Monthly Archives: November 2011

Wuxi market

This morning, John and I took the No 81 bus to Nanchan Si to visit Wuxi fresh fruit, vegetable, meat and fish market. I had been there once before with Grace, but I knew John would find it interesting. He has posted loads of cool pictures on his blog:

It was pretty busy, but not too crazy. It is the most amazing market, basically if it can be eaten, you can buy it there!

Beijing duck – yum

Preparing the Beijing duck

On Wednesday evening, John and I went with Mark and Yi Ling to a Beijing (Peking) Duck restaurant in Wuxi’s Canal Park area. The restaurant was really busy, unsurprising really because the food was delicious.

As well as the whole roast duck we ordered some vegetables and sour soup which were pretty good, but the duck was the star. The whole roasted duck is brought to your table by a chef who carves it for you. And, yes, it is served with pancakes, spring onion and plum sauce. It was a bit pricey (£7 per head including drinks), but well worth it.

We are off to Beijing in January, so it will be interesting to see how authentic the Wuxi restaurant is.

Mystery fruit

Mystery fruit

I bought both these fruits today, but don’t know what they are called in English. Let me know if you have any ideas! I bought the right hand fruit thinking it was a large tomato. However, it seems to be some kind of large plum. The inside is very jammy with a small stone. The left hand fruit is like a green satsuma, but it isn’t unripe.

Autumn in Wuxi

The view from our balcony this morning. You can just see the cranes in the background.

The last couple of days have been lovely, crisp Autumn days. It has been cold enough that you need to wear a jacket or jumper when outside, but perfect weather for wandering about.

On Sunday, John and I wandered down to the city centre to find the street where all the tailors shops are. We managed to find it and we are quite excited about the idea of getting some trousers for John. If that works out well, I might even have something made for me – but I will let John be the guinea pig.

Also on Sunday, we visited a restaurant called Provance. We are hoping that they will be able to help in our quest for Christmas turkey. We met the head chef, who was really helpful and apparently knows John’s boss well. Maybe we will get a discount! He has promised to email menus to us, so we are keeping our fingers crossed.

During our walk, we went through an open air street market selling clothes, scarves and general gifty things. John bought a dancing donkey as a prize for a school photographic competition. I forgot to get a photo of it, but when it dances it looks and sounds a bit like Lady Gaga. As we are used to shopping in the UK, it is hard haggling. John managed to get the stall holder down from 39 yuan to 35 (about £3.50) for the donkey, but the stall holder accepted a bit too quickly. Then the next customer started at 30 yuan. Boo!

Hunting for turkey in Wuxi

(that’s ‘turkey’ as in oversized chicken, not the country).

I have offered to help John find a venue for his department’s Christmas dinner. There will probably be around 25 people altogether, with a full range of nationalities. Unsurprisingly, Christmas isn’t a holiday at John’s school, so we want to try to have a really nice do to stop everyone getting too homesick.

I have been in touch with a few of the hotels in Wuxi, as well as a western-style restaurant in the city. We are keeping hopeful about the turkey, but suspect crackers might be too much to ask for!

Good luck Helen!

My sister, Helen, has the grand ‘switch on’ of her cochlear implant today at 9.30am UK time. I wish I could go and see her, but it is a long way from Wuxi to Brighton. In fact, I feel quite a long way from home at the moment.

For people reading this who aren’t lucky enough to know my little sister, it’s enough to say that she is the coolest, cleverest, most tenacious person you could ever hope to meet. She is also very beautiful, but that is a general family trait.

As I understand it, learning to work with an implant is hard and the results aren’t guaranteed. However, I know Helen doesn’t do things by halves, so it will be exciting to see how she gets on. I will be giving all the support I can from 6,000 miles away.

More about learning Chinese

A couple of lessons ago, Grace told me that I should start studying for the HSK exams. These are exams designed for people learning Chinese as a foreign language and have six levels altogether. The first two levels are for beginners and don’t need you to be able to read Chinese.

It will be interesting to be able to judge my progress. The exams don’t look as daunting as my Maths exams, however I am a bit worried about the speaking part. When I took French GCSE, my accent was so poor the examiner couldn’t stop laughing (very unprofessional). I did get a B overall though!

I have also started to learn to read. Grace is giving me a list of about 5 characters to learning to read and write each lesson. She then tests me on them during the next lesson. This gets harder as the list of words gets longer, but it will prove to be really useful.

Wuxi market and Suzhou

John and a big Buddha in Suzhou

After my Chinese lesson on Friday, Grace took me to the big food market in Wuxi. It is just behind the Nanchan Temple area which John and I have visited a few times, but I had never seen the actual market. It is huge, spread over three floors and sells every type of meat, fish, fruit and vegetables – many I have never heard of. The produce is all really fresh, much better then in the supermarkets. Some of the meat and fish is so fresh it is still alive. I was concerned that buying live poultry might make a mess of the apartment, but apparently they ‘prepare’ it for you.

This time, I just bought some purple beans, some satsumas

mystery fruit

and some fruit which I don’t think have an English name. They are about the size of a grape, taste a bit like apple, but have a stone like a plum!

Yesterday, John and I went with Steve and Sarah to Suzhou. We were quite pleased that we managed to buy the tickets ourselves from the station. The queue was quite long, so I think I would rather carry on using an agent to buy tickets. However, it was good to know we could make ourselves understood in Chinese.

silk worms

Suzhou is only about 10 minutes away on the fast Nanjing to Shanghai train. We only had a few hours there, so just had time for a visit to the North Pagoda and the Silk Museum. Both were well worth a visit. I am looking forward to going back for a longer visit soon to see some of the famous gardens and take a boat trip.

Back in Wuxi, we spent the evening at the Havana Bar (an expat bar) celebrating John’s colleague Michelle’s birthday.