We did see a fish that can walk on land though. That was pretty cool!
I've visited volcanoes in four countries before, so I found TengChong's a bit disappointing in comparison - small, very dormant, a hefty entrance fee and a day of heavy rain. Love the sign though [see above]. I imagine the "M" in GEOTHERMAL had fallen off sometime in the past and been casually replaced ....upside-down.
We did see a fish that can walk on land though. That was pretty cool!
We spent today exploring some of TengChong's sights. "DieShuiHe" is the only urban waterfall in China, and it's quite a surprise to find it just a few hundred metres from the city centre.
We also went to the war cemetery [see photo, bottom right] which commemorates the retaking of TengChong from the Japanese occupation. 9000 Chinese and 6000 Japanese soldiers died in the battle as well as 40,000 civilians. One of the survivors was Jia'jias Gran who, somewhat ironically, had fled there from Shanghai to escape the initial Japanese invasion, only to stumble into the next big skirmish!
We're staying in a lovely hotel here in TengChong. It's a small "villa" with six bedrooms, though we are the only ones staying there. So we get use of the large living room [top right, with Liu Zhen], kitchen facilities and balconies [bottom right, with Jiajia and Catherine]. What's more, they have running water! A real bargain at £10 a night.
With the May Day weekend holiday upon us, Jiajia and I left for a few days in TengChong yesterday, a town near the border with Myanmar (Burma). It's an 11-hour journey there by bus, though we broke up the trip with a night in BaoShan on the way.
TengChong is famous for its volcanoes, its picturesque "old town" and as the site of one of the bloodiest WWII battles between the Chinese and the Japanese. It has a lovely set of five ornate gates [see top photo] in the town centre, each in a different style. And there are still many traditional old buildings in the town - though some of which are on their last legs [see photo above].
Our friends CAL (Catherine, husband Liu Zhen, daughter Ai Ran) arrive by car tomorrow. We last spent time with them in the Philippines. Ava used the free afternoon to shop, including this hand-made bamboo farmer's hat. As we walked down the street with our hats on, one passing Chinese man mumbled, "These crazy foreigners have no idea!" to which Jiajia replied, in the local dialect, "Careful who you call a foreigner" at which the man went bright red and scuttled off!
Not to be outdone on the family front, my other brother's family had a noteworthy success last week, with my niece Esme [ringed in photo] winning the Herefordshire Girls Under-14 Football Final. She's not the tallest member of the squad, but is apparently very skilful on the ball. Girls playing soccer, eh? Whatever next? Well done Es!
Our school has a special event this weekend, where excited students can bring in their unwanted toys and swap them with other students. It reminds me of my youth, when the Saturday morning T.V. show "Multicoloured Swap Shop" was required watching. I recall making a huge number of phonecalls to a youthful Noel Edmonds, desperate to swap my guitar for a Stylophone. Hope our school students have more success!
A recent post about the suicides at Apple's "Foxconn" factory started me wondering which employers in the world have the most employees? Foxconn has a huge 1.2 million, yet it only just scrapes into the top ten. Have a think. Can you guess which four countries are represented on the top ten list? And which types of companies? And how many from China? Click here to find out
With my favourite and lowly football team, Everton, managing to get to the semis of the FA Cup, I just had to find a way to watch it live. My boss Robert is a Liverpool supporter - our opposition - so we both headed to the new (and only) pub in Kunming, "O'Reilly's", which boasts an internet feed showing most sports events live. And so, bedecked in my Everton top and surrounded by very vocal Liverpool supporters, I managed to watch my team score the first goal "live". Very exciting until Liverpool then scored twice and knocked us out! Sadly drinks were on me.
This week has seen a visit by two of the Lattitude leaders I've been working with over the last 6 months; Helen [left in photo] from the UK and Glyn [right] a Welshman from Lattitude Australia, here being presented with gifts from the Yunnan Education Department at a lunch together yesterday. I know Helen from many years ago - she was at my UK wedding too - but Glyn I've only known through e-mails up until now. They have now visited all the Yunnan volunteer projects and, this afternoon, move on to the Sichuan ones. Particularly good news for me was, after a series of interviews, the appointment of a new interim Country Co-ordinator to take on the pastoral and administration side of the Lattitude work which I've been trying to cope with over recent months. After a handover, I'll just be left with the twice-yearly training, which is much more my cup of tea.
