This T-shirt has kept me awake for a few nights now! Where are these places on the "RMB Tour"? Some seem familiar - I think I see Barcelona, Paris, Amsterdam etc. But where on earth are "ply liarlk", "cinsin" and "me arselenes" meant to be? I reckon I can guess about 14 of the 20. Can you do better?
We managed to spread JD's birthday celebrations over a whole week, with trips to the museum, the play centre and the the zoo, and a present and a card each day. It meant that JD gradually got the birthday idea and was able to enjoy each gift properly before being wowed by the next one.
This evening, we shared JD's birthday cake with MaoMao and her parents, plus family friends "Dancing Lady" and her son. I've never seen JD as excited as when he suddenly saw MaoMao and the cake. He can sing along to the "Happy Birthday" song now and, somewhat inevitably, ended up with cream all over his face!
Whatever you think of the death penalty or the treatment of the Uighur minority in China's XinJiang Province, the terrorists who committed the horrific attrocity in Kunming's railway station a year ago have finally got their punishments. Good riddance.
It was the Union Flag which first caught my eye, quickly followed by the ghastly clash of tenses in the English! But what this poster was actually advertising is anybody's guess. I spotted it in a shopping mall the other day and thought I'd see if anybody had a good guess, before resorting to asking the wife to translate the Chinese characters. Answers on a postcard please (...OK, maybe in the Comments below then).
Kudos to my brother Dave for taking the huge leap of accepting voluntary redundancy from his well-paid but very stressful job as Director of the fastest growing Housing Association group in the country, and setting himself up as a self-employed training consultant. It was easy enough for me to take voluntary redundancy when I was in my twenties with no family commitments, but Dave has had to consider so many more factors. He has so much experience and so many skills to offer, though, I'm sure it will be a great success. Click here for more information. Good luck bro'!
When I pointed out how long JD's hair was getting the other day and offered to give him a quick buzz with our shaver, I was told he just needed a trim. So I snipped off a few of the longer bits myself and left it at that. But when I returned home yesterday, I found he'd been taken to a hairdresser by our Nanny to be given a crew cut. Drastic, or what? If I didn't know it would grow back pretty quickly, I might have got slightly annoyed.
My fears were heightened however, when my wife whisked him off today to the Bamboo Temple to meet the monks. Was the haircut a means to enrol him in the holy order? Thankfully, a quick blessing and some sightseeing photos later, they returned home.
Here is a neat map I was sent recently. It shows the average pollution levels in the Europe-Asia region. As you can see, China doesn't come out of it very well. The highest level in Europe is about 169. Kunming here gets about 120, whilst Beijing weighs in at 880! But what is going on in Kashi, a town in China's remote and desert-filled XinJiang Province, that merits a rating of 999!? Scary.
JD opened an early Birthday present the other day. A small wooden train set with numbers on each carriage. The packaging caught my eye, however, with it's florid vocabulary and mangled sentences.
I do like the way in which you can (sort of) understand what they are getting at, whilst remaining bewildered by the manner in which they get there. Are these things translated by computers, or are there actual people out there whose knowledge of English usage is so much lower than they imagine?
Our year's subscription to the play centre comes to an end this month, so I am taking JD there as often as possible to get our money's worth. There is a large soft play area with a ball pit, rides, things to climb and swing on, etc. But next door is a sand area which is the part which has really taken his fancy lately. He could dig, fill and empty for hours if we let him. All good eye-hand coordination, I guess.
Yesterday was the last day and the Farewell Banquet for the latest Lattitude group of volunteers. They have been amongst the best, if not the best, intake we have ever had - nearly 100% attendance record, no "incidents" and particularly thoughtful and accurate answers in class.
Maybe the combination of five different coutries helped. We normally have Brits and Aussies, but this year an American, two Canadians and five New Zealanders joined the mix. The Kiwis' pronunciation became the running joke of the week, as it happens. For example, they pronounce "win" as "when" and "pen" as "pin" - all quite confusing. So they enjoyed their "check-in soup" yesterday and today they head for the "airport chicken desks"! Their students are going to have fun.
Happy Birthday to my wifey who turned forty yesterday. She had a record number of cards (all from UK friends and family, mind!) and was quite moved by the kind words in them. Ma bought a cake and JD learned how to say "Happy Birthday" and enjoyed playing with the candles. Sadly, Ava shows no sign of getting over her 6-month old cough and is planning yet another visit to the hospital this week. Having had some twenty tests, five different courses of anti-biotics, steroids, inhaler, Chinese herbs, Buddhist and Christian prayers - all seemingly to no avail - we wonder what else there is left to try. In the meantime, Happy Birthday dahlin' !!
The Lattitude volunteers started today with 1½ hours of Chinese language study, ending with a visit to a local fruit shop to use what they had learned [see photo]. Then I taught them for two hours before we headed to a XinJiang restaurant for lunch. Back for a birthday cake and a video of a previous volunteer teaching a class of 60. Two more hours of training from me after that took us to 6pm. At 7pm we met in their hotel lobby for a half hour walk to Kunming's English Corner by the Green Lake, where locals gather to practice their English [see photo]. I left them immersed in conversations by 8.30pm and got home by 9.30pm for JD's "going to bed" routine. A long day for all of us.
The latest intake of Lattitude volunteers have arrived; 10 girls and 3 guys who I'll be training for 8 days to prepare them for 5 months being an English teacher in a Chinese school. The 13 teenagers come from 5 different countries this time. Two were delayed (by 12 and 24 hours) on the way here while another found her luggage had missed the flight. But, as of this evening, all volunteers and bags had made it. This course will be particularly tricky as the usual Lattitude Coordinator, Kelly, is currently having a baby so there will be less help on the social side. Plus, I'm just getting over a nasty cold which left me without a voice for three days. But we'll get there!
Protests or any public show of disatisfaction are very rare in China. The only angry protest march I've ever seen was a heavily orchestrated one against the Japanese once. So it was fascinating to see a small group of people outside our local hospital the other day. They were complaining about the treatment of their child, apparently, and had posters, leaflets and even a video showing. The hospital guards were trying hard to ignore it - not sure of whether they should be intervening or not. It all turned a bit ugly moments later, however, when one of the protesters dragged a railing from the centre of the nearby road blockiing all the traffic. It's a busy road and an almighty jam quickly formed. The affected bus drivers were particularly incensed and a huge row started. I decided it was time to move on. Foreigners are always conspicuous in Kunming, and the Chinese authorities don't appreciate us seeing any signs of an unharmonious society.
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