Thursday, November 19, 2015

Fitbit poser? Or a Fibit Judger?

I don't review products. But I do want to propose something to you. Do you like to keep track of your exercise? Did you ever use a pedometer? Do you want a Fitbit?

Let's discuss this for a minute. When you're dieting, do you check your weight more than once a week? I do. I even tend to judge myself by that number. 

And that's so incredibly wrong. That's why I am approaching this issue from a different angle.

In that context, do you want a Fitbit? I've read a number of reviews for it and listened to TV reports on it, also. It looks like a nice little rig. Most love it, and they check all the stuff they need to - diet, exercise, sleep. Not all the reviews are glowing, however. It won't sync sometimes, or quits unexpectedly or, like that pedometer you once attached to your belt, can record exercise when you're not exercising. 

But let's face it. It's cool. It's unobtrusive, and yet, shows the world you're tracking your exercising. Good for you! It can come in nice colours with pretty little fasteners. No one wants to be seen with a nerdy pedometer on their belt anymore. 

It's also great for posers. They like to show off. It's great for keeners, too. They can really micromanage their regime.

But here's a warning. Just don't wear it only to show off. And don't wear it to micromanage your life. In fact, I challenge you to wear it only to confirm what your sweat (or lack thereof) is telling you. 

Don't allow it to judge you, either. Fitness is a long term goal, a lifestyle, a means to have quality of life. Fitbits are tools to help, not to 'fit' into the crowd, or keep you busy during your break when you should be walking away from your iphone and going outside to enjoy life.

So stop reading my blog and get out there! 

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Is there a novel in you?

It's not too late to join NaNoMo. Or Nano, as we novelists call it. It's really National Novel Writing Month and it is a way to spur you on to get that novel inside of you out!
But so many people whine, "I can't write!" That's not true. I simply tell them, "No, you can't edit." No one should rely on their own edits, anyway. We're too close to the story. 
And, yes, I also hear, "But I don't know grammar!" (I don't know him, either. But I do know some correct grammar) 
You may not speak the Queen's English all the time, but you don't have to. 
Just go to Grammarly.

Five Mistakes To Avoid in Your NaNoWriMo Novel Infographic
(Sorry I couldn't line it up properly within my blog.I'm just not that savvy.)

So why not give it a try? Why not start your story today? Because there is a novel inside of you.

Friday, November 13, 2015

So that's what they were cooking! And other last day revelations

We are due to fly out this afternoon, but since our bus isn't leaving for a quite a while, we decide a walk around the neighborhood is in order. 

The husband part of our traveling companions is still under the weather and opts for a nap. My throat hurts still, mostly likely from the pollution, so we head to a convenience store. The drugstore beside it holds only herbal medicines, all in Chinese, so I opt to walk next door for some recognizable Halls cough drops. My friend teases me about coming all the way to China and not trying their herbal remedies. 
My throat isn't that bad.
We walk around, snapping photos occasionally and coming up upon a fresh food market with many tubs and trays and cages out front.
Oh! So that's what those small birds were that we'd seen cooked in the market the day before. Pigeons!

While I have not seen any live chickens on this trip, (not that they would be on our tour company's bucket list of things to see) we did see our first live ducks. Do you remember when I wrote about Beijing and the Peking Duck? We had duck breast quite often and I rather liked it, but to meet eye to eye with someone's future supper is unusual. 

 I don't know for sure if I met these tasty morsels in the eye, but it was interesting to see them. As for the eels above, I hear they taste like chicken. 

We also passed this poor overburdened bicycle, a symbol perhaps of the old world this country is leaving in its wake? 

The bus finally comes, and we say our goodbyes to the tour guide. At the airport, going through security, there is a small glitch with my passport. For some reason, my passport information didn't jive with the information they had on me, either with the visa or my ticket. I wait a short time, but get through all right in the end. 
Waiting for our plane is a joy. For there is a Burger King!! Be still my beating heart!

We choose this instead of the variety of Chinese food offered. Then after, we see an unusual sight out at the runway. Beyond the airfield is the mouth of the Yangtze River, and it's not often you see an airplane with a huge container ship in the background.

Our trip is over. The plane is only about 3/4 full and we all get a row to stretch out. We still have a long flight, then a connecting flight and will get home late, but we're looking forward to it. 
Would I return? No. I've seen all I had wanted to see. The price would have to be excellent before I return, as it was this trip.
Would I recommend this trip? Not to everyone. Frankly, some people would not be able to stomach the food, some the crowds, some the pollution, the walking. But if you want to hit all the famous sights, taste all the real Chinese food and can take crowds and walk, I would recommend it. Otherwise, I suggest a shorter trip. Just make sure you take the cruise, as it's the only down time you get. 
I hope you have enjoyed my blog posts on China and please share them with your friends. I've attempted to present to you an honest view of this mysterious culture, and would love for all to read it.
Thank you for stopping by!

