hello again, holland

So, I’ve made it to the Netherlands! After a short layover in Moscow, where I didn’t spot Snowden. Good to be back, although it always feels surreal after such a long time. Upon arrival I was immediately submerged in ice-cream. I didn’t have a Dutch sim-card yet, because I lost mine somewhere along the way in these last six months, but this made my friends worried for which I’m oh so sorry! I have simply gotten used to the fact that I am on my own, with nobody to report to. Whoops! In Holland I am loved for which I’m grateful.

We have much work left to do, the game plan:

– attach the solar panel to the freezer, it will be up on beams so that we will have some shade
– we bought a battery for the solar panel which we picked up by tandem bicycle in Hoofddorp, but the battery doesn’t work and we thus sadly wasted a day picking this up on the bicycle which was a total distance of 40 km back and forth, although riding the tandem bicycle was loads of fun!
– get the car in shape, it needs a new engine
– design of the cart
– compostable cups and other necessary utensils to sell ice-cream
– frozen fruit to make the ice-cream
– and even more.

So we were hoping to be ready in a week, but its shaping up to be more like two weeks. Lots of work left to do, but tomorrow I’m going to Utrecht to see my beloved Betje, Mieke & Roel and Laura and hopefully some more friends. Then back to work.

good bye, dapu lu family

At this time I have arrived in the Netherlands, leaving Shanghai and my beloved Dapu Lu family behind. Mixed feelings indeed, I fell in love with Shanghai and the life that Selma and Henjo have here. It has been more than a pleasure to be a part of the one and only Dapu Lu Family and I can’t thank them enough, and I will miss them so much.

Recap of three months in the hottest city in China;

– tea; need I say more?
– sightseeing
– met amazing and interesting people
– danced
– rode some speedy trains
– taught some English
– roamed around town, mainly in the former French Concession area
– had lovely friends visit us from Holland
– had ‘VrijMiBo’ (slang for Friday afternoon drinks in Dutch) beers at Yongkang Lu which is a bar street that has been taken over by the expats within one year and turned the entire area upside down. They even sell t-shirts.
– enjoyed the sun
– avoided the heat
– ate great food, probably accidentally some meat in broths or whatnot, but hey: ‘Wat niet weet, dat niet deert’. I never got any food illnesses in Shanghai, for which I’m grateful.
– ate insects
– although I didn’t eat it, we gave our father raw squid for his birthday Video of the moving squid.
– and a whole lot else that I have covered in previous posts.

Oh and we danced one of the nights our whole family was here, the photo doesn’t have the best quality, but it’s a pretty great one nonetheless. All nine of us took over the dance floor of a German beer hall, but my father and Elly were dancing the most of all! They even did a groovy balcony session. 70 ain’t so bad after all! Thank you all for visiting us in Shanghai, it was great to have the whole family reunite after 2 years. I love you all.

Papa & myself dancing.
Papa & myself dancing.

happy birthday, papa

My father & Co. are all in Shanghai to celebrate my fathers birthday, he doesn’t particularly like his birthday and he thus wants to spend it with his now six children. This is a treat for us all, because it has been forever since we have all been together. The last time was August 23rd 2011, when my father and Elly got married.

This means we did some touristy things; Elly & her daughters shopped, we went to museums and enjoyed the view in the Hyatt with the amazing view while drinking a Dragonball mojito. We mainly ate great food, since that’s generally what we’re about. I have seen dishes of foie gras, red snapper, sea bass, coquilles, oysters, lobster etc. come by on the plates of my family all weekend long. All vegetarian dishes for myself, of course, which were pretty amazing as well. Great wine & cocktails included.

My father had incorporated a strict ‘no gifts policy’. For my fathers last big birthday we gave him a miniature pig named Keesh, but the pig in question mysteriously got into the rat poison and died. No animals this years, so instead we brought my father & Co. to a restaurant where we ordered raw squid tentacles that stick to the inside of your mouth when you eat them. It was funny to see my father’s response to eating this. The squid tentacles were still moving on the plate and were difficult to pick up with chopsticks. The response of Elly & her daughters were hilarious of course.

All of us had some group photos taken. Christmas card?

a slight detour

with love the sun

A little change of plans; I will be selling ice-cream in eastern Europe. We will drive around with this solar powered cart and sell organic ice-cream, fruit smoothies & more. The phrase on our cart will be the above.

