JD enjoys his regular visits to the little "rocking car" rides lined up outside our nearby shops. One has caught my eye recently though...
"bird, horse, cock(!), elephant, tiger, GROPE?, pomegranate...??"
I saw this "political correctness gone mad" story in my newspaper the other day, and then spotted it was about a guy called "Paul Hyde". All too similar to my name, I reckon! If you Google my name, the only other Paul Hider of some fame is a West Country goalkeeper. Mine's not the most common of surnames (especially spelled with an "i", rather than a "y"). My younger students do tend to have a good laugh though when we learn about "Hyde Park" in London ...so it all belongs to you? haha!... or when we do our lesson on "Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde" ...so you are an ugly monster! haha!...
Carrefour, a French-owned supermarket chain is, perhaps surprisingly, one of the worst offenders when it comes to Chinglish in Kunming. Maybe it's because they do at least attempt to write all their signs in English. Or maybe the French just have as little regard for correct English as the Chinese? Anyhow, I never go there without a camera and, last week, I spotted this classic - their best (worst?) for a while!
We had our school's termly 5-a-side indoor football match yesterday. We always think we can try to organise it, say, monthly but getting 10 chaps together (in a school 80% women) usually proves too difficult. Plus, most matches end with 1 or 2 players injured (the first time I played in one of these games I broke my toe!). Yesterday's foray resulted in a rather nasty bruise and swelling on my foot, but hopefully not a break this time. I do enjoy the kickabouts, but I fear I'm getting a bit old to cope. I've already had to give up weekly badminton and weight training because of an ongoing tennis elbow problem. Maybe footie is next? Running seems the least dangerous exercise...
Our school made the front page of the newpaper this weekend or, more accurately, Robert (my boss) was featured, dressed as James Bond! This weekend marks the end of "Great Britain Week" in Kunming and our school provided various impersonators of famous British people in the main shopping street for people to take photos with. So 007 was there with his Bond girl, plus Robin Hood, Mr Bean, Harry Potter, Winnie the Pooh, Darcy & Elizabeth, etc. I heard they attracted hundreds of onlookers. Sadly I was stuck teaching at school, but it sounded like a blast!
I had a nice meal with Glyn (Head of Lattitude Australia) and Kelly (Lattitude China Co-ordinator) last weekend. It was good to get a sense of Lattitude's bigger world picture, as I often only focus on the volunteers to China whom I train every 6 months. We may think that the authorities and schools here cause big issues, but when you hear about Lattitude's problems in, say, India and Vietnam and you realise that Chinese bureacracy is comparatively efficient and honest!
The new restaurant we tried had tasty food, attentive service and some glorious Chinglish on the menu. The "Lazy food" looked fun but we finally decided against a glass of "Iraqi Cloud Water"! Apparently the Chinese makes no sense either!
This week is "Great Britain Week" in Kunming, with the British Embassy organising various exhibitions, food and drink tasting, trade fairs, lectures and other events to promote Britain and British brands. I was one of 50 or so foreigners invited to the Opening Reception at a rather swanky hotel in Kunming. The event was outside, lit by burning incense pots and accompanied by a live quartet [see photo above]. There was a buffet around the outside with various "British" dishes, such as lamb chops, fish and chips, beef curry, baked potatoes, shepherd's pie, etc. And on display in the car park were various British luxury cars (Rolls Royce, Jaguar, Land Rover, Aston Martin, etc).
I was there representing Robert's School, along with Robert and his wife, and I did my bit to look British with a Union Jack tie! The opening speech from the British Consul-General (and my former boss when I was working with VSO!), Tina Redshaw, ended with a list of quality British companies already working in Kunming. She mentioned Rolls Royce, Crowne Plaza Hotels, British Airways, Aston Martin, etc, but the first company on her list was... Robert's School! Something of a compliment, for sure.
