by Brent Gill
SUZHOU & HANGZHOU, CHINA
September 12, 2006
Visits today to The Lingering Gardens, a silk factory, a boat ride on The Grand Canal, a visit to the International Foreign Language School, bus to Hangzhou, and a visit to a "secret shop"
This beautiful Koi pond was a centerpiece of The Lingering Gardens.
Sharon "lingering" around the Koi Pond. This was a very restful and beautiful spot.
Peaceful, beautiful, and well-groomed Lingering Gardens.
Turn a corner, and here is another beautiful garden scene.
The author and wife, Sharon, resting and savoring the beauty.
As we strolled through these serene gardens, in several places were young musicians playing traditional Chinese instruments.
In one section of The Lingering Gardens were a number of beautiful Bonzai, manicured and elegant.
A true "Ming Vase" in one of the buildings around The Lingering Gardens. Note: one MUST pronounce that as "vaahzzz."
The traditional method of carrying is still seen. This was on the street outside The Lingering Gardens.
At the silk manufacturing and sales facility, this woman is taking the inside of the silk worm cocoon and stretching it over the wooden rack. These are "double" cocoons. Two worms have spun two fiber cocoons. The doubles are used for comforters, pillows, etc. The singles are carefully unwound, and used as thread to manufacture fabric.
These women are stretching the dried double cocoon interiors to make a quilt.
The sales floor for silk bedding and pillow covers.
A street along the Grand Canal in Suzhou. The smell of the canal, food cooking, and the city, were not overpowering, but nonetheless were present.
The front of one of the stores near The Grand Canal.
Nice fresh vegetables near The Grand Canal.
A large pan of meat-filled dumplings cooking along the street, near The Grand Canal.
As we cruised along The Grand Canal, this young lady was relaxing along the banks.
The front gates to the International Foreign Language School in Suzhou.
Saturday, July 22 – 5:10 PM
I started this on the bus to Hangzhou. By the way, you might wonder how to pronounce some of these names. Hangzhou would be pronounced (to the best of my ability) " hong - zo' " Hong is pronounced like "honk" and zo is like "Toe". Suzhou would then be " sue - zo' "
No charge for the Chinese lesson!
This morning we were up and around at 5:00 as was pretty usual for Sharon and me. I wrote a little to you guys, struggled to send out e-mail, decided it just flat wasn't going to work and gave up. I did write a note in the second "share" of the pictures, so that you would have some idea what is going on.
Our first stop today was at The Lingering Gardens. This was a very interesting place, very pretty, and even though it rained steadily, was quite beautiful. The weather was REALLY hot and humid. Temperature was 94 degrees at least. The humidity was often very near 100%. But, it was still beautiful.
Once we had “lingered” to our heart’s content, it was time to get moving.
At the silk factory we found out how silk was made and to learn about the process. It was a bit amazing all in all. A silk comforter came home with us along with two silk pillows for our heads. The sales floor for the comforters was just like the rest of the government-owned stores we visited. But they packed it all very well. The comforter and pillows will slip into our big suitcases with great ease.
Then it was time to go up to the Third Floor for garments of silk. Sharon was a woman on a mission. There was everything from women's jackets to scarves, a bunch of men's ties, shawls, blouses, shirts, silk boxer shorts, women's silk underwear, and even some bolts of silk cloth.
Sharon had wanted a nice Chinese jacket. She planned to buy one when she got the opportunity to buy a good quality garment. The silk factory was going to be the place. When we got to the garment floor she was immediately shopping.
She found one, tried it on and found it fit her very nicely.
Her sister Patty found another in a very bright red, with gold pattern on it. She tried that one on also. She was an immediate knockout!
A very pleasant U.S.-born Chinese woman, commented how nice Sharon looked in the second, bright red jacket. Sharon had rather liked the first one she had tried on. It had softer colors but was still very pretty. The Chinses woman pointed out a very fitted black jacket with red lining on the collar. When she put that on, WOW ... she looked absolutely spectacular.
I added the two prices in my head. Both were in Yuan, so we had to divide by 8 to get to US Dollars. She had budgeted $200 as a maximum for her jacket purchase. The total for both was under 1,600 Yuan.
Grinning, I chuckled, “Sharon if you really can’t decide between them, take them both. You are still under budget.” So, Sharon came away with two ... count 'em TWO ... beautiful jackets.
Then it was up to the 4th Floor for lunch in their buffet, then back on the bus briefly.
We took a boat trip down their Grand Canal. This is a man-made canal from Hangzhou to Beijing. It is 1794 kilometers long which turns out to be 1,115 miles. It was dug by command of one of the many Emperors so that he could easily go from Beijing to Hangzhou. Now it hauls a lot of produce and products of all sort from one part of the country to another.
We made a stop at a part of the interior of the city where we did a little buying and looking. The odor from the canal, cooking, and humanity was not pungent, but present.
I stopped to watch a man cooking something in a big flat pan. It had a cover, and turned out to be meatballs in a dough.
Then it was back to the bus and off to the Suzhou International Foreign Language School. This is a private school, and is also a boarding school for about 4,000 students from First Grade to High School. It costs $7,500 USD to get your student into the school, and $2,500 every Semester.
We looked into several rooms then were allowed into a couple of rooms where some youngsters were working on computers. The students in the younger classrooms were not very conversant. But when I walked into an older classroom there were several adults already talking to students.
Many on our tour were classroom teachers or administrators. This stop was a special visit to accommodate their interests. The teachers were all over the kids. As could be expected, the kids responded to them. Sharon was deeply engaged in a conversation with three little girls, and having a wonderful time.
I walked up to three boys that were not engaged in conversation and introduced myself. Randy, Timmy and John were right on the talk. Randy was 14, Timmy was 14, and John 15. We didn't have any earthshaking conversation, but they did get to practice their English a little.
Patty, my sister-in-law – a high school teacher, entered the room. She said to one young man, "OK, your English name is Jack. But what name did your parents give you?"
"Would you like to have me write it down for you?" And he grabbed her notebook.
He wrote it down then said, "Would you like to have a picture of me?"
Of course she quickly said yes. He opened a book, peeled out a little sticker with his picture and stuck it to the page. She was very tickled.
I could not take even one picture of the school, because my poor little camera battery just gave up and died. It needed to be charged again. I was concerned that it had died altogether.
When I looked to see how many pictures I had left I nearly fell over. I can take 216 shots on my 256 MB card. When the camera is turned on a number appears in the lower right corner telling how many shots are left. The number in that corner was 30. Holy cow that’s 186 pictures. No wonder the battery was tired.
It was now 5:40 PM as we rolled toward Hangzhou. According to Arthur there was 45 minutes driving left.
Arthur told us about a "secret shop" where they sold knock-off name brands. This sounded like a place where one could buy cheap (inexpensive?) watches. Sharon definitely wanted to go. I elected to stay in the room as I was beginning to run down for precisely the same reason as my camera battery!
Brent and Sharon on the bus between Suzhou and Hangzhou.
(If you have questions about anything you read today, contact me through the web site. Click on Advertising, and in the middle of the page is a direct link to my e-mail.)