Update on Life!

This term has been one for the history books. With 120 writing & Englush students, 240 homework assignments to grade each week, a curriculum to develop and various elective classes and activities to prepare, I’ve barely had time to breath. Somehow though, Dave and I have managed to have a life outside of Suhou Foreign Language School this year. Unfortunately, my blog has fallen to the wayside.

This is what 240 tests looks like. The final week of the term is always the hardest….

Still, it’s never too late to some catching up, and now that I’m on holiday for Spring festival, I have the chance!

Enjoying Suzhou

Summer is long in Suzhou and autumn is short but beautiful. Parks are always nice to visit in fall because the temperature is cooler and there doesn’t seem to be so many tourists. So, when an opportunity arose for us to take a tour of several Suzhou Parks with a Suzhou expert, we didn’t hesitate to join in the fun.

We saw two lesser known parks on this tour and learned about the art of calligraphy. I was happy to get some beautiful shots as we walked and learned

Several of Suzhou’s parks are UNESCO world heritage sights. They have their own unique architecture and style

Most of these parks were used as living spaces for wealthy Suzhou citizens in the past. Across from the pond is a beautiful tea room where the villa owners would entertain their friends and enjoy the peaceful atmosphere

Water plays an important role in these gardens. Steve, our guide, studied ancient Suzou for many years and he wrote a book about it. He does his walks and teaches both locals and foreigners alike about the history of this ancient water town

It was a beautiful afternoon. Sadly, we missed the other 2 Walks with Steve because of our busy schedule (more on that soon), but I’m sure we’ll be joining him to learn more about Suzhou’s history very soon.

We had a good crowd that day and met some great new people

Music also had me busy this fall. The Sundaze played several big shows, including a gig with Internations; a group that helps connect expats. We also played a really cool gig at a wine party, and one outdoor concert.

The Parking Park Festival is done annually (although usually with a better name). Musicians play on Moon Harbour… One of Suzhou’s main tourist stops

I’ve long been a fan of Internations and was very happy to help this particular event more successful. It was a very fun gig
Hello Wine was also a great show. It was held at one of my favourite restaurants in Suzhou: Pistachio. Excellent food and excellent people!
And they even had a photographer who managed to make me look good singing! Lol!

Those other gigs were fun, but my favourite show of the season was definitely Diwali. My involvement in one of India’s most important holidays began when I was asked to make a flyer for the event. From there, I ended up managing the wechat group, and most of the public relations. I wasn’t planning to take on those roles, but I rolled with the punches and was very proud to be part of this very successful event!

I’m particularly proud of the Flyers I made for the event!

Our performance at the Hello Wine event gave me photos to use for future events too!
My friends Kevin and Sai. Sai is the head of the Indian Association of Suzhou. She planned the more culturally significant party that was held the following day. The event I helped plan was less about Diwali and more about celebrating togetherness and culture in general
More friends! So many great people in Suzhou!

Our last gig of the year was a private event held by a group of Danish expats. It was a particularly interesting event because it was held at a cabaret in Shanghai.

I loved the feel of the venue. We had a proper light and sound guy too, which was a nice change! Proper mixing is a wonderful thing because it means way less work for the vocalist. My mic was perfect the whole night and I never had to force my voice

Beautiful spot!

Aside from performances, we’ve tried to get out and spend time with friends quite a bit these last few months. We’ve made some amazing new friends. Our social circle has expanded considerably!

Zou Guizhou continues to be a favorite hang out

As always, my best friend and I are inseparable. I love being married to someone I like so much!
I downloaded a ridiculous “beauty” app that everyone out here uses. I look ghostly in my cat costume!
Miya is leaving us again, off on a new adventure. She is my kindred spirit in so many ways

Fostering

Our apartment was nearly as full as our schedule for more than 2 months this autumn. We got word of a litter of abandoned kittens nearby, so we offered to take 2 of them in.

Love at first sight!

We called them Coco (the tabby cat) and Havana (the calico). We jokingly called them “The Monsters” because of their voracious appetites, but in all seriousness, they are two of the sweetest, most gentle kittens we’ve ever known.

Best Friends forever…

We had them longer than we had planned, mostly because the adoptions we lined up for them kept falling through for various reasons. Nevertheless, we ended up finding them a good home with a Russian couple that adore them. I miss them so much my heart hurts, but that’s what the “bitter” part is with fostering. You give them all your love, your time, your care…. And then you let them go.

Suzhou’s Animal Rescue Network

Which brings me to the last and most important part of my post. While it’s true I’ve been busy raising kittens and making music, there has been a new item on my to do list since the first week of October: Rescuing animals

And not just these monsters!

It all began when I joined a wechat group that was run by university students. The group was basically set up to help animals, and by the time I joined, it was being used to find fosters, adopters and also to fundraise for vet bills.

