Snowy Suzhou

Suzhou doesn’t get a lot of snow.  In fact, it only snows here every 5 years or so; and it rarely sticks around.

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We get enough to make an itty bitty snowlady every once in a while (credit: someone in my office…I’m not sure who)

Fortunately for me, this year was one of those ‘off’ years, where Mother Nature bestowed some of the white stuff upon this beautiful city.

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Quite a bit of the white stuff, actually (credit: my dear husband…my hands were too cold and I didn’t want to take my phone out!)

When people aren’t used to snow, it can be quite an ordeal!  We saw one accident on our 5 minute walk home, and I can’t imagine how many delivery men wiped out on their e-bikes today!  Imagine a late spring storm…with people who have never driven on ice before!

I’ve lived in Suzhou now for nearly 3 years, and although I’ve had my challenges here, I really do love this city.  Many of the gardens here are UNESCO World Heritage Sites and are considered to be some of the most beautiful gardens in China.  We often spend afternoons walking through them because even the smaller ones are a nice break from the hustle and bustle of Suzhou.  I’m always amazed at how quiet the gardens here are…especially when I consider the 8 million + people that live here!

 

Unfortunately for me, I never had a chance to bring my camera to any of Suzhou’s gardens today.  Plenty of others did though, so I’ve collected some of my favourite photos from the day and compiled them so you can see what a lovely city we chose to call home.  I can’t actually credit anyone specifically…China isn’t big on copyrighting things, so I’ll just say now that none of these pictures are mine….

 

November 29th

Behold, China’s greatest secret:  How to fit far too many cars into virtually no space at all.

I took this at the end of our walk last night, and my biggest regret was that I hadn’t captured the much worse version of this parking job that we’d seen the night before.  You see, there isn’t nearly enough parking available in China, so people just sort of park wherever they can.  Some of the most impressive parking jobs I’ve seen:

  • Parking in front of other cars (as seen above)
  • Parking on the side walk (sidewalks are difficult to walk on because of all the cars…)
  • Parking in the middle of an intersection (so that your car becomes an extension of the median)
  • Parking on the ramp of a parkade

I don’t know if we’ve ever eaten a meal at the restaurant behind our building without the waiting staff coming in at LEAST once to ask if we had driven there, because somebody was boxed in, and they needed a car moved.

This is reason #211 why I have no desire to drive in China.

November 28th

This is the little side street that runs behind our building.  There are plenty of little restaurants down this road, as well as a couple of hotels and Euromart.  It’s a popular area for people to eat, and get a few drinks.

This also happens to be the little road that Dave and I were driving past when we were hit by an e-bike.

Our bike was ok, and Dave was uninjured, but the guy drove directly into my shin.  I suppose I was lucky that my leg didn’t break, but that’s not to say the injury wasn’t severe.  Even now, a year and a half later, I have bruising, and I’m a bit afraid that the nerve damage will never fully go away.

I call this intersection “Shattered Shin Pass”.  My shin may not have actually shattered, but my love for late-night e-bike rides surely did.

November 24th

If Poe is Pretty & Poised, Hugo is Dashing & Derpy.  With a missing leg, a slightly cleft pallet and stinkier-than-death breath, this boy stole my heart within 3 seconds of me walking into the SSAPA shelter. We walked in and he marched (limped) over to me for pets.  He chose me.

I have never met a more pathetically needy cat in my life.  If he could spend every second of the day in my lap, he would.

But he gives as much as he takes.  If either Dave or I are feeling stressed or sick, Hugo is right there, cuddling, purring and head bumping us until we smile.

He is pure love.

November 22nd

I work at a huge foreign language school in Suzhou.  We have 3 separate middle schools alone (I work in 2 of them).  In reality, we’re sort of a dozen or so schools all kind of crammed into one campus.  

Each department runs a bit differently.  Classes begin at 7:40am school-wide, but each department ends at a slightly different time.  In kindergarten, they are finished at 4:30, but my students don’t finish their school day until around 7:30pm.  (Yeah… Let that sink in).

This means more than 3000 thousand students are leaving the school daily, in shifts, beginning at 4:30 and going all the way up to around 8pm.  This is fantastic for street vendors, looking to hock their goods.  

There is almost always a guy selling flowers outside the school gates.  Not sure why, but he must sell enough of them because he’s always there. 

There are also the kind of vendors you’d expect outside of a school: guys selling candied fruit and other snacks.  The kids see it and beg their parents for a treat.  It makes for easy sales.

Occasionally, I see pet vendors there.  They sell rabbits, birds and other small animals.  That really bothers me.  Luckily, I’ve never actually seen them make a sale, and they don’t come around often, so I don’t think they’re very successful. 

Today, I noticed a new vendor.  He was selling candied dates on skewers.  It’s a popular snack and we see people selling them off the back of ebikes all the time.  But this guy was doing it in style…

My camera didn’t quite pick up the colour properly, but his goods were all lit up with colourful and flashing lights.  It was definitely eye-catching.  I thought it was a pretty brilliant way to attract customers and to hopefully get an extra sale or two.  

November 14th

Dave and I have been taking a lot of walks lately.  We’ve both been working a tonne (as we tend to do), and taking a walk at night allows us to catch up.  I think that’s important.

On those walks, we talk about our days and we discuss the news and what’s blowing up on social media.  Sometimes I take pictures of ridiculous or interesting things I see.

The funny thing about my feature picture today is that I took it because of the “Honey Babe” sign, but when I looked at the photo a few days later, I noticed so much more.

The photo is from right outside Euromart.  I take money out at the little red ATM booth in the middle of the photo.  I’ve bought noodles from the little restaurant on the left (they weren’t very good).  I’ve walked across that square at least a hundred times and I never noticed how pretty it is at night.

Also, there’s a sign for a bar named “Honey Babe”.  That’s pretty funny too.

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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