I saw this room sign in the hospital the other days. Not sure if the matches are for lighting the oven or whether this is just identical to the real dining room?
It's that time of year again when our school welcomes a group of foreign teenagers for 8 days training, preparing them to be English teachers in Chinese school for 5 months. I do the majority of the training and co-ordinate input from six other teachers and five administration staff. This time we have 29 Lattitude volunteers from 5 different countries - our biggest intake yet. 25 of them arrived safely this afternoon, whilst 3 arrived late due to flight problems. One won't be arriving until later in the week due to passport problems!
Meanwhile, back at home, Ava is coordinating something altogether different. Workers have been in to build a wall (turning our balcony area into a room) and knock a door in our en suite bathroom to allow the nanny and baby to have access without having to walk through our bedroom. Once again, the house is full of tools and covered in a layer of dust. After some painting, we are doing no more major work until the baby is here and settled.
The baby room is gradually coming together. We had the cot delivered today and I managed to put it together without any breaka furniture or loss of blood (I'm still limping from the glass tabletop experience!). Dorta decided to test the bed and mobile. We also bought a mattress for the nanny's bed. Having initially been quoted 700RMB, Ava went to work and we eventually got it for just 200RMB (£20) including delivery! Nice discount!
I've had another article published in the "Chinese Cultural Group Merton" newletter. This one about Christmas babies:
I've spent the last few days turning our office room into a baby room and turning the balcony area into a functioning "office". It hasn't been easy doing all the lifting and lugging by myself, but as the other adults in the house are either too old or too pregnant it's been down to me. Not helped by my dreadful DIY skills, of course. However slowly I take the job and however hard I try, it nearly always ends in disaster:
Drill a hole in the wall? The drill bit broke. Shorten a wooden table top? The saw got stuck and the table snapped. Screw together a bed? Not enough bolts and the wrong size spanner for the nuts. Assembly a baby bouncer? The plastic leg broke. Drag a table across the room? The glass top suddenly slid off and shattered, cutting open my foot. You get the idea. Give me a computer or a blackboard any day!
I play an online Scrabble-esque game (Lexulous) daily with a variety of friends, in combinations of two, three and four players. I usually hold my own, but felt a bit cheated in a recent match. Due to so many long words being laid and with me being the last to play, I only managed two words before Vix went and won the game! I managed a huge 148 and an impressive 65, but still found I'd lost by 70! Not fair!
The Chinese New Year celebrations last night heralded in the Year of the Snake. My "soon-to-be-expanding" family here in Kunming celebrated with some traditional food (I wasn't eating too much however, after a recent and rather violent 2 day stomach upset). As ever, we were joined by Jiajia's "adopted" Uncle, a poor soul who seems to survive on handouts, alcohol and cigarettes. He left after dinner for a more convivial drinking hole and I managed to get an unusually good Skype connection with my parents. Jiajia and I then watched the huge, 4-hour Spring Festival Gala on TV, complete with a performance by Celine Dion. She went down well - the two best known English language songs in China are her Titanic hit, "My Heart Will Go On" and "Happy Birthday"! Jiajia was in stitches at some of the tacky comedy sketches, the likes of which haven't been seen on British TV since those corny 1960s variety shows. But I did manage to chuckle at one joke poking fun of the Chinese leadership; A Chinese ship was captured by pirates. "How much ransom do you want?" asked the government official. "Half a million yuan" replied the pirates. "Look, we'll give you a million" agreed the official, "but you have to give us a receipt for 2 million" ... a less-than-subtle reference to the padding of expenses bills by corrupt officials - I'm amazed that got past the censors! Happy Chinese New Year!
As a foreigner living in China, life seldom gets boring. Challenging sometimes, yes, but rarely boring. News stories like this one, for example, can keep me chuckling for hours. A man from Yunnan decided to end his life by leaping into a tiger cage at the zoo. Unfortunately (or should that be fortunately?) he got the wrong cage and ended up in with an ostrich. He then killed it with a knife (nobody quite knows why) and waited for the police to show up. Love it!
I've recently been drafted into a large school project, proof-reading a total of 400,000 sentences which have been translated from Korean to Chinese, then Chinese to English by machine, and then Machine English to better English by our Chinese teachers. Now native speakers are being asked to make sense of the resulting sentences before a Korean team translates the English back to Korean again. Something to do with teaching a Korean company's computer to do instant three-way translations. Confused? You're not the only one! But it pays.
A million sentences were grabbed from online chat rooms - not the most reliable source of standard language, I'd have thought. So the starting point was inane and trivial teenage-speak and then multiple translations have only served to make them even more bonkers. Here are some examples I've found from the 5000 I've worked on so far. Oh, and for fun, I've completely made up one of the 15 - can you spot it?
The kitchen is finally finished. It was, to a large extent, a cock-up from start to finish. Cupboard doors put in the wrong place, extractor fan initially at a jaunty angle, stone surfaces not joining properly, waterproofing layer not put in, drawers too high or too low, a hole to allow electrical acess forgotton and always a complete mess when the workers left for the day such as the man drilling the stone top [see photo, left] who managed to deposit a thick layer of dust throughout the house, despite the kitchen doors being closed and windows open.
Despite our patient explanations and encouragement to "leave it for now", Ma-in-law never quite grasped the sense in waiting until all the work was complete before trying to clean everywhere. Every day she was waking up early to deep-clean the kitchen, barely an hour before the next set of workers arrived to create more chaos. Still, it's given her something to moan about... "I'm so old and yet I'm the only one who cleans the house!" ...THEN JUST STOP, WOMAN!!
My pet peeve was that all the wood patterns on the cupboard doors matched up with all the others around them except for one [..wonder if you can spot it, above?]. The boss of the installation company explained that wood cut from different parts of a tree leads to different patterns. All very interesting except that, as I pointed out, these are plastic formica doors. The nearest they've been to a tree is the MDF plywood underneath. We lost that battle, but they are going to replace another drawer which doesn't close smoothly. Believe it or not, we didn't skimp on the materials or the installation company - this is apparently good quality work for China!
My term ended yesterday and the school celebrated with a delicious buffet meal in a revolving restaurant. There used to be a time when I knew most of the names of the 100 or so staff in the school. No more. Although I recognise most faces, I'd struggle to name more than 30-40% now.
After the meal we had a performance party. Various teachers and admin staff did dances, singing and party games. I did a comedy magic turn, which went down very well. It culminated in a volunteer [see photo below] secretly putting a 50RMB (£5) note in one of four envelopes. I then proceeded to burn three envelopes and when she opened the remaining one and showed it was empty, there was an audible gasp from the audience. Worth £5 to get that reaction! Later I won first prize in the lottery however - a gift voucher for 300RMB (£30). So overall a profit, and a great way to end a good term!
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