Today's Alarming Statistic (as found in China Daily Newspaper)
27:1 - The home price to annual income ratio in Beijing... 5 times the international average!
Eric is on an airplane from Shanghai to Beijing this morning. He has completed his part of our residency visa paperwork and tomorrow morning I fly to Shanghai to complete mine, returning Friday late.
I am really really really disappointed today. Yesterday we got word that the girls' school is canceling all kinds of activities INCLUDING Experience China Week for the middle and upper schoolers. Apparently the government has decreed that schools should not have any events that bring people together (huh? aren't the kids and teachers together all day every day?) So they have also canceled our back to school bbq scheduled for this Saturday and a bunch of other parent meetings. I feel that none of these actions will prevent H1N1. What do you think?
Strange things I saw this morning...
Every day I try to walk a different way. This morning I walked a bit westwardly and then north. One thing that happens here - people just set up on the street somewhere. A popular place is a pedestrian overpass over a large road. They then lay out their stuff on a blanket and stay there the bulk of the day. Items for sale vary from jade jewelry to pomegranites to baby turtles in a bucket of water. Today I found a bird market corner. Maybe 20 old men just pulled up on their bicycles and laid out the beautiful wooden cages. They are about 18 inches high and 14 inches in diameter. Inside some were tiny colorful birds and others had quite large brown birds about 3/4 the size of a crow! All the birds looked different than any I've ever seen and they were singing in Chinese!
Inside each cage are beautiful ceramic pots... one for seeds and the other for water. There are also specially made covers that the owners put over the cages when they are riding bikes with their birds or walking with them. I will confess that I didn't have my camera this morning so this picture was taken another day at the little park near our apartment where the "oldies" go and hang their bird cages in the trees while the humans sit and talk or smoke. It's mostly old men who hang out with the birds.
Oh yes, I said strange THINGS I saw this morning. I saw a guy on a bicycle with - I kid you not - a queen sized mattress horizontally on the back platform where a person usually sits. This wouldn't even be that strange, but he was on the sidewalk and nearly leveled me and about 10 other people. They must be used to this because no one said a word. It is truly amazing the things you see people carrying on their bicycles. Some loads are five feet high and wide! But this one was unique because he was on the sidewalk.
Yesterday I came upon a group of young men crowded around something on the sidewalk. I assumed it was a game or some gambling thing that you see all the time until I got closer and saw that it was a bunch of FedEx envelopes and packages! An unmarked van had just dumped it all out on the ground and these young guys were sorting the stuff out and strapping piles onto their bicycles with bungee cords. I guess that's how the MOST IMPORTANT AND VERY SPECIAL items get distributed in my neighborhood!
Today I successfully converted the dollars I wired over here into RMB at my bank! I had a friend write out what I wanted to do and it went very smoothly (after waiting about 25 minutes for my turn at the window). They are very civilized here though. All services take forever so they have comfortable chairs to wait in. The reason things take so long is partially because they give you about 8 pieces of paper to sign and then they tear them apart and stamp everything with an official red ink stamp. They must have a lot of paper records around! You just have to take a deep breath and thank your lucky stars that you don't have somewhere to be any time soon.
After the banking I saw a new market - Yan Fung Market across the street. Decided to check it out and I'm so glad I did! It is about 5 times the size of the one I have been going to (which is closer and very sweet). It has several floors and I only visited two of them. One was all clothes, shoes, toys, office supplies, shoe polish, drugstore stuff and the other was produce, meat, fish, noodles and tofu (called dofu in China). It's nice to have another option but I have become attached to my closer market and the people there are starting to know me and teach me how to count, etc. so I think I'll mostly go there.
Here is a picture of the girls by a sign right near our market.
The community lives in the basic tall apartment blocks with a few alleys running between them. It is called Liufang neighborhood. It has lots of little open places with trees and ping pong tables outside. Last Saturday we all went out together and Eric got dragged into a hot game of ping pong right away with a couple of older men.
They were sooooo good! They creamed Eric so now he is determined to buy a paddle and practice practice practice!
Speaking of Eric, here is his new office.
Not that many people have thier own office, so he is a big shot. His favorite part is that the window opens. Now he has also purchased a small fan which sits on the window corner of his desk. There are all these people around in the building and inside his office whose jobs are to shine everything continuously. The reception desk is lacquered and I'm sure shows every single fingerprint but I have never seen it other than gleaming. There is a full time lady in the bathroom who shines the stall doors and wipes up every droplet of water. They have western style toilets there, not these -
that we encountered on our first
day of our househunting trip near the Forbidden City. At the time we were horrified but now I know that these were some of the nicer and cleaner toilets around here! Of course, doors would be helpful and most toilets do have them. I hope this doesn't dissuade you from visiting us!
The girls should be home soon so I'll sign off - zaijian! (Goodbye)