Tuesday, August 29, 2006

grannies and baby carriages

I think that almost every grandmother in my area has an old baby carriage to push around. Usually with a brick to weigh it down. I haven't really seen much along the lines of a normal walker here. The little grannies push around their carriages and collect cardboard and newspapers from the recycle piles. Then they stack them neatly. I'm not sure what they do after that. Maybe someone then picks them up to take them to the recycling depot. And they all know each other. Walking down the road, I sometimes see a couple of them walking together... sort of. I think it is almost a competition to see who can get the most cardboard piled up on their buggy. When they see another one down a side street they always call out to them. I often see on little granny pushing a pile of newspapers that is almost a third higher than she is (tied together). She keeps peeking around it to make sure she isn't going to run into anything as she pushes it along. When ever I see her I am worried that the whole stack is going to just topple over. She doesn't seem to worry much about it.
A lot of grannies also sell produce and such on the street corners. I often see them with a little pile of lettuce and a few other things. In some places you can see them selling some sort of root. In others they are selling grains/beans to add to your rice when you cook it. It is always small scale, what ever they are selling. Maybe from a private little garden? I also sometimes see them wandering along the parks digging up certain little plants. I'm not sure what it is they are picking, or why. To add to their salads? To sell on the corner?
The elderly in Korea seem to make up a lot of the work force in terms of the grunt jobs... cleaning. In a lot of the buildings, old women are the ones that do the cleaning. It is usually old men that are cleaning the streets. Maybe it makes them feel useful. Or maybe they are still trying to help support their families, whether it is needed or not. Or maybe no one else wants to do those jobs. Who knows.

women in Islam

Canadian woman to head major Muslim group

Sunday, August 27, 2006


Would you go to the ends of the Earth to preserve your relationships with the important people in your life? If so, the ancient Egyptian goddess, Isis, may be the source of your inner strength and perseverance.
Isis, whose sphere of influence includes romantic and maternal love, is known for her commitment to her husband, Osiris, and her son, Horus. According to Egyptian mythology, after Osiris was killed by his brother, Isis gathered the severed pieces of his body and brought him back to life long enough to conceive Horus. Her phoenix wings represent her power to resurrect the dead.
You probably don't bring things (or people) back to life, but you might credit Isis for your steadfast nature and ability to smooth over disagreements. With Isis on your side, you may be considered a generous person who is willing to use her power to help others attain happiness.
Learn more about Isis.
[results from quiz taken at gURL.com]


Blue just happens to be my favorite color. :D

gURL.comI took the "The Color Personality" quiz on gURL.com
My personality is...

You're a cool and collected blue... According to color psychology, you're the very picture of serenity. You're probably great at keeping calm and clear-headed when others are freaking out... Read more...

What color is your personality?


Today I went rafting for the first time. I went with 5 of my friends from work. It was so much fun!
I was so tired, this morning, though. I'm not used to getting up that early.
The bus ride there was a few hours. Then we got our life jackets, helmets and paddles and headed down to the rafts. We had a group of 4 join us, as the rafts seated 10 people (plus the guide guy, of course). We had a little bit of instruction as to the commands and what to do. Since I was a weigook (foreigner), the guide decided to do the commands in English: "Let's Go" for paddle forwards, "Let's Go Back" for paddle backwards, "STOP" for stop.
I think our rafting group was the most interesting. Lots of jokes being told and such. At one point, my friends broke out into some song and we were bouncing down a slow part of the river to that. We also stopped at one point to jump off of a huge boulder into the river. That's always fun. We got to go for a little swim at another slow part. One of the girls from the group of four ended up floating past our raft, so we had to all jump in and paddle to catch up to her. It wasn't in a dangerous part, so it wasn't a problem. At the end of the rapids, we caught a smaller bus back to where our bus, and the facilities are. While we were waiting for that, another raft that was going through the last part of the rapids, a fairly strong part, ended up tipping over. I'm not sure if they got the oars back, as the disappeared fairly quickly down the river. No one appeared to be hurt, thankfully.
Unfortunately, I don't have any pictures of me on the raft, as it isn't exactly a safe place for a camera. This picture is near the beginning of the rapids, below where we had lunch. The river did get wider and bigger in other parts.Back at the buses, we got cleaned up and had a nice little lunch above the river.

On the bus ride home, my friends all wanted English nicknames. It is easy to name kids as it doesn't really matter, usually. But giving English nicknames to friends takes a bit more thought. After a while, though, I did manage to come up with names that I thought suited them, and that they all liked. Clockwise: Karen, Deanna, Angela (she kind of picked her own name... saying we should call her Angel... which was what started the whole English nickname thing), Me, Shannon, Melanie.

The bus ride back home took A LOT longer than the ride there. That seems to be normal for Korea. A little bit more traffic can mean a HUGE difference in travel time (add an hour or two, or more, depending on how much traffic).

We all had Dalk-kalbi for dinner: a spicy chicken and cabbage dish, cooked in the middle of the table. VERY yummy. Shannon's boyfriend met up with us when we got back and he paid for our dinner. Very nice.