I hope you'll forgive me a slight gloat. My favourite team over the last 40 years, Everton, are having the best season I can ever remember. Last weekend they sneaked into 4th place in the Premier League which, if they can hang on to it, will mean they qualify for the European Champions League next season, and all the riches that come with that privilege. We started the season with a new manager too, Roberto Martinez, having had our excellent previous one stolen by Manchester United (and look where they are in the league table - haha!). For a "little" team, it's a blinder of a season. I'm loving it!
Goldfish don't seem to live long, at least in our household. Some last a few months, some less, despite my best efforts to change their water and feed them the right amounts. We've been through a dozen or so over the last 6 months, but the latest five have survived quite well. Except that one went missing last week!? We had five fish a week ago, but now there are only four, and NO ONE in our house has admitted to netting out a dead one or having a sneaky midnight snack. I thought one might have got caught in a shell, but I had a good look around when changing the water and there's no sign of the little chap. Do goldfish eat each other? A real mystery....
And then there's this large cushion. A metre square, no less, and Ava and I had two of them in our bedroom. One got moved to the office and the other...? Gone. We've looked everywhere and there's no sign of it. And it's a big thing! What's going on?
JD is saying half-a-dozen words now although, unfortunately, half of them are "baba". Baba can mean "daddy", "baby", "bird", "bye-bye" etc.
Yesterday I drove JD, Ava and our nanny out to Guandu, a restored "Old Town" on Kunming's outskirts. It's particularly famous for its bean-filled flatbreads called, somewhat frustratingly, "baba". And so it was that JD's baba gave his baba some baba...
It was a National Holiday, so Guandu was full of families enjoying the sunshine. As ever, JD stands out quite a lot and enjoyed some nice little interactions with Chinese babies and curious adults.Inside one temple he became quite taken with a handmade leaf-hat one girl was wearing. Once she stopped giggling, she gently "crowned" JD with her laurel headdress, which immediately slipped down onto his shoulders. JD's consequent laughter caused a few heads to turn and made the girl's day, I think. Baba!
The pedestrianised area under a large flyover in central Kunming used to get taken over every evening by dozens of illegal vendors selling mobile phone covers, underwear, headphones, you name it. The local police have tried a variety of tactics to clear the area, but as soon as the cops disappear, the shops reappear. This has lead to congestion, fights and some traffic injuries (mostly electric bikes hitting passers-by). But last week I went there and the whole area has been filled with potted plants! Apparently this is the latest police brainwave; simply give the vendors nowhere to set up! And there are just a couple of policemen on duty now making sure the plants aren't nicked! I'm not sure if it's barmy or inspired, but so far it's doing the job...
A British town is only a city when it has a cathedral. In China, the main indicator of civilization is the level of fast food (in my mind, anyhow!). And Kunming made a leap forward from MacDonalds & KFC when Starbucks arrived last year and Burger King opened here last month.
I finally found the BK this week and had myself a bit of a Whopper. The meal tasted great, but the service was chaotic. The electronic tills were all broken, so staff were writing down orders on scraps of paper, handed to the cooks, and customers were given handwritten IOUs, as there was no access to the change in the tills. Laughable. I'll be back though!
Ava flew to Shenzhen on business 36 hours ago, arriving just before the heavens opened and an almighty rainstorm left 16 dead, with many streets and buildings flooded. Shenzhen airport itself was badly affected [see photo right], although the photo below (also said to be from Shenzhen airport) seems less plausible to me as the airline is one found elsewhere in China. Still, the wife is in wellie boots and mac, rather then her usual flip-flops and sunhat attire, poor thing!
Today's Kunming Post announced that a solution to Yunnan’s water shortage may have finally been found. Chinese scientists have worked out a clever way to drain the clouds surrounding the Province’s many mountains of their water by electrifying them via antennae erected on the peaks [see photo above].
This reclaimed vapour can then be desiccated and stored for future droughts. A single bottle of water added to the powder results in ten bottles of drinkable water. Chinese ingenuity never ceases to amaze me.
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