If you are reading this, then my new blog site has worked. Blog.com was fine when it worked, but more times than not I had difficulty logging in. Both sites are hard to access in this Country. I should hopefully be able to post more photos on this site. The last blog on that site will have been my Mum’s. So if you haven’t read her blog, go back, read hers and then come back to this one.
Martin had an adventure of his own, as you know. It was also the longest piece of writing he has done in a long while that didn’t involve any mathematics! Eleanor and I arrived back in China on Chinese New Year Day, 19th February. Having been told by numerous people not to travel over this period I was pleasantly surprised to have only 36 passengers and 14 crew members on the Virgin Atlantic flight from Heathrow to Shanghai. Eleanor and I had rows to ourselves, but sadly no upgrade. Arriving into Pudong was the next surprise. No queue at Immigration and upon arrival at the baggage carousel our luggage was there waiting for us. The holiday in UK and Bulgaria was fantastic. We fitted in as many people as we could in the UK, and both of us were pleased to see everyone, but Elea
nor and I agreed that China was our home. For now.
Mum and Dad left 2 weeks ago and just as they left, the temperature has slowly started to increase. We have had a couple of days of t-shirt and shorts weather, though on one of the days of 28 degrees I was still wearing jeans. A number of trips have happened and they will appear in separate blogs. We have been to Xi’an to see the Warriors and just last week Eleanor and I went to Hong Kong before meeting Martin and heading off to the Yellow Mountains.
Day to-day though, our wonderful English speaking, cooking Ayi handed her notice in, (5 days notice) as she had found a full time Ayi position. Daiyan folded our underwear neatly (who else has the time to do this!) though more often than not my underwear was found with Eleanor’s. My t-shirts were often found with Martin’s, and my nightshirt was found hanging with Martin’s shirts one day. Having also paid her double pay for Chinese New Year we were not pleased. However, we have been told that Ayis finding new employment after a profitable New Year is not uncommon. What is probably unusual about the leaving of Daiyan, is that she had found us a replacement to have a handover with her on the Friday. They say to keep things within the family, and so she did. We now have Wen Wen, Daiyan’s cousin. Younger than Daiyan and with less experience, we are getting used to each other. She isn’t as meticulous as her cousin and she isn’t cooking for us, but she does speak a little English and it is helping my Chinese.
Sadly my Chinese has also taken a step backwards. My Chinese teacher, Alice, is married to a French man. At Chinese New Year he told her he couldn’t live in China anymore and wanted to go back to France ASAP. Alice has therefore gone to Pau, Southern France for 6 months. Her company has kept her job open for this time also. But as to what will happen after 6 months…well who knows. But hopefully they will work things out and come to an agreement as to what country to settle in. Therefore, the two of us who are continuing with module 3 have another Chinese teacher, who we are still getting used to. We feel that she isn’t as good as Alice and I think that Alice added another dimension to our lessons because she was used to how an expat coped with the language subtleties.
Nevertheless, whilst at a restaurant with Martin, Eleanor and my parents, I watched Martin’s jaw drop lower and lower as I spoke to the waiter and ordered things of an iPad menu. The menu was pictorial but to try to work my way around the iPad, the waiter and I conversed in Chinese. Martin has finally seen the lessons pay off and I now can’t let a change of Chinese teacher affect my learning.
The Friends of Dulwich College Suzhou (Eleanor’s part of Dulwich) organised a Ball at the Crowne Plaza in mid March. This was a lovely night, themed on Fire and Ice. It also coincided with Mum and Dad being over, so they did some babysitting for us. Martin went to the tailor after Chinese New Year and was measured for a Dinner Jacket and Trousers. The suit is a lovely fit and he teamed up with a red bow tie. I didn’t have a dress made. I wore a long navy blue dress that I had worn to a friend’s wedding in August 2013. I accessorised it with red high heel shoes and red scarf. Many of my friends had got their dresses made, one lady took me to Wedding Dress Street, down an alley through a doorway and into a room no bigger than 3 metres by 5 metres (if that!) containing 4 sewing machines, seamstresses and a selection of fabric. (Very different from the Tailors I had been to with Martin and my Mum!) Sian had drawn out her outfit, together with a photo from the internet and within 10 or so days the dress was ready!
What surprises me is that areas in China still operate the way London or some big cities in the UK used to and in some cases still operate. I.e particular areas known for a specialism – eg Harley Street for Doctors, Saville Row for tailors, the Jewellery Quarter in Birmingham. With high streets in the UK being so diverse (save for multiple Charity Shops), it is strange to find a wedding dress shop next to another wedding dress shop next to another next to another etc. In Xi’an, we walked down a street that was filled with calligraphy implements, all much the same price with each shop (to the unqualified eye) looking the same!
The night was filled with entertainment and various raffles. We didn’t win very much save for a bottle of wine, a Dulwich shopping bag, Dulwich swim bag, 2 Dulwich porcelain coffee mugs (like the take away variety) and 2 first aid kits in some goody bags. We sat on a table with Anna and Elsa. Costumes from Taobao (the internet shopping site you can buy anything on!). Other friends won nights at hotels.
We came home by taxi. Nothing unusual in that…but we did arrive by the 156 bus in the rain.
The next morning we set off for Shanghai to The Westin for the Taittenger brunch as a Mother’s Day gift to Mum. Dad also benefited! We entered the raffle there, and Martin won a free Brunch (valid from the day after) and bottle of Taittenger. The prize was used 2 weeks later to say goodbye to Mum and Dad.
Martin, today, and Eleanor tomorrow, commence the last term of this current academic year. They have just a week off for QingMing Festival/Easter. Qingming is usually the 15th day from the Spring Equinox, and for the last couple of years has coincided with Easter. Eleanor had to go to school on Good Friday, Martin didn’t. It has not felt like Easter. Maybe because we didn’t go to Church, consume vast quantities of Easter eggs or Hot Cross Buns. But we have had a lovely week off.
Qingming Jie is Tomb Sweeping Day and some burn paper gifts for the departed. It is a public holiday, and on public holidays the toll roads are free (could you imagine them doing this for the Severn Bridge or M6!)
Martin and Eleanor will get 1st May off, then Eleanor’s holiday begins on 19th June and Martin’s 26th June. I wonder what this term will hold in store for us…