This graphic shows the current world reaction to COVID-19. Blue means "No restrictions", Orange is "Limited restrictions" while Red is "Full restrictions to maintain a zero-COVID policy". China is on its own!
So I started my term doing online lesson, JD's school has been closed this week because of two COVID cases found in a town near Kunming and, as now (with 25 more cases found) we are all required to attend a testing centre every other day. Will it never end?
Neither Jiajia nor I ever wear much jewelry - I've never seen Jiajia wear her wedding ring since the day I bought it, over 10 years ago! So it was something of a surprise when Jiajia came home the other day with a pair of Gucci "his and her" rings for us! The inscription on the outside says "House of Love" in French, which wouldn't be my choice of words or language, but it was very generous of her and I've started wearing mine each day. Jiajia's seems to be in a cupboard somewhere!
Yesterday, JD's Primary School class sent out a message requiring all students to create a painting by tomorrow with the theme of "A Chinese Village". The top ten would then be entered into a Provincial Competition. But JD is currently getting home from his Homework Club at 10.00-11.00pm. There really is no time to break open the paints. So JiaJia reluctantly agreed to paint 90% of it on his behalf...
It's taken her many hours to get it finished [see above]. But yesterday, when another parent rang Jiajia for a chat, we found out that the other parents in the class simply pay someone to do their paintings for them. They found it funny that Jiajia actually does it herself! And the school don't seem to care who does it - as long as they get the kudos of winning prizes in the competition. What's the educational purpose of all of this? Maybe just to teach people how to cheat successfully?
We had a visitor this morning. A loud thump from our upstairs window, and some small feathers left on the glass alerted us to a bird on the path downstairs looking pretty stunned.
When I tried to pick it up and leave it somewhere safer, it fluttered a bit and finally flew off. Some Googling showed it to be an Asian Koel, with the white spots of a young fledgling who has now learned all about glass!
Whilst the rest of the world increasingly sees the Coronavirus pandemic as a distant memory, China still insists on a zero-COVID policy, locking down whole cites whenever a few cases are found.
This has been exacerbated recently by the upcoming National Congress Meeting. Held every five years in Beijing, this is where the Communist Party tells everyone how well it is doing, and COVID is potentially a bit of a black mark! So the authorities are cracking down...
Kunming currently has 18 cases of COVID, so the whole population (8½m) have been told to have tests every day or two if they want to get into supermarkets, buses, subway, schools, Universities etc. JD's school tests the students (and parents) twice-weekly. There are free testing centres everywhere (including this one outside our neighbourhood) but long queues to use them. When will it ever end?
JD surprised us the other day by producing a certificate he'd won at school. He initially said only 3 students in the school got one, but later he thought it might be 3 students in his year, and we now think it was three in his class. Still...
The computer translation [above] is fairly odd but, on further investigation, it seems it is for his good character and excellent behaviour (though it might also be a response to Jiajia's particularly generous Teacher's Day gift?).
This is a strange one. The first two characters together mean "No-smoking", so the whole sign should mean, "No-smoking table".
BUT the last two characters together are the name of a city in China, "YanTai". So, with the first character meaning "fire", we get this bizarre translation - "Destroy YanTai". Yikes!
China continues to be very paranoid about COVID. So, when two positive cases were discovered in Kunming (pop: 7 million) last week, the local government started mass testing here and my university decided to begin the Summer term online.
The software we use for this is ideal if your lesson is basically a one-way lecture (favoured by most Chinese teachers), but fairly useless if you are supposed to be teaching Speaking or Debate (ie me!). There are no real-time, face-to-face options in the program and the only feedback from students is anonymous comments which roll across the screen! The "cloud" above shows the most common comments in my class yesterday. At least there's some laughter in there. We are told that after two weeks we should be able to return to the classrooms. Here's hoping...
Some friends invited JD and I to go fishing with them today - something JD loves to do. We bought a rod and reel on the way to the reservoir and spent a fun afternoon casting off, and jumping in their tent during bursts of heavy rain.
Despite the new and expensive angling gear, it was JD's simple "trap net with fish food in" that caught the only decent fish [see above]. But we had fun trying. We rounded off the day with a visit to Pizza Hut.
JD got a letter form his Primary School teacher at the end of last semester. Translation reads:
I like your pure, kind and generous personality. I want to tell you, 'The Kingdom of Heaven cannot be broken. I hope you can speed up and improve your learning. Then you will be the best!
Love, your teacher"
Sweet message, although the "Kingdom of Heaven" quotation bit is bit of a mystery! JD returns to school next week.
[...and a nice spelling of UNIVERSITY there!]
Yesterday, we took a trip out to CongMao Reservoir with two of JD's old schoolfriends and their parents. We hiked up a mountain collecting edible mushrooms and checking out the wildlife!
After an evening meal together Jiajia, JD and I drove on to a 5 star hotel for the night. Jiajia had secured some vouchers for three nights, at 10% of the usual price. So we slept well on the 20th floor (great views) and pigged out on the buffet breakfast this morning. We'll use our two additional nights later in the year.
JD, Jiajia and I spent yesterday afternoon at the Secret Forest with one of JD's schoolfriends and his Mum. We had a picnic first and then headed into the woods. I spent a few hours repairing the roof damage in our den, while JD and his friend had a go at building a new den nearby [see below]. It was a very hot and sunny day so, when we left at about 5pm, we were happy to stop at a nearby shop for an ice-cream. Fun day!
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