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Our Last Full Day

It's a busy one, in the market, and ending at a show that still blows my mind! 
It's the Shanghai Acrobatic Troupe. It's insane! I don't have photos for you because they ask that you do not take them during the performance, and I wanted to respect that. 
I have only two photos. One of the outside of the theatre and the other of the motorcyclists after the performance.

Needless to say, some people below me videoed the entire performance, or snapped photos, but they weren't from our group. I can't imagine what the flash of a camera might do to these young performers. 
One man in our group said it was Cirque de Soleil without the gimmicky stuff. Another said it was better than that. We watched in awe as acrobats piled on one bicycle, or drifted down on ribbons, one woman held up by the strength of a man's flexed feet. Six motorcyclists ride around in a large cage, and performers bend into incredible shapes. Two live bands and one singer provide the music, and I find myself speechless. If you ever come to Shanghai, you must see this performance. 
The evening was marred by a man who, after the performance, tried to sell my husband either laser flashlights or wheels for his shoes. My husband, being a true Canadian, was too polite to say no, but when I got tired of the hawker racing in between us, I stepped in to block him. For my effort, I was jabbed in the side by a flashlight. The hawker wheeled around to the other side to continue his haranguing, and, with my side stinging, I yelled at him. He swore at me in English, but eased off. Our guides ignore all of this. Of course, I remember. It's all about saving face, not appearing to be trying to embarrass another person.
I can't help but be disappointed by it. Our last tour group was in Israel, where our guide stood up for us and sometimes chased hawkers away. 
As we approach the bus, we spy a man with no arms, sitting, shirtless, on the ground, with a hat in front of him. I give him some money, as do several in our group and he smiles his thanks back. 
We get to sleep in tomorrow as our flight is late, but even with the last day looming, we find surprises in store. 

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Thank heavens for tea.

We're going to yet another market. I had asked our guide if he had any ideas on what to get my son and son-in-law. He gave me some ideas and our local guide offered to get them for me. I didn't realize that they would be at this market. It certainly didn't smell like a place you might buy electronics.
In fact, as soon as we entered the market, we were hit by the smell. A kind of unpleasant cooking oil smell. Thankfully, we got used to it, but on our way to the centre of the marketplace, we passed what had probably impaled our nasal cavities. I couldn't even guess, until our last day, what they were.

And then there was this thing, sitting in the window where they made dumplings and pasta thingies and other exotic delicacies. Made of black rice, maybe? I couldn't help but recall a documentary I watched once at a museum about the dung beetle...

But I won't go into that now. 
One of the local guides hands me my electronics, and we decide that we will test them as soon as possible. We do, during supper, and they work great. I'm happy. All our gifts are bought.
We are given some free time to shop and meet back at the tea house upstairs. My husband barters for a tee shirt, and all the while, my throat hurts, probably from the smells of all the cooking. I cringe at the assortment of food, but welcome the tea house. We make our way back to it.

It's actually a pretty market if you can get past the crowds and the smells, and I enjoy just sitting up in the tea house sipping jasmine tea. 

Our trip is winding down. But our guide tells us he has one more surprise up his sleeve for tonight.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015


The financial mecca of China, Shanghai is more modern and with a different feel to it. We are warned that the food doesn't taste as good. Oh dear.  We start the day at a museum, mostly because, I suspect there aren't as many 'bucket-list' things to do here. After the museum, which held only the most marginal of interests to us...

I spotted a cat outside and took its picture. Now, we're off to another high end shopping centre. Needless to say, the tour company expects us to shop here, but all we take in is McDonald's ice cream. It's a un-tasty mix of whipped milk and Cool Whip with a gel like chocolate sauce. Some try the green tea ice cream to much the same result.
At one of the high-end sports stores, we ask about basketball shirts and one store clerk waves us off in disdain. Really. In disdain. Only the younger woman explains that local sports teams' shirts are not allowed to be sold anywhere.

Again, the tour company has misread its demographic. We are not here to spend $1500 on a purse or suit or pair of shoes. We only have $800 in duty free allowance. The company is based in Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal. They would know this. 
One thing we did enjoy was a view of the iconic skyline. I do like how the Chinese allow incredible architecture. 

But the Silk Factory is interesting. It's more a factory outlet, but we learn where it comes from and how it's spun, and even get a chance to stretch the fibres into a quilt. 