From the front of a student's notebook for practicing writing English:

Thursday, August 24, 2006


The other day I was on my way to Itaewon to visit the chiropractor. I got off the bus to transfer to the subway. It is a little bit of a walk down and then around the corner. As I was walking along, I noticed that the sidewalk was covered in little furry caterpillars... white hairs. I thought nothing of it until I heard shrieking behind me. Then a shrieking girl went running past me. Well, she wasn't really running. It made me think of someone realizing they were standing in an ant hill and had ants going up their legs, with the sounds to go along with it. It amused me, anyway. She carried on like that all the way to the corner, where the trees (and the caterpillared part of the sidewalk) ended. And the whole way, she had her cellphone to her ear. I can't imagine what the person on the other end of the line was thinking.

Monday, August 21, 2006


After work today, I went to the Kyobo Bookstore near Jamsil Station. I had to pick out some books for a couple of my classes at LCC. When I finished, I decided to walk home. It is a bit of a walk, but nothing to strenuous, taking just under an hour. This is a little stream that I had to cross.The two large white buildings on the right are the Asan Hospital. Beyond that is the Olympic expressway along the Han river. On the left, the construction has been going on for quite a while. You can see those same cranes in the pics on the post of when I went to the Olympic Park in April.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Some Arab Humor

Abul 3abed goes to war found on The Arabist

Olmert was sitting in his office wondering how to invade Lebanon when his telephone rang.
“Hallo, Mr. Olmert!” a heavily accented voice said. “This is Abul Abed, down at the tea house in Beirut! I am callin` to tell ya dat we are officially declaring war on you, yes you!”
“Well” Olmert replied, “This is indeed important news! How big is your army?”
“Right now,” said Abul Abed, after a moments calculation “there is myself, my cousin Mustafa, me next-door-neighbor Abou khaled, and the whole team from the tea house. That makes eight!”
Olmert paused. “I must tell you Abul Abed, that I have one million men in my army waiting to move on my command.”
“Holy jeez,” said Abul Abed. “I`ll have to call ya back!”
Sure enough, the next day, Abul Abed called again. “Mr. Olmert, the war is still on! We have managed to acquire some infantry equipment!”
“And what equipment would that be Abul Abed?”, Olmert asked. “Well sir, we have two Mercedes 180, and a truck.”
Olmert sighed. “I must tell you Abul Abed, that I have 16,000 tanks and 14,000 armoured personnel carriers. Also I`ve increased my army to one and a half million since we last spoke.”
“Ya lateef“, said A Abul Abed, “I`ll be getting back to ya.”
Sure enough, Abul Abed rang again the next day. “Mr. Olmert , the war is still on! We have managed to get ourselves airborne! We modified a helicopter with a couple of shotguns in the cockpit, and four more neighbors have joined us as well!”
Olmert was silent for a minute then cleared his throat. “I must tell you Abul Abed that I have 10,000 bombers and 20,000 fighter planes. My military complex is surrounded by laser-guided, surface-to-air missile sites. And since we last spoke, I`ve increased my army to TWO MILLION!”
“Lah lah lah lah,” said Abul Abed, “I`ll have to call you back.”
Sure enough, Abul Abed called again the next day. “Mr. Olmert I am sorry to have to tell you dat we have had to call off this war.”
“I`m sorry to hear that” said Olmert. “Why the sudden change of heart?”
“Ya khayi, ” said Abul Abed, “we`ve all sat ourselves down and had a long chat, and come to realize that there is no way we can feed two million prisoners.”

Mapping Happiness

a bit more than just a prank if you ask me!!!

Guys Pranked While Relaxing in Sauna
sooooooooooooooooooo funny... but...
jaw dropping!!! I couldn't imagine.

Friday, August 18, 2006


Argh!!! I keep finding these stupid little ants everywhere. EVERYWHERE!!! They are even on my computer desk. The other day I was sitting here typing away and noticed one going up my arm. ugh. I have no idea where they are coming in, as I can't find any place. I have watched the window and the door, but there are never any there. Just in misc. places all over. I don't see them in my kitchen, either, which would be where I would think they would be... as I don't always wash my dishes right away. In my kitchen it is little flies that I see. Also, there are always one or two ants around Tokki's cage. I can squish them... then a few minutes later, there are a couple more. I have no idea where they are coming from. They are sooooooooooooo annoying!!!
I have seen the odd one in my bedroom, too. Sometimes, if I kill a fly or what ever, and don't pick it up, when I go back later, there is a little writhing mass of ants on it, with many wandering around aimlessly. One day there was a huge mass of ants under my bed on some unknown thing. Ugh. I squished them all and vacuumed under my bed, and spent a while sitting watching to see if more ants would appear. I didn't sleep well that night.
I have little Raid bait thingys stuck everywhere, but they don't seem to be doing their job.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

JinMao Tower... the Hyatt Hotel's Atrium.

