Tuesday, December 29

Writing for Weekend Notes

One of the things I am doing in 2016 is writing MORE for Weekend Notes.  I am lucky because I like visiting new places, love taking photos and writing about the places I visit.

An added bonus is that I have to get out and visit places - and often I get to visit places I have never been to, or as yesterday, revisit places that I remember from years ago.

Back in the early 1980's we lived at Bald Hills, on the far northern border of the city of Brisbane. Not far from Bald Hills, via the next suburb of Bracken Ridge, is the wetlands, now known as Tinchi Tampa Wetlands.  I cannot recall what it was called way back then, but it was a rather primitive place where folk went to fish in the Pine River.  As we did.  I don't recall that we had a lot of success with the fishing there, but it was a pleasant place to visit, which we did on occasions, and the family enjoyed the outing.

I had not been there since, but as one drives over the Pine River on the M1, heading south, one can glance to the left and see that there have been some upgrading of the parklands.  Apparently, some time after we left the area and moved south, there was a plan to build a canal housing estate, which was not favoured by the locals and eventually the Brisbane City Council bought the land and has preserved it as a wetlands park.  Fishing decks, BBQ's, shelters, a boat ramp, and walking trails are some of the improvements.  It was a popular fishing spot for the local native peoples before white settlement, so there is a fair amount of history with it.

One visit I recall was with a nephew, who stayed with us for a few days way back in the 1980's, and while he was with us, he asked if he could be tested for his Cub's Fishing Badge.  He had all the details, which I read, and we headed off to the Pine River, where Tinchi Tampa Wetlands park now is.  The river had rocks along the edges and I can recall showing him how to catch a fish, and eventually we/he did catch one.  A tiny bream as I recall.    He wanted me to sign off on his badge for catching a legal fish.  I refused.  He was not happy - but there were several reasons I refused.  The fish was certainly too small to be legal, and I had helped him so much that I thought it was more like I had caught it.

Yesterday, when I visited Tinchi Tampa I recalled that event.  I wonder if he remembers?

I will return one day soon, and do the walks.  Yesterday I had several other items on my agenda for the day.  I do recommend the place - it would be a great place for family picnics.  Maybe a spot to go with the grandchildren in a couple of weeks.

There certain is a lot to see and do - suitable for all the family.  I was somewhat surprised (pleasantly) to see so many people from other nations.  I spoke with a young man from Nanjing in China, who has made Brisbane his home, and there were folk from UK and Papua New Guinea.

There is more information and a map here.

I look forward to visiting again, when I have more time to do the walks.

Monday, December 28

New Year Planning!!

Happy New Year to all.  I am hoping that 2016 will be an excellent year for me. I have plans.  I don't intend writing about them yet, but you may get a few clues.

I have started early though in my planning.  I had listed some things, like cleaning out cupboards, which I am already doing.  Hoping to get that done before January 1st, but at least getting a head start.  I am keen to downsize - remove/delete some of the excess stuff in my house.  Hard to do though, as I am finding.  However, I have a bike, fridge, freezer, and file cabinet to sell so hopefully I will be successful with that.  I also have found some other items to sell including a Wedgewood plate- still in its original packing with its certificate of authenticity.  I doubt my children would like it, so I will sell.

I have copious pieces of cosWeekend Notes - go to this site to read some of my articles.  Click here.  I am a relatively new writer for this site - but have moved quite high in the ratings.  I want to write about 15 articles a month.  I didn't manage much in December, but will hopefully post a few articles today.

A note book is my constant "companion" at the moment, and I am frequently making notes.  Not only shopping list, but ideas that I have for 2016.  In a day or so I will formulate in a more ordered document, my plans for 2016.

I am due to return to China again in a few weeks.  I am hoping to stay at Yuexiu University of Foreign Languages again.  Will contact them and see if they have a "free" apartment.  I am happy to pay.  I know the place and am happy to stay there.

There is another wedding.  This time, it is Rita who is getting married.  Rita has visited Australia several times, and I have visited her.  She lives in the city of Cixi, which is not far from the university in Shaoxing.

I am staying for around two weeks and the bride (Rita) and hubby will be coming back to Australia with me.

January and February are already somewhat booked out.   Mmm.  2016 is going to be a big year.

Thursday, December 24

Christmas is Here!!!