The concept is pretty straightforward: the sun shines in the summer and thus the ice-cream cart won’t need any power to keep the ice-cream frozen to sell. Selling ice-cream that is home-made, organic and healthy will be a better choice for the people who would otherwise buy sugary and chemical-laden ice-cream.

First destination: Croatia.
Of course we will pass many countries on the way from Holland.

We might be taking different turns depending on how much we sell in certain areas. And of course chase the sun, thus Southern/Eastern Europe seems more successful in that department, sorry Holland. Although I have heard the weather is great there now.

I will try and keep you all posted on our whereabouts via mindfullyminty.com, in case any of you are vacationing or living any place that we might pass. Perhaps you might need a refreshing ice-cream as well?

characters at sucheng #1 middle school

I love people, and because of this I tend to notice things in people and turn them into characters in my mind. If I know you, I’ve probably done this to you as well. Of course, at the #1 middle school in all of Anhui province, I did the same. Here I share with you my findings.

The UK & US university expert for the International Department – Mrs. Sarah
Mrs. Sarah is the first staff member whom I met, since she went with me on the 2.5 hour train-ride from Shanghai to Suzhou City. Her four year-old son and husband live in Shanghai, this is the reason why she heads back on the weekends to spend time with them. Her English is pretty good, and she’s very kind and generous. We had lunch together on my first day in hot Suzhou City. She splurged on lunch in the only restaurant in my neighborhood – four euros.

The Principal – Mr. Li
The day of my arrival he took my colleague Mandy, Sarah and I out to dinner, we got a private room and more food than we could eat, including crickets, we also shared one beer amongst us four. I had never shared a beer four ways before. He doesn’t speak a word of English, but he seems friendly even though I can’t converse with him at all, except for the few Chinese words that I know. He drives a Mercedes, I don’t think one single principal at public high school in the Netherlands or the US owns a Mercedes.

The English Teacher – Ms. Mandy
She teaches the children English grammar, and I teach them speaking, pronunciation, vocabulary and English & American culture. Ms. Mandy is a very good looking and sweet Chinese lady who isn’t yet married, but she’s 25, so she has to get out and find one – after 27 it’s not a good thing to be single she assured me. We went out to dinner together, where we spent about two euros each. Good to be in the middle of nowhere. She loves Karaoke.

The Director of the International Department – Mr. Ning
Mr. Ning went to University in the UK, and has taught at the Sucheng #1 Middle School for thirty years – I love the fact that they have #1 in their name; to make sure everyone knows that they’re the best. The first week he brought me a box of Nescafe coffee, as he knows the drill in the west: we love our coffee. He is a lovely man and he loves to speak English so much that he generally doesn’t stop asking questions or naming facts about the UK, the US or the Netherlands.

Mandarin Major – Mr. Lu
Mr. Lu majored in Chinese, and is thus the Mandarin teacher at the school. He has black teeth and is constantly smoking cigarettes – yes, he smokes in school around the kids. The kind man that he is, he gave me a tin of an amazing white tea, he drinks the tea all day long, I do hope the black teeth are due to the cigarettes and not the tea.. He also brought a photographer in to the classroom to take pictures of me while I was teaching the kids. That was awkward, the students thought so as well. I had to point at Oregon and NYC to show the kids where it is, for the camera.

The students
Most of the students don’t have an English name yet, although has named himself ‘Sea’, so I will just mention some things about a few of the students in particular that stand out.

John Lennon
He is my favorite. He has eyeglasses that say Harry Potter on the rims, his favorite colors are black & white, he loves Rock ‘n Roll, Country, Jazz, Classical, and Soul music, he wants to study music in the US, he plays guitar and bass, he has braces, and he is very eager to learn English. Besides all of these amazing qualities, he’s a vegetarian and his response to my question what he would do if he had $1,000,000 was that he would give the money to the starving children. John Lennon is his favorite musician of all time. He also asked me to show him how to eat with knife and fork. He is also the one that thinks I’m a gypsy.

Ms. Quirky
A quirky little girl who is mesmerized by the fact that I am from the west. She asks me questions like: do you have a boyfriend? and other silly personal questions like that. She loves my white skin and thinks I look the part; little does she know. When the class is over she will come over to ask as many questions as possible, and giggle at the fact that I look different. Yes, she makes me uncomfortable. No, I don’t know how to deal with her.

