Christmas is a time for western children to receive thoughtful gifts. At Chinese New Year (aka Spring Festival) kids here just get a pile of cash! Admittedly it is modestly tucked away in pretty red envelopes but, make no mistake, it's the thickness of the insides that counts! Our friends have been very generous to JD this year [he's pictured here with our friend, the nurse who helped us get VIP treatment for JD's birth], and we've even opened up a little bank account for his stash. He's earned it, mind you, with endless smiles and patiently allowing every other person to pick him up and give him a cuddle. No surprise though, even hongbao (red envelopes) don't always escape the curse of Chinglish!
Tomorrow is Chinese New Year. It's the time in China when families traditionally spend all the money they have saved up, in order to give their child a fantastic gift which will be cherished forever.
We bought JD a balloon.
He wasn't totally impressed, as you can see. Next year he'll probably be agitating for a computer games console or something. But for now, it's looking like a cheap holiday!
It is our good friend Gemma's birthday today and, despite her being off travelling somewhere between Bali and Australia at the moment, we decided to buy her a gift for when she returns. So meet "Gemma", the orange fish above. And when we found out how cheap the fish were (Sorry, Gemma! 2RMB each = 20p a fish!) we decided to buy two more to keep her company. Meet "George" (black) and "Margaret" (white) named after the G & M in Gemma's name - purely coincidental that my parents share the names (...Ava chose them, honest!). Wonder how long they'll survive for (...the fish, that is, not my parents)? Were we meant to buy food or something?
I spent today acting the role of a manager of an international French company! A friend of Ava's needed to convince some farmers in a town outside Kunming that she works on behalf of a French agricultural company. Indeed she does but, for countryside folk, seeing is believing and papers can be forged. A real life foreigner is indisputable, however. and thankfully it seems English and French are indistinguishable!
After a couple of hours of negotiation, contracts were signed (or fingerprinted in the case of some of the less literate workers) and then we all went off for a meal. The land is being rented to grow thorny bushes which are higly prized as burglar deterrents in France and cost a lot as a result. They say it looks more beautiful than fences and barbed wire though, in my opinion, not THAT much more! Still, mission accomplished. By way of a thank you, I was given a bag of potatoes, a leg of ham, two dozen eggs and a live chicken. Result!
Jiajia's friend gave us a box of organic vegetables as a Spring Festival gift a couple of days ago and, to my surprise, it contained a small bag of Brussel sprouts. I've not seen them for sale in Kunming before - for Christmas dinner we buy them from Shanghai (1500 miles / 2400 km away!) and get them shipped to us! But it seems there's now a farm in Kunming who grow them, and other vegetables, for export. I asked Jiajia to ask her friend where the farm was, so that we could try and buy some more in the future. Then, four hours later, her friend turns up at the house with a huge box of Brussel sprouts. 10kg (22lb) of them!! Now I like a Brussel sprout as much as the next man, but I think it will take me a year to get through that many! Thank goodness for the freezer. And no naked flames in the bedroom please!!
Sometimes (well, often!) I despair of Chinese doctors and their medical knowledge. We took JD to the clinic today for yet another injection (on our first visit 6 months ago we were told there we could opt for 3 injections instead of the "usual 12" if we paid for a foreign brand. We paid, but we're currently processing our 8th injection for reasons that nobody seems to be able to explain to me).
Today's Doctor: I'm sorry but he doesn't look well at all.
Ava: Oh dear. Why?
Doctor: His hair isn't dark enough. It's a sure sign.
...I walk into the room...
Doctor: Oh. Is he a foreign baby...?!
We were then told we couldn't have the injection anyway, because he had a slight cough two weeks ago (for which doctors immediately prescribed antibiotics!?). Meanwhile JD is bouncing around the clinic, full of energy, totally unaware of just how desperately ill he is (or isn't).
This is the other poem I wrote for the School Party...
I’ve got a rubbish student.
His name, let’s say, is Jack.
At the end of every lesson
I hope he won’t come back.
He never does his homework. He always speaks Chinese.
He hasn’t got a pencil-case. His parents don’t pay fees.
He cheats on the dictations. Makes hundred of mistakes.
Annoys the other students. Fails every test he takes.
He copies all his homework. From stuff on the internet.
He often goes to the WC to smoke a cigarette.
The other students hate him. They always start to moan.
He’s broken classroom windows. And stolen classmate’s phones.
He brought a knife to class once . He doesn’t think that’s wrong.
He tries to eat his textbook and he brings dead cats along.
The police say he’s a danger. He’s murdered thirteen men.
He’s wanted internationally. For acts of terrorism.
….and he once started a small war in an African state
and infected thousands with an incurable virus and ...
…well, you get the idea!
My school had its end of year meal and party yesterday. The food was the usual banquet affar, but there was good company on my table, which made for a fun evening. After the food and the toasts, there was 2 hours of entertainment put on by staff from the various branches including singing, dances, stories in Chinese, raffle draws (I won two cups!) and prizes. I wrote a couple of poems which went down quite well. One was praising the virtues of Rachel, Chinese wife of Robert and co-owner of the school. Of course, there was a twist in the tail...
R is for the RESPECT that we all have for you
A is your ATTRACTIVENESS, which Robert says is true
C is for how CLEVER all your ideas are
H is for the HAPPINESS you spread both near and far
E is for EXCITEMENT that we feel when you are close
P is for your PATIENCE which we all love the most
Put the letters together now and it spells …RACHEP!?
As you can see below, Rob could see the deliberate mistake coming...
We've had this odd-looking vegetable a couple of times at home recently. It looks a bit like Brussel Sprouts and tastes similarly yummy. I'm a big Brussel sprout fan, so I was intrigued to find out exactly its English name, if it has one. Inspired by recent Holmes TV series (both "Elementary" and "Sherlock") I started my investigation...
Ma-in-law mumbled something like "Urgh! Sigh!", and the nanny later confirmed that "er cài" (儿菜) is its name in local dialect, literally "children vegetable"!? Ava couldn't help - she didn't even know how to write the local name in Chinese characters. The first two colleagues I asked at work had no idea what I was talking about. The third said it's proper name was "Da tóu cài" (大头菜), which translates literally as "big head vegetable". However, further investigation revealed this to be swede or rutabaga.
Another fellow teacher, "Kelly", agreed to look into it for me and came back with a proper name of "bào zǐ cài" (抱子菜) which translates literally as, "holding babies vegetable"! And the English for that comes back as "Brussells vegetable". Bingo! And that seemed to be the end of the trail. Until, that is, I typed in "Brussel sprouts" into another online dictionary and found a totally different name, "qiú yá gānlán" (球芽甘蓝). The mystery continues...
Jiajia and I had a nice meal out the other day and I saw that the tables had interesting paper mats with pictures and words in English. They were all surprisingly accurate with one exception. Is the central word meant to be "cutlery", or am I missing something more obvious? As ever, do feel free to leave any thoughts or ideas in the comments section!
I've been playing a dozen games of Lexulous (like Scrabble) online at any given time over past years with old College friends in the UK. I usually win two games for every one I lose. But I recently destroyed my personal record for the best score from a single move. It used to stand at 226, but with PRIZEMEN the other day, I scored 337. If that's not a game-winning move, I don't know what is. Woohoo!
I give a weekly dictation test to my classes and last week's had quite an amusing attempt. Any guesses what "squinty gold" was meant to be? Click below to find out...
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