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.
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!
(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!