If a whole class of students use a plastic slide on a warm, dry day it really builds up the static electricity level, as this little girl at JD's kindergarten found out yesterday whilst sitting underneath it!
Our full-time, live-in Nanny finally left today after two years with us, changing nappies, washing clothes, bathing and feeding JD. Ma-in-law finally saw her off with yet another tirade of abuse a week ago, and we were lucky and grateful the Nanny agreed to stay on for one further week to give us time to find a replacement. After some thought, Ava and I decided it was time to try and "downsize" to a weekend-only Nanny, with me taking the main responsibility for looking after JD throughout the weekdays. So we have welcomed "Molly" into our family [see photo]. She is a biology teacher during the week but will look after JD Friday evenings to Sunday evenings aided (or otherwise) by Ma-in-law. She comes to us from foreign colleagues at work who didn't need her help anymore and she speaks some English too. It will be an interesting time of transition for us all, and it remains to be seen whether the new arrangements will be sustainable long-term. Fingers crossed.
Another in my occasional series of "Flashbacks" looking back at blog entries made before this Weebly version started.
There seems to be a lot of firing going on these days!
First, there was the secretary at my school fired for foolishly writing a rude comment about an adult student on a piece of paper and then, really foolishly, leaving it where the person could, and did, read it!
Then the foreign teacher fired for showing his class a DVD in the lesson - not a sackable offence in itself except that it was the third DVD film in the last four lessons and the parents weren’t happy.
And last night, I had a fun evening playing mahjong with Chinese friends from the school and one of their husbands, a policeman. Rather mischievously, I asked if he had a gun and had ever used it. He said it was rare to use it in action, but there were regular “executions”! Intrigued, I asked whether they were still held publicly in football stadiums (as they were a decade ago), and how often they happened. He said they now used remote areas in the forest and, in Kunming alone, about 15 criminals a month are shot!! Ouch!
Most Chinese couples work full-time and rely heavily on their extended families to help look after their young offspring. Ava's family consists of just her mother, while my family are far away and so, both being full-time workers (her to earn decent money, me to get a visa), we felt we needed to employ a full-time, live-in nanny for JD's early years. Xiao Zhang has been part of our family for over two years but now feels it's time to move on (primarily down to my irascible ma-in-law!). I've been increasingly keen to look after JD by myself during weekdays and we now think we've found a suitable part-time replacement to cover the weekends (when Ava and I are usually both working).
Now, Ava started up her shop business again last week after the Spring Festival to find two of her three shop assistants were planning to leave (one to marry, the other to retire). She then had a brainwave and today asked Xiao Zhang if she would be interested in working in the shop instead of nannying. Bingo! Xiao Zhang will do a handover weekend to our new nanny and then start her shop training. It seems to solve a couple of problems in one go, although I suspect it will create others we have yet to think of. Such is life!
There are only 4-5 HUGELY popular western songs in China. They seem to be passed on from teachers to students, year after year, always diverging more and more from the original! One of these is, "Yesterday once more" by the Carpenters. So it was no surprise to see the lyrics posted up in a local shop the other day. And equally no surprise to find them starting well enough before descending quickly into a series of misquotes and typos. Will I never see accurate English in this country??
About a year ago I treated myself to a special offer - all four seasons of the revamped Battlestar Galactica for £25. A real bargain. Since then I've been trying to watch 1-2 episodes each week and have now just finished the last one. It was a great series and I really enjoyed watching it. I had originally watched the first three seasons about a decade before, but the last one I'd only seen in bits and pieces. And I had never seen the finale. However, the one disappointment was that finale - a real hotchpotch of naff ideas which didn't really know when to stop. Far better, in my opinion, to have finished the series with the penultimate episode and leave a few loose ends up to the imagination. Ah well, I enjoyed the ride.
Back to the hospital this morning. JD had a simple, but painful, procedure on his "jiji" (as they call it in China!), and I had the first of four treatments on a new hospital machine which, they assure me, will cure my tennis elbow in four visits. After two unsuccessful years of trying other treatments, I can only hope. I was told its English name is a "non-invasive rectilinear ballistic extrinsic shockwave machine"(!). It's similar to the ones they use to pulverise kidney stones. It is supposed to gradually induce blood vessel growth. All I know is it was jolly painful at times though not, I suspect, as painful as poor JD's visit!
Ask JD who this guy is, and he'll say, "Lao Bi" ("Old Bi"), the nickname of Bi FuJian - one of China's most popular and famous TV presenters. JD used to enjoy watching his "China's Got Talent" show when he was younger. So, it was a bit of a shock to see Bi's face featured on the BBC website yesterday. Apparently he was videoed singing an irreverent song about Mao Zedong at a private dinner. The clip was posted online and quickly went viral. Within hours, it was removed from websites throughout China and Lao Bi has been suspended from TV work! Despite most Chinese people having, let's say, "mixed" feelings about Chairman Mao, public criticism or mockery of the founder of modern China is still way off limits, even for the rich and famous. Poor Bi.
One of the things I've been telling each intake of Lattitude trainee teachers for years is that Chinese students are fascinated by English crosswords, word searches and codes because they have no equivalent puzzles in Chinese. So it was mildly embarrassing to have one of them send me a picture of a Chinese crossword she had spotted in a magazine. It seems each box contains a character, so therefore the clues must be to a compound word or short phrase. Interesting.
As well as being Easter Sunday, today is also the Chinese festival of QingMingJie, where families traditionally visit the graves of their ancestors to tidy them and leave gifts of fruit, flowers and incense. Ava and I headed for the cemetry where her great-aunt is buried a couple of days early to avoid the crowds. Ava was raised by her great-aunt, calling her "grandma" to this day, and holds her in great affection. She died just as we started going out together, so I never really met her, although I attended her funeral.
It took us 45 minutes to drive to the cemetery on a lovely sunny day, with a cooling breeze. It's a strange place, up on a hillside, with thousands of small grave sites, all very well-kept and with fantastic views down onto a lake and temple. There is piped music everywhere you walk and an odd mix of quietness and noisy family groups sharing picnics near the gravesides. Ava spent some time at her great-aunt's gravestone before visiting a small, nearby temple to burn some fake money and light some incense.
We've started taking JD to a small hour-long class, twice a week. It's been set up especially for very young children of "western" families. Teacher Zhou [in blue] speaks some English, and is very patient with the toddlers as she leads them in singing, dancing, drawing and simple Chinese character recognition. So far, JD and the other attendees have been fairly distracted, but we hope with time they'll have a good chance to mix with other kids in a semi-formal setting, and get used to a regular "trip to school". The Kindergarten school itself is really nice - astroturf playground, swings and slides, very friendly teachers and lovely displays of children's work on all the walls. Unfortunately, it's quite a trek across the city to get there. But we've signed up for three months to see how it goes.
Seems you can buy a smart anything these days. But the ability to cram technology into a pair of chopsticks is still very impressive. This pair, on sale from today, will set you back 700RMB (£70) but they do register and tally up all the calories you are eating and alert you when you should be feeling fool.
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