The habits of the local people…II

So when I say “the habits of the local people”, I am referring to people born and brought up in Chongqing and its surrounding villages. They all speak Mandarin, but most speak “Chongqinghua”. This is the local dialect that is considered by outsiders as a sub-par language. Chongqing is a major focus right now in China; an up and coming city.  China is pouring gobs of money into the city to make it another desirable city to outsiders. Beijing, from what I have learned is “the city” and I guess most people from Beijing think they are better than everyone else in China.  Then you have Shanghai, and then Tianjin (this is a city I know and hear the least about). I point this out because people from the outside are not thrilled by the habits of the local people. The hawking, spitting, lack of bathing, nail trimming in public, etc.  These are habits I am sure you would agree are not very pleasant. With that said, not everyone has these habits here. My tutor who was born and raised here has polished manners and has lived abroad.  Chip works with many lovely local people who do not have ANY of these habits.  If you are an expat you do not have these habits as you are from somewhere else.  Then you have tons of Asian people who live here, but are not from here. There is a large population here from all over Asia, like Hong Kong (Hong Kong is considered different even though it is in China), Malaysia, Singapore, and all other parts of China.

So, here are some further observations of the local people.

One of the unique (haha) things I have seen quite often now is a gathering outside an establishment of employees. There are large groups dressed in their uniforms about to start a shift. They are facing their place of work and what seems to be their boss. They seem to be getting a pep talk, a “todays a new day be a great employees kind of talk.”  I am not sure why this isn’t done inside of their work, but I have driven by restaurants with 20 chefs (with their large white chef hats on) and waiters on the sidewalk, groups of security guards or government workers, and recently I was in a mall with the workers you see in the picture.  I have heard them sing a song and get a pep talk of course this is all in Chinese so you need to bear with my interpretation!  I am thinking this is to boost morale, which may be a good idea! With the economy around the world the way it is maybe this is a good idea and there should be more of it!

I have already mentioned and shown pictures of the “fresh” fish that is available in all of the grocery stores. You remember, the fish tanks that were filled with dinner, not for aquariums. Well, these fish tank areas are indeed in every grocery store, Walmart, the Metro (BJs, Sam’s club type store) the Western and the local stores. I have also come to understand that there aren’t any true Western grocery stores, all of the stores have local and Western food choices, it is just that some stores have larger sections of Western foods. So yesterday we took a ride out to our house. I am so happy to report we found a FABULOUS Cafe! Awesome cappuccino, lovely pastries and breads. This is a two-minute walk from our house and it has only been open a month. We actually ran into a teacher from the kid’s school who was having a relaxing lunch with another teacher from the USA. She said the cafe has been doing great since it opened, so we know we will be regular customers once we move. Anyway, we wanted to show Chip the local CBest grocery store that we can walk to from our house. CBest is the biggest local chain in the area, so this its Western section is about the size of the candy isle at CVS in Londonderry…small! The fresh meat section is what caught our immature attention yesterday. There are so many new things for us and there are so many things that we would never eat and yesterday we mocked and took pictures of the items behind the glass. It was a little stress relieving kind of family foolishness! Ok, so if these pictures need further explanation, one is of pigs, their faces that is and the other is of some ducks. Yup, they would have gladly grabbed their tongs and placed our duck into a “to-go” bag if we had chosen one! WHO EATS THESE THINGS…I guess the local people!

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The habbits of the local people…

 There are so many things I see each day that after I have seen them I ask myself “Did I just see that?” There isn’t enough time to get out a camera for two reasons: 1) because I am usually driving and whatever I saw already passed and 2) there is a delay in getting a camera because I am still in conversation with myself about the sight I just saw.

The other day we were coming home in crowded traffic and I saw a couple walking up the street. The man had a backpack on and I believe he had something in his left hand. He was chatting with the woman he was walking with and in his right hand he had a duck. Yes, a lovely little duck with its head bobbing and if I had to guess the duck actually looked like he was in a pretty good mood! The man had both wings held low to the body in the grip of his right hand and the bird was just chilling out for a walk…little did he know he was about to be dinner.

