franco Papa bakery that was quite tasty! That will be something to get again when having pasta for dinner.
It’s Thursday, so that means poker night! Mark’s feet and ankles are still bothering him, and even though the swelling has subsided, they are nowhere near normal. So, I tuck him in bed with the dvd clicker and one of his tv series to watch and head over to Ollie’s for poker. I enjoy my poker night with my poker buddies; they are a great bunch of people from all over the world. I did not fare as well as last week, and get knocked out of the tournament around 10:00PM. I then catch a cab and head back to the apartment. I get home and Mark is awake and still watching his tv series. Off to dreamland by 11:00PM.
It’s Friday am and it’s crafts at Pam’s from 10:00-12:00 then we usually do lunch after. So Joanna, Val, and I meet up at the gate to walk over to Pam’s. There is quite a big group this week. Ladies are working hard to get things finished for the craft bazaar which is being held on Dec. 3rd. I had to pin quilt squares together for the quilt that is being assembled. As much as I love to craft…I suck at it! So something like pinning is easy for me to do and I really can’t screw it up! J Here’s a picture of the crafters hard at work:

Around noon, we decide to head over to Casa Zoe for lunch. They have a nice lunch buffet. So, 12 of us (some ladies had other obligations) walk over to the restaurant. It was a nice lunch and I had the opportunity to talk with a few ladies I don’t know. It was very enjoyable. Time to pay…where is my little bag with my money and other things? Hmmmm…I empty my HUGE purse contents onto the table…it’s not here. Did I leave it on the dining table at the apartment? My friend Theresa loans me lunch money (thank you Theresa!) and pay. Some of the ladies are heading downtown for some sightseeing and shopping. I pass as now I have to go and find my little silk purse that has not only my money, but my new bus pass, my expat membership card, my address card (I use this for taxi drivers to get me home), and the card that lets me into the apartment building when the doors are locked (they are usually left wide open…but sometimes they are closed, and you just never know when you may need it to get in). Susanna and I head back towards are respective apartment buildings and say goodbye at one of the corners. I head up to the apartment. My little silk purse is NOWHERE TO BE FOUND! I search all over the apartment. NO luck. SERIOUSLY??? I know I had it in the taxi coming home from Ollie’s last night. I am really upset and mad at myself! Where could it be? It must have fallen out in the taxi or out of my bag between getting out of the taxi and walking to the apartment building last night. GREAT…now I have no bus pass, expat membership card, address card, not to mention the money that was in there! Mark calls, and I tell him I lost my little purse and he can tell how upset and distraught I am. He tells me not to worry, everything can be replaced and at least it wasn’t my wallet with my ID or credit cards. True…but I am SOOO mad! I just got my bus pass yesterday and now I have to replace it? Not to mention the other things and the money! I am such an idiot!
So, I figure I’ll turn on the TV and see what might be on…oh and a side note here, to add insult to injury, my Slingbox is not working. No American television for me. It stopped working last week, and after my brother reset it, it worked for a day and is NOT working again. So…Chinese television and DVD’s it is. Mark has to hardwire it to the router when he goes back in November for a week (another long story!) instead of it being wireless. It loses the signal too easily being wireless. So, I turn on the TV to discover it is not working! All the channels say “this channel is not handled by your smartcard” Great! This day is just getting better and better! Mark offered to take me out to dinner but I told him I didn’t feel much like going out and I was probably not fit for human interaction at this point of the day. So, when he got home, we ordered Indian and it got delivered within an hour. Dinner was good and we just hung out at home. I was not good company and that wonderful husband of mine just tried to make me feel better.

I just need to count my blessings and realize that losing replaceable things is really pretty trivial in the big scheme of things isn’t it? Lesson learned… I’m no worse for wear, and I’m still a very blessed and lucky lady to be living the life I have! Hopefully, the weekend will be an uneventful, calm one. I’ve had enough turmoil this week. Till next time…

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Monday, October 24th.

Hello friends!

It's been a fun week so far. I did manage to finish my last paper for my class and skipped a couple of things with the ladies early in the week to get it finished. Mark and I had a trip to Metro (like Sam's Club or Costco) on Monday night for some essentials. We decided we needed a wok for cooking so that got purchased along with a few other things. We had a pretty big haul of stuff. Mr. Shen had taken us so he assisted with putting it all in the trunk. Then...we headed over to Zappata's for dinner (burger deal night). Since Malone's has closed...we have been searching for a replacement burger place. While they are okay here...not as good as Malone's! After dinner, we headed home. Mr. Shen dropped us off and we had to get the loot from our shopping trip and Mark's computer bag out of the trunk. What?? Mark's computer bag is shopping purchases! Mr. Shen had taken it upon himself to take it to the apartment for us while we were eating dinner! It was a miserable day/evening too. It had been raining all day. He had taken all our purchases up to the apartment for us in the pouring rain! What a superstar driver we have!
That man is a blessing everyday that we are here! I thank him profusely and let him know that it wasn't necessary, but very much appreciated! Let me tell you, hearing some of the horror stories about drivers over here with some of the other expats...we are extremely lucky to have him in our lives in China. My friends over here love him too! They even realize what a gem he is! husband spoils me rotten...and so does Mr. Shen! :)

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Saturday, October 22nd

Well it's been a good week in Suzhou. I went to play poker on Thursday and managed to finish 2nd in the tournament from a field of 30. I like it when I can play AND win money! It was great seeing all my poker buddies after being gone for 4 months. I enjoyed myself and I am looking forward to next week and playing again.

