Saturday, November 10, 2012

Tongli (feat. China Sex Culture Museum)

Clif took a vacation day and we visited Tongli to celebrate his birthday. That was a few weeks ago and what started as laziness turned into forgetfulness with regards to writing this blog post. But fear not, here is a much needed update so you can "keep up."

Tongli is a little touristy town located within the city of Suzhou. Even though we live in the same "city," it took around 45 minutes to drive there from our home. This is because Chinese "cities" are more like what Americans consider's all just semantics but saying something is in Suzhou doesn't really tell you much other than it's west of Shanghai and east of Wuxi.

Mr. Wang took us to a parking lot and pointed toward a building, which was labeled as the ticket office. We asked for "liang ge" tickets and received two in exchange for 200RMB. After that, the clerk took on an inquisitive look and pointed at an English sign that read something like "storage car battery: 5RMB." We didn't know what that meant, so we declined. She nodded and pointed down the road in the direction we should walk.

These birds dive under water and bring back fish to the owner

We walked down the road in the direction she suggested and quickly realized we had no idea what was going on. We expected an ancient village and canals lined with cobble stone walk ways. What we found was a modern city that is representative of almost all Chinese cities. Luckily we noticed some green golf carts shuttling white people around, so we followed them on foot for about 2 miles.

Eventually we got to the gate of the ancient part of town where a security guard checked our tickets. Outside the gate was a "storage battery car shuttle stop" where the green carts were dropping people off...and we learned that a "storage battery car" was a shuttle and we should have paid 5RMB to save wear and tear on our shoes.

One of the big Tongli attractions is the China Sex Culture Museum, so naturally we headed straight for that. Well actually we didn't go straight there, it was more of a zig-zag because we didn't know where it was. Actually we could see it on the map, but we couldn't see ourselves on the map.

While it might sound like a pornographic type place, it was actually fairly educational. Inside they had a huge collection of artifacts, artworks and - most of those wooden.

Click for more pixels only if you appreciate art
Another valuable lesson for anyone following our footsteps is that the China Sex Museum bathrooms are markedly clean by local standards....and perhaps bathrooms such as those are worth the 20RMB entry fee even if you don't poke around the exhibit.

Siddhārtha? Is that you?

The Sex Culture Museum was extremely interesting. It took a while to meander through the displays and I took a lot of pictures even though the signs forbid pictures. But this is China and people here don't follow rules. So many pictures in fact that the camera battery died and we didn't have any juice to take pictures during the rest of our day in Tongli's other areas.

Best job ever?

Unfortunately, most of the pictures are a little X-Rated and I shouldn't put them here. So if you're interested, come over and we'll show them....there are a couple really interesting ones.

Prostitute's bed on the left, sex chair on the right.
After the museum, we were hungry and a friend recommended a little coffee shop that was high priced and westernized. Which means it wouldn't be crowded and somehow we actually found it quickly among the maze of walking streets. We paid way too much for a couple slices of ham, cheese and a too much mayonnaise on croissant roll...but it was good and MJ got to stretch her legs a bit.

MJ emerges from the baby backpack cocoon and begins to wake up

From the seat, we looked out the window and saw a fairly typical sight. This woman was selling random crap that apparently people buy. We see little shops like this everywhere, and we always see little kids playing with those toys nearby. They stand there waiting for people to walk by, and when someone does they pick up a do-dad and demonstrate it's function while yelling.

Awaiting the next passers by

Business was slow, so this woman took a moment to clean her dishes in the super clean canal water. And by super clean, I mean not as polluted as the water near our home..

Here is the final lesson for other people who go to Tongli. Don't bring a stroller! They are a pain on the rough streets and you have to lift them over steps and door sills everywhere. We were happy to also have the baby backpack to keep from shaking MJ too much on the street, but we still had to drag the stroller around.

But having an empty stroller provided some humor. Chinese people LOVE to look at white babies and when they see the stroller they always rubber neck to see her. Almost everyone was so focused on sneaking a peak into the stroller, they failed to spot the baby strapped to Shayne. And when they realized the stroller was empty, they were always shocked and sometimes gasped in confusion. "Why are these laowai pushing an empty stroller?"

These fancy doors where everywhere

We also visited one ancient residence that had been ruined during the cultural revolution because the government used it as a stable. In recent years it has been rebuilt and restored to "it's original beauty."

This is the ceiling of a stage, the round part is about ten feet in diameter.

Tongli is a very interesting place. It's quite large and we spent a day and didn't see much of it - we'd love to go back. Next time we'll pay for the "storage battery car" and we'll leave the stroller at home. We might even pay 20RMB again to use a proper pisser.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Sugar Cane - Split and Spit

Thanks to Alva for sharing some of her sugar cane with me. Luckily the eating technique was also shared: Split the cane with your teeth and peel back the hard green outside. Bite a chunk of the crisp white innerds and chew out the juice. Spit out the remains. Tastes like sugar water...a nice treat.

I recommend caution while you peel it. You're one sneeze away from scrapping boogers off the candy.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Sink Swimming She Loves It

 Not long after MJ was born, Clif's coworker also had a baby. He was sharing some pictures, when Clif noticed something odd: the baby went swimming immediately after birth...and not the normal grunge rock album cover style of infant swimming. When asked about it, the coworker explained they go every week and it's good exercise for the baby.

Update: Buoyancy helps reduce the amount of weight suspended from the baby's neck - like how you feel weightless while swimming under water. It is a specially designed inner-tube and it mostly just keeps the baby upright with head above water.

About the same time, Shayne had a reunion with all her classmates from the prenatal classes. They all brought new babies to show off and brag. The teacher asked if any had tried the Chinese swimming yet. Nobody had...

Saturday we put on our brave faces and did it. We went to the store, walked up to the worker, made the international hand signal for "swimming" and pointed at the baby. Before we could blink, MJ was naked with an inner-tube around her neck and swimming circles in a specially built sink! Check out the video:

I know it looks bizarre, and maybe a little cruel. She never cried, screamed or showed signs of anguish. If anything, she totally loved it. She kicked around for about 10 to 15 minutes, which is about how long she's willing to do anything. Then we dressed her up and paid the bill.

I think we'll go back for more, maybe even see if this can be done in our bath tube.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

The Humble Administrator's Garden

After failing to enter the Humble Administrator's Garden last week, we strapped the baby to Shayne and braved the big world again on Saturday. It really is a beautiful place best described with pictures. I won't muttle things up too much with my words.

A marked reduction in crowd density.

One of many pagodas and pavilions

Lotus pool, we missed the blooming season

Bridges are often crooked because demons can only travel in straight lines.

It is easy to miss the details

We're sure there is a reason to use round doors, but we don't know it.

Permanent residents

Shayne doing her best impression of a young Chinese girl.

Even in ancient gardens, the cellular service is top notch.

We waited a long time for all the other people to leave this picture, and settled for "only two"


Clif loves these things. He's not sure why.

Watch your step!

This grape vine is protected from the bums of weary visitors.

Wood carving

Why we left the baby stroller at home: in general China is not wheel chair accessible.