Yesterday I was in the car in the city when we passed by a bank. The bank had 4 large granite steps that led to the lobby and on the top step was a little boy all by himself. I am guessing his mom was inside. The little boy looked to be around three and he had on a winter hat and coat. His pants were dropped to his ankles and he seemed to be working on the height and arch of his his bodily fluids. Yup, he had to go and was peeing off the bank steps and it didn’t seem like something out of the ordinary for him. This was one time that I was happy to be in the car as I had walked past the exact stairs the day before.

Chip came home the first day of work and said “You will never guess what I saw at work today!” He had come back onto his floor around a lunch meeting. Outside of Chip’s office is a large area of cubicles and at several of the cubicles were people sleeping! Yup, head straight down on a PILLOW!! Ok, I can respect the siesta, but I am in China and neither of us knew of this practice. The employees have an hour for lunch and their nap, no alarm clock needed!

There are some cute things to see as well. I find myself staring at people outside of my car window. There are so many people here, it is like eaves dropping on everything I pass. You see young couples in love, you see younger women talking with older women who I am guessing are their mothers. There are people who look like they are arguing, but Chinese people can talk quite loudly when communicating, so I am still unsure if I am seeing an arguement or excitement. You also see a lot of grandparents walking with their toddler grandchildren. China is all about the family and it looks as though there are a lot of grandparents helping out with childcare. We all know once your kids are mobile, you need to get them out walking to tire them out!

A lot of people carry their children in baskets on their backs. I see this everyday. You have to keep in mind people in China do not make the same amount of money as people in America so the Baby Bijorn is not an option. The baskets all look the same.  They are quite large and it looks like there is a blanket in the bottom for comfort, followed by the child sticking out of the top. They have straps to wrap around the parents arms like a backpack and there you have it – a baby carrier. The other day I saw this kind of basket being pulled up the sidewalk on two wheels. The basket looked full of something, covered with a blanket, but on top were two chickens. Both chickens were moving around. Neither chicken looked like it was trying to escape and run for its life. The genteman pulling the basket had his eyes focused forward and was making his way on the busy sidewalk. Hmm…certainly something you do not see everyday in a crowded city in the USA!

The blog is being picky about my post so I am ending here and will quickly post “The habbits of the local people II”

A day out with Nick..

I was Skyping with a friend today when the phone rang. It was my Chinese tutor and he wanted me to join him for some local noodles, luckily I could go because he was waiting for me in the lobby.  He took me out for local spicy noodles, which he was amazed I liked so much. Yes, they were incredibly spicy, but I like spicy. Later today I could still feel the spice in my chest, but as you eat them they are yummy.  My tutor Nick was wiping his forehead and eating yogurt after to calm the heat. The restaurant is one of the top noodle restaurants on Chongqing; it is very famous. He called and asked me to meet him in the lobby at 11:15 because the place would be packed by Noon. We walked up around the corner and down a small street/alley.  There was restaurant after restaurant, but what is important in China is that when you are wondering about the quality of the food (which you always need to be worried about) you judge it on the amount of people eating there. This place was very busy at 11:15 and by the time we left it was packed. There were some other busy restaurants on the street and some that were empty..not a good sign!!

The restaurant was the kind I have described before, open to the street, with a sort of garage door closure. It is open from 7am until 9pm.  Many people eat noodles here for breakfast. My tutor paid for mine, but I couldn’t help ask what it cost. We both had noodles, he had beef and I had vegetable. His bowl was larger than mine, but both were very good portions. The total for both was 20 yuan. That is about $3.20 American. I am a cheap date!!! Can you believe we had lunch for $3.20? Try doing that in Boston! Wait, I am guessing not many of you reading this blog would ever eat in this restaurant, nor would the health inspectors allow this restaurant to ever even open its doors!  Sorry Dad if you are having heart palpitations as you read this!!! The soup part of the noodles was being cooked out on the sidewalk in a massive cooking pot on a gas-fired burner.  Beside the pot and completely out on the sidewalk (on a table) with 100s of people walking by (hacking and spitting) was stacks of fried eggs that you could add to your noodles. Needless to say I passed on the egg!  Oh and about the hacking and spitting, that will be in my next blog entitled “The Habbits of the Local People.”