One of the first posters I made

One particular woman posted a lot. She had multiple puppies living in her home, all rescued from the street. I was keeping up with her posts and it seemed like every day a new litter of dogs would arrive in her tiny apartment. After a few weeks she started asking for help.

I also named each of them. I named this little lady Dobby, after the house elf from Harry Potter
This was one of the few dogs who already had a name: Curly. He was amazing because he was so protective of all the little puppies. He stole my heart in an instant
I loved this dude’s ears so I named him Radar

My biggest concern in all this was the puppies’ health. By the time I got involved, Cindy had 17 puppies, 8 cats and 5 adult dogs all living in her home (plus 7 more being boarded at the vet). More significantly, without the skills to advertise these dogs, she wasn’t finding any of them fosters or homes. Luckily, I have some skills making flyers so Dave and l went down to meet Cindy and get pictures of the 18 puppies in her home.

The first of many, many Flyers!

I started circulating flyers and seeking help for these dogs. 6 days later, the first dog came down with parvo virus…

In the end, we only lost 2 of the 23 dogs living in that house. We expected far worse, especially given that many of the dogs weren’t in perfect health even before the parvo. I circulated flyers, and made people aware of the situation. I collected donations and paid the puppies bills with the funds sent in by the generous people living in Suzhou city. It cost more than $3000 Canadian to get all the dogs healthy, but it was well worth the effort. We’ve rehomed nearly all of the dogs now, and they’re living happily with their forever families!

Domino’s name is now Snoopy. He lives with a guy who adores him. They are a match made in heaven!
Dobby became “Jira” under the care of her foster… Who eventually decided to keep her. They are the best of friends and I couldn’t be happier for Jira!!
Oreo was one of the only puppies not to come down with parvo virus. He was a strong little dude and was one of the first to be adopted. His foster was very closely involved in the adoption process and in the end it was her who found him a home!

Another dog came along during the parvo breakout. When she was found, I thought she didn’t have a chance. The woman who rescued her believed she could make it though, so I named her Hope and started circulating her story. It’s been several months now since she was found, dragging the back side of her paralyzed body… But Hope survived. She’s maintained a friendly and sweet personalty through all this, and helping her was one of the most meaningful things I’ve ever accomplished in my life.

A local “celebrity” interviewed me about Hope’s story. He’s a Danish Baker by day, but his side job is Vlogging. He makes videos about different ways people can find happiness in life. Helping animals is what brings me happiness.

Now, I’m running the group started by those kind hearted university students. We have about 300 members now and it takes 3 of us to manage the group because it’s not an easy job. I try very hard to keep it positive and about the animals. So often, people have different ideas about the best ways to fundraise and I try very hard to focus on successes and the things people CAN do.

Can I save every dog in the world? Of course not, but I helped find more than a dozen homeless animals forever homes in the last 3 months.

Curly was also adopted by his foster, a wonderful Canadian expat!

Can I stop every case of animal cruelty in the world? It would be impossible. But I helped save Hope.

Can I change everyone’s opinions about China and it’s attitudes towards animals? Nope. But I can work together with all the wonderful locals who DO care and very much want to see change in their country.

I am still helping make flyers whenever I can, although it’s been tough to keep up the last few weeks

I’ve had a few good cries over all these dogs and all the ugliness I’ve seen. But something wonderful and unexpected has started happening through all this. As someone who is quite active in the expat community (The Foodies Groups, The Sundaze, Internations etc.), I have a voice here in Suzhou. And at some point in the last few months, I’ve become the person people call when there are dogs found freezing in the rain.

I got a call from a friend of a friend who had found this dog, abandoned in the freezing rain a few months ago. We named her Cinnamon. She was terrified and very nervous with people
When it became clear no one was coming back for her, I got together a team of people to help. 1 person paid the vet bills. 1 person went and got the dog and brought it to the vet to be checked for health. 2 people visited Cinnemon daily to give her people time. Another girl made a flyer. Someone else fostered. It was truely a group effort!
Cinnemon is now part of a loving family. Her new name is Roxy and she has a long and happy life ahead of her!!

And I tell ya, each time I get a new contact and someone says “hey, Marie. I heard that you’re the person to contact about abandoned animals. Can you help?” And I can actually help….. It’s a pretty darn purposeful way to spend my time.

So, that’s why you haven’t been hearing as much from me as of late. But get ready, because I’m on holiday in Europe and will be doing my daily posts!

We’re currently waiting for our flight to Madrid!

If you or anyone you know is interested in helping Suzhou’s abandoned and needy animals, please add me to wechat! Whether you want to adopt, foster or donate, every bit of help we recieve is crucial and appreciated!!!

My wechat ID is Marie-Willman

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