Here it is Christmas Eve.  How everyone has embraced the season - even those who do not wish to be identified as "Christians".

It is of course more a major push by the retailers - and despite increasing number of people no longer associated with the Christian churches, they embrace the other elements of Christmas.  It is disturbing to learn that some politicians want to ban Christmas Carols from schools, as is reported in The Australian earlier this week.  This is in order not to offend those who are not Christians.  Odd, that, on the one hand, everyone can embrace some aspects of the Christmas season, but ban one of the important cultures of the season.  I'd guess that many people can sing carols and not associate with Christianity.

However, I am enthusiastically embracing the Christmas celebration with my family.  On Christmas Day, I will be up early to drive to Brisbane, to my daughter's home, and shortly afterwards we will all pile into their car and head to the Gold Coast.  On that day, all the family will celebrate together.  If nothing else, Christmas is a time to celebrate with families.  I recognise that many people do not have a family with whom to celebrate.  I hope those people can manage to have some enjoyment of the season.  Best Wishes to you.

I bought a dancing Santa for Christmas - and he stars in my Christmas card for family members.

Merry Christmas to everyone.

Monday, December 21

The Wedding Ceremony

On the day of the wedding, I had to be ready for my driver around 4 pm, so had the day free.  It was an opportunity to meet up with the February bride who was in the city with a staff member to visit the fabric markets.

She picked me up at the hotel in her car, and we set off.  I had driven with her previously, and it was a scary ride, as her driving skills, which she admits to, are not good.  I learned that she had failed the driving test, but given the examiner a cigarette supply, so managed to pass the test suddenly.  She drove towards the markets and chose to drive up onto a footpath to park.  I was a bit shocked, and she laughed and said she was getting a new car soon.  A better one!!

We strolled the market stalls - hundreds of little "booths" of differing fabrics, and then set off for lunch at a big shopping mall.  She returned me to the hotel with plenty of time to get ready for the wedding.

My driver arrived early - thankfully I was ready!  It was raining heavily as we made our way from the centre of Hangzhou to the hotel in the Xiaoshan area.  The "best hotel in Hangzhou",  I was told by the driver.

I must say it was an impressive fairly new hotel.  I followed the driver as he lead me through the modern foyer to the lift and up to the floor on which the celebrations were being held.

The seating plan.  I was with Kim, Lucky and ?

A wall of photos of the bride and groom

Some of the delicacies
Me and a family member

The bride and her father in rehearsal

The wedding table, with the big screen behind - preparations continue

The band sets up

Still rehearsing

Still rehearsing

The flowers on the bridal table

One of the singers

The catwalk complete with rose petals

It was a night of great celebration - with the movie of the bride and groom, the band and two singers, and the entertainment and competitions.  No-one at our table won anything.  It was interesting to see how WeChat played out in the wedding too.

Food was great!!  The whole night was great - overwhelming to some degree. All guests received gifts too.

Wednesday, December 16

The Wedding.

When I was invited to two weddings in China.I considered going to both.  Unfortunately they were not at the same time.  One was in December and the other is in February.  I was offered a place to stay from December to February, but it was not an option for me, as tempting as it was. 

What does an Australian (foreigner) do at a Chinese wedding?  I had no idea.  I was inclined to panic a bit.  The information I received about what to do was confusing, and as it turns out was not correct.  I did know that every region has different ways of celebrating almost any event, and weddings are just one of the events that differ.

I did look at some websites which offered information on Chinese weddings.  This one and this one.   Here is another one.  I communicated with Chinese friends, but the information was confusing.  

I was very tentative when I arrived in China on December 1st, and this post is a "report" on the wedding celebrations.  (I might add that I have booked to go to the one in February too!)

The bride and groom met me at Hangzhou Airport - at 8 pm.  They presented me with a gift.  A wonderful bunch of flowers.  I was thrilled as one of my favourite flowers is the Lilium, which produces a wonderful fragrance which fills a room in the evenings.  

Already feeling wonderful, if not tired, we went to the home of the bride and groom.  It was a Villa and they proudly showed me around.  I would love to have lived in such a place!  The garden was wonderful, and I had a strong urge to take out the camera, but was promised we would return.  We did, a few days later, but the place was filled with marquees and people so I did not get the shots that I had planned.