The restaurant only sits about 12 people and we just sat down at a table with another woman. The table was a little larger than a card table, but still only sat about four people. In lots of these kinds of restaurants they have these plastic seats you could buy at Walmart that are actually like large step stools that stack easily. You see these same kind of seats stacked outside of all these kind of restarants. The ingredients that were cooked into the noodles, plus the spices were on a make shift table beside the tables we sat at. They were all in open bowls and being used quite quickly. It was difficult to actually pass between the cooks and the tables. All of this was in a room the size of my livingroom. Just a little longer and more narrow.  I was crushed when I realized that my camera was on video instead of camera when I took the pictures. So I cannot post pics of the restaurant because I don’t think my blog will let me. I am finding that the iPhone seems to make everything look a little nicer than reality.  Anyway, I ate the noodles and enjoyed them.  Did I wonder if this was nuts to eat here and if I was going to be sick?  I sure did. I later told my friend Tiffany (Chip’s Chinese boss’s wife) that I ate there and she was shocked. Chip’s Chinese boss is very particular about where he eats and if he doesn’t want to eat in a certain restaurant he will just tell Tiffany to go check it out with her friends. Yes, Tiffany has eaten the noodles, but never stayed to eat them at the said establishment! She took them to go.

One thing I have noticed is that Chinese people do not seem to linger in restaurants, they eat and leave and we were out of there the minute we finished. It was probably all the better because when I started to inspect the cleanliness on my way out I was completely shocked!! The dirt and grime on the walls and the floors would take months and 10 cleaning ladies to clean, but I know the soup was hot and cooked, so hopefully the germs were too!

After lunch Nick took me to a famous house around the corner that was once lived in by the first, first lady of China. Her name was Soong Ching-ling. She was like a modern-day Hillary Clinton. She is the only woman of her kind ever to be this powerful in China. She was educated at Wellesley, came from a rich family and married into the Chinese government. I was fascinated by this woman.  She was born in 1893 and died in 1981. She was a part of peace efforts, she was huge into woman’s rights, she was a huge supporter of kids and did tons of Charity, and this doesn’t even begin to tell about all she did in her life. I can’t imagine all of the amazing influential people she met. She looked tough and I am sure her life was completely fascinating. Her two sisters also married well, but were proponents of the  Communist government. I am sure that made for interesting talks at the dinner table. Nick walked with me as we went through her home and read most of the information beside all of the pictures. It was all in Chinese of course, so this would not have been as interesting by myself! I was just telling Chip I was thankful to Nick for inviting me to go out as I am sure I would never have gone to the noodle place or this museum! I am hoping Nick will take Chip on this same journey on Sunday!

After our outing we came back to the hotel to start my Chinese lesson. I have to admit that having a lesson from 12:30 until 2:3o isn’t the best time of day to focus on learning something new, but I at least didn’t fall asleep on Nick..although I think he was worried. We started the lesson reviewing my numbers,  he was quite pleased I had studied a little! Then we launched into tones. Mandarin has 4 tones and almost EVERY word means four different things depending on the tone you use. It is so challenging and it will be slow, but being able to communicate at all here will be incredibly helpful!

