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DUANWU FESTIVAL

1.端午节



Yesterday it was the Duanwu Festival. Duanwu is a traditional holiday in which people eat zongzi (glutionous rice wrapped in a leaf) and watch the dragon boat races. Why do they do this? Because a long time ago, in the Warring States period, there was a poet who commited suicide jumping in the river. The villagers quickly went with their boats to save him or retrieve the body, but couldn’t find it, so they threw rice balls in the water for the fish to eat them instead of the poet’s body. Duanwu stopped being celebrated in China after 1949 when the People’s Republic was founded, but it was restored as a public holiday in 2008 (so tomorrow we don’t work. Yay!).

昨天是端午节。端午节是一个传统的节日,人们吃粽子,观看龙舟比赛。他们为什么这么做?因为很久以前,在战国时期,有一个诗人跳河自杀了。村民们迅速划着船去救他,或者说找回他的尸体,但是没有找到,于是他们把饭团扔进水里,让鱼来吃饭团,这样它们就不会去吃诗人的尸体。1949年中国成立后,中国就不再庆祝端午节了。但在2008年,端午节被恢复为公共假日(所以明天我们不用工作,耶!)

I have been in China for many years but I have to confess I had never been to the dragon boat races until yesterday. In Suzhou they are done in the Jinji Lake, very close to our apartment, so we made the great effort of getting up early on a Saturday and went to see what it was all about. Besides, some of C.’s colleagues were competing in the race!

我在中国已经很多年了,但是我必须承认,直到昨天我才看过龙舟比赛。在苏州,它是在金鸡湖上进行的,离我们的公寓很近,所以我们努力的在一个星期六早早爬起来,去看看到底是怎么回事。另外,C.的一些同事也参加了比赛!



It was very interesting to finally see the races, but it was too hot and crowded and we didn’t stay long. Anyway, I’m glad the government decided to restore the traditional holidays, even if that means we don’t get a week off for May 1 anymore!

比赛很有趣,但是因为又热又拥挤,我们没有停留太久。无论如何,我很高兴政府决定恢复这个传统节日,即使这意味着我们在5月1日不再有一个星期的假期!

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THE OLD VILLAGE OF BRIGHT MOON BAY

2.明月湾的老村庄



As we had three days of holidays last week, we decided to go somewhere instead of couchpotatoing the whole time. We were considering Chongming Island, in Shanghai, and Xishan Island, in Suzhou, and finally went to Xishan.

因为上周我们有三天假期,所以我们决定去找个地方逛逛,而不是整天坐在沙发上。我们考虑了上海的崇明岛和苏州的西山岛,最后决定去西山岛。

Xishan is the largest island in Tai Lake so it is not a palm trees and beach kind of island. Tai Lake, the third largest lake in China, is to the southwest of Suzhou and it is famous for its fish, shrimps and crabs. Getting to Xishan is very convenient as there is a bridge from the “mainland”! When C. was a child, the only way was taking the ferry.

西山岛是太湖中最大的岛屿,所以它不是一个有着棕榈树和海滩的那种小岛屿。太湖是中国第三大湖,位于苏州西南部,以盛产鱼、虾、蟹而闻名。到西山岛非常方便,因为那里有一座和“大陆”相连的桥!当C.还是个孩子的时候,去那里唯一的办法就是坐渡船。



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THE DAILY COMMUTE

3.每天上下班通勤



As I mentioned in the post about books, since October I don’t have a room in Shanghai anymore and I have to commute every day from Suzhou. That implies taking 2 trains.

正如我在关于书籍的帖子中提到的,我退掉了上海租住的公寓。所以从十月份开始,我不得不每天从苏州到上海上班,下班再回到苏州。这意味着每天要坐两趟火车。

Does it sound exhausting? Well, it is actually better than I was expecting. The worst parts are getting up early in the morning and arriving home quite late! I don’t have time to do much during the week, but at least I can read on the train. A full one way journey takes 1.5 hours, which is more or less the same time it takes my colleagues who live in Pudong to arrive to our office in Jing’An.

听起来累吗?实际上比我想象的要好。最糟糕的是早上起得很早,晚上回家却很晚!不过平时我没有时间做很多事情,现在至少我可以在火车上看书。整个过程需要1.5个小时,差不多是我住在浦东的同事到我们静安区办公室的时间。

I leave home at 8 am. C. drives me to the train station, which luckily is quite close. The train departs at 8:28 but you have to arrive at least 5 minutes earlier to get in. By the way, if anyone needs to take the high speed train frequently, between Nanjing and Shanghai or any of the stations in between, you can purchase a top up card and access the train without needing to buy the actual ticket every time.

