Day 10 was another big long day, but a very important one. We went to Soochow, which is small city not too far from Shanghai. Grandpa actually studied political science at Soochow University for three years, and had wanted to graduate but made the crucial decision to give up getting a degree and instead fled to Hong Kong, as the Communists were well on their way. It was 1948 and he knew he did not want to live under the Communist rule. He insists that the decision to leave Soochow/Shanghai was the second best decision he's ever made in his entire life - the actual best decision was marrying Grandma. Of course, he said this with a grin when she was within earshot, so I'm not sure if that's really how he feels. I would argue that leaving Soochow is the best decision, because if he hadn't he would have never met Grandma. They met in Hong Kong several years later. Right?
Anyway, when he left in 1948, he was just 21. He managed to get a spot on the very last ship going out of Shanghai before the Communists actually arrived. He only got the spot through the help of a family friend, and his spot was actually not a real seat but was a space under one of the lifeboats. He had just gotten a flu vaccine and apparently puked the whole time. Mom told me that a few years ago, she was in the same city as this family friend who helped my Grandpa, and she took him out to dinner to say thanks - really, EVERYTHING would have been so different if he hadn't been able to leave.
Grandma claimed to have been born in SooChow, because the city is famous for its beautiful scenery and beautiful locals. But, Great Aunt let the cat out of the bag. As it turns out, she did live there for as a child for several months but was not actually born there. She doesn't have many memories of the time she spent in SooChow, but did tell an amusing story about how she fell into a "shit hole" - I guess it was some river with a plank across it where people would relieve themselves, and she lost her balance one fateful New Year Day. What a way to start the year. I'm guessing that her resolution for that year was not to fall in any more shit holes. Anyway, she left Shanghai for Hong Kong a few years after Grandpa did, on a train, when she was 16. For a long time after she left, she sent oil, flour and other provisions to her sisters, including Great Aunt, who had stayed in Shanghai. Grandma explained that she would even wrap the flour, etc, in towels so that the towels could be reused.
So on our drive in, we kept our eyes peeled for shit holes. We didn't see any but we did find the entrance for the current campus of Soochow University. The campus that Grandpa went to was actually a little farther down the road.
Grandma, Grandpa, Aunt Marilyn, and Mom at the actual entrance of the campus Grandpa went to.
Grandpa was in a great mood and very eager to show us around. He was also very willing to follow direction. How adorable is my Grandpa? I challenge anyone to find a cuter series of pictures than the ones below. Here he is right past the front gate, where he used to pick up his mail.
"Grandpa, take this piece of paper and pretend your picking up your mail!"
"Grandpa, hey, why don't you sit there the way you used to when you were checking out girls going to class!"
"Pretend you're playing soccer!"
Why don' t you pretend you're riding the bike? Um, maybe not - just stand next to it!"
"So this is where you stood to meet girls, huh? Why don't you pretend you're whistling at a hot girl!?"
I really like the one below too. My attempt to be "artistic" - Grandpa, reliving memories in the hallway of the administration building.
Anyway, after our visit to SooChow University, we went to go find some lunch. Our driver dropped us off at another temple where there were lots of restaurants nearby. The restaurant we went into was over 100 years old, and was famous for a dish called "beggar chicken." In the old days, it was made by wrapping the chicken with paper and cooking it in dirt/clay. A bit like paper mache. Nowadays, it's still made by wrapping the chicken with paper but luckily the chicken is wrapped in plastic wrap first!
The waitress cracking the "paper mache" part of the "beggar's chicken" with a mallet.
Afterwards we checked out the actual temple near the restaurant. Again, the area had turned into a total tourist trap and had a McDonald's and a KFC. I recommend taking a bathroom break at the McDonald's, rather than at the KFC, which to my horror, only had one of those hole-in-the-floor toilets.
Anyway, the temple itself was beautiful to look at. We could hear the monks chanting inside the temple. It was quite a clash with the techno dance music blaring from the little gift stores surrounding the temple.
Afterwards we asked the driver to find us some beautiful scenery to look at. Sadly there wasn't much to see, even though SooChow was supposed to be known for its rivers and canals, sort of like the Venice of China. In the recent years, the government had torn down many of the houses by the river banks and merged the rivers together. We did manage to find a little spot to take some pics. Grandma said that when she was little she lived in a house much like the ones you see in the pic.
After visitng SooChow, we headed back to Shanghai and had dinner at Xinjitsi again. We had gone there on Day 4
but Aunt Marilyn was still back in San Francisco that day, so we figured it was worth a second trip. I don't have any pics since it was all basically the same food.
After dinner, Aunt Marilyn and I headed to a spa right next to our hotel. We had made reservations earlier that day for a two hour head-foot-body total Traditional Chinese massage. And it only cost $30 US per person! First they showed us into the locker room, where we changed into these hideous slippery orange kimono pajamas. We nearly died laughing since neither of us could figure out how to properly wrap the kimono around us until finally I spotted a sign on the wall with directions. Properly wrapped, we were led into a dark room WHERE THE PAIN AND TORTURE BEGAN!!! Good god, a traditional chinese massage is most definitely not like a Swedish massage. The whole point is to apparently poke the hell out of you with the world's strongest thumbs. I was at least somewhat lucky as I had a female masseuse who probably wasn't nearly as strong as the male masseuse my aunt had. At one point when the masseuses had gone to get towels, Aunt Marilyn whispered to me that her foot massage was so painful that she had tears in her eyes. At another point, while my masseuse was digging her thumbs into my back, I was in such panic from the pain that the only mandarin I could spit out was the equivalent of sharp "Jesus, how about going a bit lighter!!!???" to which my horrified shy masseuse quickly replied, "Oh I'm so sorry, so sorry!" I actually had bruises on my back the next morning.
Anyway, Aunt Marilyn and I survived our two hour massage and made it back to the hotel intact. We stiffly managed to pack our bags and mentally prepare for the long flight back we'd have to face the next day.
And that was Day 10, our last full day in Shanghai.