Nick is a Chongqing native who actually moved to Fort Lauderdale and taught for a couple of years. His wife is now in Colorado teaching and they Skype everyday. He will not see her until summer. She makes so much more money teaching in the states so this arrangement is worth it for them. He tutors a ton and works at the local college. What is great about taking Chinese from someone here is all of the extra Chinese Culture I am learning. Everything has a story or a superstition that goes along with the meaning. We know there are warming fruits and cooling fruits (if you have eaten a lot of Hot Pot you need things to cool you down), there are good numbers (8 means wealth) and bad  (4 unlucky) and today I learned the Chinese do not like the color green. If you are Chinese you would NEVER wear a green hat.  It means that your spouse has had an affair or is currently cheating on you!!! I also learned that when a woman becomes pregnant they get rid of their pets. It is believed that pets will hurt or kill the children. When the child is older, 4 or 5 they might get a pet again. Remember, in China you can only have one child so I guess they take all precautions to make sure that one child is safe!

I am sure I will fill you up with lots of information over the next year and a half, but if you have any Chinese friends, you may want to consider a Boston Red Sox hat over a Celtics one!

 

YCIS~Yew Chung International School Of Chongqing

YCIS is the school both Will and Ella are attending. In Chongqing, YCIS is one of two international schools. Chip and I toured both schools in December. The other international school, QSI, is actually the American school and YCIS is actually a British based school. We really liked the American school, but were disappointed with its location in the city (over an hour drive from where we will live), the school’s size (35 kids) and the fact it did not have a music program. In fact we have learned that the American school is desperately searching for a new location in Chongqing because it is not growing. YCIS has grown by 80 kids since it opened in August this year. It is located in the expat community and three minutes from where we will live. It is a beautiful school with everything a good school needs. Great teachers, super principal, brand new Apple computer lab, huge track and sports facility, science labs, cafeteria with a chef and a music program. We did our research, talked to administrators in Londonderry and other parents at the school and sending the kids to a British school for 16 months will only enrich their learning! The school currently has 180 kids coming from 26 different countries. There are ~25 Americans, but that is year 1 (kindergarten) to year 13 (12th grade at home). Will and Ella are in the minority. A lot of the American kids are actually Chinese. I guess their parent’s companies sent them to work in China knowing it would been  easier transition for them.

I think Will is struggling with the small class size. His entire 6th grade class (year 7) consists of 11 kids. In Londonderry he had ~412 kids in his 6th grade and I believe around 104 in his pod. This has created quite an adjustment. I know he is very disappointed that there are not more boys to hang out with. He has Spencer, a Chinese boy from the US, William from Korea, and Richard. Richard is also from Korea and drives Will crazy.   Luckily Will has been playing soccer at lunch with some of the older kids and I hope to see if friendships can be created among that group. The school day starts everyday at 8:15 and they end at 3:30. Will has a 45 minute lunch and a 20 minute recess. If you ask Will, he will tell you the school day could be shorter if they would shorten the lunch. I guess after you are used to shoving your food in during school lunch in the US you don’t really see a point in slowing down and actually enjoying your food!

The other thing that is difficult for Will is starting mid-year and having some of the classes ahead of where he was in the US. We have been so proud of Will and his transition into the Londonderry Middle School. He just received a report card before we left and he got seven A’s and one A minus! So, he has set pretty high standards for himself. He is frustrated that he has stepped into a curriculum mid- stream and has two tests already. He has done fine on the tests, but he did not get an A. I keep explaining that I am sure the teacher is trying to figure out what he knows and where he is at, but Will is less than impressed. I actually need to set up a time to chat with some of the teachers to see how they handle the new kids mid-year. I have been told not to worry because kids come in at all different times and skill levels.

Both kids are behind in Math compared to where the kids in their class are here. Ella’s first math lesson was military time…I am guessing there is another name for it, but she came home telling me all about 13:00, 14:00, etc.  China uses this system as well and every time I look at the clock on the night stand I have to do the calculation..it probably would have been better off if I learned this when I was seven! Her homework this week in Math is converting millileters and liters.  I’m sure next week it will be celsius! Knowing these alternative measurements will not hurt her, but she may need a few reminders about pounds, gallons and feet when she return to Londonderry.

