Monday, January 19, 2009

Pre Chinese New Year

This is a great photo, able to show many things at once. First and foremost, cute Storey! On the left of the photo, two items of interest. The first is the fish hanging down to dry with the laundry! This is the time to be drying meats, fish, etc., for the New Year, which begins January 26. This is normally the coldest month, therefore the most "auspicious" time to dry foods for the new year. Pieces of meat and fish are hanging out all around Shanghai. Everyone stocks up on food for the New Year. The stores are brimming with food and people.

Also on the left you can see the new store fronts with marble columns and marble slab lintels containing the store names. These were all just added to our beautified street. Storey is standing on the new pavered sidewalk that went in this past fall, and the road was repaved, also. On that repaved road you can see a wedding limo, all decked out with flowers. Hard to see, but there is a procession of other beflowered cars following.
The Pearson's roaming the streets of Shanghai! We are headed to the Nanjing market for shirts, shoes, socks, DS games, Pokeman cards, jeans and DVD's. Great one stop shopping.
I attended a talk hosted by the American Women's Club of Shanghai yesterday that was all about Chinese New Year. This week is particularly busy as many people prepare to leave and go home for the celebration. New Year's Eve dinner together is the big event. That will be next Sunday night, January 25. Non-stop fireworks and firecrackers. The New Year's celebration lasts 15 days. Each day is significant for something. After staying up late to see the countdown and fireworks on New Year's Eve, it is important to greet the New Year, so everyone rises very early in the morning. It is a day to spend just with immediate family. The second day is for visiting and taking gifts to others. The third day, for some reason, is a day full of bickering, so to avoid that everyone stays home! The 4th day is the day of travel, and this is when the more affluent families head out of town or country. Day 5 is the business people's day to pray to the business gods. Great fireworks are on the eve of the 5th to attract the business god's attention, and then the 5th day is filled with prays in the temples and fireworks, crackers. The 7th day is the celebration of everyone's birthday for that year. This is the year of the ox. The zodiac rotation is every 12 years. We were warned that if someone asks you what zodiac sign you were born in, they are really figuring out how old you are! The last day, the 15th day, is the Lantern Festival. You must wear bright clothes - no black or white which denote death. If it happens to be your zodiac year, you should wear everything red - underwear, socks, clothes. The year of the Ox is Paige's year, but so far she is not going along with the idea of all red!

It is also called Spring Festival as this was originally an agrarian festival (weren't they all?) celebrating the coming of spring and good harvests. It is a very important family time and they gather and make jiao zi (dumplings) together. As everything has double meaning here, they eat jiao zi because they look like gold ingots which means prosperity for the new year. The Chinese use the lunar calendar which is 360 days long, 30 days in each month, therefore the New Year changes every year. It will be mid-February next year.

Shanghai is filled with migrant workers, and as there are only so many trains available they will not all be able to make it home. Train tickets can only be purchased so many days in advance and the papers have already mentioned that most all the trains are full. Construction workers live on the job site (as seen in past photos) sleeping on tables or cots, and the laoban, boss, buys their food. They get paid once a year, right now, before the New Year. That is why they go home. To take the money to their family so they can live for the next year. They make about 500 RMB a month - $73.50. Everyone keeps warning of pickpockets this time of year as workers prepare to go home with as much as they can. There is a police officer on each train car, and they come around and chop each train ticket with their name and cell phone number in case they have something stolen and they can contact him immediately. Many of these train rides can last for over 2 days. There are more street hawkers, trying to make last minute money and jammed streets. Impossible to get taxi's. It took us about an hour to get home from picking the girls up at school last night. Next week it will be eerily quiet as everyone will be gone (including us!). We head to Hong Kong on Saturday to experience a little warmth and the New Year there. It should be A LOT quieter from what I have heard. We won't be missing out on it altogether, though, since it lasts 15 days!
More later.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Back in Shanghai

Back in Shanghai, I got a lunch in with my friend Julie and her daughter Cortney who was making a stop before heading off to Thailand for 4 months on a Colgate college trip. Din Tai Feng, one of our favorite dumpling spots at Xintiandi. It was a beautiful day and I biked over. Julie had brought us goodies back from America: maple syrup - liquid gold around here, Speedo goggles for Storey, tights from Target, all kinds of treats! So good to have her back. Cortney is a beautiful, fun girl like her mom. As Ridley said, "That was a long lunch!" OK. I think this will actually be the last of the lane renovation photos! Here is was before we left for Harbin. Pavers were actually being laid.
Upon our return, the women were dancing in the lane! American 50's music blaring in the lane, these women are practicing line dancing every afternoon while the community room is finishing up its beautification.
There was reason to dance in the street. Here is our new lane. . .
Our front door.
Corrugated formed concrete pavers with concrete and rock drainage areas. It is really lovely.
The potted plants have made their way back out, adding beauty to the rebeautified lane!

