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China Diary & Blog

We'll post reports, some of our thoughts and photos of our trip to China in these pages.  It won't be updated daily but we'll try to keep the new material coming!   If you are looking for our son's blog then it is here.

November 2006

Here is the November Archive of our blog. Not so much to report this month: maybe we've settled (resigned?) ourselves to the routines that we have.  Get back to the main blog page here.
Looking for earlier entries?


It has been a while...

Apologies for the tardiness in updating the blog. It seems we've fallen into a routine that does not include anything exceptionally new or exciting. Upon reflection, here are several smaller news items from our reserve file!

Well, Butter Me!

With apologies to Toyota! You may recall we said that Cheese and Butter were not available in Jurong. We had purchased these delicacies on our trips to Nanjing. A few weeks ago, processed cheese slices appeared in the Suguo supermarket. A couple of days ago we found butter! It is definitely new on the shelves and had not been hiding out of our view.  It is unsalted and a Chinese brand, "Bright", but butter nonetheless!

Home Improvement!

Being very skilled home-handy-persons (DIYers), we've been in a season of "cold turkey" as a result of having no tools and being in rented accommodation. However, we've made a few changes about the place to make it a little more comfortable.
  • Changed the 2x25W incandescent light bulbs in the kitchen to 2x14W compact fluorescent bulbs for 4x the light for about half the power. Neil advocates that there is not enough Light in this world and that this is a small step in the right direction.  Actually, he waited a whole 3 days after we arrived here before changing these bulbs, but it didn't seem newsworthy at the time!
  • Installed a shellfish themed shower curtain to divide the shower from the toilet. This minimises the mopping required after a shower. While at Hilary and Gary's, Neil noticed the twist-lock extendable pole that they used for their shower curtain. Having already seen these in the supermarket and wondered "What the heck would you use those for?", fortune favoured the prepared mind!
  • Arranged for the College to provide a Divan/sofa and a coffee table.
  • Bought a breadmaker - it is fantastic to have bread that is palatable, baked fresh daily!
  • Installed a Nemo blind in the kitchen (see the with and without photos to decide if it is an improvement).  Unfortunately the curtains left by Geni have been adapted for a more humble task. The blind is 890mm wide and about 1500mm long and cost us a whole NZ$4. It has a plastic "chain" that drives the winding mechanism up and down. I've not seen these in NZ: they could be a great seller!
  • Borrowed a bicycle from one of the other teachers.  This makes it much faster for TJ to get to the class in the North Campus. Errands to the supermarket are much faster but require total concentration. Driving in China is not for the nervous, easily distracted or faint of heart as road rules like "drive on the right hand side of the road" are merely suggestions rather than absolute requirements!
  • Purchased a "whistling kettle" for the gas cooker as the electric jug has become "unreliable" and replacements are about 2x to 3x the price of a gas heated one.
  • Borrowed a badminton set so Sam and Neil can play during school breaks. Sam has been playing with the guard and is making good progress.
  • Bought a windscreen cleaner and washed the windows. An unbelievable difference!

Kitchen - No Blind

Kitchen - Finding Nemo

Kitchen - Reverse Angle

Shower Curtain
Lounge - 1

Lounge - 2

Lounge - 3

Bedroom - 2

Bedroom - 1

Dining / Laundry / Classroom


It is Winter

Late last month the students said it would be winter soon.  "When?", I enquired. "On the 6th of November."  "Why on the 6th?", "Because the calendar says so". Of course. It will be full moon. Silly me!

Not really having subscribed to lunar meteorology theory, I was a little disappointed for the "official date" to be validated by remarkably cooler mornings and evenings. Thankfully, the warmer days returned the next week. We are fortunate to have hot water for showers, air-conditioning in the lounge and bedroom and gas for cooking. This is a far cry from the students who have cold water in their dormitories and a long walk to the shower block where they must pay for the privilege of hot showers during their rostered times.

The new apartment block for the Professors is coming along nicely. All the scaffolding has been removed and there is now a major clean-up of debris from the once beautiful "park area" between the to apartment blocks. They've dug some large holes and have put in some large brick sumps - possibly for septic tanks?


A Weekend in Nanjing

We have had a long weekend in Nanjing.  Again, we used a different bus service to get there. We got to see more of the country, albeit a little nerve wracking with the bus ticket having a place we did not know about as the destination (despite having asked/checked this 3 times). With the Asian custom of saving face and not giving unfavourable information uppermost in our minds, getting "Yes" to a question like "Does this bus go to Nanjing Zhonghuamen station?" may not be an affirmation of the question but rather an acknowledgment that a question is being asked! We're getting a little more used to the "flexibility" of information and documentation although it is not (and likely will not become) second nature. This bus headed West to Dongshan (where there is a Flextronics Electronics Manufacturing site) and then North to "Zhonghuamen" in Nanjing. If Neil undertakes any work that involves visiting Flextronics, then this bus route will be an easy hour-long trip.

Sam was delighted that we got to ride on the Nanjing Metro (underground train) again. The bus station we arrived at is across the road from the Metro station and it makes the journey into the heart of Nanjing much faster and more comfortable than by bus. We stayed with our new friends from the USA at their Nanjing University apartments. John and Joyce have a son and daughter about the same ages as Sam. There was mutual satisfaction in the children having someone from a Western culture to play with.

The only sightseeing we did was to visit the Drum and Bell Tower.  The replica of the bell from about 1300AD was played by some enthusiastic percussionists! Again the locals are very interested in the foreigners!

We did some shopping at the "Metro" supermarket (no connection with the rail system) for high gluten flour for our newly acquired breadmaker and a new frying an with a heavy base. Hopefully it will be good for scones and/or "sconning" a wayward chef... We also bought some "European bread" from the Skyways Bakery: the tastes and textures are almost a luxury!


Belltower at Night


Rice Harvest

As Sam said in his blog, we went to watch some rice
harvest action earlier this month. I had seen some harvesting being carried out by hand. We were intrigued with the combine havester: running on self laying tracks, it gets along at a very fast walking pace and threshes the rice into bags (see the video). The empty  bags are pre-loaded into a 3-wide holder that is clipped into the machine (it is similar in concept to the supermarket bag holders).

The bags are dropped on to the ground when full and then collected by hand. A small group of workers wanders back and forth, carrying the full bags to the waiting "garden tractor on steroids". Several of these vehicles travel on the roads near here and we've seen them on the main roads towards Nanjing carrying all manner of, sometimes unwieldy, loads. At least some of these vehicles can have the trailer removed and a rotary hoe fitted in its place.


After the harvest is completed, the straw is either bundled up into a round or rectangular stack with a pitched straw roof or is burned. The fires burning with a lot of smoke and rather slowly as compared to a NZ barley stubble fire! The large number of these "burn-offs" contributes to a very smokey atmosphere with a very orange looking sun.

Square Stack

Rice Harvester

Rice Havest

Round Stack

Burn off

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