Ella’s class is actually two grades combined. She is in a first/second combined class like Will actually did in Londonderry for his first/second grade. The school has these classes combined because of numbers, but next year she will be in a straight third grade class. She loves her teacher Miss Pearce! Miss Pearce is a young teacher from England and has been very helpful when Ella appeared in tears for the first three mornings!!

Their PE teacher is from South Africa and they both take Mandarin with a Chinese teacher. Actually, Mandarin is the favorite class for both of them! Will also has a teacher from Hawaii, England, Canada and the U.S.  

Will is going to continue this year with the trombone and Ella just started the violin. They have both rented their instruments through the end of the year and Ella seems thrilled to be learning the violin…. so far.

We know all of our friends back home are on vacation these next two weeks and we will miss you! Our first vacation is the first week of April. The school calendar is quite different from at home and because of that they go to school until June 28th this year. We already received next year’s calendar. The kids start school mid August, they have the first week of October off, two and a half weeks at Christmas, a week and a half in February for Chinese New Year, the first week of April and a few scattered long weekends.

So….the kids have only been to school for 5 days and although we have had some ups and downs we are so proud of them! My kids are my mission and I won’t rest until they are happy!!!!

The weather and the pollution…?

I am sure many of you have noticed that in EVERY picture I take it is gray here. That’s pretty much it.  So far that has been the weather every day and every hour. I have never lived in Seattle, but I am guessing anyone that has can relate. Sometimes it is a little brighter than this picture, but not often. Oddly enough I have had enough to worry about this week that I haven’t focused on the weather. It is part of our every day and at times I am shocked that it never changes, or surprised that it can get worse.

For those of you who do not know the geography of Chongqing, the city sits in a basin, surrounded by two major rivers and then it is surrounded by mountains. Hence, the thick clouds settle in.

We have talked to a lot of people about the weather. I find it interesting that almost everyone has a different opinion about it. The weather affects everyone differently whether you are in Londonderry, Seattle, Miami or Chongqing. I do remember many days before I left NH admiring the blue skies. Actually I was thrilled that the whole month before we left we had blue skies almost everyday. Even if it is cold back home and you are sitting in a warm car you have to admit the blue sky is gorgeous! If you haven’t noticed lately, stop and take a look.

We were warned. The gray has not been a surprise. The other day people were thrilled at how nice it was out. February is considered winter here and the other day there was a point where the sun came through the clouds. Now, that doesn’t mean we saw the sun, this doesn’t mean the clouds parted and by no means was there any blue, but it brightened up a bit and pleasantly lifted up our moods.

We have been told that there is usually a two-week long Spring and then it is summer. This should happen in late March. Then we should expect that everyday will be around 100 degrees. I will report back when this happens. My friend Jenny who lived in Florida for the last 13 years told us not to worry, we will get used to it. I have to admit, I am a little worried. Of course we will be in an air-conditioned car, house, work and school so I guess we will just air condition jump. I am hoping there will be more blue sky as well, but I have to wait and see for myself.

The word is still out on the pollution. We do know that Chongqing is not as bad as Beijing or other places in the world. When you walk around the air doesn’t feel any different from at home. When you look around there is construction dust everywhere. Ella’s socks are dirty at the return of an outing and our shoes have dust on them. We were asked how many times we wanted our car washed each week, the choices were everyday, every other or once a week. I thought this seemed silly and told Chip to reply once a week is plenty. I am now getting a better understanding of why this question was even asked…construction dust. Am I worried about our health while we are here?  No.  Everyone I talked to at home said 16 months is not long enough to have any long-term effects on our health.

As you drive around you know you are near construction sites because the colorful walls that are erected around each site. We were just on the way back from lunch and I actually noticed a gate area where a vehicle was exiting the construction site. There was a little booth near the gate, similar to a toll booth and a woman came out, grabbed a hose and was washing off the car and it’s tires that was leaving the site. This I am assuming is to cut down on even more construction dust and dirt from going into the street. There are trucks that drive around the city all day spraying water on the streets to wash away this dust.