Jiajia's been having a bit of a stressful time at work lately (while I've had a quiet week, for a change). So to cheer her up I recreated her "Small World", her favourite ride at Disneyland in our bathroom for Dorta. I managed to get the "Small World" tune playing on a loop in the background as Dorta gently floated past all her friends in a plastic bowl. Needless to say Jiajia loved the surprise. The hardest part however was collecting enough water to fill the bath - we're now in our third month without running water.
Yes, indeed. The mark of a truly civilized society is how close you are to the toilet when you have a wee. I always suspected it was so.
The other foreign teachers and I were discussing the difference between "farther" and "further" at school this last weekend. As ever, once you research it a bit it's a lot more complicated than you think: Spoken v Written? American v British? Present Tense v Past Tense? Adverb v Verb? Old Usage v Modern Usage? Is it any wonder our students get a bit bewildered sometimes!
Nearly all my usual non-Chinese websites (BBC, Wikipedia, Yahoo, Google, etc) went offline for a day or two last week. At first, I thought it was just me, but later I heard that my foreign colleagues were having similar problems. When the websites started popping back up again we scoured the internet to find out what had caused the outage. It turns out that the on-line hacking group called "Anonymous" had broken into the websites of nearly 500 Chinese Government Departments and added messages reminding the Chinese people that their internet access is severely blocked and filtered by their Government and suggesting ways to get round it! Hence the internet being down while all the web pages were reset. Not that the Chinese Government has admitted the breach, though!
Since we visited Disneyland, Jiajia has been humming the tune to "It's A Small World (After All)" which played again and again during her favourite ride there. I've since realised it's also the tune played by the road cleaning trucks here to warn people that the roads are being sprayed with water (while our neighbourhood still has no running water, incidentally!). So it was an odd coincidence to read in my weekly British newspaper that the composer of the song, Robert B. Sherman, had died a few weeks ago. He was also the writer of many other Disney songs such as "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious" and "Chim-Chim-Cheree" (both from Mary Poppins) and nearly all "The Jungle Book" songs. Jiajia is going to be gutted when she returns from Shenzhen tomorrow.
I saw the odd clue in Hong Kong to remind me it is Easter this weekend [eg the random ornaments in the photo] but it doesn't really get a mention in mainland China. However, the little chocolate eggs I bought from "Marks and Spencer" while in Hong Kong were certainly appreciated by my students over the weekend. Happy Easter, readers!
Jiajia didn't often ask me for fashion advice in Shenzhen, but now and again I was able to explain some English phrase or even spot a fake garment. This T-shirt, for example, was being touted as an original, but a quick read gave me doubts. I pointed out the missing "t" in extravagant and the unnecessary capital "G" in Gave. I then had a good chuckle at the "costume being worm". Maybe it was silk?
Jiajia and I headed for Guangzhou today, China's third largest city with a population of some 13 million. Ava visits the city once a month (a 2 hour bus ride each way from Shenzhen) as there are markets there which offer different clothes to her regular Shenzhen haunts. It's a long and tiring day, for Jiajia doing the business and for me sitting and waiting for it all to be done! But two things struck me during our day in Guangzhou. Firstly, about half the people shopping in the clothes markets were foreigners, and most of those were African. There's money being made there somehow. Secondly, the most popular flag design on clothes is neither Chinese nor American. You actually see more clothes decorated with the British flag than all the other flags of the world put together. I think it's more to do with the colourful and unique design than any affinity with the country but, while the Chinese have a love-hate relationship with America (and, indeed, their own country), they happily seem to have forgotten the dire things the Brits have done to them in the past, and consider us as a proud, inventive and gentle people. Little do they know!
We met up with some friends for a huge buffet lunch yesterday. We know Peter and Karen, next to Jiajia and I, from when they briefly lived in Kunming. They have two lovely kids, Connie and Cosmo [left and right, centre]. Poor Cosmo dislocated his neck 6 months ago jumping on a football (?!) and has had to wear a brace since then. The family were heading off for a holiday in Macau, but managed to meet up with us en route.
After saying our goodbyes, Jiajia headed off to the markets again to buy more stock for her store. It's always interesting to see her at work, picking out which items she thinks will sell, accepting some prices given to her immediately, while bargaining hard about others. She has a great rapport with all the shopkeepers, despite only seeing them briefly once a month. In this store, she persuaded the salesman to show me his monkey impression for the camera!
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