Looking down:

Looking up:

the Jin Mao Tower in Shanghai

I mentioned the JinMao tower in Shanghai Day 1, and will get back to it in Shanghai Day 6 when I get to it.
The JinMao Tower is the 5th tallest building in the world (actually the 4th height as the Petronas Towers are identical, and so tied at 2nd). From Forbes.com:

The buildings observatory and highest floor is the 88th.
The Grand Hyatt Hotel is from the 54th to the 87th floor. It is the world's highest hotel above ground level. The Hotel has the tallest atrium in the world, going 33 floors up. I didn't particularly appreciate the view down the atrium from the 88th floor (being that I'm afraid of heights and you have to lean over to see down the atrium). Looking up from the bar on the 55th floor wasn't so bad. It also supposedly has the world's longest laundry chute, at 420 vertical meters (Lonely Planet Guide)
There are 61 elevators in the building. Thinking about it, I can understand the need. For example, there are 2 elevators from the ground floor to the hotel lobby on the 54th floor. From there, you have the hotel elevators, and the 2 elevators to the 3 floors of restaurants. There are also the 2 elevators to the 88th floor. Every bunch of floors must have elevators to the group and then elevators within that set of floors. I couldn't imagine the entire building relying on one set of elevators. That would be a very long wait!!
The top of the tower is supposed to be able to sway up to 75 centimeters in case of a storm!!!! I could not imagine how that would feel to be standing on the 88th floor when that happens. Ugh.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

A day at the pool. :)

Yesterday I got up early to meet a few of my friends from work. We went to the Tower Hotel swimming pool. We went early in order to get a good place to sit, and to avoid lines. We were there by around 9am. The Tower Hotel is down the 'mountain' a bit from Seoul/Namsan Tower.
The pool is basically just a big outside swimming pool with no deep end. I think it is all the same depth, about neck deep for me. There is a kiddy pool to one side. Entry was 28000 won.

It seems a bit strange to me, the way they do things here in Korea. First of all, to get into any swimming pool, you have to wear a swimming cap. It is supposed to help keep the filters clean. I went to Lotte Mart the night before to get one. I guess it isn't so bad. I only had to spend around $3. They give me a headache, though. I don't like things that are tight around my head. I never could wear headbands. The other thing I found strange was that every 30 minutes/hour, the lifeguards blew their whistles 3 times and everyone had to get out of the pool. Then after 5/10 minutes, everyone could get back in. What is the point of that? Then at just after 1:00, everyone had to get out and couldn't get back in for over 30 minutes or so. The lifeguard's lunch break?

The set up of the pool is a bit strange. The changerooms are up above, as are the bathrooms. Up there, you wear your shoes, but you have to take them off on the pool level. The showers are on the pool level, but there are no changerooms attached to them... just a room with cold showers around the walls. Some women were in there showering and then changing near the doors, getting everything that people have set down to keep dry, wet in the process. With such a small crowded room, it just creates a big confusion.

We had a great spot on under the water slide, next to the pool. Because we were there early, we managed to borrow a mat from the lifeguards to sit on... thanks SeoYeon (Giraffe class teacher/piano teacher) for asking them. Yes everyone loves you. :P We also rented 2 beach chairs until 1pm, as they were quite expensive to rent. It was a great day for the pool. Sunny and hot. Kelly (Korean English teacher) spent the entire morning sleeping in the sun, working on her tan. She loves her tanning oil. Hepburn (Hippo class teacher) spent the entire morning sleeping in the shade. She said she doesn't like the sun, or something like that. Hepburn doesn't speak much English. She is so cute, though.

Hepburn, Me, SeoYeon.Kelly and I.

We went on the slide a couple of times. It is just a simple waterslide, with 6 lanes. You have to pay to go on them... 500 won a person (about 50 cents). I had to be careful, as my swim suit that fit me a few months ago is a bit loose. No serious mishaps, though.
My shoulders and back are slightly burnt. Not too bad, though. It's surprising how much just sitting around a pool can wear you out. I was so tired by the time I got home.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

it's very interesting what can be done to a photo.

Looking around on the net, I found the Worth1000 photoshop site. Check out some of the photos. Check out the Mamsects and Ismals. I love Caterpillar by Penbender and zebra+worm=worbra by warior11, among others.
Take a look through the different galleries. I really enjoyed a lot of the pictures.
Animal Crossbreeds is a cool gallery where you'll find fropigs and cabbits.

Shanghai Taxi Regulations... glad I read them.

From the posted regulations in some of the taxis in Shanghai:
The passenger is entitled to refuse payment under any of the following circumstances where the driver:
1. smokes in the car, uses a cellular phone wislt driving, spits or litters out of the car.
2. abuses the passenger, behaves rudely and does not use the polite expressions of the taxi company (For example: good morning/Afternoon/evening, thanks/thank you, goodbye/bye-bye.)
3. does not wear the uniform of the taxi company.
4. does not accept the taxi card of voucher
5. fails to comply with the passenger's request on the Air-conditioning or the sound system.

