Christmas Weekend

Happy Boxing Day!

We had a great weekend, but it was very tiring and now I need another weekend to recover!

First of all, to my friends and family, no, I am not Scrooge, I am just lazy. Which is why you didn’t reveive a card (via snail mail nor email) from me this year. I hope to use this blog space to let you know that I was certainly thinking about you all, and I wish you the very best for a very Happy New Year.

Now, the parties… As I mentioned before, Saturday evening we were to attend a Grand Opening Party for the Mansion Hotel. We did, and here is the scoop.

Let’s be sure one thing is clear – the hotel is a bit tacky, BUT when you are in rural China, tacky isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It’s actually quite fun. And to be fair, the exterior and interiors are a little over-the-top, but it is new and interesting and I think it is great.
Grand Opening
All the red lanterns, streamers and arches are traditional Chinese decorations. The brown thing in the foreground is a trash can shaped like a tree stump. Do you see the big, plastic cacti?

At 3PM we arrived for a tour. We were greeted by Santa Clauses at the door who were handing out small stuffed animals. Some of the hotel workers were dressed up as Santa Clauses, and since they all have a small frame and definately are not fat, they seemed a bit out of place as St. Nick, but it was a great effort.

The Lobby was really quite overwhelming, with marble and columns and a huge crystal chandalier. It opened onto a dining area, where we were seated for tea. That area is called the Four Seasons Hall. It has a water fountain running the length of the back wall, which was pleasant, and a large window in the ceiling to view the sky. (Or a cloud of pollution depending on the day…). Next to the hall was the tea bar, which is decorated with lots of wooden screens and panels and looks like  place I would like to relax and drink some tea. We were allowed to go upstairs to view the standard hotel room which is very clean and bright, with windows facing out the front of the hotel. It looked very nice, although a little smaller than the room we have now. Turns out that the Turkish Baths and recreation center was not yet ready, so we didn’t see them. I”m also very disappointed to say that the swimming pool won’t be put in until next year!

The second part of the tour concentrated on what our brochure calls the “Biology Restaurant.” With visions of dissections and anatomy class swimming in my head, we left the hotel and walked over to a large greenhouse, which I had just assumed was only a place for growing the plants for the hotel. It is really amazing, actually, because it is a huge restaurant, with footpaths and a meandering stream with fish. All of the tables are hidden among the plants. They had a buffet set up and that is where we ate our dinner later in the evening.
Biology Restaurant
In this photo, you can see a footbridge over the stream. Here is a group of us eating dinner:

Dinner at the Bio Restaurant

One nice thing about the evening was that we were a pretty good mix of Westerners from the Academy and Chinese guests and hotel workers. After dinner, there was a huge fireworks display which was beautiful. (Actually the fireworks were set off very close to where we were watching, so on one hand it was probably pretty dangerous, but on the other hand, it was amazing because they were exploding directly above us. It was a sensation I had never felt before; it was as if the fireworks were coming straight at us in 3-D.)

Sunday evening, a group of about 30 instructors and guests went to eat a Western-style Christmas Dinner at the World Trade Plaza Hotel restaurant in the city. It was delicious. So much so that I over-indulged, stuffing myself to the brim with cheese, salad, bread, turkey, sausages, sauerkraut, cod, vegetables, desserts and coffee. Never knew that sausages and sauerkraut were very Christmasy, but I will not complain, it was heaven!

Christmas in China was not bad. I enjoyed the weekend. I have to admit, though, that although the city was decorated with trees and lights, there was a certain feeling missing. Perhaps it was because it didn’t snow. For me there is something really magical about waking up on Christmas morning to find a snowy view out the window. (Something that hardly ever happened in Texas, but I got used to it in Toronto.)

Tomorrow I will be going to Beijing for the night because I have to have a medical check done for my visa.  I am looking forward to seeing Beijing, even if it is just briefly, and also seeing what the hospital or clinic will be like.

Have a good week!

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