With the frequent summer rainstorms and sunshine, our neighbourhood is looking particularly green and full of shade.
JD entered another competition yesterday. This one was a little more low-key than the Lego extravaganza earlier this week, but still fun. The task was to make a collage featuring the cat logo of the sponsors plus something on the theme of the "UN International Biodiversity Conference" being held in Kunming later this year. This contest was a nationwide one, so we won't know the result for a week or two, but it was a fun event regardless.
Well my cataract operation is all done. No pain exactly, but more uncomfortable than I'd been led to believe. I stayed overnight in the hospital afterwards but I was up and about this morning. The staff were really good - professional and caring - and they asked for a group photo before I left as I was the first foreigner they had treated. My wife as a star too, braving heavy rains to translate for me and bring me food! Two weeks of "20 eye drops a day" now, plus I'll need new glasses!
JD took part on a huge Lego Competition this morning along with 43 other kids of a similar age. He got first place in the initial round ("Make your name out of Lego"), then made the tallest tower (though not the most stable, so 4th place there) and then came first again in the final solo round ("Make an amazing building"). Overall - an amazing first place! His prize was a Harry Potter Lego set worth 700RMB (£70), a certificate and a handshake with the head of the bank who sponsored the event. JD was gob-smacked, and we were pretty chuffed too!
We had a fun day out with out new friends - a family we originally met at our Secret Forest den 6 months ago - visiting a mountain area they enjoy going to and sharing lunch and dinner with them. Our combined four e-bike convoy made the 50km round trip without recharging and the rain held off, despite dark skies. JD loved digging a slate mine, we diverted a small stream, made walled "gardens", played frisbee and caught a frog. What more could you ask for on a day out?
JD's school teachers send multiple daily messages to all their students' parents, even in holiday time. My phone does its best to translate the Chinese into English, but there are frequent messages which leave me totally bewildered, for example....
Mind you, Jiajia says the originals are often total nonsense too!
JD had his end of term ceremony yesterday. Afterwards, as a treat for all his hard work, Jiajia and I offered him a McDonalds Happy Meal. But JD said he preferred baozi and jiaozi. These are a somewhat more traditional snack of steamed meat dumplings. Jiaozi [left, below] have a thin skin and are moon-shaped Baozi [right, below] are fluffier and circular. Dip one or the other in a sauce of your making (Me? Soy/vinegar with a pinch of chili. JD? Soy and sugar!} and eat whole. 8RMB (80p) for a tray of 10. Yum!
It's always a good laugh to see what contorted position JD is sleeping in when I go to wake him up in the morning!
I've always woken him in the same way:
Lights on, 10 min snooze.
Get dressed and another 10 min snooze.
Lights on, get out of bed to wash,
brush teeth and have breakfast.
But from next term, I've told him he needs to do it all by himself...
I've had four dental visits over the last three weeks - two fillings, an x-ray, a clean and two "inlays" - a procedure in which a scanner builds a 3D model of your teeth [see below] in order to 3D print a small but precise resin shape that fits exactly into a gap between the teeth - a gap which apparently has been attracting decay! Not cheap or quick, but state-of-the-art. JD had a check-up too, but no problems for him!
Posters have been put up all around town over the last month or so, reminding people that the great Communist Party of China is celebrating 100 years (yesterday). Happy Anniversary, CPC! My phone translates the poster content as a heady mix of self-congratulatory and confusing messages. Most Chinese people I know just shrug. Politics and its associated propaganda are not a conversational priority here.
This week and next sees JD's end of term exams - so even more stress and homework than usual. His after-school class takes on the brunt of the Chinese and Maths exercises with Jiajia and I giving him a little extra, personalised work at weekends.
Recent feedback from JD's teachers are that he is focusing better in class and is much-liked by staff and students alike. We are expecting top marks in English, hoping for a top ten placing in Maths and fearing he'll be bottom ten in Chinese... Fingers crossed!
I was asked (well, told!) to attend a meeting the other day between my University (YUFE) leaders and the foreigners who work and study there. The attendees represented 16 countries in all - mostly Asian and African. I'm the second-longest serving foreigner there (6 years so far), but was still introduced as "Mr Paul"!?
The meeting lasted two hours and was mostly spent listening to self-congratulatory speeches commemorating 100 years of the Chinese Communist Party and 70 years since YUFE's founding. Gripping stuff.
The secret forest opened again last week, so JD and I visited to see if our den had survived the Winter closure. One section of the ceiling was drooping don and needed a new prop, but otherwise it was all good. And the copy-cat den next to ours (built by someone else - we know not who) has grown and now links up with our complex! How fun!
"Whitey", one of our two hamsters, died this morning. He'd been sick for a month or two - shaking, blind, no back legs working - and I've been giving him food and water by hand (JD lost interest in the hamsters a long time ago!). "Bitey" is in a separate cage and is still full of health and energy, so I continue to have a feeding and cleaning regime!
The European Championships have started and England played their first match yesterday (a 1v0 win against Croatia). Watching it live from China is a real pain. This match started at 9pm but future matches will be a 3am start. This match was on BBC and I watched it on iPlayer (using a VPN), though it hung every 5 minutes or so. The next matches are on ITV which will be even more difficult. Chinese TV shows all the matches, but with Chinese commentary plus you have to pay for a full year subscription. The internet promises free streaming sites but none seems reliable. It's so frustrating and it's times like this that I wish I were living back in England!
JD works very hard in Chinese language lessons/homework to keep up with his classmates (especially since less than 50% of his home life is conducted in Chinese). It doesn't help that he's in the top-rated class of his year group (of 10 classes), in the top-rated Primary School in Yunnan Province! But with our current plans to move back to the UK in 3-4 years time, it's also important to keep JD's levels of English up.
So, an hour of each term-time weekend, plus a daily hour during holidays, is devoted to MY English lessons with JD. His reading is up to scratch for his age and his oral English is above expectations. His handwriting is all joined up beautifully too, possibly because of the care he has to take with his Chinese calligraphy. But spelling is an ongoing problem! So we focus on that, whilst trying to keep the lessons interesting and challenging.
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