I'm not sure if the regulations are for all taxi companies, or just for that company, but I found them very interesting. Especially since my second last day in Shanghai, a taxi driver tried to scam me. He wasn't wearing a uniform, and was trying to sell me handbags and watches, like many of the people that approached me on the street with photo cards. Every other taxi driver that I had, was wearing all white, or some sort of suit. Many of them even had white gloves on. I was going the exact opposite route that I had taken that morning, and noticed that the meter started going up at a very fast rate, right from the beginning. By the time I was back at the hotel, the meter read more than twice as much as I had paid that morning. (I only paid the basic fare of 11 Yuan that morning). The meter had to have been tampered with to have done that. I asked him about the total, he motioned that to go the other direction it was a shorter distance, as the way we had just had to take was a round about way. I'm not stupid. Even a round about way would not have more than doubled the distance gone. I showed him my map and said that he was wrong. I said I was not stupid and was not going to pay that much. I showed him the reciept from my morning taxi. He just laughed and said okay.
Maybe some people never think twice about what the meter says. That taxi didn't have the regulations posted, as it was a different cab company, but it came to mind during the ride, and made me pay attention.
I tried to tell someone in the hotel about it, trying to report it, but they just shrugged their shoulders.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Shanghai Day 4: July 30, 2006 Part 2: the Train back to Shanghai

(written August 4, 2006)
It took me a while to figure out where to buy my tickets. At first, I asked and was sent in the wrong direction. Finally at the ticket sales area, I had to ask which line was for Shanghai, as the signs were only in Chinese. Half of the line-ups were VERY long, the other half were very short. A guard directed me to one of the shorter lines. I confirmed with a person in the line that it was for tickets for Shanghai. There was a big argument going on between some of the people in line in front of me and the woman behind the counter. I’ve no clue what it was about, but there was quite a bit of yelling going on, and it lasted quite a while. When I finally did get to the counter, I asked for a ticket for Shanghai. She asked if the 7:15 train was okay. And showed me the screen. The ticket said 7 Yuan. I asked if it was a soft seat ticket. She said, “No soft seat.” I asked if it was possible to get a soft seat ticket. She said, “No soft seat.” I paid the 7 Yuan and got my ticket. There was no specified seat on the ticket, very different from my 24 Yuan soft seat ticket that morning. Getting worried…
I was hungry and so headed for the KFC that is conveniently located mid station. The place was overflowing. There wasn’t much of a line-up to order, but once I got my food, I had nowhere to sit. People were standing around with their trays, waiting for others to finish and get up. I stood at the end of one counter until someone got up.
A couple of guys from Estonia ended up sitting in front of me, so we started chatting. They had been in the country for the day, on a tour of mostly foreigners. They were not sure how they ended up on that tour, but enjoyed it. They had been in China for 2 weeks, in Beijing and Shanghai. The next day they were heading for Hong Kong. Casper and Martin were their names. Martin is an actor (a “star”) in Estonia. Casper is a show writer. They were very interesting to talk to. A nice break from a day of hearing constant Chinese chatter. They had the same type of ticket as I did, only for a train at 8:15pm. I lost track of time a bit and was running late so I ended up not getting their email addresses. Oh well.
I went into the station to find my train. There were different waiting rooms for each train. There were so many people sitting around the waiting room for the train. I was wondering if they all had the same type of ticket. Then, a bell rang and the light started signaling that the train was on it’s way in. Everyone got up and started piling through the gates and over the gates. Deciding not to get left behind, I pushed my way along with the front of the people. The train was not there, so everyone just waited along the side. There were no marks as to where the doors would be, so everyone was a bit spread out. When the train did finally pull in, it was a rush to the doors. Everyone had to wait, though, to let people off the train. Then it was all pushing and shoving to get on. Being used to pushing and shoving in Korea, I was right there in the front pushing my own way on the train. I managed to get a seat at the window, in the right direction (going backwards would have made me sick). The seats were hard benches with high backs, facing each other around a little table. There was no air conditioning, and the fan above was not working. I think it was around 40 Celsius. NOT NICE. The train was so dirty and smelly. There were toilets at the ends of the cars. I didn’t venture to use one, but could smell them almost the entire trip. The train was so slow. When it was moving, it wasn’t so bad, as the windows were open and I had a bit of a breeze blowing on me. People were standing in the aisles and between cars. Everyone was hot and sweaty.
The train stopped in a place called Gun San (Gun Mountain) to let some people off and then kept going. Then it stopped. In the middle of nowhere. For no apparent reason. And sat there. And waited. And waited. There was no air movement at all, I felt like I was suffocating. Several trains passed, but our train didn’t move. Finally, about 45 minutes later, it was on its way again. When I finally did get to the Shanghai station, I was soooooooooo glad to be off that train. Pulling into the station, I questioned the girl beside me as to whether or not that was the last stop. She said yes. I asked because I had read that a lot of the trains stop at another station in Shanghai before the main one. It turns out that the girl spoke English quite well. She was from Xian, and was a university student studying International Trade. If I had known that sooner, the train ride might have been a bit more enjoyable. She was in Shanghai to visit her uncle. A friend met her at the station and they helped me find a taxi to take me to my hotel. (Some taxis said no, for some reason).
Xian is another place in China that I would really like to go. That is where the terracotta army is.

Boy was I happy to be back in my hotel room. I had a nice quick shower to scrub the train off of me and crawled into bed.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Shanghai Day 4: July 30, 2006 part 1: Suzhou

(written August 4, 2006)
Suzhou is a little city/town about 100 km west of Shanghai. It is known as the "Garden City, Venice of the East" due to its systems of canals and water ways. It contains more than 100 gardens (big and small). It also has a reputation as having the most beautiful women in China. There is a famous Chinese proverb about the city (and another city): "In heaven there is paradise, on earth Suzhou and Hangzhou".

