Monday, November 21, 2011

Update from Jeff

As you will know I'm keeping in touch with Jeff.  I write to him every couple of weeks and ask him to share his experiences of China with me.  I also do it to let him know that he's not forgotten.

Here's his latest for you to read.

So, To the questions.

1: What’s grocery shopping like?
You really have 2 options for groceries where we are. You can go across the road to the Carrefour. (a massive french based department store with something like a Coles on the top floor.) You can get just about anything there from your entertainment centre to motorbikes. You will have a hard time finding anything though. Chinese or maybe French logic means that if you have the dishwashing stuff in one aisle like brushes and racks, you must have things like plugs and sponges 3 aisles down. Brooms are not kept near the mops and buckets... That would make sense. They are kept near the dishwashing detergent. The food section is kind of the same but they have an imported section where I can get stuff like Tim Tams and cornflakes. You do tend to pay western prices for things and it can get very expensive very fast.
The other option is to go to the local market stalls. You get slightly fresher fruit and veg at a much reduced price. As for meat though, that is an experience. From both Carrefour and the meat market you can get things like live eels, turtles, clams, fish and frogs. Both of them have all of the meat in trays out in front opf the stall and you just pick what you want and they bag it up for you. At the meat market though you have live chickens and pigs standing around looking a little bewildered. I watched one guy order a bunch of eel and while he waited the lady picked one up, laid it on the chopping block where there was a nail at the top to keep the slimy little bugger there. she then slit it open and took out all the guts and bones. As she threw it into the plastic bag, the mouth was still opening and closing. Then there were the chickens.... It was at that point I left. I let the Ayi (person who does the cleaning and looks after Ruby and does the cooking) do all of the shopping as she gets a better bargain and knows the reputable stores.

2: How do you get to and from work?

Soong Ching Ling school has a branch of the kindergarden (Hong Mei road.) out near where I live. The school puts on a bus for all of the Chinese teachers that live in the city to take to the Chingpu campus. I take that one out to the primary school right next door. Getting to the Hong Mei campus is fun though as I can walk but prefer to take the electric scooter as it take 5 mins not 20. Everything that anyone has said about Chinese drivers in Australia is a product of the roads here. People would rather eat broken glass than let you in. There is at any one set of lights about 30 - 40 people on bikes all waiting to go with the lights. All of these people are being honked at by the people trying to turn against the lights. Those people are being honked at by the people trying to get through the lights before they turn red. those people are being honked at by the people who anticipate the lights and have already started to go. those people are being honked at by the people who are running the now red light (after it has been red for a few seconds.). Then there are the people who use their horn as a surrogate to using their indicator. And then there are the people that are honking at you to let you know that they are about to run you over and that you should get off of the footpath if you want to walk somewhere. This shit is crazy. But somehow it all works. I walked past the scene of an accident where a bike t-boned a taxi. The cops were measuring the skid distance and doing all of that while traffic was weaving in and out between the still crashed bike, the taxi, the cops and running over the measuring tape. People will not stop for anything here.

3: What do you do in your down time?

Down time? wtf is that?

But seriously, there is a massive amount of things to do in this city. The volume of drinking establishments and other types of eateries means that you could be drunk and fed well everyday for a couple of years without repeating an establishment. And that is without travelling very much furthur than 20 mins either side of the main part of the city. There are a huge number of tourist sites like peoples square and some temples around. Historic water towns are beautiful to see and are not far out of town. They are knocking down a few of the old towns to make way for new development though and there is a lot of history vanishing day by day. If you want to travel a couple of hours to somewhere like Ningbo or Beijing (flight time that is) and you experience a whole new level of the world. Weekend trips to those places you see on the documentaries are not a difficult thing to organise. In general though we would head out to the pearl markets to get shop for some cheap jewelry or something. They have a reputable dvd store where you get some pretty recent movies for about 5 RMB each. Television series like mash box set will set you back about 100RMB ($15AUD). After I invest in a good dvd player I will be set up nicely. The current dvd player is a bit shit. Then there are the fabric markets where you can get a suit or shirts made. I recently ordered some jeans to be tailor made for 160 RMB (about $25 AUD). I am going to pick up a Cashmere full length overcoat that is being tailor made for me that only cost 600 RMB ($100AUD after some hard bargaining). I priced one on ebay at $1500AUD. Woot!. The fake markets are where you can go and get genuine replicas of just about anything you want. They are selling rifle scopes next to toy helicopters. a stall that sells make up is sandwiched between a luggage stall and a stall that is selling ipads and other android tablets. Belts, watches, sunnies, posters, silk paintings, beautiful tea sets, bottle openers are all on sale. It is utterly bewildering over here.

Carrie may be coming back to Australia in Jan some time so we may have to put togehter a care package for the piggies.

I have to get some work done now so I'll sign off.

Have fun and stay well John. Give my love to Bec and slap Paul around a little. Or vice versa if you are feeling tired of living.

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