Photos and stories about my expat experience in China, currently in Bejing.
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Friday, February 29, 2008

Spring time in Suzhou!

At last! The weather is brightening up. No more snow, no more rain, and no more sub-zero temperatures.

Today it was 15 degrees and sunny. I took a trip, 2 hours by (crowded) bus out of the city, to Xi Shan (West Mountain) with some friends. It was a nice day, and below are some photos.

Believe it or not, but this is tea. In China, tea can be anything, from flowers to dried roots. It doesn't have to be actual 'tea' leaves. Anything that tastes nice in hot water is called tea.
Extremely pushy local women selling (stolen) blossoms from pear and plum trees nearby
Dried fish from the lake
Plum blossoms and a Taoist pagoda in the background
Spring time in China
Up on the pagoda
more dried goodies, from flowers and lemon to shrimp and fish
Late February is the best time of year to visit Xi Shan, since all the fruit trees are in bloom
Lucky I caught this
The obligatory annual "me with blossoms" photo, pt1
pt 2
More dried stuff
Hang a red ribbon in the tree and make a wish for the New Year
Romantic spot
More blossoms

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Back in Suzhou

I'm back in Suzhou now. I arrived in Shanghai at midnight on the Chinese New Year, and could see the fireworks shooting into the night sky from the plane.

China is cold this time of year. Especially coming from Manila, where it was 30 degrees, when I arrived, there was still snow everywhere. The nights were freezing, and during the days it was little above 0 degrees. Right now it is a little better here in Suzhou, something like 10 degrees during the day and 3 at nights.

The past two weeks have been holidays (the Spring Festival) here in China, and there were fireworks every night. It is for sale on every street corner, and at any time of day, groups of Chinese are shooting them off. (From 6 AM to 2AM all day long sometimes) Most people have parties and big (huge) dinners with friends and family. I was invited to a few dinners, and it was great. My plate and glass were never empty!

I registered for my studies, which will start next week. I found an apartment to live in and bought a cheap PC. All I need now is a bicycle, which I might buy tomorrow.

Suzhou is quite a rich and developed city, and there are many Western bars and shops here. Many people can speak English (relatively, of course) and it is easy to go around. The old town is quite touristy, but not too bad. I live now near the University Campus, which is about 30 minutes walk from down town. I am renting a room on the 7th floor (no lift) with a Chinese family who cannot speak any English, which should be good for my practice. I can't wait to start studying some proper Chinese.My friend's niece & nephew
Lanterns in the old town on the last day of the Spring Festival

SIP (Suzhou Industrial Park), an area with many international businesses and a large lake
My friend's niece trying to fly a kite with no wind :)
'Open Mic night' in the Bookworm cafe, some really cool jazz jams every Wednesday nights
Clearing the ice of the shopping street. A common sight here: 2 people at work and about 10 standing around, watching.
Mascots for the Beijing Olympics, they are everywhere!
Old town by night

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

My last day in the Philippines today. Here some photos from my trip up to North Luzon, in the mountains. It was quite cold there, but beautiful.

Me in front of a cool-looking Jeepney. Drivers are so proud of their wheels
The view from my hotel in Banaue, 1800 m alt.
Fish heads for sale in a local market
The famous rice terraces in Sagada. The whole mountain is covered with them
Woman chewing 'moma', a sort of tabacco that makes your mouth red.

More rice terraces
Mysterious art in a native village in the mountains

View around Sagada

Red spit from that moma stuff everywhere

Tonight I'll fly to Shanghai, where it is 28 degrees colder than here. Being the Chinese New Year tonight, I hope I can find a hotel...