Hello Mr Blue Sky 9th August 2014

Said me not yet. We haven’t yet succumbed to wearing face masks that my lovely colleagues at Battens gave me, but the pollution is noticeable by the lack of blue sky. Grey is the colour of the sky during the day, but the moon is visible at night. There is no definition in the sky, no shape of clouds – someone once described it as a Tupperware lid. 

On Friday afternoon we did our first touristy thing of going round on a fairly large Ferris wheel situated by the lake. The lake is green/brown in colour, the sky grey. What is lovely though about the city is that it is landscaped with tree lined streets. Ponds have lilies on them too. There are parks and many sculptures in those parks or they, alongside the trees are lining the broad streets. We haven’t done much walking as the heat is stifling, though with getting in taxis or being taken to see apartments we feel that we are getting our bearings. We know now that in Suzhou with any building development that happens there needs to be designated green space. 

Today we even managed the green line on the metro. Ok so there are only 2 lines. Red and Green. Now there are 3 lines –line number 4 which is blue. We bought our tickets and got on and off at the correct stations, it is air conditioned and clean. More applause please – independent travel we can now do! This is a feat as some of my friends 4 years on have never been on the metro as they have drivers through their husband’s work or the metro isn’t close to them, as a the moment the line doesn’t go south of the lake.

After our medical school on Thursday we went to see Martin’s school which is at the moment attached to Suzhou High School in downtown old Suzhou. The grounds have a pond with a pergola in the middle of it. In the UK it would probably be used as an illicit smoking area! Since Dulwich International High School moved into its new building next to Dulwich College, the staff who were at this original campus still talk of its beauty. Eleanor’s school is being tackled on Tuesday for uniform, with an induction day on Friday. 

So how are we settling in? Martin and I are of course missing people and things, but we are fine. This is an adventure and we have thrown ourselves into it. Martin has a Chinese SIM, I will get a new mobile and SIM tomorrow, and once we have moved into our apartment at The Living Bank (name of our compound) it will become easier as we are still living out of suitcases. 

Eleanor is of course a different kettle of fish. She has had a couple of Chinese meals, a few Italian meals and a KFC (!). Our first meal was at a place called Casa Zoe, a place were we frequent still quite a lot and they are a chain so we don’t have to go as far as the one we went to first. We are making a list of things we like and she likes and hopefully once we have tackled the supermarket things will get easier. She will also be in a routine fairly quickly with school starting on the 18th. She is missing her friends which worsens when she is tired/hungry and hot. 

Eleanor is adamantly using chopsticks which is great (even when there are knives and forks), she is choosing squat toilets over western toilets and is dining out on corn on the cob, watermelon and hard boiled eggs for breakfast. martin and I are feasting on chow mein, dumplings and egg fried rice. 

Today we were taken to a place called Uncles on the top floor of the supermarket. Thankfully we were taken by a colleague of Martin’s and his family who are fluent in Chinese. Thankfully – because the menu was all in Chinese with no pictures. We would not have coped on our own. Barbecued fish, pineapple rice and coated nuts proved a hit with Eleanor – as did the waffle and ice cream. Now we go to a restaurant that is called Grandmas, and use an APP that translates the characters for us. Even wechat, a social media app can now translate. This is new for the summer of 2018! 

Tonight is the last night where we are all in one room. Since 27th JUne we have either been in a tent altogether, staying at Claire’s in one room or in a hotel room. We can’t wait for our own space! Eleanor in particular can’t wait to sleep in a bunk bed in her own room.