November 12th

During our first year in China, we took a trip to Kunming, in Yunnan province.  There, we ate some of the best food we’d ever had.  Among the best of that food was a dish called “Across The Bridge Noodles”.

The story behind this famous dish is as follows:

There once was a poet who was working alone in a cave, quite far from his home.  His wife brought him dinner (noodles) every day, and had to walk across a long bridge to reach him.   Of course, by the time this sweet woman reached her husband every day…the noodles were cold.

Eventually she came up with an idea.  First, she got the soup piping hot.  Then she boiled some oil and put a thin layer of it over the top of the soup.  She left all the usual soup-type things on plates, separate from the bowl.

It worked!  When she arrived at the cave, the soup was so still so hot that the man was able to cook all the meat and veggies in his bowl of soup.

Dave and I found a place that makes these noodles down in LeQiao area of Suzhou.  The owner knows our order by heart.

November 11th

Some catching up to do…

In Canada, November 11th is a day for remembering the great men and women who have fought for our beautiful country.  In China, 11/11 is a shopping extravaganza, where crazy online discounts make it possible for Alibaba to make more than 1 BILLION dollars in the first 2 MINUTES of the sale.

We did a bit of shopping, but far less than the last few year.  I got a new Samsonite backpack for 300rmb ($60 Canadian), that was usually priced at over 500rmb.  Electronics are always a big deal too, so I got a new external hard drive for about 40% less than I’d normally pay.

The picture featured above is of our “hive”.  When packages are delivered, they don’t usually go to our apartment anymore.  Instead, the delivery guys drop off all our parcels in the automated box and send us a WeChat code that will open the compartment where our parcel awaits.  It’s a pretty slick system and it definitely makes our lives more convenient.

China is so organized…in some ways…

And then there’s this…. Delivery men, organizing parcels on the sidewalk going up to our building

November 9th

Work’s been pretty hectic lately, and when you add in gym time, band time and friends time, there isn’t a lot of time left for writing. . This is why I’ve been writing a lot of these posts on the Metro.

Suzhou is the first city I’ve ever lived in that has a subway system.  With 8 million people living here, I can’t imagine what traffic would be like without it.  Twice a day, I travel 35 minutes across the city to and from SND.  Taking a taxi the same distance costs 15x as much and can take twice as long.

This train isn’t actually too terribly crowded. Compared to the Shanghai system… It’s darn near roomy!!!

The Metro can be a bit of a mixed bag.  For the most part, it’s fine.  I’ve only caught a handful of people spitting on the train and smoking is forbidden (thank goodness!!).  Over all is a really handy way to get around.

Of course, personal space here is a luxury.  When you ride the Metro, you can expect to listen to several Chinese soap operas along the way.  (I’m listening to one now.  I kid you not.). Of course, it’s not playing on the advertisement TV, or on my phone… It’s playing on someone else’s phone…

The Guilty Culprit

I’m not sure if people just don’t care enough to use ear buds, or if they think they’re somehow bad for their ears… But everywhere you go in China, you’ll have to listen to whatever your neighbour is watching or listening to.  I wonder if a could get away with blasting Linkin Park the way they blast Chinese opera…

A few weeks ago I told off a group of middle school kids for being rowdy (I received applause from the many Chinese grandparents they’d been terrorizing).  That was a good day for me…a bad day for those shocked teenagers.  I was particularly proud of being able to tell them off in Chinese.

November 8th

Family Mart is to China what 7-11 is to North Americans.  It’s always open… It has everything… It even has things it shouldn’t.

Pictured above is some sort of Chinese fast food snack.  I don’t know what it is, because I swear I can hear it screaming “eat me if you want Salmonella!”.  I’ve never tried it.  I never plan to.  

Family Mart is full of questionable pre-prepared food.  Some of it actually looks pretty good.  If only I had some sort of idea how long is been sitting under those heat lamps…

Of course, China’s premier convenience store provides far more than just food poisoning.  You can also purchase everything you would normally be able to get at a 7-11, like batteries, snacks, tissue, 10 year old Havana Club rum….

