Robin Hood comes to China

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May 28th 2008
Published: May 30th 2008
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We have both been so busy this past week I haven't had time to write much in here. I thought I better make a small update for those who are going through blog withdrawal.

Last Friday night we hosted our first party at our apartment. We had about twenty people and put on a little spread for everyone. I bought a BBQ and set it up on the balcony. It wouldn't be that much of a deal anywhere else but trying to get the message across in the store that we were looking for one was, once again, an adventure. As much as we pointed at the picture on the bag of charcoal, and flailed our arms around to try to get across the idea of the shape of a BBQ, the clerk had no idea what we were talking about. We hauled out our little dictionary and found "barbeque" and "grill" and a few other words that fit the occasion. Finally, they realized what we were talking about and found the last remaining small one under a pile of stuff near where we were standing.

At the party, I tried to light the thing with lighter fluid, as in cigarette lighter fluid, since it is all I could find. After several unsuccessful attempts with the flammable liquid, and copious amounts of scrap paper I found around the house, I managed to get the thing going. By then, I had just about given up in desperation and had started the steaks in our new little mini-oven. But I managed to finish them on the grill for a little BBQ flavor. We had purchased a variety of cheeses the week before, including feta and blue, which were a hit because you can only get them in a few places here. And Nancy baked some bread and made a chocolate cake, which also went over well since the kind of loaves of bread we are used to are few and far between here. Most of it is steamed, which we have grown to enjoy, but it is nothing like good old North American stuff. And most of the loaves you find that look like "bread" are really sweet. Even things like butter and BBQ sauce are only available in a small number of places so one has to really plan ahead (or scrounge from the other teachers). The only time we have eaten much Western food in the last few months is at parties!! It is always a challenge for people to put together a meal or pot-luck of Canadian things.

A few days before the party we purchased a couple of large paintings from a gallery/studio not too far from our place. One is about five feet long and the other a bit smaller. Both are very traditional Chinese brushwork that are beautifully done and framed. And let's just say the total price for the two of them was less than you would pay for just one frame in Canada. The gallery owner works right there and sells many of his own works as well as those of others. His mouth dropped when he figured out we were going to take them home on the bus and we quickly realized we hadn't really thought it through. As soon as we had paid for them, we knew they were way too big to fit in a taxi so bus it had to be. So he wrapped them in brown paper, tied rope around them so we could carry them over our shoulder and off we went, Nancy with one and me with the other. After walking quite a distance, and getting lots of stares in the process, we finally came to the bus stop on the other side of the street heading back home. The bus stopped and the door opened. Yeah always, there were people hanging on right down to the door. There was no way in hell we were gonna even get onto the first step, let alone on the bus. The driver motioned us to get on through the back door which we proceeded to do, paintings in hand. Once we were on the bus, a couple of sympathetic passengers gave us their seat and helped us get the paintings out of the way of everyone and everything. Everyone we run into here has been very nice and always helpful. Seats are always offered to us if we are standing on the bus but this is the first time we have ever taken anyone up on the offer. Standing in the aisle of the packed bus with two paintings would have been ridiculous, not to mention in the way of everybody getting on and off. Luckily by the time we get to our complex there are never many left on the bus since it is the end of the line. So it was a lot easier to get the artwork off then to get it on.

The week before that we purchased a couple of chairs and a table for our balcony. Well, we didn't think that one through very well either. We hailed a cab in front of the store and then tried to fit the chairs into the taxi. Uh way. Folding chairs might have worked but these things didn't fold. So we opened up the trunk, thinking they would definitely fit in there. No to that idea too. But it was our only option so we both sat there thinking and pushing and shoving the things but there was no way they were gonna fit or stay inside. Meanwhile, the taxi driver was remaining very patient and composed as he watched the two of us silly "foreigners" trying to shove the things in. Finally, Nancy suggested I take off one of my shoelaces and use it to tie down the trunk. I leaned over and proceeded to pull one of the laces out but, of course, it was knotted at both ends to make it easier...not. I finally got the lace off my shoe, found a hole in the underside of the trunk and tied it snugly against the chairs. We bounced our way home, keeping an eye on the chairs through the back window.

All this week, the two of us have been helping out with the school play the students are putting on this weekend. The rest of the group has been working on it for a couple of months but since I am just operating one of the spotlights and Nancy is working backstage, we just started helping out on Monday night. We have been at the school each night until about 8 and then try to grab a taxi back home. Tonight was the first performance and there is one more tomorrow afternoon. They are putting on the musical, "Robin Hood" as part of our English Arts Festival, which has been quite an achievement for a bunch of Chinese teenagers!! But they did a great job tonight and everyone is looking forward to the show tomorrow.

Anyway, that is about it for now. I will put up some pics of the show when I scrounge some off my friends.


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