我早上8点离开家。C.开车送我到火车站,幸运的是火车站离我家很近。火车8点28分开,但你必须至少提前5分钟到达才能上车。顺便说一下,如果有人需要经常乘坐高铁从南京到上海或者中间的任何一个车站,你可以购买一张充值卡,每次都可以乘坐,而不需要购买真正的车票。

The bad part about that card is that, even though you pay the full price, you don’t get a seat. So, unless there is an empty seat, you will have to stand for 30 minutes, which is the duration of the trip from Suzhou Yuanqu station to Shanghai.

不过这张卡的缺点在于,即使你付了全价,你也没有座位。因此,除非有一个空座位,否则你必须站上30分钟,这是从苏州工业园区到上海需要的时间。

If I don’t have a seat I just stand near the door of the second carriage, because it will be the closest to the exit gate in the station. When the train arrives to Shanghai it’s better to hurry up and be the first to get to the gate, because there you have to check your ticket again and everybody knows how Chinese people queue…

如果我没有座位,我就站在第二节车厢的门附近,因为那里离车站的出口最近。当火车到达上海的时候,最好行动快一点,争取最先到达门口,因为在那里你必须再次检票,每个人都知道中国人排队有多疯狂...

There is a subway exit directly in the train station. Line 1 is always crowded, but every day at around 9:05 am there is an empty train arriving.

在火车站有一个地铁出口,所以1号线总是很拥挤,但每天上午9:05左右都会有一列空车到站。



That’s my daily commute. But only until January, when I will start working from home!

这就是我每天上下班的路线。但只要熬到一月份,我就可以开始在家工作了!

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SUZHOU ON THE CHEAP (AND VEGETARIAN!)

4.苏州的廉价素食

Two weeks ago, a couple of my workmates came to Suzhou to spend the weekend with us. I asked what they wanted to visit in the city, they only said “old things”. Well, we have a bunch of those in Suzhou! So I tailor-made an itinerary for them and I consciously avoided the main tourist attractions in Suzhou, like the Tiger Hill and the Humble Administrator’s garden. Why? Because they have ridiculously expensive entrance tickets. To give you an idea, in low season, the ticket to the Forbidden City in Beijing is 40 RMB. For the Humble Administrator’s garden it is 70. Are they crazy or not? Also, because my workmates are vegan, I found several vegetarian restaurants where we could go eat and then looked for cheap, nice places we could visit nearby. We saved a lot on entrance tickets and spent it all on food!

两个星期前,我的两个同事来苏州和我们一起度周末。我问他们在苏州想参观什么,他们说“古老的东西”。哦,我们苏州有一大堆这样的东西!所以我为他们量身定做了一个旅游路线,有意识地避开了苏州的主要旅游景点,比如虎丘和拙政园。为什么?因为它们的门票贵得离谱。给你个比较,在淡季,北京紫禁城的票价是40元。而拙政园是70。他们是不是疯了?另外,因为我的同事都是素食主义者,我找到了几家素食餐厅,我们可以去那里吃饭,然后在附近找一些便宜的好地方去参观。我们在门票上省了很多钱,不过全花在食物上了!

These are the places we visited:

以下是我们去参观的地方:

Qu garden (曲园). Address: 人民路马医科巷43号 (close to subway stop Leqiao). Price: free!

曲园。地址:人民路马医科巷43号(靠近乐桥地铁站)。价格:免费!



I had never heard about this garden before but I found it online. It was the house of some government official from the Qing dynasty. It is a small garden, but you can see all the characteristics that the big gardens also have, albeit in a smaller size: the red wooden pavilions, the rock “mountain” with a maze, the fish pond, the calligraphy… And, I repeat, for free. And without crowds. The only visitors in the garden were a young mom with her son sitting in the garden and a bunch of old ladies rehearsing their singing in one of the pavilions. I think it’s great that they can use this garden as a meeting place for their community!

我以前从未听说过这个园林,我是在网上找到的。这是清朝某个官员的房子。这是一个小园林,尽管规模较小,但你可以看到大园林所拥有的所有特征:红色的木亭、带迷宫的假“山”、鱼池、书法...我再说一遍,是免费的。而且没有那么拥挤的人群。当时园林里唯一的参观者是一位年轻的母亲和她的儿子,还有一群老太太在其中一个亭子里排练她们的歌曲。我认为她们能把这个园林作为她们社区的聚会场所是很棒的!

(Note: there is a bigger garden very close to this one but that is not free. It’s called Yi garden (怡园) and the ticket is 40 RMB. I have never been, but according to a friend it’s not worth it).