I was talking with Chip’s boss’s wife yesterday and we were talking about how dirty the city is. She agreed with the issue of construction dust, but then wanted to make sure I understood her concern for germs. She said the local people only shower once a week in the winter and they do not wash their hands. This was all I needed to hear!  Our outing this morning included even more hand washing and sanitizer! Of course when we are about the hotel this is less of a concern, but I did explain to Will and Ella the need to keep up with our good hygiene habits! These are mainly concerns when we are out and about. This is a differnt culture and these are different people. I am not worried a bit about us coming back to Londonderry having adopted ANY of these habits, but I also want to make sure the kids are aware of them and why their mother is now even more of a germ phobic!

Hotel Living..

Staying at a hotel for a vacation or a business trip is always fun, but living in a hotel brings with it an interesting new way of life. We are at the Chongqing Hilton on the 20th floor. We are incredibly fortunate that we have two bedrooms, a livingroom, three bathrooms and a small kitchenette. The kitchenette has a two burner stove which we have not used, a slightly larger fridge and a sink. We have used the microwave to reheat a couple of slices of pizza and we plan to use it tonight to reheat the kids pasta.

We have eaten at the same restaurant everyday for the past 9 days. We have the breakfast buffet every morning which the kids like.  At every meal there is always a ton of fruit, full salad options, an egg station (breakfast only), a Western food side and a local food side. There is always sushi out for lunch and dinner as well as a full menu to order from. The kids have found a few things that we re-order:  a salmon dish, pasta, a pizza, tomato soup and they have tried a few things we have not re-ordered. Chip and I are doing ok. He has tried a few things on the menu, but I get the buffet every time. If I get the buffet I can at least get the kids some steamed vegetables with every meal and fruit. If you know me well enough, you know I am crazy about the kids eating vegetables with every meal!  We were warned about eating raw things, but so far so good. We have been told for the most part that everything at the Hilton should be safe to eat and that has proven to be true.   At every meal there is a local area where you can get anything you could imagine. I have seen rabbit, duck, every kind of pork, lots of different seafood and some steak type things. These are all prepared and in metal containers being heated from the bottom (what is the name for these buffet containers?). There is also a chef who stays in this area and you can have things made to order. I have been getting this noodle vegetable soup, with a little spice. It is actually delicious and I have had that many times. I have already been losing weight, but I believe the reason for that is I have nothing to eat between meals. I have breakfast, lunch and dinner everyday and the only thing I have in between is bottled water.  

The kids are getting a little sick of eating in a restaurant because as you can imagine Chip and I are constantly saying “sit up straight, lower your voice, don’t eat like that, use a fork.”  Every meal is a little more formal and if we order off the menu we never know how long it will take to come. Today at lunch the kids food came first and they were finished when I received mine and then a little bit later Chip got his. The other funny thing about ordering off the menu is you cannot expect to get exactly what you read. Chip and I both had salmon, asparagus and saffron potatoes last night, there weren’t any potatoes when it arrived. At lunch today Chip ordered the ham and cheese veggie Panini. His veggie Panini wasn’t so bad (no ham, no cheese)!

The other interesting thing about this restaurant is the staff. They hover and they hover a lot! We love “Betty”; she is our favorite waitress and she is assigned to us no matter when we arrive. The head manager of the restaurant speaks with us every meal to make sure we are satisfied and then every time we finish with a plate they are immediately there to clear it for us. At times we will ask for things and you can tell our request is getting lost in translation. Other times Chip and I will just look at each other and laugh because what we asked for and what we got ended up being two different things.

As I have mentioned before there is little to no English in Chongqing, so when I answered the door yesterday in my robe as I was trying to get ready to go to lunch with Chip I didn’t have the right words to tell the Maid to come back later. I did point her in the direction of the kids room and went to my room to quickly get dressed. When I was trying to finish in the bathroom with my make up the Maid decided to come in and clean the bathroom. I smiled and nodded, but couldn’t believe I was applying my make up with her in the bathroom!