All joking aside, this place is a life saver.  Most Metro stops have at least 1 location, and you always know you can get the essentials there.  

Family Mart is so ubiquitous in China, that when you explain to children that it doesn’t exist in Canada, they panic a little because they have no idea where they’ll get all the “stuff” they need.  

It’s a great resource… Though I fear I’ll never be able to get its little Jingle out of my head….

November 7th

A Typical Tuesday

  • I start my day at 7:30am, so I can be at work for around 9:30
  • From 9:30 – 12:00, I work on the IG English curriculum.  This way, when I leave Suzhou, the work I’ve put into building the English program won’t go to waste. 
  • Lunch is from 12:00 – 1:20.  It’s a long lunch break and most of my Chinese peers spend the time napping or resting. I use the time to prep my afternoon classes.
  • 1:20 – 4:35 is spent teaching.  I don’t have any morning classes on Tuesday, which is really nice.  It makes for a busy afternoon, but that’s when I’m at my best… So I’m glad my classes are scheduled for then. 
  • From 4:35 – 7:00, I spend my time tidying up my desk, traveling back to SIP and eating dinner with Dave.
  • From 7:00 – 9:30, I try and catch up on grading.  This week alone, I have roughly 100 summaries to check for grammar, spelling, vocabulary, content and format.  Each summary takes between 4-8 minutes to grade. 
  • 9:30 -10:30 is excercise time.  On weeks when I’m really busy I like to walk after I’m done grading. Sometimes I do yoga instead, or calisthenics if I happen to have energy left from the rest of the day. 
  • 10:30 – 11:30 is time to wind down.  Lately I’ve been watching Criminal Minds and Scrubs.  Been going old-school.  
  • 11:30 is time for bed. 

That’s a Typical Tuesday for this Teacher.

November 6th

I saw this sign on my way back from lunch this week.  In Chinese culture, schools are often compared to gardens.  Unfortunately, it’s a bit over done and these flowery poems don’t always translate well into English.

During my first year at Suzhou Foreign Language School, I was asked to help translate a message from the new principal.  It was a several-step process.  First, I needed someone to translate the Chinese into English for me.  From there, I had to turn the flowery (and mostly nonsensical) message into something that would translate to an English reader.  

It took my boss and I the better part of an afternoon to translate that single paragraph.  In the end, we had to choose between changing some of the principal’s meaning or being grammatically correct.

Language is unbelievably complicated.  

I’ve recently been encouraging my grade 9 students to do more translating.  I’ve learned in my time in China that translating words is such a small part of the job…. You also need to properly translate the syntax, metaphors and tone of the language. 

I’m usually quite proud of the Chinese I know, but when it comes to stuff like this I feel that learning Mandarin is an uphill battle I’ll probably never actually win.  

Chrome Translate doesn’t always do so well on the Tao Bao site. Case and point: “Items” translates to “baby”.

November 5th

246 days ago, I began taking better care of myself.  I’ve lost around 20 pounds since then, but I’ve gained a lot more.  I sleep better, my mood has improved and I’ve become much more calm in the face of stress.  I am also more confident than I’ve been in years.

But it hasn’t all been roses.

I have a love / hate relationship with the gym.  Gyms in China are different from the ones in Canada.  If you see someone go to the gym in Canada wearing make up and their hair done up, you probably judge them.  Here, they’re treated more like ‘selfie centers’ than fitness clubs.

I usually leave the gym with at least 1 or 2 stories that either made me laugh or fume.  Seeing women come out of the showers wearing high heel flip flops:  funny!  Wheezing and breaking out in a rash because my fellow gym-goers use the changerooms like a spa (spraying perfume everywhere they can):  not so funny.

The gloves in the picture above have been sitting on the hip abduction machine now for over a month.  Someone left them behind and none of the trainers have bothered to start up a ‘lost and found’.  They’ll probably still be there in February.

Some days, I honestly have to drag my butt down to Impulse.  It’s not always easy.

Today was a gym day.  I hopped on the eliptical machine, and 33 minutes later, I’d burned off nearly my entire Namaste lunch!

Here’s to the next 20 pounds!

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