Thursday, October 16, 2008

More on China

This is a brief decription of the first couple of days in China written by my daughter Becky who is with Mary Ellen visiting Jeff, my grandson.


Met Jeff for breakfast at His buffet in his hotel/dorm. Buffet was all you can eat rice in every size and shape, rice ball with pok, rice with bean paste, rice water soup, small square rice patties flavored with soy sauce – yum! Also had boiled eggs and dough balls with shrimp or paste – literally raw dough balls.

Jeff's room is nice, decent size and he claims he has maid service. No telling when she was last there. We met 2 of his classmates: Jamie and Drew. Jamie plays BB for Kenyon and is from 5th Ave, NYC. Drew's family owns a vineyard in Northern CA.

Jeremy, Jeff's advisor, advised us on sightseeing and tips such as Do Not eat any vendor food even though it will look good and tasty and Do Not Tip the taxi driver. If you need to make a call just ask anyone on the street to use their cellphone and hand them 5RNB ($.70).

Campus is open and airy with lots of green. Classrooms are small cubicle like with old fashioned wooden chairs. Jamie, Drew, and Jeff were all quite concerned about Not being late for class. Tardiness is not acceptable.

Another warning from Jeremy was about crossing the street. The right of way rule is this: the bigger the vehicle the more rights it has. Pedestrians have none. Pecking order: bus, taxi, private car, motorcycle, bike, then perhaps person. Red lights are optional and horns are constant and mandatory.

After surviving our first crossing Grammy and I stopped at the concierge to get our bearings and book some tours. One hour and 5 concierges' later we were set for the next 2 ½ days. (No one here speaks Engish except for the desk girl who speaks a little.)

Our first solo adventure was Old Town. Chances are what you picture China to be: this is it! Markets, vendors, Chinese buildings, koi pond, and tea house. The streets kinda reminded me of Sienna but more touristy stuff for sale and not as clean. One street we wandered down smelled retched and served to curb our appetite for the rest of the day.

So many people here. All Chinese and Chinese tourists except for Mom and me and 2 tour groups hailing from Europe and USA.

Very few speak English here as we found out when trying to find a restaurant recommended by Jeremy. Asked 5 different people including a police officer and finally found the street and number and restaurant was gone. We got hagendaas instead.

Looking for the restaurant we really saw Old Town. Laundry hanging out most windows on poles, narrow alleys where residents were emptying chamber pots, toddler peeing off the curb into the street. Street sweepers were all women, in blue uniform, sweeping with wisk like brooms. Bikers galore; all guts, no helmets.

Anytime you go somewhere it's easiest to take a taxi. Taxi usually costs between 20 RNB and 40 RNB ($3-$6) The taxi ride to and from downtown or city center is on major freeway. Directly in front of our hotel and Jeff's hotel is a freeway complex 5 tiers tall. On either side of the freeway there are 30 – 40 storied apartment buildings as far as the eye can see.

As a respite after a big day of sightseeing I decided to find out about a massage offered at the hotel. Stopped in and the gal did not speak English but she gave me a card and said to call later. My call later was answered by another who could not speak English so I just said thank you and hung up. 15 minutes later the doorbell rang and there was a cute gal in a mini skirt and heels saying "here for massage". What the heck… After fifteen minutes of acupressure the doorbell rings again. Another gal in mini skirt and heels "here for massage" They traded places and mom and I just laughed and laughed!!

The evening we saw the Shanghai Acrobat Show at the Shanghai City Center very fance section downtown. Amazing physical feats combined with Chinese Artisty. Beyond belief. From there we walked to Nanjing – which is the time's square of Shanghai – then on to the river- the Bund- to look at the George Jetson-like financial district. 18 years ago that area was farmland now it boasts Chinese' most expensive property - $20,000 USD per square meters. The global financial building is the tallest place in the world that people can go (101 stories).


Went on ½ day city tour with an adorable guide. I regret not having a recorder as she was Caitlin to a tee. An adorable giggle after every sentence and so full of contagious joy. We saw the French Concessions – Paris architecture, Old City – 3rd world architecture, Yu an Garden – Zen-like architecture, Bund area – Jetson Style architecture.

Stopped at the Jade Buddha Temple and a tea house.

Had fun learning how silk worms feast on mulberry leaves, spin their silk cocoon into a plum pit size cocoon and then boiled to kill the larvae and brushed to tease the silk out. One cocoon has 1 kilometer of silk threads!

Have to check out the pictures to be sent later.

All for now as Jeff is off to bed.

Love you all. Miss you all and wish you were here with me.

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