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May 16, 2004


Terry and I had a great time during May Day week.

This American import (though few Chinese or Americans know it) lasts a week in China. We spent the first two days in Nantong, where the local government put on a festive series of activities for all the foreign teachers in Jiangsu Province. (This province includes Nanjing, Changzhou, Wuxi, and dozens of smaller cities with foreign teachers.) Terry got a tour of an impressive middle school Friday afternoon, but I had work to do. On Saturday, we went to several of Nantong's suburbs where we visited a botanical garden, a silk carpet exhibition, and a school for deaf children (who danced for us). In the afternoon, we went to a beach on the Pacific and stomped the sand to bring clams to the surface. It's a local tradition, though Terry and I stopped short of bringing the clams back with us. The mayor and vice mayor were at a dinner that evening, but we didn't meet them. We did see my friend Mr. Cai, who has helped my company Harlan, and his boss. We ended the evening with a delightful and scenic riverboat ride circling the center of Nantong on the Hao River.

On Sunday, most of the teachers toured several local sites of interest, but Terry and I were headed for Wuhan -- our first real vacation since we moved to China. We have friends there (see Photo Gallery), who attended the University of Kansas in the late 1990s. We first took a bus to Shanghai, then took a 17-hour train to Wuhan. We bought "soft bed" tickets, and I thought we had a private compartment. We were surprised to find that our compartment had four beds, but it turned out that we shared the space with a very nice couple from Shanghai -- about our age and with professional jobs. The man is studying English and speaks better than I do Chinese, and the woman has just begun learning English, as Terry has Chinese. All in all, we had a pleasant time.

In the morning, we were able to see the hilly, green countryside near Wuhan. We very much enjoyed the view. To our surpise, Wuhan itself is a much greener, more open city than any of the others we have seen in China. Numberous lakes and parks dot the landscape. We stayed with our friend Jonathan Yi in an apartment similar to our own. He has bought a two-story apartment that is much nicer, though, but hasn't finished the interior construction. He and our other friend, David Zhang, rented a car for our visit, since taxis are scarce in Wuhan during May Day week. One day, I taught David how to parallel park, which he didn't learn while driving in Kansas. David's wife, Pam, and daughter Emily spent a lot of time with us, too, and we enjoyed getting to know them. (Lots of Chinese English speakers have "American" sounding names, as we have Chinese names.) It was great being with old friends. I am going to let Terry talk about some of the sights and sites we saw.

We flew back to Shanghai and spent the weekend there, before returning home to Nantong. In Shanghai, we went to a dental clinic that treats a lot of foreigners and has English-speaking dentists and hygienists. (Dental care isn't one of the areas where I want to learn Chinese by trial and error.) We were both very happy with our tooth cleaning, and are going to get all our dental care here for the rest of our stay in China. Next, we had dinner at an Indian restaurant (we miss that in Nantong!) with Dick Stern (an American with whom my company has some business dealings) and his Chinese girlfriend. Finally, we spent some time with Chunhua, my former Chinese teacher, and attended synagogue. (I find that once a month is about enough religion for me, though I think Terry would like to go more often.) One last treat: Just before catching the bus back to Nantong, we bought a few dozen vegetarian jiaozi (stuffed dumplings) at a shop to which another vegetarian at the synagogue introduced us. They are delicious! -- Norty

Posted by now at May 16, 2004 08:35 AM