China Assignment (Suzhou) bio picture
  • Welcome to my Suzhou blog!

    For the next two years (starting on Feb 14, 2011) I will use this blog to chronicle our travels while on assignment in Suzhou, China. My wife and I (OK, mostly me) consider this a great opportunity to get to know one of the oldest and richest cultures in the world. We are excited about the opportunity and hope you will join us as we explore this amazing land and it's surroundings. We encourage you to add comments as you see best.
    Thanks for visiting!
    My assignment ended on March 8, 2013. If you like to follow our next adventure click HERE
    Carlos & Bethe

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August Miscellaneous

As expected, August was hot and humid. We had a week in August that was just amazing weather wise; low humidity, clear blue skies with some puffy white clouds around. Yes, believe it or not, white puffy clouds in Suzhou. This is not a usual sight in Suzhou or Shanghai due to the pollution that usually masks from view anything beyond the unfortunate pollution layer.

This August seemed to have gone by faster than other moths for me. In retrospect it seems like I just did not take as many pictures as usual. It could also be that after 16 months in Suzhou, the material for posting obvious themes is starting to dry up. This necessitates a review of topics we need to cover before we leave the area for good this coming March. Planned to go out today to see what caught my eye for my next posting, but the morning has turned out to be a dreary gray and drizzly day so need to change my approach. Decided to review all pictures taken in August and summarize from those I have not already used to describe what transpired on the 8th month of the current year. Here we go…

 Introducing Miriam

A young US couple that recently moved into our building complex had their first child in August. They asked me if I could take some pictures of their beautiful little girl Miriam so that was enough for me. The series was taken with available window light.

Miriam decided to come into this world 3 weeks before she was due. Here she is on her 6th day on this earth. God bless her and guide her to be a source of happiness to others.

Little  Miriam was asleep throughout the session. She was very good. I love her sweet face on this one.

As mentioned above, Miriam was a little premature. Her little sweet hands in contrast to her dad’s give you an idea of her size then. She is doing very well and plan on doing a follow-up session this month.

Others….

While visiting the Suzhou Culture & Arts center we visited the current exhibition. It was kind of bizarre one (modern art – I do not always get this type of art). This was a life size ape like statue that look very real to the most minimal detail. You really expected it to move if you poked at it. No, it did not move at all.

There were many different types on art in this exhibition, from the unexplainable to the one that made you think … what is this all about? These three pictures were interesting to me. Not sure what they mean, but maybe portraying a gloomy view/feel of the Chinese revolution and communism…but then, maybe not!

Our good friends Barry and Cathy were going back for good to the US and our last stop together was Cold Stone creamery. One of our favorite flavors is “DACK” chocolate. As in the US, Cold Stone is a popular stop by Expats and locals.

Last picture with our good friends Barry and Cathy. Good luck guys!!! Will see you when we get back.

Our TV service is poor at best. We are grateful we can watch Discovery, TLC, NatGeo, History and a few other channels, but the choice and reception/availability is usually a challenge. So, the best thing to do is to visit your neighborhood DVD store. In them you can get the latest movies (usually after a week or so they are released) and buy them for about $1.70. You not only have movies available, but TV shows, series and concerts. Yes, there is an issue with copyright laws, but for us there is little choice if we like to see any movies. NetFlix is really not an options since our internet connection speed is very slow.

This is our good friend Ali after finishing his Dairy Queen fruit smoothy.

One curious and practical thing we have noted; most of the underground garages have been built to also serve as bunkers in case of air raids. In this view you see massive steel doors that would be locked to keep debris from adjacent open areas out.

There are many Chinese Muslim in Suzhou. They are easy to spot, this Chinese muslim lady is waiting for the bus as she checks her mobile. Chinese muslim restaurants are highly recommended. We have been to a few and their food is excellent.

