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December Archive

This is the December Archive of our blog.  Get back to the main blog page here.

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A Christmas Gift

The JSAFC has given us a beautiful carved artwork as a Christmas present. We are very thankful for this amazing piece of craftsmanship. It is something we will treasure forever. Regrettably, Neil's photographic skills don't do it justice

An amazing gift


Christmas is Coming!

Download our PDF format Christmas Card (you'll have to print it and fold it in quarters if you want a card to hang up).

We've been spoilt by some very kind people sending us Christmas Cards and gifts for Christmas: thank you very much. We've also been given a beautiful piece of art from the JSAFC and Sam has a wonderful musical Santa Snowman from one of the staff.

Yesterday we created a Powerpoint presentation for TJ's class listening exercises.  We downloaded the lyrics and some MP3s of some Christmas Carols: "Away in a Manger", "Silent Night", "Santa Claus is Coming to Town" and "Snoopy's Christmas".  TJ said they really enjoyed it.  We've enjoyed having the Christmas carols too as we didn't rip any of our Christmas music CDs to our laptop before we left. We've also been playing the MP3s we brought with us on through our TV speakers using our new DVD player.

Sam is hoping for a white Christmas but checking the weather reports it seems that Christchurch has a better chance of snow than we do! We'll be in Nanjing staying with friends from Wisconsin USA where it would really be a snow-white Christmas!

We wish you all a very Merry and Peaceful Christmas
and Happy New Year.

Nanjing Department Store Decoration


A New View

Now that the new apartment block is no longer a construction zone, Neil wandered in to take some photos from the top. This is the view south towards the city of Jurong. The new "ship-like" building (to the right) will house the Government offices when it is completed. The tall building is the Bank of China.  Tunnel houses are springing up all over the place.

View South East overJurong     View South towards City

Here is the view North over our apartment block (ours is the two windows in the bottom right, the bottom floor is not shown) towards the JSAFC campus.  The 9 story admin building with all the teachers' offices is in the distance on the right. The photo on the right shows a newer apartment block in our compound and the view to the distant hills. The deciduous conifers in these photos are making a mess for our guard to sweep off the driveway. This day had remarkably good visibility.

View North with our Apartment in Foreground      North East over newer apartment block in our compound


Concrete Driveway - Chinese Style

The new 6 storey apartment block next to us is now structurally complete. The exterior has been painted, the septic tanks & stormwater have all been finished and pipes covered in.  No interior fitout has been done - all rooms are unpainted concrete walls, no windows are fitted and no plumbing/benches/fittings are installed. The crane was removed a while back and they recently laid the new concrete driveway along behind the building.

Sam and Neil watched the concreting process with interest.  The usual small army of about a dozen workers hand loaded the on-site electric powered concrete mixer from the on-site cement silo and piles of sand and stone delivered to site..  The concrete was transported around the building in a special purpose tip truck where it was poured and vibrated (using a plate compactor). It took most of the day to lay the driveway and then a few of the men were working well after midnight to float the surface smooth and then apply non-slip grooves.

The finished product looks great.  The people from the apartment block alongside the new one now have a fresh shortcut to cycle along rather than having to weave along behind our apartment block.

On the Bus

We're skilled users of Chinese bus services now. Last week we all went to Nanjing on Thursday for a McDonald's lunch treat for Sam, to collect a copy of the December issue of Nanjing Map Magazine and buy some groceries from the large Metro Supermarket.  The day was rather foggy with viz <100m (see photo - TJ and Sam are down there somewhere).  

Where's TJ & Sam?

This provided for a hair-raising taxi and bus ride: the locals appeared quite unconcerned by the "blind overtaking" and aborted overtaking when an oncoming truck lumberer towards us out of the murk.

We saw an inexpensive DVD player at the supermarket and agreed to return the next day with some of our DVDs (various zones) and check if they would play in it. So, on Friday, Neil returned to Metro armed with a bunch of DVDs and a small wodge of RMB. The bus trip was unusual in that he sat with a friendly Chinese business-person and had English conversation all the way to Nanjing. After a successful trial of the DVD player at Metro, we are now the happy owners of an NZ$38 DVD / MP3 / WMA / CD-R / Photo player.

Travelling on the Nanjing city buses is an entertainment in itself. Often they are jam-packed full and it requires some effort to get on and/or off.  When the buses are very full people pay at the front, step off, run to the back door and climb/squeeze in. In this situation if you have luggage with you then you may be out of luck and should flag down a taxi (as Neil did after he had watched about a dozen overloaded buses go past when he bought the breadmaker and was trying to leave the city centre with rush hour traffic).

Bus fares are RMB1 for any distance on "ordinary" buses and RMB2 for any distance on the airconditioned buses. The buses with aircon also have a TV with lots of adverts. The drivers of the ordinary buses turn the engine off at each bus stop while people get on and off (they stop at every stop) and also turn the engine off while waiting at traffic lights or in traffic jams. Some drivers even coast quite a distance up to the stops.

I'm convinced that China is developing a perpetual motion machine. Most of their vehicles now have early prototypes. They do not need Nitrous Oxide, turbos or any other combustion related performance enhancement: they have horns! Taxis have averagely loud horns. Buses have air horns that are almost deafening  - we prefer not to sit at the front of the buses for this reason. Even bicycles sport the Mk1 bell. Electric bicycles/scooters have an averagely loud piezo beeper.  All of these motion enhancing devices are used frequently to ensure safe, smooth and speedy passage. I've noticed that when the drivers wear special lead soled shoes, the horns sound almost continuously.


