April 1 to April 14, 2010
Deb and I have been trying to get settled into a routine, now that she is back, but the changing weather has kept us on our toes. We are still awaiting the real arrival of spring. We’ve had some spectacularly beautiful days, some of which have been warmish, but then the weather turns cold again. Apparently warm weather was officially scheduled to arrive during the first week of April because the heat throughout the city was shut off around April 5. Right now, it is quire cold – though a beautiful, sunny day. Everyone is hoping for warm weather return soon and to stay with us. Keep tuned in. I’m sure you will sooner or later hear us complain about the hot weather and “why can’t we have a little cool weather for a change!” But the calendar notes that spring has begun, and sure enough, the rose bushes in our neighborhood are sprouting new stems and leaves, and the magnolia trees are covered with unfurled blooms now. That is a good sign!
Here’s another good sign! Miss Zheng Li of our International Office has just married Jing Shou (Gene) who works in the College of Engineering! They got their marriage certificate yesterday! Zheng Li is very beautiful in her wedding gowns and Gene is very handsome! We wish them a wonderfully happy life together! I am including some photos!
Deb found a great hot water spa in a hotel a few blocks from our house, so she bought a pass for about 50 days of spa visits. Here she is to tell us about her spa visits (but I don’t think she has photos! ):
Swim and Spa: Three facts of life have collided: my hips hurt all the time, it’s really cold in Weihai, and Weihai is the home of many hot springs. As it turns out, people of Weihai spend a great deal of time soaking in warm mineral baths and swimming in heated pools. After returning to Weihai in March, Zoe offered to take us to see the swans (which Finnie wrote about earlier) and her friend who was driving, an ophthalmologist, knew of several spas in Weihai and offered to take me to them to see what they were like. We visited three hot mineral spring spas in the city – some more elegant than others. And I decided to try out the nicer one the next weekend. But then Lulu and Yvonne heard about my quest and invited me to join them at a spa very near where we live. It’s close, it’s nice, it’s clean, and it has a pool and a hot water bath! So I decided to buy a season pass and have been several times: once with Yvonne and Lulu, once with Zoe, and several times by myself. The pool and spa are actually on the bottom 3 floors of a hotel/ apartment building. The hotel provides this service to their guests, but others can pay to use the facilities.
The procedure has taken me some trial and error to get right, but I think I have the system figured out now. After entering the building, I am given a wrist band with a key on it and clip for my shoes. I leave my shoes with the shoe check man who puts the clip on the shoes. He gives me plastic scuffs to wear while I am there – it’s a good thing too because the floors can get very slippery and the scuffs give me more traction. I go into the women’s locker room for either the pool or the spa and change, or de-robe, depending on where I am. There are no service ladies in the pool locker room, but the ladies in the spa locker room help me find the right locker and make sure I know how to open it. After I am done in either the pool or spa, I shower, get dressed, and have my pass card charged for the day’s bill – all things that I have purchased have been miraculously recorded by the ladies running the front desk. They give me a receipt and I take it to the shoe check guy and get my shoes back and then I can leave.
I will describe the pool first, then the spa. The chlorinated pool is a large lap pool about 50 feet long, 25 feet wide and 4 feet deep. It has two huge pillars in the middle of it holding up the ceiling but swimming laps on either side of the pillars is not a problem, besides being inside in a heated pool is delightful. The first time I tried the pool, one of the women running the concession stand near the pool hurried over to tell me that I needed to buy a swim cap – it apparently is a rule that swimmers must wear swim caps. So while I waited she brought over 2 for me to choose from (the colors matched my bathing suit), and I purchased one for 10 yuan. In the same room as the pool is a wading pool, but this wading pool is huge – about 50 feet long and 25 feet across and about 2 feet deep. It is shaped like the number 8, has a bridge over one end, with assorted kinds of water spraying devices so you can stand or lie in, under, or beside showers of water. Quite relaxing and fun. Both the adults and the kids love this pool. I went to this pool on a Monday holiday and there were lots of families having a great time. Beside the wading pool is an area where people can sit and eat snacks around tables. Obviously it’s a huge room.
The spa was, and continues to be, an unusual experience for me. Westerners, especially those of us from New England, are somewhat Victorian in the way we think about what is proper or acceptable. To disrobe in a room full of strangers is an awkward feeling. But I figure if the path to the hot water tub (whose temperature varies from about 90F to about 110F) requires disrobing, I will brush aside my 19th century inhibitions. And in fact at this point, it is beginning to not feel as awkward and uncomfortable. For example, last week I was soaking in the tub and then letting hot shower water run over me and one of the skin scrubbing ladies (whose full time job is to work in the steamy hot tub room and scrub women’s skin) came over to me and picked up my arm and demonstrated to me how much dead skin I have all over me. I had been watching these ladies scrub the women customers vigorously to remove dead skin with a scrubbing pad. With practiced motions they were able to start at the customer’s neck and move to their feet on all four sides of the body without causing the customer discomfort or embarrassment. So when she convinced me that I was covered with dead skin, I said okay. I amazed myself with my bravery! And the experience was not only without embarrassment, but was refreshing. My skin felt softer than I have felt it in a long time. And the skin brillo pad – my name for it – was filled with sheets of dead skin. I look forward to the next soaking and scrubbing!