Sometimes you just do not know what to photograph. One evening I wandered around our apartment looking for a different kind of shot. Ah Ha! Saw the exhaust hood over our stove and thought…hmmm. Call it “Spaceship Hood”

My beautiful wife taking a rest during one of our bike rides alongside Jin Ji lake

The area were we live and work used to be agricultural fields. Many of the farmers that used to work the fields now work as street cleaners, gardeners and covering other outdoor activities. In this image taken from my office window where we see a group of ladies that weed the fields surrounding the facility taking shelter from a quick passing shower.

Lily is 2 years old!!! Sweet Lily was adopted by good friends of ours. Lily loves Minnie Mouse so her mom made this cake for her. She loved it, as she did many other present she got that day.

This is Lily with her big bow. Happy Birthday Lily!!!

ccausillasNovember 17, 2012 - 7:00 PM

Many thanks!
Your comments about my blog are highly appreciated. I am very happy to hear that it is read and enjoyed by you. Have not thought about entering in any contest, but appreciate your interest and potential nomination.
Hope you keep on visiting and enjoying it.
Best wishes

fiferoofing.comNovember 16, 2012 - 3:49 PM

You need to takе paгt in а contest for one of the greateѕt blogs

on the web. I am going to recommеnd thіs blog!

ShayneSeptember 10, 2012 - 9:49 AM

I never noticed the "dack" chocolate. Miriam is working out some new poses.

Cathy & Barry HeiseySeptember 9, 2012 - 8:42 PM

Wow we made the blog! Love the pictures!

moniqueSeptember 9, 2012 - 8:17 PM

Once again, I feel like I'm there! Some day we will go for a visit to see all of the places and things you write about :O)

Hot Summer Days

As we enter out third straight week of hot and humid weather in Suzhou (mid to high 90’s F – due to humidity it feels at least 10 degrees hotter) what to do during weekends? Well, really not much. Weekdays are work as usual so I am not too familiar with what goes on during weekdays. However, weekends are another story altogether.  As during weekdays I start my weekend days early riding my bike for 10 miles around Jinji Lake (10 mile loop). Since I leave the apartment around 6 AM the heat is not bad – usually around 85 F. People and car traffic is very low at that early time of the day, the difference during very hot weekend days is that it stays relatively quiet until mid to late afternoon when the temperature starts to drop a bit.

Since they opened the subway (called Metro) Friday and Saturday evenings are extremely busy around the north side of Jinji lake where they have a laser show with occasional fireworks. People start coming into the area at around 5:30PM for the 8:00PM 30 minute show. Yes, crazy busy and a complete zoo for 30 minutes. This past Saturday, we took a bike ride from our apartment across Li Gong Di to the Suzhou Cultural and Arts Center. This center is a massive complex that looks a little like the Birds Nest in Beijing, but I find it a lot nicer. It is real big inside and since it has nice air-conditioning, many seem to go to it to escape the heat outside.

Our apartment it to the extreme left of this image. The ride is quite nice and once on the path you see on the right quite pleasant. I think this is a very beautiful area in Suzhou. In the background, you see what is to be the signature building in Suzhou – The Gate of the Orient (or the Trouser Building as the Expats call it). It is just about as high as it will be (1,010 feet high), they need to add the decorative top that will increase its height by about 4 or 5 additional floors.

 

A view of the Suzhou Cultural and Arts Center from the bike path as we get closer to it. We can see this complex from out living room window at night (dead center of it). It is quite a sight when it is all lit up at night.

 

The following few pictures are details of the Suzhou Cultural & Arts center we took the following day (Sunday). Very hot day and as you can see almost no people outside – we were the only crazy ones, so my wife says.

 

Truly a massive structure. The tear shape structure you see has four or five floors inside with very pricy stores and traditional Suzhou restaurants. There is also a massive underground garage below it.

 

The portion on the left wraps around the main complex and it houses thousands of small lights driven by a system that creates beautiful light/color patterns you can see from all around the lake.

 

This is a view from the back of the complex. To give it some scale you can see my wife with her arms up at the center of the tear shape structure in the middle of the image. With an area of over 150,000 square meters, the center combines grand theatre, cinema city, auditorium, business center, art hall, green land and other functional projects.