I actually managed to get myself up early enough to head for the train station. I was there by around 7:30. When I got out of my taxi at the underground drop off, there was a guy standing there, waiting for people to get out of taxis. He asked me where I was going, I said Suzhou. He said okay. I said I had to get a ticket. He said okay. He said it is 20 Yuan. He said I had to pay at the little booth. I was stupid enough to think that it might actually be that easy to get a ticket. I paid the money and the guy said to follow him. I said I wanted my ticket. He said to follow him. He took me to the main ticket office, where there were soooooooooo many people lined up. He said no… follow me. I followed. He then took me to the opposite end of the station, to the soft seat ticket office. I was actually there too early, as the soft seat tickets office didn’t open until 8. I guess to catch the earlier trains, I would have had to buy my tickets the day before. The guy said I had to wait… obviously. I had already decided that he had scammed me. I said I needed to get something to drink. He said he would wait there, and pointed me to a little shop. He was gone when I got back. I managed quite well without him. My ticket was 24 Yuan. I was on the 8:30 train to Suzhou.
The train was very nice: comfortable, fast, air-conditioned.
Once I got to Suzhou, I was trying to figure out what to do. Several people were walking around trying to get people to go on organized tours. One of them showed me pictures of the places that I could go on the tour. I said I didn’t understand Chinese. He said that was okay, that the tours were the same for Chinese or English. The price for the tour, including the entrance fees for 4 places and the transportation was 140 Yuan. The tickets alone added up to around 120, I think. Against my better judgment, I hopped on a bus. The guide spoke a little bit of English, but not much. After a very short wait, the bus was full and we were off. We stopped in front of some sort of temple or but didn’t go in. Then I was told to go to another bus, which was going to the places that I had selected (I hadn’t really selected any places, as I had no idea what the pictures were of that they guy had shown me). Once on that bus, I had to wait for about 10 minutes before they were ready to go. Once we were on our way, the tour guide was talking non-stop, in Chinese, of course.
The first stop was the Couple’s Garden or The Garden of Couple’s Retreat. It covers an area of about 0.8 hectares; a nice little garden. Within the garden, there are several buildings, all with different names.
The Inkslab Returning Studio (from the information board in the room):
Xuan Zu, the owner of the garden, had his inkslab lost, which was later re-obtained by Bing Cheng, thus the studio gets the name. Laud out in the pattern of study room, the studio is an ideal place for study, and the couplet in the studio is written by Liu Yong.
Thatched Cottage in the Depth of the City (from the information board in the room):
As the main building of the eastern garden, it appears lofty and spacious and is the place where the owner of the garden meets his guests. The rosewood furniture is set out in the traditional pattern of main hall and the stele was inscribed by Liang Tongshu, head of the four calligrapthers during the reign of Emporer Qiantong and Emporer Jiaqing.

The guide talked for a while before letting everyone wander for a half hour. We were led out the back way to get onto wooden boats to be taken back to the buses.
The next stop was the North Temple, which has the tallest pagoda south of the Yangtze River. The pagoda is 9 stories high. I climbed to the top for the view. There is construction going on in some parts of the temple complex, so not all areas were accessible. While I was in the pagoda, I think everyone else from my bus was checking out the temple complex, so I avoided the crowds in both. There is a beautiful little garden and pond in one corner of the area, beside a teahouse/gift shop. When I was back there, a girl from the teahouse was feeding the fish and turtles, talking to them. There were several kinds of fish in the pond. I’m not sure exactly what they all were. Some of them were huge. There were so many turtles in the mix, too.
The bus then took us to the city moat where we piled onto a boat for a tour. Once again, everything was said in Chinese. I sat on the wrong side of the boat, as most of the interesting looking buildings were on the other side. Too bad.After the little boat trip, we were escorted to a silk factory. I got to see how the silk was gathered and processed. The place smelled of silkworm pupa… reminding me of many of the little snack stands on the streets in Korea. Shudder… A single strand is taken from each cocoon. Several are twisted together and then wound up onto a spool. Another method is to soak the cocoons and remove the pupa, then wash the silk and stretch it out to make the inside of a pure silk blanket/comforter/duvet. Then they tried to sell some of the blankets and other silk things. The prices were not so great, though. The same silk scarves that I had haggled down to 3 for 75 Yuan in Shanghai were priced at 80 Yuan each. Not much of a deal. Needless to say, I didn’t purchase anything, nor, I think, did anyone else.
Then we were herded back on the bus for a very short drive (basically across the street) only to be ushered into a small room with tables and fans and a small stage. I managed to get a nice seat right in the breeze of a fan. There were more than one group there, and most people ended up having to stand. A man and woman entered the stage, each with an instrument. They played a very short song. The man sang a very short song, and then the woman sang a very short song. They both played during both. Then the stood up, took a bow and left. The whole thing lasted maybe 3 minutes. Then we all had to get up and go. All I could think was… that was strange.
Lunchtime. We were taken a short distance away for lunch. Most of the group disappeared in the building. After noticing my confusion at what to do, the guide told me to just sit down at a table and order something. With the menus all in Chinese, that wasn’t quite possible. I told her I wanted something that was not fish. She pointed at what a couple of people were eating and asked if I wanted something like that. I had no idea. Finally, she took me to the back where the dishes were being prepared. I got to choose 3 little dishes: a chicken/vegetable dish, cucumber salad, and a cabbage salad. I also got some vegetable soup and rice. The meal cost me 15 Yuan. It was actually quite tasty.
After lunch, we went to the Feng Bridge, a small foot bridge attached to an old gate/tower type structure. Another tour guide (the same company) was talking non-stop in Chinese. I asked the guide from my bus what the place was. She said she didn’t know how to explain it in English, except that it was an important bridge. That helped. She said I could wander for 30 minutes and then meet down were the little boats were. A couple that was on my bus asked me if I understood Chinese. They looked like everyone else on the bus, but they were Chinese Americans. They said they didn’t speak Chinese (they obviously did, though, as I heard them speaking to some of the other people on the bus). I asked the guy if he know what the place was. He said he didn’t know, but the gate was supposedly built during the Ming Dynasty, or something like that. Anyway, it was very old and important.I did figure out what it was thanks to an information board in the gate/tower (sorry, my photo of the info was not so clear):