Friday I went to Crafts at Pam's apartment. I met a few new people that have arrived while I was gone. We then went (there were 10 of us ) and had a Chinese Szechun lunch. It was delicious lunch and as usual, very inexpensive (3.12) and we had a really nice time. Then it was off to Franks Place. This shop is located down by Humble Administrator's Garden (a very "tourist-y" area. It sells a lot of souvenirs and Chinese trinkets, as well as furniture and tea sets... LOTS of stuff. We (the expat ladies) love going down there. It was the first time I have actually felt uncomfortable while being here in China.

It was very crowded and busy with a lot of people. There were many tourists and I was getting a lot of stares and pictures taken. Ok...fine. I can deal with that. Well ...a few times people came up to me and in my personal space (way too close for my liking) and blantantly stared and touched. I actually began to feel like some sort of freak show! I told some of the others...I need to get outta here! They were sympathetic and understood. The blonde hair and green eyes on this chick just fascinated some of these Asian folks! Thank goodness Mr. Shen was nearby and came to fetch us fairly quickly. It was quite surreal...I never felt uncomfortable like that before. I hope I don't ever again. it was not a good feeling.

Saturday Mark and I got up and decided to head to Casa Zoe for breakfast. Picture on the left. It was very good we stayed a bit longer and had a couple extra cups of coffee while signing up for benefits through Mark's company. We discovered while back home, this year we had NO dental and the international medical insurance pretty much sucks!!! So...we will have decent medical insurance for 2012. Woo-Hoo! We are now off to the medical clinic. Mark's feet have been swollen since he got back home (in the U.S) at the end of September. At first, we thought it was from flying...but it didn't go away...then he had extremely swollen and one ankle was reddened. So, my husband who HATES going to the doctor and/or taking medicine says he needs to off we go. You have to love going to the doctors here. You sign in and you see a MD within 5 minutes. Well, the doctor runs some blood work and figures it's some sort of infection IV Rocephin dose for him... being the nosy nurse that I am...I am just sitting there, decide to scope out the room and look and see what kind of medical supplies and "stuff" they have. Mark was truly appalled that I was opening drawers and rifling through things. Hey...they don't want me being nosy...lock the drawers..if it's not locked it's fair game! Here is a few things I found:

After the antibiotic infusion, we got his oral antibiotic (Augmentin) and off we went to Eurofoods across the street to do a bit of grocery shopping. We bought a few things...then it's time for a coffee break at Starbucks where we sat for a bit and enjoyed our little break. it was a lovely day to sit outside and enjoy the day. We got back to the apartment around 3:00. We stopped off at the market to get some produce and chicken for dinner. It's been a good day. Hopefully, the antibiotics will work and Mark's feet will be back to normal soon. He has a follow-up appointment on Tuesday. Let's hope that his feet will be back to normal and he can wear shoes without trying to squeeze his feet into them!
Till next time....

Friday, October 21, 2011

Getting into the swing of things...

Hello Friends!
Yes, it's taken some getting used to...but I do believe I am getting back into the swing of being a "Tai-Tai" (housewife). I even remembered to pick up milk and bananas for Mark's daily breakfast while coming back from getting my nails done! Poor guy...sometimes this housewife "forgets" the simpliest of things to do on a daily basis. I am really trying to better at the housewife thing this go around in China.
I did take a couple of photos while in the local shop that is located right downstairs in our apartment complex.
These are some kind of "Nabisco" (China -style) Oreos... notice the lovely colors? I have NO clue what the flavors are...I can only imagine they are something I would NOT eat! The photo above is a shop of one or the aisles...PACKED with all kinds of food from all over the world. Many imported items at "imported" prices. I was lucky...usually this place is pretty crowded. Imagine these type of aisles with a few people in them. Oh so fun!
I remembered to take shopping bags in my purse so no paying for bags! Yes, I am getting back in the habit of running through a checklist in my head of things I may need while out and about in this wonderful city. The list is long and the purse I carry here is HUGE!
I really must figure out why my photos are not getting placed where I want them on these blog posts. It is very frustrating.
So...I must go and work on my last paper for this class I am in. Two more classes (16 weeks) and my practicum (another 16 weeks) and I will be finished! Hopefully, graduated with my Masters degree. Till next time......

Monday, October 17, 2011

Gettin' my groove's been a busy week!

Well, it’s been a full week back in China. It has been a busy one and pretty exhausting too. On Saturday, we headed out with 7 other couples to dinner at Piccola Italia.