Ms. Brains
She is great at English, she is very intelligent and gives great answers to questions that I give her. “I think beggars aren’t funny, and I think we should help them.” is a typical quote from Ms. Brains. This summer break she is going to an English tournament with her school, where they will compete against other top schools in China. She is going to accomplish great things.

Yellow Shirt
He is a funny guy, I call him “yellow shirt” since that is the shirt he wore on the first day. At the end of class he generally comes over to me to ask me a question which is clearly not something he really wants to know, but is obviously a dare from his fellow class-mates – questions such as: what does suffer mean? etc.

There are more students in my class, of course, but I don’t want to describe them all. All in all, a good set of people here in Suzhou City. And again, these characters are somewhat made up in my mind. I also changed their names.

the walk to sucheng middle school

After lunch that I eat in my leftover 'bowl' from breakfast
After the lunch that I eat in my leftover ‘bowl’ from breakfast
I walk back to school to teach
I walk back to school to teach
and encounter some critters along the way
and encounter some critters along the way, some dead
one tough toad
and one alive and tough toad

I made a video:
and then I tried to follow the toad.

All the while being stared at during my walk and hearing the word Laowai a bit too often.

Also, the teachers advised me not to go out at night, so I try and have my fun during the day.

the walk to sucheng middle school

After lunch that I eat in my leftover 'bowl' from breakfast
After the lunch that I eat in my leftover ‘bowl’ from breakfast
I walk back to school to teach
I walk back to school to teach
beautiful hidden fields along the way
I come across some beautiful hidden fields along the way
and encounter some critters along the way
and encounter some critters as well – some dead
this mini snail isn't too fond of my pinky
this mini snail isn’t too fond of my pinky
one tough toad
and this is one tough toad

I made a video while following the toad:
video of the toad

The teachers advised me not to go out at night, so my ‘fun’ is during the day.

teaching english in suzhou city and living there as well

Suzhou city is located approximately 700 km from Shanghai. I am teaching here at Sucheng #1 Middle School for two weeks and I head back to Shanghai on the weekends to spend time with my beloved brother, sister in law and new friends in the city.

The school kindly put me up in a nice apartment building here in this ‘small’ city – with six million residents it’s small for China. It’s a new city with extreme construction going on everywhere, and they are even planning on moving the complete city-center to another location in the city. This city is growing majorly and everything around me looks the same.

When I asked the students what their favorite city in China is, they replied that Suzhou City is their favorite; a good sign indeed. I don’t particularly care for it much, besides the fact that it is extremely Chinese and Shanghai is ‘less Chinese’, but a lot more fun.

The students are amazing, they are very eager to learn and we discussed some interesting things together, such as that Panda’s eat meat when worst comes to worst, the kids don’t eat dessert, Ping Pong is boring to watch, American food is unhealthy, and when I asked one student what a gypsy is after describing the word to him, he replied: “you?”.

The market here is so cheap, I bought most of my fruits ans vegetables for the week for a total of 3 euros. I also had to buy a pan, which was also 3 euros. It seems that they eat quite healthy here, and most of the fruits and vegetables seem to be local – there is lots of agriculture around as well. Still too much oil on the dishes when you eat out.

The first day the principal and my colleagues took me out to dinner, we had some amazing foods that I hadn’t tried before, and we ate in a private room which is popular to do here in China. We even ate fried crickets! They didn’t realize that I could eat these since I’m a vegetarian, but it’s difficult to explain that I’m an insectarian to a group of people with whom you are already having difficulty speaking to.

Sucheng #1 Middle School is named this way because it’s the number one middle school in the Anhui province – aptly named indeed. My job is to teach the students to speak better English, as they are all planning on studying abroad in either the UK or the USA.

The school - every Monday the entire school attends the hoisting of the flag
The school – every Monday the entire school attends the hoisting of the flag

My neighborhood:

My neighbors.
My neighbors.
My neighbors.
My neighbors.
My apartment.
My apartment.
The neighborhood.
The neighborhood.

boyfriend & girlfriend

Ok, in Shanghai there’s a trend; boyfriend & girlfriend wearing a matching t-shirt. The shirts either have the exact same print, or they have a print that is complimentary to each other’s shirt.

Example:

boyfriend and girlfriend shirts

You actually see loads of couples wearing these.

Another ridiculous thing that is clearly a that is important to the status of the relationship here: the boyfriend carries the purse of the girlfriend.

If you are a fan of these Shanghainese relationship trends and I have offended you in any way, I’m sorry.