The 12 hour flight from Vancouver to Shanghai was a breeze. A half full plane with lots of empty rows of seats for sleeping. That took care of about 8 hours and a couple of movies later we were preparing to land.
When I emerged from the arrivals gate, Mr Chen from Dulwich College Suzhou (pronounced su-cho) was waiting for me with my first ever chauffeur-with-personal-name-sign so I made him suffer through a full photo shoot for the record.
After a few hand signals and lots of smiling we were on our way for the two-hour drive to Suzhou. I took a couple of snaps of Shanghai as we sailed by. The smog was relentless and cast an eerie orange glow across the city.
Darkness had fallen as we arrived outside my brother Russell’s apartment compound. There was a frenzy of traffic and people and, through the chaos, I saw a familiar face – my gorgeous nephew Edward! He negotiated with the driver and got my luggage together and we made our way up to the high rise apartment where Russell and Mary live with their two boys, Edward and David. Unfortunately, Mary had broken her foot a couple of weeks prior and was in a cast. But that didn’t seem to slow her down one bit. It was actually kind of funny that we were both hobbling about for one reason or another but not missing out on any opportunities.
The next day Russ took me on a tour of the immediate environs on the back of his cool and quiet electric bike (e-bike). The traffic/pedestrian system is ‘interesting’ to say the least, but everyone is travelling so slowly and knows the ‘code’ so it all seems to work quite well.
here are still a few rickshaws around in the tourist areas, but the e-bike seems to be the preferred mode of transport.
We visited one of the temples in the inner city area where they have a pyre for the Chinese people to burn money to send it to their ancestors.
I was pleased to see the street vendors offering a healthy range of snacks and lunches – although KFC and McDonalds are ever present.
The emerging middle class trappings were quite evident including the ubiquitous Apple Store.In the afternoon, I accompanied Russ to the Suzhou International Foreign Language School where he is teaching Year 11 and 12 Physics through a collaborative arrangement with the Queensland Education Department. I videotaped his lively Year 11 Physics Lab class for a while then ventured out to the shopping precinct near the school. I’ve never seen so many tiny stalls packed into one building, but each one had something unique to offer. I pulled into a tiny nail salon and requested a manicure with shellac. I thought the lady said the price would be 50 RMB ($10 AUD) – ridiculously cheap, but when it was done she politely extracted 15 RMB from my pile of notes and smiled sweetly ($3 AUD). Crazy! I tipped her another 10 RMB and she strongly protested! Such generous and honest people. I connected back with Russ at the school and we headed home.
A nice evening in with a fabulous meal a la Russ as we surveyed the fabulous view from the balcony. The smog is ever present in Suzhou, but the pollution meter readings are quite mild compared to Shanghai.
I took the opportunity to take Russ and Mary through the Metabolic Symphony Program teaching materials to get some feedback. Mary was highly impressed and insistent that I try out some of the music activities with her Grade 5 class at Dulwich College the next day. I was thrilled!