The Iron Bell Pass is the historical remains of Ming Dynasty in the resistance against Japan. Int eh years under the rule of Emporer Jiaqing, Governor Shang Weichi and County Magistrate ?? supervised the construction of this strategic pass in 1557. In the ninth year of Emporer Dao ?? it was changed into a chamber of cultural star (?) which was destroyed later. In 1986, Suzhou People's Government reconstructed the pass and chamber for the tourists to visit.

One of the most interesting things there was a statue of a man in a reclined position, holding his finger out. People were going and rubbing the finger. You could tell that was the thing to do, as the finger was all nice and shiny. I, too, of course, had to get a picture with the yank my finger statue.
At the boats, we all got on one and went for another little boat ride. This time the boat was air-conditioned. We didn't actually go very far, though. A bit pointless if you ask me (I suppose if I had actually understood what was being said by they guides, it would have been a bit more worth my while).
The next stop was just as pointless, if not more so. We all shuffled upstairs in a little non-descript building where we had to find a seat around one of two rooms. We did a tea tasting: basically a thimble full of 3 different types of tea. The woman preparing the tea was, I assume, talking about the type of tea and how to properly make the tea. The room was so hot, even with the air-conditioner on in the corner. I’m not sure what one of the kinds of tea was. It was little mould-like balls/shapes. Not a bad taste, though. Then they were trying to sell different sets of tea, teapots, etc. Once again, everything was very over-priced and no one bought anything.
The last stop was just to see Dragon Hill from a distance. Dragon Hill is a man made hill – a tomb of the founder of Suzhou. On top of the hill is the Yunyan Pagoda, which is leaning about 2 meters from its original position. To actually go into the garden, up to the pagoda, I would have had to pay to get into the park. The guide said that it really isn’t worth it, as the hill is just a plain garden with a pagoda on top. It is just as good to take pictures of it from a distance. I would have gone for it, but was already feeling tired. It was a long day already, and I was all sunned out.
The bus was back to the train station at around 5:30pm.

Yay for summer intensives!!!

Summer and winter vacations in Korea often mean longer hours and more work for the foreign teachers that work at hagwons (English after school academies). For me, on the other hand... it means that I start at the same time, work less, and finish an hour early. At my kindy school, instead of teaching ten 15 minutes classes, I have two 20 minute classes. I have a nice long lunch break and then I start my hagwon classes an hour earlier than normal, and so finish an hour earlier. Also, I found out today that my kindy summer classes don't start until next Tuesday, meaning I have tomorrow morning and Monday morning off. It's all good.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Lions (Jing'an Temple gate)

The 'male':The 'female' (that is a cub under her paw):

Shanghai Day 3: July 29, 2006

(written July 31, 2006)
I had planned on getting up early to catch a train to Suzhou, but once again, I couldn’t even drag myself out of bed. I guess all that shopping really did wear me out. When I finally did get up, I decided I would hit a couple of the temples around Shanghai.
I started with the Jade Buddha Temple. The temples here all charge an admission fee of 10 Yuan. At the Jade Buddha Temple, they also charge an admission to actually see the famous (white) Jade Buddha, and, of course, don’t allow you to take pictures of it. Everywhere else in the temple complex, and in all of the other temples, you can take pictures. The temple was quite nice to wander around. It was built sometime between 1911 and 1918.
Some pictures from within the temple complex.Jing'an Temple
Then I went to the Jing’an Temple, the Temple of Tranquility. It was originally built in 247 but was partially destroyed, and then turned into a plastics factory during the Cultural Revolution. Since 1999, they have been doing renovations. Just another temple.
Pictures around the Jing'an Temple.I hopped into a taxi for the Yuyuan Gardens and Bazaar, to see the Temple of the Town Gods. I didn’t find the temple, or the garden, but I did find some sort of bazaar, which closed shortly after I got there. I found some great silk shirts that fit me very nicely. I will have to try to find some more similar shirts (or the same shirts in different colors).
Running out of money!!! Not a good thing. I’m doing too much shopping.
I decided to head back to the hotel in order to find something to eat, and to stop shopping. I went down to the hotel’s restaurant. All of the reviews that I read on the hotel said that the restaurant sucked. I gave it a try anyway. The menu didn’t look very appetizing with things like “pig sack” and sharks fin something or other and a bunch of other very nasty sounding dishes. I guess it doesn’t help that I don’t like seafood. I am sure many of the dishes are very good for someone that likes fish/seafood. There were two simple rice dishes. It took them a while to understand my question as to whether or not there was fish or any kind of seafood (like shrimp) in the rice. There isn’t. One is fried rice; the other is soup. I ordered Shanghai Rice, the soup. It is a simple soup broth with mini bok-choi vegetables, mushrooms and rice. VERY delicious. I just happened to order the best thing for me on the menu. Living in Korea has made me really like rice in my soup. Now, whenever I have any kind of soup, I crave rice to put in it.
I went to bed early, as I really wanted to catch a train for Suzhou. I would have to get up around 5 or so in order to catch an early train, so that I would have plenty of time to look around Suzhou.

