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Life Lately.

30 Apr

Laundry drying in student dorm balconies, Basketball // Sunset in Yinzhou, Japanese plum wine // Stuffed Chinese flatbreads cooking in an oven, Teppanyaki // Dave hard at work, Planning Bureau Yinzhou and cherry blossoms.

 

Ruth and Kenny in China aka How to see as much of China in 10 days (Part 1).

16 Apr

Ruth and Kenny left on Friday afternoon after an action-packed 10 days with us in China. We did a lot. Walked A LOT. A relaxing holiday it was not, hehe, sorry!

The itinerary: Ningbo, Hangzhou, Shanghai, Beijing and back to Ningbo. In ten days.

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I Heart the Internet.

25 Mar

One of the fun things I like to do with my blog every so often is to check out how you readers got here. Most of you will be email subscribers or are linking in through Facebook but every once in a while I’ll get a Googler, someone that’s put something into a search engine and then came across my blog. So imagine my surprise and subsequent intrigue when somebody in Norway had googled:

 

Ningbo + nude + sex + fun + outside

 

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Making the papers.

8 Feb

Do you see him?

Do you?

Yup, down there, bottom left corner: Ningbo’s very own Dr. David Fleming! Local celebrity!

(If you get that zoom on that, you’ll see it’s him!)

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The Second Huan Ying Meet.

24 May

Yesterday was my last meet with the Huan Ying group. It was raining and it was freaking miserable outside but we managed a good walk-about again. First we went to the Yipi Wanli Fabric Market: two floors of fabric, buttons, beads, lace, lining and seamstresses to go with it. Brouse the 101 stalls, pick a fabric and the stalls’ seamstress will whip up anything you like; better yet, give her an item she can copy. We’re in China afterall – land of professional piraters.

Ningbo fabric market

So this is good to know for when I’m sick of shopping at H&M and Zara, basically the only stores that carry Western sizes. Though I don’t think I could ever get sick of shopping at H&M and Zara!!

The fabric market is in 5-story building that also houses floors for shoes (though not custom-made), Chinese New Year gifts and decorations, custom-made blinds and curtains, and children’s clothes. Come to think of it, a housewife’s idea of heaven. (Just kidding! My Women’s Studies professors would have me shot!)

After that we walked through two more local shopping centres/places that focus on young women’s fashion. The first one in particular was pretty interesting: corridors with little fashion shops squished next to nail and hair extension “salons” (basically a table and two stools in the middle of the corridor). The stench of acetone, cheap nail varnish, extension glue, the smell of fake leather handbags and basically no air circulation made my head spin. But hey, want a watch for £2, this is where to go. And all of you big spenders out there that turn up your nose at £2 watches, don’t worry, they have more exclusive ones too. Those ones are kept in glass displays and will set you back a whopping £7!

(Sorry about the bad quality of the photos. My camera is on its last run and only works on Auto and the flash has given up the ghost, too. Hence, fuzziness!)

Susan in a shoe store/stall.

I know I’ve been talking about shops, malls and markets a lot but seriously, there’s shopping outlets EVERYWHERE!! It’s ridiculous. I mean, even without acetone it makes your head spin. Chinese people (ok, the younger generations) are not entirely capitalist in their mind-set just yet but they’ve definitely embraced consumerism with vigour!!

Actually, Jennifer (remember her, Chinese-woman-that-came-to-our-meet-last-week-to-act-as-translator?) explained to me that all these fashion stores are kept afloat predominantly by “KTV girls” who need new outfits almost every single day. Now, Jennifer made it sound like KTV girls are young fashionistas that wouldn’t be caught dead in the same outfit twice at the nightly karaoke sessions with their pop song-loving friends. However, I’ve also heard that certain KTVs (Karaoke TV) are something like non-sexual brothels frequented often by businessmen who’ll get drunk and sing to their hearts content. In between singing, KTV girls will keep Mr. Businessman happy with interesting stories and anecdotes. As I said, apparently it’s nothing sexual but I DUNNO!!! I bet there’s backrooms and whatnot. Why else would some KTVs have “that kind of reputation.” If ya know whadda mean.

Anyhoo, back to Housewives’s Day Out.

Whilst in one of those local shopping centres we decided to go with one of the “Plada! Rolex!” guys. You know the ones I mean, you get them everywhere in Asia. Here in China, these guys carry a laminated sheet of all the different bags and watches you can buy and I usually ignore them or give them a firm “biyao” – No want! No need! Because I usually can’t be bothered with their spiel and the hassle.

