Once my birthday is done and dusted, the pressure is on (from JD) to put up our Christmas decorations. This year he was keen to pitch in with his own ides of what to put where, and how to decorate the "showing its age" tree! We'll gradually add presents underneath it, over the next fortnight, to build up the excitement. Jiajia is already scoring the internet for cheap and cheerful stocking fillers, Christmas crackers, sweets, mince pies and presents!
We spent a fun day out in the countryside today with one of JD's friends, Johnny, and his family. Seven of us squeezed into their SUV for a 45 minute drive to a famous vegetable market (closed because of COVID) and on to a farm/play area. The kids had great fun fishing for tiddlers, trying a shooting range, feeding a couple of camels(!) and digging up carrots. It was a hot and breezy day, despite being Winter, and we returned home with sunburn and fresh vegetables!
The Internet tells me that Chinese dwarf hamsters can live "up to 2 years" and that a 1½ year old is considered "elderly". So, as "Bitey" turns 2½ this month, with no obvious lack of energy and looking as healthy as ever, we wonder just how long this chap can keep going? JD had long since lost interest, so it falls to me to feed Bitey, clean his cage and give him the occasional outing. And yet he still had a nip at me, given half a chance!
I woke JD up at 3am this morning to watch the World Cup footie with me. After England's 6 v 2 heroics over Iran last week, I was sure this match would be a great introduction to the thrill of international football for JD. Sadly it was a dull affair and we trudged back to bed as soon as the final whistle sounded.
I woke yesterday to text messages informing us that all Primary and Secondary schools are closing again, for at least three days. Yes, COVID is still perceived as a major threat to life in China and, with 100 positive cases in Kunming (pop: 7m) and three deaths in Beijing (4 hours flight away) life here grinds to a halt, once again! Today my University went into lockdown. We will probably have to teach online again next week. Groan!
Meanwhile, we all have to queue for 30-45 minutes every day or two to be tested, and guards check everyone's phone health codes at work, on buses, in parks and shops etc. After three years of this it really has gone beyond tiresome, especially when the rest of the world (using vaccines that actually work!) seems to have moved on.
P.S. As I suspected, all teaching is online again until further notice...
Despite us all having coughs and colds, we travelled to Green Lake today to have a lunch, celebrating my Birthday in a pretty (if pricey) restaurant there. Ma joined us, despite "being on her death bed" all last week (she said). Jiajia ordered a wide variety of meat and veg. JD especially loved the squid. We'd brought along a birthday cake too but, by dessert time, were all too full to eat it. So we'll tuck into that this evening.
One of the blocks in our neighbourhood went into lockdown earlier this week. Apparently one of the residents had had contact with someone who had had contact with someone else who had tested positive for COVID!! That's how paranoid things are here these days. So the COVID response team stopped anyone leaving the building until everyone could show three days of negative Nucleic Acid tests.
Our Province has 47 million people and there are currently 44 cases of COVID. Yet we are still required to have tests every two days and people are genuinely nervous.
A 10-minute walk, two underground trains and a bus got JD, Jiajia and I to Kunming's "Ethnic Minority Park" yesterday for a fun afternoon in the largely deserted theme park.
JD insisted on us hiring a 4-person bike and pedalling us around the various "ethnic villages". We had a nice picnic lunch by a lake and managed to see about half of the 30+ villages by the end:
The huge construction work next to our neighbourhood has been banging on for months now, and will apparently be continuing for 2 years to come! This huge pile-driver [left] appeared outside our back window last week and spent 4 days hammering pylons into the ground. It was so noisy I couldn't hear the music playing in my headphones Thankfully it has moved further away now and the din has dimmed.
We live at "A" below, and the circled buildings are what is being constructed. It seems like we ourselves won't be overlooked by the finished offices as such and, being on the second floor, we may not even be able to see the buildings over the wall which separates us from them. And, of course, we may have left China by the time it is all finished! But for now, it's noisy, polluting and very annoying.
For yet another year, I've been one of the judges of the Provincial English Speaking Competition. This time I was determined to find out what "FLTRP - ETIC" actually stands for!
None of the other judges seemed to know either, so we checked online and finally found out that the actual name of the event is... "Foreign Language Training & Research Press - English Talent Identification Competition Cup". Succinct, right?
JD and I have played a couple of games of "Dungeons and Dragons" recently. JD loves it - he enjoys using his wide range of vocabulary and his imagination gets sparked by talk of treasure, monsters and magic. Unfortunately the other players live in the far north of the city, so it takes us over an hour on two buses to get there. However, we play in the back room of a western restaurant, so there is always the reward of a fresh pizza to look forward to before we head home (by taxi!).
Past blog entries