I met family and friends, and later we had dinner which was prepared by a local restaurant with about 10 of us at the table, though some family members came and went, as final wedding plans were being made. The bride gave me another gift.  A beautiful bag, which contained a velvet covered box with pearls inside. Awesome!!

A driver took me from the Villa to the hotel which I had booked into.  It was odd arriving so late - must have been around 11 pm, but all was well and I went up to the 6th floor with my flowers.   I had asked for a vase, but there apparently were none.  I found that the coffee mug in the room worked wonderfully, and the flowers continued to spend time with me until I departed.

The room was pretty ordinary - but luckily was at the back of the hotel and much quieter, and it worked well for me as I really only slept there.  The stained carpet didn't impress, but the rest was ok.

The following day I had to myself - it was good to catch up on some sleep and walk around the area to get my bearings.  I found the Carrefour supermarket and bought a few things.  I had tried breakfast in the hotel.  Once.  It did not impress so I didn't go again.

The first celebration of the wedding was on the Thursday.  A lunch at the home town of the bride's father.  Zhuji.  

The restaurant was decorated to let everyone know about the celebration.

Lunch is ready!

The groom goes around to drink with guests!  Cheers!

The bride and groom

Arriving at the bride's parents home.  Fireworks.

Lots of smoke!

The afternoon was spent at the bride's home.  Several people sat and watched television, and I did too as there was little else for me to do.  The bride went to have her hair done, and no one else spoke English, and of course I watched the pictures on the television screen and endeavoured to work out what was happening!

Later the bride and some bridesmaids returned, and they set to work decorating the house with the red wedding symbol.

The wedding symbol was attached to all windows and the red patterns on the cornices.
Afterwards, we went to dinner at another restaurant before I returned to my hotel.  I found one of the groomsmen/best men spoke English and I questioned him about my responsibilities and what I should do at all the festivities.  He told me that there were no rules for me, and even over the following days if I asked another question, he would remind me that "there were no rules for you."

The next day was extremely cold, and I donned my very heavy coat to go to the villa, which is in the groom's father's home town.  It was certainly a big celebration with all sorts of decorations out the front of the villa, with two marquees on the property and many people.  It was pouring with rain - so I was unable to take any photos of the outside areas.  In the marquees were tables and chairs and preparations for the luncheon party.  In the main room of the villa, people were placing a red carpet (felt on the floor and within a short time, there were tables and chairs and the tables set up for the lunch.  

Hard to believe that the room was transformed so quickly!

The ceiling and other decorations of the main bedroom
In the bedroom

The bridesmaids

Wedding window decorations

The bride and bridesmaids

Posing for the photographers

At the lunch
Some of the foods

It was a great celebration with lot of food, lots of laughs, lots of serious speeches that I didn't understand!!

When I left the party, with my driver, we drove through snow!!!  I had never been "in" snow before, so I was quite thrilled.  Yes, it was cold.

Monday, December 14

Hangzhou's West Lake

When I first went to China in 2008, I had no idea that I would find the country and its people so attractive - but 7 years later I have a strong connection with China.  Seven years ago I was prepared to go to Vietnam to teach English, but in the January a friend phoned to tell me that there was an urgent need for a teach in China.  I told her I was not interested, but at her urging I went to meet the recruiters, and as I now say, "the rest is history".  Within a few weeks I was winging my way to China.

The second week I was there one of the other Australian's and I went to Hangzhou.  He had notes with all the details in English and Chinese, that we had hoped would make the trip easy, but as it turned out we had challenges frequently, though did manage to have a good time, and get back to the university in Shaoxing on one of the last buses.

So here I was back in Hangzhou in 2015 - alone - but determined to see as much as I could of the West Lake, where Mike and I had been nearly 7 years ago.

I stayed at the Westlake Bokai Hotel - not one of the most salubrious of hotels, but ok for me.  It was a short walk to the West Lake and one day I set off to revisit some of the places that I had become familiar with over the years.  It was a cool day, and the fog hung over the lake when I arrived.

The foggy Lake at around 9 am

Three Birds in the Fog

Birds in the Fog

Walking beside the Lake


You can barely see the lake behind hidden in the fog.
Bamboo Ladders against the tree


Snow from a couple of days earlier s

Bridge over a pond 
I walked and took photos for several hours.  My Fitbit tells me that I walked for over 3 hours and travelled nearly 13 kms.  It was a pleasant walk.  More photos to come.