But hey, strength in numbers. And Christi did say, you can get some really nice bags from them. So off we went, deeper down into the myriad of shops until we came to a part of the shopping centre that seemed shut… all outlets had their shutters down and the only people about where big-bellied men playing cards. But if a customer is near, those men signal the younger ones to raise the shutters and turn on the lights aaaaaaaaaaand hey ho…. Prada and Louis Vuitton in all their beautiful glory. And this stuff if good quality… beautiful leather, good stitching… A+, comrades! So you can find some good fakes around here… or maybe they’re not even fake, maybe they just fell off the back of a lorry, who knows. I didn’t dare ask about prices because I really wasn’t interested in buying anything at that moment and you know, once you ask, that’s you showing interest and then there’s no turning back. You’ll have the punters follow you until you buy.

But I would have really liked to know the black market price for a decent fake.

Yunnan Lunch - Yumm!

All that walking and shopping brings on an appetite so we had lunch at a lovely Yunnan restaurant in town. I love Yunnan food!! It’s nice and spicy like Szechuan food but less greasy. And they use a bit of the Indian spices like cumin and curry in their cuisine which is a nice change. And you can’t say no to a £2.50 a head bill at the end either.

After lunch we walked eastwards towards Moon Lake (a really lovely park with – yup, you guessed it – a lake) where we wanted to visit …uhm, I forget its name… a museum that showcases a traditional Chinese house with all the different living atriums. But once there an old man shuffling past us informed us that, “They decided to shut today.” Ah, ok.

Jennifer and moi

We walked through Moon Lake and then went to Heyi Mall, Ningbo’s most exclusive shopping mall. I’m talking Prada, Gucci and Dior. The real sh*t. No fakes here, no sir! The coat hangers in there probably cost more than my whole wardrobe combined. By this time all the other newbies had had to go home but Jennifer and I tagged along while Christi did her dinner shop at Olé, a sort-of delicatessen supermarket that carries almost entirely imported products. It was my first time there and the rumours are true: it’s waaaaaaaaaaaaaaay overpriced. Imported foods are generally pricey (actually they cost about the same as in the UK but they seem pricy because Chinese-made products are soooo cheap) but Olé seems to slap on another hearty percentage. So I doubt I’ll shopping much there. And I love Chinese supermarkets, it’s always an adventure! I’ll have to do a proper post about that one of these days!

Over and out.

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Go To China, Be A Lady.

17 May

Huan Yingers and Jennifer

Last week I went to the Ningbo Foreign Ladies Group‘s luncheon. Yes, my backpacking days are truly over, I am a Lady now.

I’m hoping I’ll meet a few future friends there, and if not that, at least get more inside information about Ningbo and living here and maybe some contacts for jobs.

I arrived shortly before noon and women started introducing themselves straight away; I guess any new face stands out in a small expat community where everyone knows everyone. There was a lot of milling about at first and I just stood around awkwardly but eventually I was seated next to two other “younger” women, both from Mexico. There was a small speech made by the president welcoming everyone and introducing the newcomers (hello!) but then it was all about lunching and mingling with your seating neighbours.

There were about 40-45 women that day, some with kids in tow, and we all got a copy of the debut issue of Ningbo Focus (which has proven to be a good introduction to Ningbo as a city) and the 2011 edition of the Ningbo Taxi Book. This little book, Dave’s 2010 edition already dog-eared and raggedy, is a life-saver at times. It’s the size of an IPhone albeit a lot thicker and has about 400pages of addresses for of shops, restaurants, markets, schools, housing districts… everything you can think of… in both in English and Chinese. So, if the taxi driver doesn’t understand your pigeon Chinese all you need to do is show him the address in Chinese characters. If that still doesn’t solve it the book also lists the places’ phone numbers so you can call them and a Chinese-speaking member of staff will hopefully be able to direct the driver. Life-saver.

So all in all, I really enjoyed the luncheon. It was fun talking about shared problems about living here and I already have some great tips about everything from Chinese classes, gyms, restaurants and spas. The luncheons are held once a month and I already look forward to the next one because I’m keen on having a social life outwith Dave and the university. After lunch I joined the Mexican girls and a Dutch girl for a Starbucks coffee and a trip to a mall I hadn’t been to and almost joined them for a pub quiz at The Shamrock but Dave and I had been invited to a birthday dinner at a Japanese Restaurant. (The birthday dinner turned into massive drunken shenanigans… how I love mid-week drinking and how I love that I don’t have to get up for work the next day!)