(注意:有一个比较大的园林离这个园林很近,但不是免费的。它叫做怡园,票价是40元。我从来没去过,但据一个朋友说,它不值这个票价。

From Qu garden you can walk around the alleys, which are basically Suzhou’s version of Beijing’s hutongs. If you peek through the open doors you will see that many entrances have a long corridor leading to several apartments. If it’s sunny you will also probably see people eating outside or playing cards. And loads of hanging clothes, of course.

从曲园出来,你可以沿着胡同漫步,这些胡同基本上就是苏州版的北京胡同。如果你透过敞开的门往里看,你会看到许多入口都有一条长长的走廊通向几个公寓。如果天气晴朗,你可能还会看到人们在户外吃饭或打牌。当然,还有一大堆挂着的衣服。



After lunch we walked towards the Beisi Pagoda (北寺塔). It is very close to where C.’s parents live but I have never been there. This time it couldn’t be, either, as they close at 3 pm and we couldn’t get in. Isn’t 3 pm kind of early to close a tourist attraction?

午饭后,我们走着去了北寺塔。那里离C.的父母住的地方很近,但我从没去过那里。这次也去不了,因为他们下午3点就关门,我们进不去。下午3点关门对于一个旅游胜地来说是不是有点早?

For dinner we went to my favourite vegetarian restaurant in Suzhou. I used to live very close to it but now I’m further away so I can’t go during lunch break.

晚餐我们去了我在苏州最喜欢的素食餐厅。我以前住得离这里很近,但现在我住得离这里很远,所以午休时间来不及去。

Surging Waves pavilion (沧浪亭). Address: 人民路44号, in front of the Temple of Confucious. Price: 15 RMB.

沧浪亭。地址:人民路44号,在孔庙前面。价格:15RMB。

On Sunday it rained. Boooh! But we still had to do something, so we went to the Surging Waves pavilion. It is one of the classical gardens that are listed by Unesco in Suzhou. It’s my favourite of the famous gardens because it’s the cheapest one. It’s quite big and has a decent sized rock mountain in the middle, many pavilions, bamboo gardens and a covered corridor going all around the place.

星期天下雨了,呜呜!但是我们还是得做点什么,所以我们去了沧浪亭。它是被联合国教科文组织列入名录的苏州古典园林之一。这是我最喜欢的著名园林,还因为它是最便宜的一个。它的面积相当大,中间有一座相当大的假山,还有很多亭子,竹园和一条环绕着它的抄手游廊。

After lunch in a Lanzhou noodles place whose boss was kind enough to prepare vegetarian dishes, we went to have a foot massage as my workmates had never tried one. The masseurs had a great time making fun of the 3 foreigners plus the Chinese who also looks foreigner.

我们在一家兰州面馆吃了午饭,老板很好心地准备了素菜。吃完饭,我们去做了足疗,因为我的同事从来没有尝试过。按摩师们很开心地打趣了3个外国人和那些看起来像外国人的中国人。

Shantang Street (山塘街). Subway line 2 has a stop right there, called Shantang St. Price: free!

山塘街。地铁2号线就在那里有一个站点,叫山塘街站。价格:免费!



This is the other famous old street in Suzhou. Very revamped (it even has a Starbucks and a Family Mart with their facades imitating the traditional wooden doors) but still very pretty at night, when they turn on all the red lanterns. First time visitors always love it. If you want to get some souvenir, I suggest you have your face done in a paper cut, it’s quite unique. My workmates did it and the paper cut master had a hard time getting their foreign faces right. He said they used to charge more for foreigners, until a Chinese speaking laowai protested. But it is true that in the time it took him to do my friends, the other master did 4 or 5 Chinese people.

这是苏州另一条著名的老街,还进行了翻新(它甚至有一个星巴克和一个家庭用品超市,它们的门面都是模仿的传统的木门),晚上所有的红灯笼都点亮时,这里非常漂亮。第一次来这里参观的游客总是很喜欢这里。如果你想得到一些纪念品,我建议你去买一张按照你的脸做成的剪纸,这是相当独特的。我的同事们都这么做了,剪纸师傅费了好大劲才把他们的外国面孔弄对。他说他们过去对外国人收取更高的费用,直到一个会说中文的老外提出了抗议。但事实是, 他帮我朋友做一个用的时间,另一位师傅可以帮四五个中国人做完。

Even though we didn’t visit any of the super famous sights, my friends were very happy with their Suzhou visit. You should check these places out if you haven’t been!

