Monthly Archives: December 2011

We’re off to Guangzhou for the weekend

We leave for Guangzhou (Canton) this afternoon to celebrate New Year. The city is in the south of China, so the temperature is about 20-22 C, but the pollution is meant to be pretty bad. We are staying in a hotel on Shamian Island, so maybe the air will be a bit better there. The distance from from Wuxi to Guangzhou is about the same as from Manchester to Hamburg.

Happy New Year everyone!

Christmas celebrations in Wuxi

Canal Park sunset Christmas Day

Christmas is now officially over in Wuxi. The shops which had Christmas decorations are now changing them in preparation for Chinese New Year (or Spring Festival Chun Jie 春节) which starts at the end of January. Unsurprisingly, Boxing Day is not a holiday here, so John reluctantly went back to work yesterday.

We did have a lovely Christmas, though. Christmas Eve was spent at Rob and Michelle’s apartment playing silly games and quizzes. My Mum’s ‘present game’ went down especially well, so can now be described as internationally famous. We all had plenty to drink and ended the evening by singing along to classic Christmas songs – really good fun.

John and I opened our (many) presents on Christmas Day morning (thanks everyone), then went to Taste Bistro in Wuxi New District for lunch. The restaurant is owned by a New Zealander and was serving a hot buffet of classic Christmas food, including the all-important turkey. We were a table of seven British expats and we were all quite keen to uphold the noble tradition of eating too much, yet still finding room for Christmas pudding.

I had bought some crackers at the Shanghai branch of Marks and Spencer last week, so we pulled those first so we could all wear our

John on Christmas Day

silly hats. The food was excellent, so to pace ourselves we played a daft British themed quiz (thanks Billy and Audrey). For the record, the girls team won!

After our hefty lunch, John and I decided to walk around Wuxi’s Canal Park in order to help digestion. The day was quite bright and not as cold as it has been lately, and we saw a beautiful sunset. After our walk we came home for more Christmas films followed by cheese and biscuits for tea. I was able to speak to my family via Skype, so all in all Christmas in Wuxi was pretty good.

 

圣诞快乐

Shèngdàn kuàilè or Happy Christmas! Thank you so much to everyone who has sent us cards or presents, they really mean a lot to us. Sorry we weren’t organised enough to send Christmas cards this year.

We are off to a party at John’s colleagues’ apartment this evening. Then tomorrow we will be having Christmas lunch, including turkey, at a Western restaurant called Taste.

Here’s to an exciting 2012.

More mystery fruit

This fruit is about 15 cm long, tastes a bit like mango, but has a core rather than a stone. What could it be? Please let me have your suggestions!

Christmas is coming in Wuxi

Sarah, Laura and John at WIC Christmas party

Christmas is not an official holiday in China (John will only has one day off work). Despite this, many of the shops in the city are playing Christmassy songs, sometimes these are familiar tunes with Chinese words, and the staff have to wear Santa hats. In Starbucks, the staff T-shirt says ‘Let’s Merry’ on the back, good advice I think.

We have been planning various Christmas celebrations to keep us in the right frame of mind. Our quest for turkey has ended in a booking for Christmas Day at Taste Bistro, a restaurant in the New District owned by a New Zealander. We went for Sunday lunch the other day with Steve and Sarah (for research purposes, you understand) and the food is excellent. Christmas Day lunch is a buffet, including the all important fire chicken (火鸡肉).

Our first Christmas do was last Saturday at the Kempinski hotel in Wuxi. I have joined the Wuxi International Club, a really nice group of expats from all over the World, and this was their party. There was a delicious hot buffet, a raffle and a band. In fact, it was exactly like an ACUMED party, right down to the interesting dancing!

It was strange that the guests came from all over the World: China, America, Canada, Taiwan, Denmark, Japan, Austria, Spain, UK, etc. United Nations-style. The band was also a bit odd. They were young, multi-national and very talented, but their choice of music seemed odd for a party, consisting mainly Pink Floyd, Patti Smith and all your prog-rock favourites. I suppose that explained the interesting dance moves.

Coming up with have house parties with John’s colleagues (with silly games including the present game) and John’s work do at the Havana bar in Wuxi. I am sure we will be sick of Christmas by the time we get to 26th December – which is the way it should be. We are off to Guangzhou for New Year’s Eve, so that should be a good contrast.

I have a job

The title says it all really! It’s been 6 months since I left ACUMED (wow, time flies), but it seems that I am now about to be employed again.

My new job title is ‘Orientation Consultant’ and I will be helping new expats settle in to Wuxi. I think it will suit me really well for a number of reasons:

  • I will only be working on an occasional basis, so I will still be able to make time to look after any visitors we get.
  • I will get to meet the new foreigners who come to Wuxi. It’s always very interesting to find out where people come from and what they do.
  • I will get to nosy around all the different styles of apartments with them. Brilliant!

The company is based in Shanghai and is well-established. I had an interview at the end of last month and the interviewer seems really nice. There is a training day next week in Shanghai, but then it might be a while until they need me to do anything. I am very excited though.

Pot o’ niu wa

John and I went out to our local Hong Kong style restaurant for dinner this evening. We have been there before with friends who can read and speak Chinese, but this time we thought we would try by ourselves.

There was no English menu, but with the help of a dictionary and some pictures we managed to order some delicious sweet and sour pork, grilled aubergine and some broccoli. I also thought I ordered some beef . However, it took a while to show up, so I asked the waitress where our beef dish was (niu rou 牛肉). She said we didn’t order beef, but I couldn’t work out what we had ordered.

Eventually our final dish turned up. It was steaming hot with a tasty, ginger sauce. The meat was kind of like chicken, but a bit like fish. We tried to guess what it might be (snake? turtle?) Eventually the waitress told us it was niu wa (牛蛙) – bullfrog! I am glad I didn’t find out until afterwards, but it was very tasty.

Laura Kennedy BSc (Hons) Math Stat (Open)

Apparently this is how I should now write my name! Yes, finally, after tears, tantrums and many cups of tea, I have my degree. In case you are counting – I got a 2.1 (by the skin of my teeth). I think I might be celebrating this evening.

John loves Christmas

John has kidnapped Father Christmas so he doesn't get missed out later this month

Cold!

Last Sunday we went shopping wearing T shirts and I moaned about being too warm. I really regret complaining now. In the middle of this week it rained a lot and now it is bright and clear, but really cold.

Traditionally, no apartments in China south of the Yellow River have central heating so it feels extra cold. Our air-conditioner does have a warm air setting, but it isn’t very effective; plus, the insulation in our apartment is non-existent (you can feel the wind whistling through the rooms).

We have some friends who live in the very posh MoreSky360 building in the city centre. They told us that their apartment has underfloor heating. I wonder how they would feel about a couple of lodgers? Otherwise, we will just have to stock up on hot water bottles and woolly hats!

On the plus side – the cold weather seems to have killed off the mosquitoes (at last). Although, I wouldn’t be surprised to find new wave of them if the weather warms up!

The cold weather has also brought out a whole new style of street food stalls. Now along the pavements near our apartment there you can buy a wide variety of warming snacks including baked sweet potatoes, roast chestnut and sugar cane. You can also buy stinky tofu. I am not sure why you would want to, though, it smells revolting! I love trying new things, but draw the line at food that makes you gag from a distance of 10 metres.

The Chinese for cold is leng (冷) and rain is xia yu (下雨). At the moment, these are the main words I use with the neighbours I see in the lift or when making small talk in shops!