JD has attended two birthday parties in the last two weeks, and his mind is now racing ahead to his own birthday celebrations in a couple of week's time. A typical Chinese kid's Birthday party is a large meal (mostly aimed at the parents!) and then some opportunities for the kids to run around, either in the restaurant or nearby outside. In contrast, we are hoping to invite JD's friends to ten-pin bowling with a mid-bowl pizza delivery. We'll see!
Jiajia's birthday was a few days ago, preceded by my sister-in-law's, while tomorrow is my other sister-in-law's. JD was invited to a mountain picnic party last Saturday [see photos] and today got another invite to a schoolmate's party this Saturday. And then his own birthday is the week after. I can't keep up with the cards, gifts and outings!
One of most frustrating things about living in China is the Government's blocking of various really useful websites such as Google, Facebook, YouTube, BBC etc. Many foreigners therefore use what's called a VPN - software that circumvents the "Great fireWall of China". But this week those VPNs were also blocked, leaving foreigners here scratching their heads in confusion and banging their heads in frustration. Why now? Why at all?? Often these outages coincide with some meeting of leaders in Beijing, but I'm not aware of anything political happening right now. So the Internet suddenly becomes a lot less useful. Annoying.
JD has been back at school this week - his final term there before moving to Primary School in September. And with the return we've once again started to get last minute, and seemingly pointless, homework requests. So, for example, we get a text asking us to "...send a photo of your child inflating a balloon by tomorrow morning" which arrives half an hour after JD has gone to sleep. Jiajia and I are getting quite adept at faking this sort of thing by now (the "balloon" in this photo is actually a plastic ball), even taking photos in advance of say, junk modelling or cooking, in case we ever need to show evidence of something similar later on!
Today was the end of what will almost certainly be my last training for "Lattitude". Volunteer numbers have dwindled over recent years and the In-Country Training Course has been gradually whittled down from 8 days to 2 days. Lattitude seem to have sidelined their work in China and, if I'm honest, my passion for the work has lessened too. Just three volunteers attended this time, all from New Zealand, on a very rushed and "less than professional" course. I feel this part of my work has come to a natural end.
We returned to Snow Park yesterday to see the attractions we didn't get to first time round - Robot Park, Beluga Whale Show, unlimited bumper cars (the guy in charge let JD ride alone) and ice slides.
The indoor ski slope was fairly gentle, but I was still surprised at how keen JD was to have a try. Even getting to the top and donning his skis was quite a struggle for him. But he needed no encouragement to slide down the slope and wasn't phased by falling down at high speed. After an hour or so he was exhausted. I did a couple of fairly tame runs by myself before we headed back into the "winter warmth" outside!
Jiajia. JD and I went to an amazing theme park the other day, along with two other families from JD’s school. The attraction has an "Ocean Park" (large aquarium, plus dolphin, seal and beluga whale shows), a "Snow Park" (huge indoor -8ºC building with slides, aerial walkways, train, skating, skiing, "live snowing", igloos etc), fairground rides and a circus! And all this just a few hours drive outside of Kunming!
Since we decided not to make any trips away this Winter holiday, my main targets were to get everything ready in our redecorated flat to move back in, and to teach JD to ride his two-wheeler bike without stabilisers. He was very nervous at first but persevered and, despite a couple of minor crashes [see above, right!] can now circle the neighbourhood without my help. Something of a rite of passage!
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