This is Finnie: I saw Jenna and Mandy at the grocery store, where I was buying roujiamo for lunch, in late March, and we decided to make a dinner together at our house. We decided to have the dinner on April 4! This required a house cleaning, since the last time I did it was the weekend before Deb came back.! Deb made a meatloaf and apple pie in her new oven in the late afternoon. She also roasted a big batch of peanuts, and when the first guests (Sue, Mandy, and a new friend – Bonnie) arrived her part of dinner was finished. The girls went to work and set things up. Then we visited for a while because Jenna was at a belly dancing class and would not arrive for a while. So, we got to know Bonnie and caught up with Mandy and Sue over some tea. Then when Jenna called to say she was done with her class, the girls went to work preparing tomatoes and eggs, fried cauliflower, and French toast. They also brought a cabbage salad. Everything was really good and we talked and ate for at least two hours. They are so much fun to be with – even when they challenged us to talk in Chinese. We can say the equivalent of “look, look, see Jane, see Spot. See Spot run! See Dick run. See Dick fall.” etc. We were afraid we would embarrass Sue (our teacher), and I’m sure we did, but everyone pretended we were doing very well – even when I asked Deb what she had done to China instead of what she thought about China! But they thought it was funny, and probably pretty sad…
Deb is getting better and more confident with her new ebike (photo) so we have done a little exploring when the weather is not too raw. Recall that my former class members took me to dinner at a Restaurant called the King of Dumplings, well, it is actually called the King of Northern Dumplings, and they have a location on the east side of the campus, so we found it easy (on April 2) to get to and just as good as the one near the beach. So, now we have an new place to add to our favorites list. Everything is completely delicious. They have an extensive dumpling section to their menu, of course, but they also have many choices of fresh seafood, which you select from ice filled bins at the front or live from aquaria. They have a non-seafood section featuring roast duck, pork, chicken, beef, etc. So, it is fun selecting what you want to have prepared and discussing (with hand signals and an occasional word) how to have it prepared. In the next topic, we will describe how we gave a seminar on American etiquette and customs – with the assistance of our friend from Ohio, Barbara Laird, and several SDUW students. Well, after rehearsal on April 10 – the night before our seminar – we took the crew to the King of Northern Dumplings Restaurant for dinner. We had a dinner party of 9 and we ordered five kinds of dumplings, a platter of spicy tofu, a platter of spicy fried pork, a platter of fried chicken, a (approximately) half bushel of steamed oysters, scallops, and clams, a huge bowl of black fish stew, a platter of the green veggies we like so much (and apparently everyone else does, too.) There was not enough of anything left to take home, but yet, no one was able to eat anymore, and when the waitress came to apologize that the platter of fried fish we had also ordered – but had somehow forgotten – was going to have to have a different species of fish substituted because they had run out of what we had selected, we asked her to skip that one, which of course she was able to do! This place is fabulous, but we forgot to take photos. Sorry! We’ll take some next time if we can stop eating long enough to take them!
Yes, we were asked by SICA to present a lecture on American etiquette and customs. This seemed like a easy preparation when we agreed to do so, but as we got further along in our preparation we found it was very time-consuming – trying to determine how to illustrate a point or finding the perfect photo to illustrate a point. Anyway, the time for the presentation drew closer and we had a lot of help from Barbara Laird, the hosting students, Shirley and Bonnie, and several students who agreed to be actors, as well as even more how brought stage props to the big classroom for the presentation. Some of the students who helped were Angel, Tony, Philipp, Shirley, and Bonnie (see the photo). In the presentation, Deb described etiquette for informal and formal dining, and our actors demonstrated the key points she made. Again, we found it more difficult than we had at first thought to demonstrate dining points without food or actual eating utensils. But we had home-made “pretend” foods out of colored paper and used plastic dinnerware. We did our best to show the key points. We inserted humorous video clips to illustrate the American sense of humor as well as people engaged in the types of activities we were illustrating or discussing. I have been fortunate – thanks to our daughter Kathy and colleagues with a sense of humor over the years to have saved a collection of funny videos, and some of them worked well in our presentation. SICA had mentioned that including information about American life would be of great interest to the audience, so after the segment on dining, we talked about and showed photos of weddings, holidays, customs, and vacations. We used a great many illustrations from our own family’s events – holidays, vacations, weddings, and outdoor activities. Finally, we concluded after about 90 minutes, and answered questions. Then, after the close of the presentation, we had quite a few students come down to meet us and talk about various things on a face-to-face basis. About 80 students came out on a cold Sunday evening to hear the presentation,, Their attendance was very much appreciated. It was really fun for us to do, and we are very grateful to all the students and faculty who helped us out!
Well, that is Life in Weihai for this time. Until next time, stay safe and warm!