They are a reasonable price, but I opt to buy a 'quillow', a silk pillow that unzips to become a small quilt. We are told that sometimes they incorporate man made fibres into their silk, depending on their use and then are allowed to enter the store. It's a nice clothing store but far too expensive, and very few purchases are made. 
Lunch proved to be ridiculous. We are off to a Mongolian Grill. It's where you choose your own ingredients and they grill them for you.
But with 300 people to feed, the room is busy and crowded and when I step up to the window to hand over my bowl of food, I watch in horror as my choices are dumped into the same pile as the woman in front of me, and then mixed it all together. I tell that woman what has happened, as she didn't notice, and she immediately complains. To no avail. The young female cook laughs at her. Yes, laughs.
Neither of us are impressed. I opt for the salad bar and find it tastier. And someone has set out normal cookies, so we choose them instead. 

Tomorrow, the market. Remember that show Destination Truth, where they fly halfway around the world to some exotic locale, eat weird food at an equally weird market, then fly to a remote location to film a ghost, but someone throws up and Josh Gates blame the ghost? 
Well, that market is coming up. Just wait for it.

Monday, November 9, 2015

The Venice of The Orient

Suzhou. Not sure how to pronounce it, so it's easier to call it The Venice of the Orient. Canals, shops, brides getting photographed. 

It's all there and wonderfully colourful. If you have been following this set of blogs faithfully and I hope you have, you'll recognize a few photos. 


But on the other side of the street is a seedier side. Known to sell foodstuffs, it also had a rather pungent smell. I spotted a man relieving himself for quite some time. (He needs to see a doctor) Perhaps that's the reason for the smell. 
I buy a set of nesting bags. Lunch here was more exotic than most and with several people sick, it wasn't enjoyable. The soup looked safe, but I found all the food too salty. We try an odd black fungus, all shiny and giggly sitting there beside a set of soft brown bags made of a pasta type material, with chewy pork inside.
The scenery outside is pleasant, so most of us opt for that instead. 

On our bus again, our tour guide warns us that at our next stop, we must walk together 'like sticky rice'.
I can't imagine what's next.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

The last night aboard and a city the size of a country

Last night was our last on board. The captain made his dutiful visit to the dining room, offering his thanks and bon voyage and giving out medallions to various people with birthdays and such. After the celebratory meal, which wasn't much different than the rest, we headed up to the library for one more game of canasta. Someone left a window open and the cigar smoking crowd at the bow of the ship choked us out. 
Fortunately, our group didn't have to leave early and we enjoyed a relaxing morning watching the men bring supplies aboard with long poles stretched across their shoulders. We have arrived in Chongking, a city with the population of the country of Canada. It blew us away. So did the high end shopping! 

Because this city is in the Szechuan province, the food is spicy, but also at a cost. Unfortunately, it also made about 40% of sick. 
Thankfully, it didn't damper too many spirits. We were all off to Shanghai.
But, like most airports, this one is stuck out in the middle of nowhere. We must travel for several hours to reach our hotel. But wait! English TV! Wifi!
And a lovely, peaceful garden called The Lingering Garden. Too bad we had to share it with hundreds of others. 

But they had the coolest garbage cans!

And a rather odd shaped statue.

And bonsai! 

Saturday, November 7, 2015

The Red Pagoda

Our next excursion is rushed, as we must disembark over a crazy set of plankings and hurry through a market. 

The Red Pagoda is a beautiful building that once stood atop a hill, but with the building of the dam, now sits on the water. 
To get to the new island, we must cross a suspension bridge. 

The only thing saving it from destruction is a cement wall around what feels like a small village. Inside the pagoda, it's a series of stairs up and up until you hit the top...and a shop. 

It's humid and cloudy today and coming down feels so much cooler. We hurry once again through the market where I purchase a knockoff cloisonne Christmas ornament, and my husband buys a coin. We are so rushed, it's nearly impossible to shop. At the water's edge, we see a women doing laundry and a man washing his bike. The water is turbid and dark yellow, impossible to see through, and I can't help but wonder about their health. 

We pull away and I snap a few photos of the pagoda as the ship sails by. A moment later, we can see a small fireworks factory setting off fireworks. We make our way up top where we say goodbye to the Three Gorges and are told this sight photographed below is drawn onto their paper money. 


And speaking of paper money, at the Red Pagoda, we found some in front of this creepy fellow. His story is one of greed. He had a small hole out of which one grain of rice fell at a time, but when he tried to make the hole bigger, nothing came out. A warning. 

The matinee movie on board is The Last Emperor, a film shot at the Forbidden City in Beijing about China's last emperor. It's a thought provoking movie that's almost difficult to watch in spots. After, I head up on the top deck as we pass yet another freighter, so dismal looking.

Night falls for us as we pass another small city. The arts centre and theatre are lit up, as is the set of condos between them. 

I quickly get my best shots, and lucky I do, for suddenly, the lights wink out. 
This is our last night on board. And tomorrow brings other surprises.

Switching Gears to Gold Cream and Big Bang Theory

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