Sunday, December 2, 2007

Justine's Visit

So we have now had our second visitor. Fortunately, most of the activities were new to Karen and I as well as our guest. Justine, Karen's younger aunt came for just over a week from Chicago. We hung in Shanghai for the week and took a one night trip out to Suzhou, a town about an hour west of Shanghai by train. Most Chinese people rave about the beauty of Suzhou, which is famous for small streets and old gardens. Here are the highlights from our time with Justine.

We started with a tour around Shanghai - the fabric market, Yu Garden, and the pearl market. The first picture is kind of a cool representation of Shanghai and China generally. You can see the classic buildings of Yu Garden, with some typical Chinese decorations, and the Jin Mao Tower and the Shanghai World Financial Center building (still under construction). Old versus new. Jin Mao (left) is one of the tallest buildings in Asia, and the new SWFC (right) will be one of the tallest in the world. Also, the writing on the right edge of the photo says Shanghai.

Justine got her bearings fairly quickly, and didn't allow herself to suffer much from jet lag. Karen and I would go to work and she would take little day trips to various places around town, then we would rendezvous in the evenings.

On Friday evening, we took a train out to Suzhou, famous for lakes, gardens, and hairy crab. We didn't subject her to the pleasure of eating hairy crabs - a relatively small lake crab that is actually hairy, and is considered a rare dining treat by the Chinese. It seems like a lot of work for a small amount of crab to us. Suzhou was nice. It is noticeably less busy than Shanghai, but it is a busy Chinese city nonetheless. We spent the day walking around town, mainly at a couple gardens, observing the architecture, plants, ponds, stone creations, and Chinese visitors. Here is a small collection of some pictures from the two gardens we visited - the Master of Net's and the Humble Administrator's Gardens (not sure why they have those names).

We had the pleasure of taking bicycle buggy carriages to the first garden, including a classic 'the price we established was only for one of the bikes - you owe us twice the amount' argument. Oh well....we didn't pay and I got to practice anger in broken Chinese.

In the end, it was a nice day, we made our train back to Shanghai, and our feet hurt. Before we left, we made a stop at that sacred (predictable at minimum) symbol of Americanism McDonald's, which allowed us to rest our feet and nourish our bodies.

There are a couple extras on this post. First, and I must say that I am quite pleased with this picture, there is a shot that is all too common in China, but is hard to catch in the moment, where a baby's butt is literally hanging out of the back of its pants. The standard practice here is to have your baby wear pants that open vertically at the back and bottom, instead of diapers. Diapers are sold, and obviously someone buys them, but it seems most common to use the open back, pee/poop in the streets system of waste management. When we were rushing to the board the train, we saw a little one doing the splits between Mom's knees, weeing onto the platform. Also, this little guy's USA jacket is a nice touch.

There is also one video below. It is of some random dance routine that was taking place in front of a hair salon we passed on the street in Suzhou - sorry, can't really offer a good explanation. This seemed to be in line with what we see sometimes, which is a sort of group-based outdoor staff meeting / inspiration session, with the employees of the service place - restaurants, stores, etc. - grouped outside facing a supervisor of some kind.

Justine - we hope you had a fun and interesting trip. If nothing else, it was a nice chance to catch up, for us to show you a little of this adventure we're on, and a chance for you to buy some stuff for a lot less than normal. Good luck staying awake at work tomorrow!

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