Through the Ladies Group I have now joined their “Huan Ying” group. Huang Ying (歡迎) means “Welcome” in Mandarin and the group is supposed the help newcomers get started here in Ningbo. At the moment it’s getting headed by Christi, a Norwegian woman in her 50s who has lived in Ningbo for over 10 years (and over 13 years in China). Our first meeting was yesterday and there was 4 of us newbies: Susan (US), Johanna (Austalia), Patricia (Cuba) and me. After a couple of hours at Christi’s house getting to know each other and talking about what we’d like her to show us we went to the Ningbo tea market for a tea ceremony. Christi’s Chinese neighbour Jennifer who is married to a German guy came along as a translator. (Christi, despite having lived here for so long has never really learned the language apparently.) Dave and I went to a tea ceremony in Beijing over the Christmas break so the whole thing wasn’t entirely new to me. Also, “ceremony” is maybe not the right word, it’s more of a tasting session. Which is great because you get to Try Before You Buy, ey!?!  And just like wine tasting a good tea tasting makes you really appreciate what you drink. There’s so many differences in taste, texture, occasions and ways of drinking. I bought a whole bunch of “Flower teas;” some of them are actually quite gross-tasting but they’re really spectacular to look at. They are tied tightly into 2cm balls but once emerged in hot water the ball unfolds and different flowers pop out.  I don’t know how they’re made but it looks like intricate and delicate work and I don’t how, after being dried and sitting in a jar, the flower petals still retain their original colour. And there must be quite a lot of man labour involved but for some reason they are super cheap even though tea is generally pretty expensive.

Flower tea

Afterwards we went into the centre of town for a good lunch and then Christi and Jennifer took us to Cheng Huan Miao, a four-story shopping “mall” set in an old temple compound.  Christi specifically wanted to show us the fourth floor which a lot of people miss because the only way to get up to it is via a rickety old staircase that looks like it leads to a broom cupboard. But alas, you go up the stairs and there’s a huge store of… junk. Well, no, it’s not junk (though the quality of some of the items is dubious) but this store sells EVERTHING. Everything you didn’t know you needed until you see it in that store. And it’s CHEAP! Even cheaper than regular stores which are already ridiculously cheap. The store is set up into sections dedicated to a price. I think the most expensive section was 10rmb (£1) but there were 2rmb and 1rmb sections as well (20p and 10p respectively).

The rest of the mall is filled with tiny boutiques and stalls selling all things related to fashion. There is some truly hideous stuff (Chinese girls love their lace, flowers, ruffles, diamantées, cartoon prints, preferably all on one garment or shoe cvf) but there’s also some really nice, decent quality items there. But unfortunately to be able to fit into any these things I would have to lose 75% of my body weight, half a meter of my height and bind my feet.

So, that was my huang ying. It doesn’t really sound like much but we spent a good 5hrs with each other and I’m really looking forward to our next meet next Monday.

Tea ceremony

The Weather Post.

6 May

Spring is here!

First of all thanks to everyone who’s been commenting and emailing back!!

It’s apparently the official start of summer here in China and a lot of you have been asking about the weather here so here’s a little Ningbo weather report for you:

Up until mid-April it was still pretty chilly. The Ugg boots out and the heating was on in the evenings. I don’t know about summer just yet but it’s safe to say that we’re properly into spring. It’s definitely getting warmer and generally it’s been really pleasant, not too hot, not too cold.The humidity hasn’t kicked in and there’s usually a nice breeze blowing in Ningbo so yeah, it’s generally really lovely. However, we’ve also had a few days with temperatures nearing 30°C when wearing anything but shorts and a t-shirt was too stifling. (Oh, and the Irish Football tournament saw a lot of the Celts with a nice pink hue at the end of the day!) And then, every once in a while, like today, the temperatures plummet back down so that a sweater and a jacket are needed.  On top of that, we’ve been getting some crazy rains and incredible thunderstorms!!

So yeah, getting a nice range of weather and temperatures which is all fine and dandy except that it makes it hard to decide what to wear in the morning because you don’t want to be caught in the rain later on in the day in your sandals and vest top (done) OR, because it was mild in the morning but then the sun came out and decided to be merciless, you end up sweating your ass off in jeans and a cardigan with your jacket and umbrella stuffed into your bag (done as well).

Man, my life is so hard.