Shanghai Day 2: July 28, 2006

(written July 31, 2006)
I ended up sleeping in fairly late. I had set my alarm but when it went off, I was so tired, I couldn’t even drag myself out of bed and let myself go back to sleep. When I did finally wake up, I decided I would head for the museum. I didn’t make it far before I went into a few shops and ended up loaded with purchases. I had to head back to my hotel to drop them off, and pick up my backpack, incase I did any more shopping. I headed for the museum, shopping along the way. I went via Nanjing Donglu, which is only a couple of blocks from my hotel, and starts at the Bund. It is one of the main shopping streets in Shanghai.

A long stretch of it is pedestrian only. Tons of clothing, perfumes, silks, and anything else you could think of. I did a little bit of shopping on the way, but decided to hold off until after my museum visit. The museum is in the Renmin (People’s) Square and Renmin Park area. There are several other important buildings there, including the Art Museum and the Shanghai Grand Theatre.
I was at the museum until they closed. I was able to see everything, although the last room I was only able to do a quick walk through. They had a special exhibition on about Assyria. I enjoyed that very much.
The museum is 4 floors, with many different (mostly permanent) galleries: bronze, ceramics, sculptures, calligraphy, painting, seals, furniture, jade, etc. The coin gallery was closed. Oh well.

Detail on a piece of furniture.

They started herding everyone out at 5. I just made it into the little museum bookstore for some post cards before they shut the door. I was the last one they let in.

The front of the museum and some other buildings around the People's Square area.

After the museum, I headed back down Nanjing Donglu. I was hungry so I was trying to find somewhere to eat. I was thinking of just going to McDonalds, as it is always fast and easy. There is a McDonalds on almost every block of the Nanjing Donglu, but most of them only serve ice cream, milkshakes and drinks. As I was wandering along, a couple of Chinese art students started talking to me. I remember when I was in Beijing, a similar thing happened. They were having an art showing and it was the last day. They were from another city in China, and were just there for 3 days. They wanted me to go with them to see their art. I decided why not… I was thinking of looking for some sort of art to buy. The girl spoke English quite well, and really wanted to talk. Their art show was set up in a little room in one of the buildings along the street. Their professor sat at a desk while they took me around the room to talk about the paintings. The girl talked about the meanings of the different pictures. The walls were covered in paintings, all done buy them and their classmates, and a couple by their professor. Then they asked if I wanted to buy any of them, of course. I ended up buying two paintings, coincidentally, one done by each of them (not because they were their paintings, but because they were the paintings that I liked… and I had my eye on them before they told me who painted them). Of course, I had to negotiate a good price. Still, they are some of my most expensive purchases in Shanghai. One is for me; the other is a gift (unless I decide to keep it??).
Still hungry, they suggested a place to eat. It was a little Suzhou Chinese restaurant not far off the main street, where they usually go for lunch. (Suzhou is a small city somewhat near Shanghai. It is also referred to as the “Venice of the East” as it is covered in little canals and waterways.)

The little restaurant.

They took me into the place and helped me pick out my dinner (the menu is only in Chinese, of course) before they had to go. I had a beef noodles dish. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but it was very good! It was a good meal for only 12Y (less than $2 CAD).

Night views of Nanjing Donglu.

Then I made my way back to my hotel, still doing a bit of shopping on the way. Nanjing Donglu is all lit up at night. The shops close around 9:30pm, and the street is packed until long after that.
It is much easier to find clothing that fits in China than in Korea. It's not that Chinese people are bigger. I'm not sure of the reason, exactly. Several of my Korean friends that are not stick thin often have to order their clothes online, as they have a hard time finding things that fit well. I should look at some pairs of pants or such before I leave, as I know that they are next to impossible for me to find in Korea.
The day exhausted me, and all I did was go to a museum and do a bit of shopping.