The cars will probably arrive soon. Yellow lines indicating parking spaces have been added.
The master planter, our neighbor who does all the potted plants around, had this area made with soil for a lovely corner.
Before heading back to school, the girls and I headed to a club around the corner and paid a very hefty price for an afternoon at the pool. Paige and I did Storey's warm up work out with her. Oh my. It took an hour, and Storey absolutely blew us away on every event. Back in school, she just swam 1850 meters for her Friday swim practice!
The pool was constantly busy with people swimming laps. There were signs all around for no spitting, and buckets were placed at the end of the lanes for spitting, if required! The life guard came and went - mostly gone - into his adjacent room for smoking breaks. The smoke wafted into the pool area. Mmmm. Chlorine, smoke - great pool smells. We took long showers, a sauna, trying to get all we could from our afternoon at the club.
A Changle Lu streeet scene taken from a taxi window. I was taking Paige to an event at school, and this traveling BBQ stand was set up just a block from our house. The raw meat is sitting right next to the BBQ, and the chopping block is next to that - in front of the men enjoying the skewers. A fun sight.
Friday night traffic on Changle Lu is bumper to bumper for blocks. We got to enjoy this scene for awhile! Of course Paige was mortified by my picture taking out the window. The taxi driver got a good laugh out of it.
Paige had her last x-ray for the confirmation that she is perfect, and while waiting for the doctor, we looked out onto stunning Shanghai. We never stop marveling that we are here.
The intersection below. It actually seems tame from up here. Paige and I rode our bikes here. The streets seemed a little trickier to negotiate when we were down there in the midst!
Caught up with vacation! We have one more week of school and then off to Hong Kong on Saturday for Chinese New Year. We are hoping to avoid some of the noise we have heard goes on for the entire week of New Year celebration here. We'll see.

Harbin - Final event

Our last night in Harbin and we are going into the most spectacular event yet: The10thHarbinIceAndSnowWorld - as the sign over the entry indicates!

It is one of our coldest evenings. We had our wonderful taxi man pick us up at 4:30 at the hotel - you can see that it is full on night by that time. He arrived with his Mei Mei, little sister. She squeezed into the back seat with us. When we arrived we discovered that he brought her along to get us into the park for 10 RMB less per person. She is a tour guide, and was able to get us in with another group. She ended up sitting in the car with the driver while we were in the park just for the 5 minutes it took to get us in for a total of 40 RMB less = $5.88.
This is the Ice World. It was like walking into a city.

The almost full moon hovering over an ice castle.
A snow carved sled around which people were "ice skating". Again, it mystifies me how they can spend one moment of extra time outdoors doing this. We walked around the park pretty quickly to avoid total frost. Although we did manage a few slides down one of the ice castles.

This particular building changed colors constantly. Red, blue, green, purple.

The girls on a giant chess board.
It was a little difficult to move the pieces to play!
A snow version on the Olympic Bird's Nest.
The ever elusive Ridley showed his face for a moment.

A most incredible snow Buddha. There were cushions for prayers and incense in front of this lovely - all being used.
The ice temples and incense around the Buddha.
Storey with the real deal. Probably the only truly warm person in the place.
Big Ben.
The exit. I think we did this monstrous park in about an hour. It was great to see, and with Storey having made the excursion in her padded crocs (we didn't notice this before leaving) we decided to leave while she professed her toes to still be warm.
Our taxi driver took us a BBQ place for dinner. While waiting in line to get in, I had my nails filed! A free service for those who chose to indulge.
This was a huge restaurant, a wild west kind of experience. These "cowboys" would come with huge skewers of various meats to your table and carve off a bit onto each plate. They marked off what they brought on a sheet. I think over 16 kinds of meat in all. There were salad, drink, hot dish and dessert buffets stationed around the restaurant. It was non-stop eating for 38 RMB each = $5.50. There were a lot of Russians there and one boy kept coming up to Paige and saying, "Hi, I am from Russia."
A great ending to our time in Harbin. We were back to our hotel to pack for our early morning flight out. Back to balmy Shanghai!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Siberian Tiger Park - Harbin Day 3

The official logo, located on the back of my bus seat, for the tiger park! Yes, they are cute and cuddly!We saw a lot of tigers roaming in different enclosed areas. The pictures are taken from very fogged up windows with no zoom. Sorry. You can click on any picture in this group to see it on a larger scale.
The tigers are really beautiful and huge. I was really taken by their size.

We were in this lion pen when the feeding truck came. Paige said there were live chickens on top of the car. I didn't see the chickens, only the lions jumping on top of the car. It was a spectacle.
One particular lion was not at all interested in getting off the car. This was his get-away moment. He was there for quite awhile. The driver finally backed up and started roaring off in another direction. The lion finally jumped off.

At the end of the van trip we walked through areas with caged animals. Very sad seeing these large animals in these small pens pacing. White tiger.
Leopard curled up in the corner. So cold.
Some experimental breeding going on. This guy had spots on his head, stripes on his body and a very strange tail.
This goes out to all the Principians. A panther!
King of the Jungle.
The girls and I left Ridley back at the hotel working for this excursion. The front desk of the hotel called a cab to take us, wait and bring us back. He was so wonderful. He dropped us 2 feet from the ticket booth (too cold to walk further!) parked and came running to lead us where we needed to go. It would have been a little tricky to find out on our own. He got us to our bus first so we could choose the best seats. He was lovely. We went back to the hotel, picked up Ridley, and we asked him to take us to a good restaurant. A delicious dumpling joint. We booked him again for the evening to take us to the huge Harbin Ice World.