Monthly Archives: September 2011
We have now been in Wuxi for more than a month. The difficulty with living here, rather than just being on holiday is that you have to deal with the practicalities of life. This is why I ended up in Jason Style on Saturday with two of John’s colleagues, Lisa and Sarah, so we could each get our haircut.
We all knew the time would come sooner or later. The alternatives would be just to let our hair grow long or to wait until we go back to the UK or visit a big city like Shanghai with more foreigners. However, I had been keeping my eyes peeled and had previously noticed this particular salon because it was advertising Bed Head and other Western hair care brands. It also looked like the kind of place you might find on the high street in the UK.
Three foreigners descending on the salon at once did cause a bit of a stir. Lisa’s blonde hair was a particular source of interest. The salon was staffed entirely by nice young men with the kind of spiky hairdos typical of young male hairdressers all over the world. Their English was limited, but better than our Chinese.
To get your hair washed you had to lie back backwards on a sort of couch with your head over the sink. A boy wearing a face mask and a serious expression then washed your hair and gave quite a firm head massage. The rest of the experience was pretty standard and each of us came out with a do we were pleased with. Sarah finished first and went to the till to pay. She thought the 180 yuan was pretty reasonable (about £18), but it turned out that was for all of us. At £6 for a hair cut, I will definitely be going back to Jason Style!
I went out for my Chinese lesson this morning and noticed that the temperature outside had dramatically dropped. It seems that my dreams have come true and autumn is finally here. It felt great to be able to walk outside at normal speed without breaking into a sweat.
My Chinese teacher was complaining about how cold it was, but she isn’t used to the Macclesfield climate. I am happy as a cool clam.
After eating we walked to another park which was on an island between the river and the canal. It seemed to be a kind of outdoor fitness club. There were groups of people doing tai chi, line dancing and some sort of whip-based exercise. If any of Waters Green are reading this, I would point out that it would be a perfect place for a dance out. It was crying out for some Morris.
Yesterday was the Moon Festival which meant John had the day off and a nice long weekend. So, we spent Sunday and Monday exploring some of the tourist sites around Wuxi.
Before that, on Saturday, some of John’s colleagues came to our apartment for dinner. The group who came round were all from the UK, so we decided to cook shepherd’s pie in order to have a taste of home. It can be a bit tricky to find the ingredients and tools you need for non-Chinese style cooking, but we improvised a bit and it all turned out pretty tasty (if I say so myself).
John’s colleagues are a nice group of people. Their ages range from mid-twenties to approaching retirement so it is a good mix. It was good fun comparing notes on our first few weeks in China.
On Saturday we went to the Nanchan temple which is a Buddhist temple close to the city centre. The temple itself is smallish but really interesting with ornate carvings and monks in yellow robes. The area surrounding the temple has shops, market stalls and a huge bookshops with stationery/ tat stalls in the basement. It was pretty busy due to the holiday weekend, but was a great place to mooch around.
Apologies for the lapse in updates, but it has been quite a busy week this week. John has been teaching all week and is starting to get to grips with his classes. His students sound great, really bright and motivated. As they are being taught in English, they all have to choose an English name. John has some interesting names in his class including, Harry and Potter (who sit together) and a female Colin. I think Megatron might raise some eyebrows if he gets into university in America.
John had his first observation this week. I am sure none of you who know him will be surprised to learn his was a model lesson. It has given him quite a boost to know he is definitely on the right track.
Today was ‘Teachers’ Day’, so John received a chorus of ‘Happy Teachers’ Day, Teacher’ from many of his classes. They also gave him some lovely cards.
But, it is not just John who has had a busy week. I have been working away on my final assignment for my Open University course ahead of the exam in October. I doubt anyone wants to read about that, though.
On Monday we went to the foreign travel clinical to have a medical for our resident’s permit. It was a strange process, but quite efficient. There was a group of nine of us affiliated to John’s school all having the medical at the same time. Once we had registered, we were each given a form and shown to a changing room where we put our bags in a locker and swapped our shoes for slippers. We then had to visit each of the cubicles in turn. One for blood tests, another for ultrasound, ECG, urine test, eye and ear checks, height, weight and kidney pummel. Then finally we were taken downstairs for an x-ray. The doctors/ nurses were all very nice, so it wasn’t too traumatic.
The next step in the resident’s permit process is to register with the police. Before we can do this, we need to get something done to our marriage certificate. We thought we had already sorted this out, but apparently we have to take it to the Chinese embassy in the UK. I might have to sort it out when I am back in October.
This week, I had my first three Chinese lessons with Grace. They are hard work, but I am really enjoying them. Grace is a good teacher. She is a qualified teacher of Chinese as a second language, so she really knows her stuff. She has also been great in helping me understand how things work around the city. Thanks to her, we now have travel cards for the bus. The bus journey to my lessons (about 5 miles away) costs 12p each way rather than £3 in a taxi.
So, it has been a busy week, but a good one. We are settling in well and starting to find our way around the city. This weekend is a long weekend as it is the Moon Festival on Monday. We have got all sorts of things planned, so hope we will have time to munch some Moon Cakes.
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On Friday evening we went to s’Schmankerl (a German bar) in the city centre to meet up with John’s colleagues. It was a really nice evening, sitting out in the beer garden with a large group of teachers from all over the world. The beer was a bit pricey, even by British standards, but the atmosphere was lovely and there were proper loos!
On Saturday we wanted to go to Lake Tai (Taihu) but I didn’t feel 100%, so we just relaxed and read instead. Before we came to China, I set up a subscription to the Guardian for my Kindle. I really enjoy having a newspaper delivered every day, although UK news seems a bit remote here.
In the afternoon, we walked to the city centre to find where the cinema is and to go to the big bookshop. After a bit of hunting, we found the cinema, but there aren’t any English language films on at the moment, so we will save that for another day. Outside the cinema a student came up to us to ask for advice on how to pronounce involve and self. After we had given him our advice, he went away happy. At the bookshop we bought a Chinese language text book to use in our lessons that start today. While there, an older Chinese man came up to talk to us to practise his English. He works as a Japanese translator, but his English was also excellent. It was nice to spend a bit of time chatting to him.
On the way home, we stopped at a hotpot restaurant for tea. We are still getting the hang of what and how to order in these places, so we had a bit of a strange meal – but we came away well fed.
It was nice to chat to my Mum on Skype last night (hi Mum!) It is strange to think that until relatively recently a call home would have been a real luxury and difficult to arrange. The wonders of modern technology!
This morning we went to visit the Qingming Bridge. It was very scenic (see photos in this post). As well as the lovely scenery, one of the highlights was buying a cafetiere from Starbucks. There are quite a few Starbucks in Wuxi, but getting a proper coffee maker for our apartment was a bit of a challenge. Now we just need to find some ground coffee to go in it.