Rain and dumplings
It has been raining a lot over the past couple of days. Today the rain has been absolutely torrential. John had his first day at work and got drenched on the way home – no taxi drivers would let him in their car because he was too wet. It makes us feel quite at home, apart from the rain is still quite warm and as soon as it stops everywhere gets steamy.
John doesn’t actually start teaching until next week. Today and tomorrow he has a big conference for all his company’s foreign teachers from all over China. I think he has found it to be a bit of a shock being with lots of English speaking people again.
On Tuesday we took a walk to Xihui Park (about 30 minutes from our apartment). It was very beautiful and peaceful. On the way there we crossed over the Jinghang Canal, the longest canal in the world – travelling all the way from Beijing to Hangzhou (south of Wuxi). There were massive, dirty freight barges travelling up and down it. In contrast to these big industrial boats, under the canal bridge we saw couples practising ballroom dancing.
The park itself was lovely. There is a path leading up to the Dragon Light Pagoda on top of Xi Shan which overlooks the city. Given the current temperature we decided to explore this in the autumn, when the weather is a bit cooler. However, we did travel up in a cable car from the park to the further away Hui Shan. We were a bit wary of the little gondolas (just large enough for two) but the views on the way up and at the top were well worth it, if a bit hazy.
Yesterday we spent most of the day gearing up for John’s first day at work. We have discovered (through an unfortunate chain of events) that our apartment block has a very efficient way of dealing with plumbing emergencies. On a similar topic, we are also making note of any places with loos that are okay to use when out and about: so far, posh department stores seem to be the best option (think Harvey Nichols). I would have thought MacDonalds toilets would be okay – they aren’t.
While John has been working, I have spent today catching up with paperwork (making sure we don’t overspend) and shopping. John has decided to stay beard-free, so today I bought him an electric shaver from Wallmart. I had help from a lovely assistant who spoke really good English. Without her help I never would have worked out that the assistant in the booth has to give you a ticket, which you take to a cash desk on the next floor, then return to collect your item. The same system applied in the department store where I bought my new handbag (a replacement for the much-loved one that went to the charity shop in what I am calling ‘the great excess baggage purge’). We used to have a similar system when I worked at Foyles Bookshop in London. I now appreciate how confused the non-English speaking customers must have been.
I had lunch today from the steamed dumpling stall on the corner of our block. Each dumpling is almost the size of a fist, they cost about 10-15p each, you buy them straight from the steamer and never know what will be inside (at least I don’t). Sometimes they are filled with meat, sometimes cabbage and sometimes something mysterious. They are delicious.