Divided table: men at one end; women at the other.

Group table shot

It was a great dinner. Then after dinner we headed over to Harry’s Bar that has a really good band for entertainment. There wasn’t enough room for a large group inside, so we sat outside. It was a beautiful night for it.

Jim goofing with Marcy's new shoes!

We enjoyed a couple of cocktails and then called it an evening.
Val and her husband (Phil) decided they were ending their evening too. So we all headed toward the street to catch a cab back to the apartment complex.

Mark and Phil (Mark really isn't avoiding Phil...Phil is just blocking the light that was blocking my camera shot!)

It was a lot of fun. We hope to do it again soon. One funny thing...on the walk to our apartments in the complex we discovered some new signs that have been posted:

It says: "Take trecautions atainst durglais" ("CHINGLISH" TRANSLATION: Take precautions against burglars.....HILARIOUS! We see a lot of this and I really need to take more pictures of much gets "lost in translation!" Oh...and take a look at the "no horn" that will EVER happen. I think the horn is attached to the gas pedal on Chinese driven vehicles!

***I must apologize in advance for the lack of postings that will be posted until I figure out the reason I am having so many technical issues with photos and general posting/ publishing issues. It has taken WAY TOO LONG do get this one done. Ridiculously too long {over an hour! :( }
So bear with me as I try to figure this out or find another site to blog on. We will see what the future holds. All I know is...I can't take over an hour to post one little post! *** Wish me luck!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

I'm back...and so is the jetlag!

We arrived back at the apartment around 9:15PM on Monday night. We were exhausted and tired from being on a 14 hour flight in cattle call economy coach class plus a 2 hour drive from the Shanghai airport. After about 11 hours…I’m over it! It also doesn’t help that Delta is using their 747-400 aircrafts much more often for this flight (more bodies more $$$ I suppose) which do not have video on demand. But, we survived and arrived safely and that is the goal.

We did a bit of unpacking, showered, and went to bed around 10:30. I woke up around 3:30AM, attempted to go back to sleep, but was unsuccessful. I got up around 4:00AM and did a bit more unpacking, and some school work. Mark got up at 6:30 when the alarm went off. He is off to work today. Poor guy had no milk or OJ for breakfast so…he made do with my oatmeal.
I have a big day ahead. I phoned my friend Val to see if she was attending the monthly EAS (Expatriate Assoc. of Suzhou) coffee at the Renaissance Hotel. She had another engagement so we chatted a bit and made plans to get together tomorrow. So, Mr. Shen arrived to pick me around 10:15 to drive me over (I would have walked…but it looked like it may rain). It was wonderful to see so many of my friends! There were lots of hugs and chatting, and catching up on what was new. At noon, a few of us decided to go to lunch before Mahjong started at 1:30. Off to Zappata’s we went. It’s a Mexican place that offers a great lunch deal and there is plenty of offerings to choose from. Lunch was delicious and then off to play mahjong. I got high hand!! Must be beginner’s luck because I sure needed a bit of a refresher! We all put in 10 RMB (around 1.50) so I won the pot! So…lunch for me was a freebie!

After mahjong, I had to stop off at the market to get some essentials. The fridge and cupboards were pretty bare! Of course, I forgot to put a shopping bag in my charged for bags! Grrrrr… I really have to remember that I have to carry everything but the kitchen sink when I venture out! Back at the apartment a little before 5:00PM… Mark calls at 5:15 to say he is on his way and it’s Indian for dinner!!! Score! No cooking for this chick!
Dinner was delish…as usual at Indian at the Cross. The traffic to get downtown was horrendous as they are still tearing it all up for the installation of the subway system. I’ll tell you, our driver Mr. Shen should get hazard pay! He’s a Gem! We are very blessed to have this man in our lives in China. He is my “go-to” guy when I need him. I brought him back a couple of pairs of Levi’s and an Itouch to show my appreciation for all he does and he was very appreciative and thankful. It’s the LEAST I could do! Mark let him know the gifts were from the “Big Boss”…not him! It’s a running joke with all of us….Mark is Mr. Shen’s boss…but I’m the “Big Boss! LOL! I just want to keep him happy and make sure he continues as our driver because decent ones around here are not easy to come by! So this girl will make sure Mr. Shen is a happy guy!

So…of course I can barely keep my eyes open by 9:00PM and it’s off to “Dreamland”. It was a good day and I am looking forward to seeing Val tomorrow. Hopefully, I’ll sleep in a bit longer!

Sunday, October 9, 2011

T- 8 hours and counting...

Ok... I am packed and ready I do believe for my adventure in China to continue. I am actually looking forward to seeing my friends that I haven't seen in 4 months. It will be good to be back in a semi-routine without having to work (not that I worked all that much over the summer anyway!!)
The plane leaves at 4:00. We arrive in China at 7:40PM on Monday. So my dear friends and followers, the adventure will continue and I wil blog and keep you all updated on my crazy adventure in China!