This Saturday, our first stop was at Plant Street. Exactly as the name suggests, it is a street where you can buy plants - lots and lots of plants. I'm not much of a gardener - in fact, I think I have the opposite of a green thumb, whatever that is! But even I'll admit, that pretty house plants is their pretty little porcelain pots do add a certain je ne sais quoi to any decor! So anyway, we drove for about an hour to get to this Plant Street, It was about a kilometer long, with shops on either side selling only plants, plants and more plants.
From full size pomegranate trees - now that is something I can live with! - to tiny finger sized cacti, from a multitude of palms to all kinds of flowering shrubs and bushes - Plant Street has them all!
And you know you're in China when you see so many beautiful arrangements of bamboo and orchids!
Shopping done, we headed off to meet our friends, the Ms, for dinner. They, too, have moved here recently from Peoria. Interesting thing is, we had first met them in Grenoble - they were there on assignment about the same time as us - and now 7 years later, our paths cross again in Suzhou! Goes to show you what a small place the world really is! The place we had picked was Ollie's, kind of an international pub, which serves mostly European and American food, with some Mediterranean and Asian dishes. Meeting up with other Cat expats is so relaxing. There are so many shared experiences, and a complete mutual understanding of the unique and sometimes funny problems that all expats face! Of course, our agents and their ability/desire to provide help is always a favorite topic! For instance, I've been trying to get our landlord to have the windows cleaned since the day we've moved in. Our very helpful agent is the translator/go-between. Its been 6 weeks now, the latest excuse is that it's expected to rain this week, which would dirty the windows again, so let's wait till there is a forecast for clear weather! So, is it never, ever going to rain after the windows are cleaned?? The best part is, the window cleaners showed up at the Ms' house completely unannounced and ready to work! Well, as long as someone has clean windows...
The best part of the evening was yet to come!! Over dinner, the topic of karaoke came up. Turns out the Chinese are crazy about karaoke, and it's a very done thing to visit karaoke bars with family and friends. And what do you know, there was a karaoke place called Ktv right next to the restaurant. The kids were all bored and tired at this point, but how could we just leave now?! We were met in the lobby by a liveried attendant, who led us to an elevator - not just any old elevator, but a special access one - the attendant had to swipe a card to get it to open! Very la-di-dah! At the main reception, there was some confusion regarding the entrance charges. The receptionist kept pointing to the figure 160RMB and then holding up 1 finger, which we all interpreted as 160RMB/per person. That works out to be $28, and we almost walked out at that point. Finally, Ajey managed to figure out that the cost was actually 160RMB for 1 hour for all of us! After we signed in, we were led down a corridor - cool lighting, marble flooring, the works - with doors on either side. Our little karaoke room was about 8ft by 6ft - just big enough for 6-7 people. Plush leather sofas on 2 sides, leather paneled walls, a marble topped table and a big screen TV - not at all what I was expecting!! It took us a while to set the language options to English, and then to actually find the English songs - but after that, time just flew! From Shakira's 'Waka waka' to Elton John's 'Circle of Life' - the songs just kept getting better and better! Manasi surprised us - she knew the words to 'Call me maybe' and 'Dynamite' - and she wasn't afraid to sing! We had an absolute blast!! Thanks, Ms, for a fabulous evening!!
Inevitably, the much awaited weekend is gone, and its back to the weekly grind again! And what does this week have in store for us? The answer, as always, que sera sera! Until next time!