JD, Jiajia and I went to the Kunming UK Visa Processing Office yesterday to hand in the various documents required to apply for Jiajia's UK visa. There seems to be less requirements this time, but the online application beforehand still takes about 3 hours to complete, and I had to do it twice this time after we suddenly realised that applying for a 5-year visa wasn't going to work when Jiajia's passport only had 2 years to run. However, last time we applied we had to fly to the UK Consulate in Chongqing and stay a night in a hotel. At least this time there is a processing centre in Kunming. The 2-year visa still costs some £350 though. Not cheap. And, as ever, there is no guarantee we will get the full two years or, indeed, any visa at all. The website asks for various documents, while the processing centre mentions others and whoever you ask comes back with the set phase "We are not able to advise you on what to supply - it's up to you." Hmmm ...so helpful!
JD and I took the 7½ hour daytime train back to Kunming today. It's been an even more successful trip than I had hoped for with plenty of exercise, adventures, friends and fresh air. JD says his highlight (alongside the boat, the chairlift and the horse riding) was the easy access to various construction vehicles ...each to his own!
Whilst in Dali I took the chance to catch up with a couple of old friends who live there. "Jessica" works at Dali University and I got to know her when she observed a weekly lesson of mine last year as part of some training she was doing. She was kind enough to arrange discounted boat tickets and cook us a delicious meal. And then there is Li Guo Zhi who was my boss when I worked for VSO a couple of decades ago! After that he decided to buy a Bai Minority-style house and convert it into a small school with some 50 students. He also gave us a warm welcome, helping JD catch grasshoppers [see photo above] and treating us to a lovely meal out. Thanks guys!
JD and I walked to the Three Pagodas this morning (the hotel told us it was 1km. It was at least 3km!) and were able to get in for free with yesterday's boat ticket. Then up a ten-minute chairlift to get to the top of CangShan mountain. JD was keen to visit a couple of caves there (armed with a tiny torch he had bought especially) but, after a 4km walk along the "cloud path" we found they had been closed due to a rockfall. So another 4km back to the chairlift, via a picnic and back to the hotel. Ten kilometres is a lot of short legs, and JD was hardly able to stay awake by the time we got to our room!
JD and I had our first trip out today - a 4 hour boat trip around ErHai Lake. The large boat had a dance show on board and stopped at two pretty islands where we could disembark for a wander. Although the boat was quite full, most of the Chinese passengers preferred to stay indoors, playing cards and avoiding the sun, leaving JD and I lots of quiet opportunities to look for pirates and sharks!
JD and I are off late this evening for a little impromptu holiday. I have two weeks off from University while my students go on internships and so we are taking JD out of school for a few days and he and I are taking the overnight sleeper train for 8 hours up to the old town of Dali. Jiajia needs to stay in Kunming as her store in being moved (hopefully temporarily) and our old house is mid-decoration. JD is very excited about the trip and "packed" a week ago! I'm hoping it will be fun whilst being aware that looking after a child 24/7 in a new environment, without the usual home amenities and toy/game options might be a bit of a struggle.
A sunny day with a cooling breeze, JD at school, Jiajia busy at the store and my afternoon class cancelled - no excuses left for avoiding the "long run" which I planned for myself a few weeks ago. So I took the e-bike to my University and, from there, ran along the PanLong River for 10km to the Waterfall Park. I was too tired to run back, so I took a taxi back to the University for a half hour swim and the drive home. Great day out.
JD and I explored a street near our home the other day which we hadn't walked down before. We were surprised to find nearly al the parked vehicles had wooden boards chained to their tyres. I've asked a dozen Chinese folk why this is and nobody seems quite sure. Some say it is to protect the tyres from other cars or from people kicking them. The most common answer though is that it stops dogs from weeing on the tyres. Apparently the urine weakens the rubber. Seems a little unlikely to me though. Odd.
After a tip-off that following the PanLong River north made for a nice walk, ending near the Waterfall Park, JD and I set off last Saturday. It was indeed a picturesque route in lovely weather, but a little further than we imagined. After 4km, JD was flagging and we took a subway train and bus to complete the journey. After walking around the largest man-made waterfall in Asia, we headed home by three-wheeled bike, subway and taxi. Later that evening Jiajia and I started to realise that JD wasn't "just" tired from the walking. Turns out he's got "Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease". We've had to cancel his Birthday party as it's very contagious, though thankfully not serious.
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