This is the March Archive of our blog (not very much, was there!). Get back to the main blog page her
Today we hosted a couple of TJ's students and another teacher for the first in our series of Western Dinner parties. The food turned out fine and was enjoyed by all. So, we're looking forward to hosting the rest of the guests in due course.
Even though China has joined the WTO and has worked to reduce the blatant sale of fake products in the markets, there is still a roaring trade in "factory seconds" and fake products. When in the market areas of the big cities we are frequently asked if we want a "cheap fake watch", to which Neil often responds, "No thanks, I've got a real one".
Despite the 100 day crackdown on "pirate" DVDs and CDs, there is still an abundant supply of DVDs priced at about NZ$1.20 per movie title. Some of the DVD shops are even marked on the tourist maps.
In the news this week, several shops in Hong Kong stopped accepting HK$1000 bills after 700 forged notes were found in under a week. Allegedly the perpetrators of the forgeries are from China. So, it should come as little surprise that the Chinese RMB also suffers from fake currency. Most shopkeepers visually inspect the RMB100 notes when they are given in payment. Some also inspect the RMB50 notes. We're not so used to the 50's since the ATMs give out RMB100 notes and we usually end up with grocery bills resulting in smaller denomination change. Neil is now the peeved proud owner of one of these fake 50 souvenirs. It was a part of the change he got from a food shop while attending the electronica and ProductronicaChina trade show in Shanghai. He only discovered the problem when he went to buy some food at a supermarket later that day. Even our friends here in Jurong thought it was real upon first glance. Upon closer inspection the fake has a different texture, is missing the "50" watermark and has a few other differences - but these are only easy to see when compared side by side with the real thing.
We foreigners expect to be over-charged and ripped-off in the big tourist street markets but Neil's guard was down in what he thought was the comparative safety of the Shanghai New International Exhibition Centre. Silly him. It definitely detracted from what was otherwise a very good exhibition. As we often use the cheap hotel chains like the comfortable JinJiang Inn, and have mastered the subways, buses and streetside breakfast menu, this RMB50 souvenir was a relatively significant expense.
The other mission in Shanghai was to get more Weetbix for Sam. After an afternoon of checking (and crossing off) the likely supermarkets, a supply was found at CityShop in Pudong. A domestic crisis was averted!
One of the greatest reliefs on this trip was the bus service between Jurong and Shanghai. The very clean(!) and comfortable bus makes only a couple of stops along the 4 hr journey and arrives at (and the return journey departs from) the bus terminal at the Shanghai Railway station. Much of the journey is on the multi-lane Huning Expressway that links Shanghai and Nanjing. This is definitely the best way to get to Jurong from Shanghai as the alternative train ride to Zhenjiang or Nanjing plus "lower quality" bus trip is not so comfortable and involves a "transit" between the services.
From the bus it was easy to see all the Oil-Seed Rape in flower. Every available bit of land seems to be put to agricultural use and there were plots of the yellow flowers in patches from about 1sq.m. on roadsides and canal banks, through 5m x 1m patches in gardens to larger fields tens of metres in each direction.
We're back in our routines of school and home life in our quiet city of Jurong. TJ has early starts with classes at 8am on Monday, Wednesday and Thursday. It is daylight by about 6am so the early starts are not too difficult. Tuesday mornings, Thursday afternoons and Fridays have no scheduled contact hours, but there is a lot of preparation and marking to help fill the day.
Sam is getting back into the Correspondence School work, perhaps not quite with the enthusiasm we'd like. Thankfully he is an avid reader and enjoys the repeat reading of the books he's received as presents while we've been here. Of the "3 Rs" it is the (w)riting that is the most difficult to get him to do. The reading and to a lesser extent the 'rithmetic are not so much of a problem. He complains that it is fairly boring here most of the time and that he's got nothing to publish on his blog. However, his active imagination and the occasional weekend playtimes with the local boys are keeping him amused. When we were on holiday, one of the hotels had movies that we could view on the laptop rather than via the TV. We took advantage of this to download another animated movie that Sam watches repeatedly. This gives our Shrek 2 DVD a bit of a break! We brought a few computer games with us and he gives them a fair old thrashing too.
Neil is back to his chief cook and bottle washer duties. One of our teacher friends, Mr Pei, often join us for lunch and dinner. As well as the conversation, it helps us learn some new Chinese cooking tricks and to taste some foods that we probably wouldn't buy ourselves. We're also introducing some western dishes to our guest. Mr Pei's family lives in a different city - quite a common arrangement in China.
We're gearing up for hosting some students for a western home-cooked meal. This is a reciprocal invitation to dinner as the students took us to the school canteen last term. Our 3 courses are minestrone soup and homemade garlic bread, spaghetti bolognaise as main course with small sponge cakes, preserved peaches and custard for dessert. We'll have between 2 and 6 guests per meal and expect to have about 3 or 4 meals. Sourcing some of the ingredients has been problematic. Fortunately we found some familiar custard powder (just add milk, sugar & heat) in Hong Kong (no creme brulee in this kitchen!). For beef, pasta, tinned meat sauce, icing sugar, high gluten flour, salted butter, Parmesan and cheddar cheese we have to go to Nanjing. Last week Neil bought about 20kg of supplies including 5kg of beef when he went to the Metro supermarket in Nanjing. Getting good minced meat is very difficult as it is mostly "shredded" for stir-fry and very fatty. We processed the beef ourselves with our hand mincer. We've bought some more plates, cutlery and pots to get us through the meal without having to wash anything. We've recently bought an electric toaster - much better than making toast one slice at a time in the fry pan on the gas hob! Finally, we've tried all the courses (but not as a single meal).
One of the things we miss is Gran's chocolate sponge cakes (topped with choc icing and with raspberry jam between the two sponge halves). We've been buying plain sponge cakes (made in standard muffin trays) from the local bakery for months. With the arrival of the icing sugar last Friday, we created the best tasting iced, raspberry jam-filled sponge cakes this side of the Yangzi! They got Sam's royal assent and they look to be a regular on the menu. They might even make it to any morning teas we need to provide. Now we just have to get some more jam (again from Nanjing).
This weekend we are off to Nanjing. We might have to scurry along to the Danny's Irish Pub in the Nanjing Sheraton on Sat 17th to sample a Guinness and celebrate St Patrick's day,"to be sure to be sure". Sam is hoping that the Sun Palace Swimming Pool with its hydroslides and wave pool has re-opened after its winter closure.
Next week there are the annual PCIM China conference and electronica and ProductronicaChina exhibitions in Shanghai. Neil is planning to attend these and hopes they as good as the European shows he's previously attended in Munich. Fortunately there will be less sauerkraut served there! As well as these shows, he expects to catch up with one of the College students who will graduate this year and has a "student experience" job in Shanghai. He often visited us to practice his English last semester. In addition, Neil will be checking the travel and accommodation options for when we collect "Gran" from Pudong airport later next month.
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