 

This is the view from the main entrance. The complex has many entrances and it houses several theaters where they have concerts with world-class performers, a movie cineplex, an IMAX theater and many other large areas for art displays and various displays.

 

As we told you earlier, not many people come out at noon on a very hot day. This place is usually crowded, but not today.

 

We thought we might get lucky and be able to watch The Dark Night Returns, but as out luck goes, that movie starts August 27. Like to see it here since they will show it on IMAX. We did not stay for what seems to be a hot Chinese movie.

 

As with any other part in the world, kids are amused by a mascot we have no idea what it represents. All we know is that the kids would just dance around it and wanted their pictures taken with it.

 

Western culture is prevalent in many areas we have visited in China. No different in here, Chinese seem to love American movies and they are big sellers for sure. However, the Chinese movie industry is very much alive and thriving. Have read that the dGeneration of movie producers (“d” for digital) are able to make good movies with very low budgets using the latest digital movie equipment available. Many have won international prices for their work.

 

Dusk comes around 7PM in mid August. The sun is now setting and the lights on the complex are on.

 

The lights circle the complex and dance and flash with a varieties of hues and intensities.

 

The main entrance at dusk.

 

Right across the parking lot from the Suzhou Culture & Arts center you find Moon Harbor; another new area with many pricy stores and very nice restaurants. You will find many Chinese restaurants, but you also have Indian, French, and other international cuisines represented.

 

As people wait for the laser and fireworks show a popular thing to do it to launch a paper lantern into the now black skies. While illegal to do so, we have seen as many as twenty lanterns up in the sky. Police do not seem to enforce many laws/rules in Suzhou. When they do, it can get nasty so better comply from the start.

 

It takes a while to get one of this lanterns up without burning it as you try. This guys seemed to have done it before. It is really amazing how far up they go. Literally, they disappear into the dark. Wonder where they finally land – hopefully they are out of fuel by then.

ccausillasAugust 26, 2012 - 12:55 PM

Hey Glen! Hope you are your and Jill are doing well. August has been hot, but it seems last year was hotter. Thanks for visiting the blog. My best to you both. Cheers!
Carlos

Glen CooperAugust 23, 2012 - 3:52 AM

Hi Carlos, fantastic pictures, seems like an age since we were strolling around the lake, the gate of the orient (arch) dosent seem to have made much progress over the last 2/3 month! brings back some great memories, keep up the great work fella :)

Cheers

Glen

Linda KAugust 20, 2012 - 12:19 AM

This past week we were at a Gatemen game and as we were walking to our car after the game, we saw something in the sky whipping by & getting higher. It looked like it was moving from The Wareham Library towards Onset. I wonder if it could have been a paper lantern? Now that I see your pictures, it looked very similar!
As always, Carlos, great pictures. Thanks for sharing. And thank you Bethe for enduring the heat so he could get the pictures! Love ya'll.

Hot days are here

This July started cooler than usual and ended with three weeks of very hot and humid days. The last two weeks we have had very unusual clear blue skies with some white clouds. Even many locals have been pleasantly surprised by the many days of such clear skies. I am enjoying this weather and taking advantage of it by riding my bicycle around the lake each morning (leave at 5:30 AM). At this early time the sun is already 25 or so degrees up from the horizon, the temperatures are at least 10 degrees cooler than what they will be at noon (last week we had a couple of days that reached 101 degree F and most were in the highs 90’s) and the roads are quiet. In short, the best riding conditions you can possibly want in Suzhou.

What to do during these hot days during weekends? Well, most people stay indoors as much as possible. During the morning you see some activity, by noon there is little movement, by 6:30 PM onwards people start coming out and having some outdoor fun. This past Sunday evening my wife and I went across our building and took some pictures of a spot next to Jinji Lake where families take their young ones for a refreshing and fun time outdoors.