Shanghai Day 1: July 27, 2006

(written July 29, 2006)
I had to get up quite early. I left my home just after 7AM. The airport in Seoul sucked. I was there the standard 2 hours early, thinking I could check in, get my return stamp for my VISA and then sit down for some breakfast. Things didn’t quite work out that way. I got there and looked at where I was to check in. I was on the 10:30am Shanghai Air flight to Shanghai. The board said to go to L for Shanghai air. I went there, but the only line-ups were for another airline. There were Shanghai lines with notices saying they would open at 9:30am. I thought that was a bit odd. I went to get my return VISA stamp, and then changed some money. I went back and still nothing. I wandered around a bit, asking people, and they all directed me to L. Finally, around 9:30, someone told me that no, I was supposed to be at E, the Korean Air check in counters, as it was a joint flight, serviced by Korean Air. Why could no one have told me that before all of the asking and wondering and worrying??? So I went to E. They told me I should be at L. Argh. I told them that the counters at L told me I had to be at E. So then they sent me to D, to the Korean Air flight to Japan line-up, which was sooooooooooooooooo long. I waited a while and eventually, at around 5 to 10, they finally realized that I was in a hurry as I was supposed to be boarding around 10:10. Once at the counter it was fine. The window seat I had requested when buying my tickets was not listed, but there was one window seat still open. I then went through the gate to security. I was stopped, as they spotted something in my bag. I had been very careful when packing, to make sure I didn’t put anything in there that wasn’t supposed to be in there. I guess I had missed my little key chain scissors that I had taken off my key chain (I took them off thinking I couldn’t take them on the plane… but I guess they fell into my bag when I was packing). They told me I had to go back out and check in at the L counters. I said, no, I checked in at D. They told me I was wrong. Either way, I had to go back out to check in again. I went straight to D. After talking to a couple of people, they took me to the front of the line, where they put my little scissors into a little check in envelope and off it went. I then got to go through the side gate of the security, to skip the line, as my plane was starting to board already. I made it, at least.
The flight ended up taking off a half hour late, but then was uneventful. They served a hot meal. I’m not sure exactly what it would be called. It had a bread layer, a beef layer with mushrooms, and another bread (onion bread) layer on top, all baked. A bit odd, but not too bad.
At the Shanghai airport, everything was pretty much standard, except I had to go to the carousel to pick up my little envelope. An airport worker lady was standing there holding it, waiting for it to be claimed.
I had to figure out how to get to my hotel. While I was looking at my book, a guy asked me if I needed help. I told him I needed to get to the Metropole Hotel. He said the best way was by bus, as one went right to that area. He directed me in the right direction and told me which gate number to wait for the bus. Once there, I asked a couple of people. They all just shrugged their shoulders and said no. I went onto one bus and asked. A girl spoke English and said the bus I should have been on just left one minute before. She told me the best thing to do would be to get on the next bus, which would take me to the (Renmin) People’s Square, where it was an easy taxi ride to the hotel. I said Okay, as I just wanted to sit down, and get to my hotel. Stress.
The bus dropped me off at the YMCA hotel. I knew it was in the right area, but I had no idea where to go from there. One of the guys from the YMCA hailed me a cab and told the driver where I wanted to be. Finally… my hotel.
Even though I only had my backpack, purse and computer case, the bellboy insisted on putting my bags on the trolley. What ever. I checked in and got to my room.
One of the things that the hotel advertised was complementary Internet in the rooms. I tried to hook up my computer. Problem. They hadn’t put the proper cable in my room, so I had to call down for one. Then, my computer showed that it was connecting to the Net, but I couldn’t log on to the hotel’s system, and still can’t. When I click on Login, all I get is a page saying: “SORRY, REFUSE TO CONNECT! THE REASON IS: THE CHECK OF PORT CAN NOT PASS!” How frustrating. They say it is not the hotel system or the connection that is the problem… it is my computer. That is all they would do. I have to spend 10 Yuan for half an hour use of the Net in the little one computer business center they have in the lobby. I guess that is not so bad, but when I came expecting to be able to hook up my computer in my room, it is a bit disappointing. I’m still trying to figure it out.
I spent around 4 hours trying to figure it out, having them make me move my things to try it in another room, only to move me back when I got the same response.
Finally I decided enough was enough and went out for a bit of wandering. I made my way around one of the little walking tours that my Lonely Planet guide suggested around my area. It was a nice walk, but not so interesting; just buildings to look at. Then I walked along the Bund. The Bund is the street along the river. It is all historical buildings from the 20s? 30s? Very nice. You also have a great view of the Pudong area, where the Pearl Tower is.
The Pearl Tower is a TV tower with big pink balls. The Jinmao Tower, China's tallest building, is the pointy building to the right in the distance. The observation deck of that is on the 88th floor.
After a while wandering up and down the Bund, I headed back to my hotel. After resting for a bit, once it started getting darker, I headed back to the Bund again to see it at night. All of the buildings are lit up, so it is a beautiful place to look around. I had supper at a little Italian restaurant called Ristorante Truffle. I had spaghetti Bolognese. It was very good. I ordered mineral water as my drink. They opened a hug glass bottle of water from Greece or somewhere like that. Why didn’t they give me the smaller bottle?? Strange. I almost finished the bottle, though, so I guess it wasn’t so bad. One of the waiters stopped to chat with me for a bit. He is from the Philippines. He had just gotten back to Shanghai from a 3-month vacation at home. My pasta and water cost me a whole 130 Y… about $18 CAD?? Not cheap, but the foreign food restaurants in Shanghai generally aren't.
After eating, I decided it was time to head back to my hotel. It was already getting late, and I was exhausted. It was a VERY long day.
The exchange rate is about 7 Yuan per $1 (Canadian).


If you've been wondering why I haven't updated my blog in a week, it's because I've been in Shanghai. In China, you cannot access any sites like blogs or such. It'll take me a while to catch up on what I did in and around Shanghai, but I'll try.