Everything here seems to cost about double what it does at home. We have been sending laundry out to be done and in the first few days it was over $300. I have been doing some laundry in the sink and hanging it up to dry. We know that Chip’s company is taking care of a lot of our expenses right now, but Chip and I do not live extravagantly and we would never take advantage. We have had the kids sharing meals as to not waste and to try to control costs. I am doing laundry in the room partly because I do no feel like sending out our underwear and socks out and partly because the expense is ridiculous. We asked yesterday if there was a place in the hotel to do our own laundry, but again something seemed lost in translation. We were told to go to the 16th floor, but we just returned from there and the only laundry machines we found were behind the “staff only” door. They didn’t look like coin operated machines or machines I would walk away and leave my clothes in.

There is also a lot of downtime. The TV is only in Chinese, and oddly the kids have been watching some of that. There is HBO and CINEMAX, but if you have these channels at home you know there is never anything good to watch and it is even worse in China! Overall, everything has been fine, this is just our current reality. I am sure I will have plenty to write about when we transition into our house.

A sea of people…

When I was a kid my Aunt Nancy rented a house on Lietenent’s Island on the Cape. I loved this house and the amazing beach it was on. At the end of the beach you rounded a corner and immediately it looked like the ground was moving. There was a blanket of hermit crabs that provided hours of entertainment for kids who liked to search for critters on the beach. This was really the lazy way to critter hunt, because there wasn’t ANY hunting involved there were crabs EVERYWHERE! This is kind of like Chongqing. There are people everywhere at every moment of the day. It is amazing to me. Where are they all going and what are they all doing? They all seem to have a purpose. I drove the kids out to school this morning and then drove back to our hotel. It was about a half hour in each direction. I saw probably 500 buses, all of them full. I was crossing the bridge that brings me back to the hotel and I counted 42 buses on the bridge with me! The bridge is five lanes and after I was shocked at how many buses I counted in font of me I turned around and actaully had to stop at 42 because I couldn’t see the beginning of the bridge anymore! 

You are always in a sea of traffic in both directions. Although the traffic seems to keep moving for the most part with only moments of being at a complete stop. Of course lots of people are headed to work, but this is what it looks like all day long here. The sidewalks are always filled with people headed in all different directions. There are cat-walks above the streets for people to get from place to place without walking directly through traffic, although many people still do.

One of the things you will never see in the U.S. is three people on a motor cycle. We came upon a motorcycle and I looked out at the woman without a helmet on and then another woman’s head appeared and then the driver!!! The motor cycles are not any bigger here, but maybe the women are all smaller. I also saw a guy driving a motor scooter with his passenger riding side saddle without a helmet of course!

There are 1ooo’s of shops here. Every street is lined one after the other. They are all wide open to the street, you do not walk through a typical door like you would walking into Dunkin’ Donuts or TJ Maxx. Most of them have more of a garage door that closes at the end of the day. There are however high end shopping areas that feel very much like a mall at home. Later I am going to an area called Paradise Walk. There are many high end stores there as well such as “Ole”, the Western grocery store I am excited to check out.  I was talking to Pascal, the head chef at the Hilton. He is from Holland and he, his wife and his two year old son have been here almost a year. He said there isn’t anything that you can’t find in Chongqing, you just need to know where to look for it and be willing to pay for it.

On Valentine’s Day we drove down a street that was one flower shop after the other. It was quite beautiful, the flowers against the usual gray of the surroundings looked like the cool effects photographers do now with coloring one spot of a photo. How do they all make a living??? I am guessing because there are so many people here!! All of the flower shops were quite busy with men buying flowers for their sweethearts!

So, when we move out of the hotel, the neighborhood will get a little quieter.  Most of our shopping and outings will be among this sea of people. Something we will need to get used to and  just something else that is different from home.

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