I took this picture on Saturday at 4:56 AM; this is a portion of the view we have from out living room (have zoomed quite a bit for this view). As you can see, clear skies and a beautiful dawn, usually mornings are foggy/smoggy. Hope the clear skies stay for a while.

Sunday late afternoon, the air is cooling off and families come out with their children for some outdoor activities next to Jinji lake west shore.

Some could care less about sand, water or swings. I am not going to criticize this little fellow;he is having fun so to each its own.

Some think they are incognito as they sit on a bench and try to pass for a local…yeah, right.

Some have dinner in a floating restaurant that criss-crosses the lake. This is a very cool boat, we must try it soon.

Most are kids having a great time in the various swings and aerial equipment in this areas.

This little cutie, probably just wondering about all the commotion around her. You wait little one, in a few months you will be joining the crowd. Proud mama looking on.

What you see in the foreground is a very shallow pool next to the lake. Swimming is not permitted in the lake; if you look at the water in it you will understand. So this is the best kids and some adults have to cool off on a hot day – as you can see on the left, clothing is kind of optional for kids.

These two little girls seemed to be having a race on the swings; they were really having a blast together. This is just simple fun I remember having at this same age.

No life guards needed, just parents hopefully looking away from their cell phones to make sure their kids are safe. What can happen in a pool this shallow? You will be surprised, we saw several close calls were kids could have been hurt, but nothing happen. Just splashing and running around – had to cover my camera several times to avoid getting it soaked.

Remember when you were a kid and you would dig a hole…and you would say, “hey, if you keep on digging you will reach China.” Well, these guys are digging for…yes, USA. I think the boy standing may not agree with that…he seems to have a different digging strategy at the moment…lol

Father and son having fun together with boy toys. What can be better for a boy playing with sand that a dump truck?

Humans do not have exclusive rights to having fun on the water. This young pup was having a great time with this ball. He was 4 months old and had not yet quite figured out how to use his four legs fully. Most of the time he just wobbled and ran like a crazy lunatic; so much fun to watch him.
Many think that dogs are not liked in China; while it is true that in some areas they do eat dogs, in Suzhou and surrounding area this is not true at all. We see a lot of dogs and their owners take very good care of them.

Just a beauty.

Water toys are very popular in this area as you can imagine. This fellow had the biggest water gun in the crowd. He kept on checking around to make sure he indeed had the biggest gun around.

These two guys were taking turns at shooting water up in the air through the syphon like toys they have in their hands. Popular toy, but often they get in trouble when they spray older people.

These two gals asked us of they could take a picture with us. Of course we did.

Thanks for visiting. Bye and until the next post. Stay cool!

ccausillasAugust 1, 2012 - 10:16 PM

Kim, thanks. Yeah, we have been following the mid-west weather and it is just so hot and dry. We feel so bad for the farmers; hearing that the corn crop is taking a very serious hit. Reservoir is down about 10 plus feet; tragic really. Hope there is relief very soon. Happy to see you are visiting the blog and keeping in touch.

ccausillasAugust 1, 2012 - 10:13 PM

Thanks Kelly, glad you enjoy them.

Kelly DeVincentisAugust 1, 2012 - 10:00 PM

So enjoy the photos and narratives, Carlos. Living vicariously through you and Bethe!! Thank you for sharing!

Kimberly SappAugust 1, 2012 - 9:37 PM

Beautiful photos, as always, Carlos :) Indianapolis had a record-breaking 26 days of 90+ degrees in July. We actually had some August-like weather as early as April this year !! I'm glad you're near water there. It's such a drought here and there is a water ban and ban on burning too. I want my green grass back !!

Sunday’s at Zapatas

While in China you have the opportunity of tasting many different foods that are just not available in the US; at least in main stream restaurants. We have tried lots of different chinese restaurants and find the food very good for the most part; although some is just a bit too different for our taste. The Chinese food we have had has almost no resemblance to what in the US is passed for Chinese food. Since we live in an expat area there are many restaurants catering to the foreign crowd; German is very big while you also have American, French, Thai, Vietnamese and a number of internationals blends.

