My University lessons are back in full swing after an unusually long, but very welcome, two month Summer holiday. This was one of my classes earlier this week doing a "Running Dictation" exercise...
The Chinese Government have been rolling out a series of education reforms over recent months to "reduce the burden" on young students in China. These include banning online tutoring with teachers based abroad, removal of western printed textbooks, regulating after-school and weekend training classes and reducing homework and exams in Primary Schools. However, JD's school seem to be largely ignoring the "less work" parts. Completing his daily homework is taking longer than ever. He didn't finish until after after 10pm on Monday/Tuesday, though Wednesday/Thursday were "only" 8.30pm [see below]. Crazy.
As an end-of-holiday treat, Jiajia and I took JD to an indoor skiing centre about 30 minutes drive away. It's JD's third time skiing. He loves it and has been asking us to go again for ages.
After JD made four descents of the beginner's slope without falling over, I took him up to the Intermediate slope. It's a fair bit faster. He got down without falling over but ended up crashing into the cushioned fence at the bottom! He decided to return to the baby slope after that!
The centre isn't cheap (£20 each) and Jiajia had to pay full price even though she only wanted to watch. So we persuaded her to at least have a try. Let's just say it wasn't her strongest showing!!
We got back yesterday from an overnight stay in a village on the outskirts of Kunming. On arrival we headed for the fossils up a nearby hill, somewhere we'd been once before with friends.
Jiajia quickly found a small, but complete trilobite. I later found a large but incomplete one. After a few hours, JD was starting to get frustrated by his lack of luck when he suddenly stumbled across this beautiful, blue-stained trilobite. That cheered him up for the rest of the day! We headed back down to the village with a dozen fossils in various states of completeness.
We'd found a traditional, old house online which offered a homestay bedroom. It was very pretty and the hosts couldn't do enough for us. Unfortunately, there were a lot of biting mosquitoes during the night, despite our precautions, which led to little sleep.
The next morning, we went to the weekly market, but it was a bit disappointing - just half a dozen Yi minority women with fruit and vegetables fresh from their fields. Afterwards we found a carpentry workshop which offered craft lessons to children. So JD spent 4 hours making a wooden knife and sheath, with the help or his patient teacher. He loved it and was very proud of his work.
We drove back to Kunming later in the afternoon. We stopped at a car wash as Jiajia has a lot of vouchers for free valets. While they were cleaning the car, we headed for a nearby Pizza Hut as - you guessed it - Jiajia has a lot of vouchers for free pizzas. The benefits of being a VIP customer at the bank of China!
It was a fun little trip and we think we might go back again some day to explore a little more, in and around the village. Meanwhile, JD has to prepare for his imminent return to school.
Jiajia, JD and I spent today at the Yunnan Safari Park. Forecasts of heavy rain kept the crowds away and, as it turned out, we only needed our umbrellas as we were returning to the car park to leave. The park itself is huge - 10km to the most distant enclosures. Some of the animals are caged, but most are in large open-air enclosures and seem well looked after. You can pay extra for a bus to take you to the different areas, but we opted to burn off some calories and it was fun to explore the walkways and suddenly bump into unexpected creatures, some just arms length away (think giant tortoises, peacocks, zebras, llamas, ostriches etc). We saved a lot of cash by bringing a picnic but blew it all on various kids' rides and entertainment for JD at the end of our visit! Still, it was a nice end to the day, as the heavens opened.
JD's been desperate to return to the reservoir I took him to a few months ago, to try and catch more clams. To that end, he spent some of his pocket money on a snorkel mask last week which he has been keen to try out. Unfortunately, my eye doctors said swimming was forbidden for a month after my operation, let alone in a dirty reservoir, and Jiajia doesn't enjoy swimming.
So instead, we tried out a swimming pool not far from our house which I found on the map recently, and invited JD's friend "Johnny" to come along with his mum, who was happy to look after both of them in the water. JD had a great time, though the mask wasn't quite as water-tight as he'd hoped.
A really mixed day today. Jiajia, JD and I visited the Bamboo Temple with a friend of ours - Du Laoshi - a 40 minute drive up a mountain on the outskirts of Kunming. We had a good look around, including the famous 500 detailed statues of monks in various poses there. Then we joined the monks and worshippers for a vegetarian lunch.
Thankfully, JD only suffered scratches and bruises and was keen to keep on. The rest of us, including the driver, were a lot more shocked, and we decided to head back to the temple and the car. JD said the gods kept him safe because he'd donated a few yuan to them in the temple. I'm wondering whether they arranged the crash because of the meagre cash amount
But after a rest and a thorough check-up we did drive on to the park and JD enjoyed a few hours of fishing (including catching a 20cm long shrimp and nearly catching a yellow garter snake).
After returning to Kunming, we found a car wash for which Jiajia had a free ticket, and enjoyed a large dumping meal while the car was cleaned inside and out. A day of ups, downs, acrosses, insides and outs.
Good friends of ours showed us an area on the outskirts of Kunming today where you can, if you are lucky, discover some 500 million year old fossils! We had great fun hammering, tapping and brushing for 3 hours and found about a dozen small fossils. The trilobite below (found by Jiajia) was the pick of the bunch.
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