Unloading Mixer

Tip Truck



Finished Driveway


Trip to Zhenjiang

We've finally made it to Zhenjiang! As many of you know, we thought that the Jiangsu Polytechnic College of Agriculture and Forestry (JSAFC) was in Zhenjiang, a city of about 3 million people beside the Yangzi River and on the main Beijing - Shanghai railway line. Jurong, where JSAFC is located, is about 45km SW of Zhenjiang.  In the hierarchy of cities and provinces, Jurong "belongs" to Zhenjiang and this may be the concept that allowed us to believe that JSAFC was in Zhenjiang. But that is an entirely different story!

Anyway, the 1 hour bus ride was uneventful except for the floor cover that kept lifting up with the induced breeze of the bus.  We were sitting in the back seat and could see the drive shaft spinning when the cover lifted up.  It was just in front of us.  After a few minutes the locals became a little annoyed with the extra draught and one guy put his foot on the cover to keep it in place.  I took pity on his uncomfortable seating position and put my pack on the cover to hold it down - a big risk, knowing what else ends up on the bus floor!

Just outside the bus station, about a block from the centre of Zhenjiang, some young women were giving out flyers and discount cards to a nearby, newly opened hotel.  That suited us fine and the price was an excellent RMB158 discounted to RMB128 (NZ$26) per night.  The Iris Inn is opposite the Zhenjiang International Hotel and almost finished.  We say almost as some of the exterior doors had not been fitted and sheets of plywood were strategically placed to stop the patrons taking a very long step down. The hotel was great - comfortable bed, huge shower, aircon/heatpump and very close to the important amenities (McDs, buses, supermarket).

TJ must have been feeling brave when she bought dinner from the street vendors at the corner: roast sweet potato (kumara) and fried chicken drumsticks (not the KFC variety).  Grand total, dinner for 3: RMB16, not getting a dose of diarrhoea: priceless!

The hotel provided us with some fresh fruit: a large yellow citrus that tastes like a sweet grapefruit. Neil enjoyed it very much - quite a surprise since he doesn't eat fruit very often.

Now that we're familiar with decoding the bus routes on tourist maps, on Saturday afternoon we took a bus to Gold Hill park (Jinshan Gongyuan).  There is a magnificent Buddhist temple and a seven storey pagoda on top of the hill beside the river. Very impressive. Nearby there is a large lake in which some very hardy middle aged gentlemen were swimming. It was about 10°C with a breeze and very cold.  We wondered whether the cold or the pollution made them hardy.

On Sunday we bought Sam a new down jacket. Then we went to Jiao Shan, a small island in the Yangzi river. Again it has the obligatory Buddhist temple and pagoda.  There is a regular ferry across the 200m of water and we preferred this to the cable car. The views from the top were a little "tarnished" by the haze. There were lots of children enjoying the fun-park activities which included saying hello to, and photographing, the weird bearded waiguoren.

Jinshan Gongyaun - Gold Hill Park

Jiao Shan - waiting for the ferry

Rock carvings at Jiao Hill


Nanjing for the Afternoon

Neil had to send some money to get a sample electronic "gizmo" for engineering evaluation. Western Union was the preferred transfer method and the main China Post Office in Jurong could send and payout money according to the Western Union website.  How easy could it be?

Well, the friendly people, A & B, at Jurong China Post said "mei yuo" meaning "not have".  The friendly people, C & D,  at the Agricultural Bank of China in Jurong (another Western Union Office) said he should come back later to try to send the money there. Sounds like the opening line of a Waikato beer advert to me "Yeah, right!" Rather than wait, Neil caught the bus to Nanjing.

Armed with a long list of possible Western Union offices in the unlikely event that the info published on the internet was "out of date", he found "send" service was available at the first China Post Office he tried. After filling in the forms, the friendly person E said "mei yuo". Maybe there was a conspiracy?  No, "you cannot send USD to a China address from within China by Western Union, perhaps you could send RMB". Bah-humbug. 

A quick telephone call was made to the friendly vendor, F, for a price in RMB. Back to the counter where Neil was given a China Post money transfer form with all writing in Chinese. "Do you have a form in English?', Neil enquired, "Wo kan bu dong" - I don't read Chinese. He could, though, almost see the cogs whirring "you want an English form to send Chinese currency to a Chinese person from China Post within China - what are you smoking?"

Neil made a cellphone call and the impasse was solved by having friendly person F from the vendor talk to friendly person E at China Post giving them all the relevant details for the transfer form.

One suspects that this China Post Money transfer in RMB could have been accomplished in Jurong but we haven't been back to see those friendly people A & B...


Autumn is Falling

Despite the fact that it is officially winter, the leaves are just falling, ably assisted by some heavy rain and light winds.  The colours do not have the picture postcard brilliance of some places at higher altitudes but change the look of the campus. To our surprise, some of the nearby conifers are also changing colour. The school workers had been very busy sweeping up leaves from the main pathway.

College Main Pathway - Just cleaned by workers    Autumn Colours from Kitchen

Autumn Colours from Bedroom    Autumn Colours from Kitchen

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