Once in a while we really miss a good BBQ. We feel very fortunate to live within walking distance (3/4 of a mile) to a nice Tex-Mex restaurant called Zapatas. On Sundays, they have a fantastic BBQ brunch. Very popular with expats, but you also see some locals enjoying the well seasoned and slowly smoked BBQ pork, beef brisket and chicken. See below for more.

On our way to Zapatas walking on the boardwalk that runs from Li Gong Di to Crown Plaza hotel. Today was a nice summer day; hot but not as humid as it has been. In the background (left) you can see the trouser building almost to it’s designed height.

A wide view of the Harmony sculpture with one of the many piers alongside the boardwalk. Quite a nice walk that usually takes us 20 minutes.

The Harmony sculpture with the trouser building in the background. Trouser building is not the official name, but since it looks like a pair of trousers it is the name most call it. This will be the tallest building in Suzhou until the other ones to each of its side go up. If we go by the pictures of them, they will be at least 1/3 taller. I say – wow.

As you walk alongside the boardwalk this is what you will see first from Zapatas.

This is the front of Zapatas. Each Thursday, starting at 8 PM, they have Quiz Night. Lot’s of fun with prizes for the winner; if you are good with trivia then you will do well. The last two we have been to were very hard.

Meet Dave from Fort Worth, Texas. Dave is the BBQ master and has won at least two BBQ contests in Shanghai. He does this out of his love for BBQ and it really shows. His Spanish is quite good also.

Dave starts cooking on Saturday. He uses a couple of smokers and usually uses Hickory or a blend of hickory and cherry hard woods to slowly smoke the the meats. This is some succulent BBQ chicken.

To compliment the BBQ Dave adds a delicious potato salad, coleslaw, garden salad and four types of salsas (foreground).

Close up of my favorite potato salad. Love to add the spicy salsa to it; truly amazing. The slaw is also very good.

My wife and I love a good slow smoked brisket. This one is as good as you can get in China. We have seen the consistency of it vary from week to week; some weeks it is just fantastic, while other is good, but never disappoints.

Can you have a good BBQ without BBQ ribs? We say no. The ribs are also very good and this week they were perfectly cooked. The meat fell off the bone!

In addition to the salads, four different salsas, and BBQ meats you also have a good variety of complimentary hot dishes.

Disregard the labels on the bottom – today we had a nice pork stew like on the left and mashed potatoes on the right.

The all you can eat brunch starts at noon and ends at 3 PM. Usually, starts slow, but by 1 PM the food starts to go down fast. The good thing is they have plenty of it. Never seen any item go empty with only one exception – the peach cobbler dessert.

The Mexican lasagna is very tasty. Of course, you must have some mac and cheese for the kids (young and old).

If you like BBQ and are in Suzhou coming to Zapatas’ brunch is a must for you. Dave will be there to make sure you get what you like. Today I asked for a spicier salsa and he whipped two versions up very quickly for us. One was very nice and spicy; the other was pure heat. I am glad he only made a very small amount of it – too hot so decided to pass that one.
Hope this helps anyone who is in Suzhou or is planning on visiting soon and likes a good BBQ.

ccausillasAugust 4, 2012 - 6:09 AM

Ange…Lol. We miss those times with you guys.

AngeAugust 2, 2012 - 4:20 PM

Carlos that is cruel!! Zapatas was such a great hang out for us quiz champs :)

carlosJuly 20, 2012 - 9:01 AM

Linda, Your ribs are still the best.

CarlosJuly 20, 2012 - 9:00 AM

Alma…Ah, CIP pot lucks – we miss them and the great fellowship

LindaJuly 16, 2012 - 9:25 AM

yum – yum – yum !!!

Kathy E.July 16, 2012 - 3:47 AM

OMG…this is making my mouth water just looking at it. Hmmmm…..what to have for dinner tonight?

Alma ShurtleffJuly 15, 2012 - 8:29 PM

almost like last night's pot luck at CIP..

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