虽然我们没有参观任何一个特别著名的经典,但我的朋友们都对他们的苏州之行感到非常高兴。如果你没去过这些地方,你应该去看看!

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DISCOVERING NEW PLACES

5.我发现了一个新地方



I have been living in Suzhou for over 4 years now, but there are still some places that I haven’t been to. For example, I haven’t been to all of the famous Suzhou gardens, only to some of them (all of them look similar, right?). I haven’t been to Baker & Spice or Kamal’s Indian restaurant either. I could go on and on. Seriously, I don’t know what I do with my weekends. But I am trying to change!

我在苏州已经住了四年多了,但是还有一些地方我没有去过。例如,我没有把所有著名的苏州园林都看过一遍,只去过其中一些(它们看起来都差不多,对吧?)。我也没去过Baker&Spice或Kamal这样的印度餐厅。还有很多,我可以一直说下去。说真的,我不知道我周末都怎么过的。但是我正在努力改变!

A few days ago we had a long weekend for the Mid-Autumn festival. It was cloudy and rainy because there was a typhoon in Fujian, but I managed to move both our asses from the sofa and we went to visit one of those parts of Suzhou that we had never been before:

几天前的中秋节,我们度过了一个漫长的周末。由于福建有台风,所以天气阴沉而多雨,但我设法把我们的屁股从沙发上挪开,我们去了苏州的一个我们从未去过的地方:



Keep walking and you will reach a very nice park called 东园 Dongyuan, which simply means East Park, as it’s on the east side of Suzhou’s old town. There are motor boats and fishing rods to rent, dozens of cats that live there, a rose garden, the garden of some old official, a pond full of lotus… and a small amusement park!

继续往前走,你会到达一个非常漂亮的公园,名字叫东园,意思是东方公园,因为它位于苏州老城的东侧。那里可以租到摩托艇和钓鱼竿,有几十只猫住在那里,还有一个玫瑰花园,那是一个老官员的花园,一个满是荷花的池塘...还有一个小游乐园!

I wanted to ride in the carousel but I arrived one minute after they closed! Grrr! Well, one more reason to go back!

我想坐旋转木马,但是我到那里的时候,它刚刚在一分钟前关闭了!好吧,又多了一个下次来的理由!

I really enjoyed this walk, so I will definitely come back to this park!

我真的很喜欢这次散步,所以我一定会再到这个公园来!

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SUNDAY BY THE LAKE

6.星期日在湖畔散步



It’s that time of the year again! The beginning of summer means the rainy season is here. It has been raining a lot the last couple of weeks and there were also several thunderstorms. In Chinese these days are called 梅雨季 (plum rain season) and they are a synonym of hot and humid weather. Yikes! My previous apartment was in the second floor and I would even get mold on the walls and leather chairs.

又到了每年的这个时候了!夏天的开始就意味着雨季的到来。过去几个星期一直在下雨,还有几场雷雨。在中国,这一段时间被称为梅雨季,它是炎热潮湿天气的代名词。我以前的公寓在二楼,我甚至会发现在墙上和皮椅上有发霉的迹象。

The best part about rainy days in China is that the air gets noticeably cleaner. As you know, we have a big problem with pollution here. Suzhou rarely gets to airpocalypse levels, but usually the PM2.5 index is between 100 and 150, and that is not good. The sky is not “true blue”, but a greyish shade of blue. But in the last days I even saw pink colored clouds when walking Nico at 7 pm. Nice!

在中国,下雨最大的好处是空气明显变得更干净了。如你所知,我们这里的污染问题很严重。苏州很少达到空气末日的水平,但通常PM2.5指数在100到150之间,这不是件好事。天空不是“真正的蓝色”,而是一种灰蓝色。但是在最近几天,我甚至在晚上7点带着Nico散步的时候,看到了粉红色的云彩。太棒了!

Usually it always rains on the weekend, but this morning it was sunny, the air was clean and the ground was more or less dry. We took Nico to the lake and I brought my camera. It got cloudy when we got there but it didn’t rain. Nico wanted to get in the water but she’s a coward! She only swims where there are stairs leading to the water and she can see it’s not too deep.

通常周末都会下雨,但是今天早上天气晴朗,空气清新,地面或多或少干了一些。我们带着Nico去了湖边,我还带上了我的相机。我们到那里时天阴了起来,但没有下雨。Nico想下水玩,但她是个胆小鬼!她只在有通向水的楼梯的地方玩水,因为她看得出那里的水不是很深。

It was nice to be able to go out today. I hope you enjoyed your Sunday too!

今天能出去玩真好。我希望你在星期天也过得很愉快!