Sunday, November 20, 2011

All Around The Mulberry Bush

During my mom’s recent visit we tried to show her around our neighborhood and give her an idea of our everyday life.  We walked to a near-by neighborhood center to eat lunch and purchase some fresh fruits, veggies and eggs.  As we’re walking back to the apartment, with my mom gently cradling a dozen eggs in a plastic baggie, she said, “you do this every week?”  I told her I actually do it two or three times a week.  She said she’d eat out for most meals then.  I think I’ll take that under consideration!
No trip to China would be complete without a trip to get a massage.  Because labor is so inexpensive here, a massage is very reasonable.  I made appointments at one of my favorite places, which just happens to be within walking distance of the apartment (this could develop into a very bad habit).  My mom and I had a 90 minute (I know!) traditional Chinese foot massage.  It really is possible to have someone rub your feet for 90 minutes and it’s heavenly!  After that we had pedicures, had our fingernails Shellaced, and had our eyebrows done.  Any guesses as to how much we spent?  Anyone?  Just about $80 a person, phenomenal.
We also spent a morning walking by Elise’s preschool and peeking in the windows and then trekked to the Crowne Plaza to swim in the indoor pool...I’ll spare you the photos.  One afternoon my mom and I took off on our own and went to the Pearl Market, which is about 25 minutes to the north.  It’s like a large indoor mall that sells only pearls, gems and jade.  Embarrassingly enough, the salespeople there remember me (I’ve been there three times now) and one woman said, “Remember I gave you a good deal on the pearl necklace.”  China is the largest (I think or a close second) exporter of pearls, and most are freshwater.  There is a lake behind the Pearl Market where some of the pearls are harvested.  Let me just say, the pearls you can purchase in the States are heavily marked up.  The market here is full of good deals!

Looking at the silk worms
Standing in front of the mulberry bushes

One of the last tourist side-trips we took in Suzhou was to the silk factory (not to be confused with the silk museum).  It was really fun and interesting.  I was surprised at how much the girls enjoyed the short tour of the factory.  We learned that silk worms only eat mulberry leaves.  The Chinese held the secret to silk production for thousands of years and either a Chinese princess or a monk, depending on what story you believe, shared the process with people from the West.  Silk is very strong and although it’s warm, it “breathes”.  Real silk feels rough to the touch, as opposed to the smoothness of polyester impostor silk.  Also, silk is much like human hair and should be rinsed in shampoo rather than washed in the clothes washer.


A single and a double cocoon

Sorting the cocoons

The single silk strands being pulled from
the cocoons, while the cocoons are resting in water

Machines grabbing the individual
strands of silk

Multiple strands of silk

Re-reeling single strands of silk into multiple strands

Making a large, patterned silk piece of cloth

Punch cards which determine the pattern on the silk cloth

The whole process was really interesting and I really can appreciate the effort and time it takes to make silk.  The tour of the factory ends in the factory-owned shops, of course.  One whole showroom was devoted to bedding (silk duvets don’t have the residue and dust that down feathers do), another room was for silk table cloths and runners and the biggest room was filled with silk robes, scarves, ties and clothing.  While we were in the shop a friend from Suzhou (who had recommended the factory tour) reminded me through a series of texts that 1) I lived in Suzhou and could come to the shop anytime and 2) there were other places that I could buy silk.  I’m sure the things were overpriced, only tour groups come through the shops, but the patterns were so beautiful.  So, I found a few (cough, cough) things that were of interest to me!

Pulling a few inches of silk apart to make a duvet

The silk pulled all the way out to make a duvet
We ended our field trip at a Chinese restaurant in Old Town called Yang Yang’s.  Mmmm, it was so good and we ordered just the right amount of food.  That night we packed for our next adventure, our first cruise.  While I was packing for the trip, my mom was re-packing her things to go on the cruise and filling her checked bags with all of the Christmas presents that we had purchased so far so she could carry them back to the States.  My mom showed her love by bringing all of her clothes for the trip in her carry-on suitcase and filled her two checked bags with things for us (coffee from The Blend, boots & flip-flops for me, three jars of PB, Halloween candy, our Vonage box, clothes for the girls, Christmas presents,etc.) and then returned with checked bags full of our Christmas presents for people.  That is love!
Waiting to eat at Yang Yang's

Jamie thought he was ordering a single Coke,
he did, but it a bit larger than he was expecting.

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