JD was learning about silkworms at school a couple of weeks ago and the teacher encouraged the children to buy a few, feed them on mulberry leaves and watch them spin their cocoons...
So JD bought half a dozen worms at a nearby toy shop, but then swapped a couple of them with another students for 30+ eggs. Last week, the eggs hatched... So now we appear to be responsible for a huge number of silkworms, munching their way through treefuls of leaves but showing no sign of pupating. Nightmare!
It's that time of year again when the students spend an hour of their time writing me a mid-term essay under exam conditions, after which I have to spend 4-5 hours per class marking them all.
One of the most infuriating errors (despite me explaining it to the students again and again) is when they write, "In a word,..." followed by lots and lots of words!
Another in my occasional series of "Flashbacks" looking back at blog entries made before this Weebly version started.
Mr Qing, leader of the Education Bureau, pulled out all the stops this evening. Despite feeling under the weather (I'm on meds for a stomach infection) I was keen to join Caitie, Izzy ("GAP" volunteers) and her parents in visiting a remote Hani minority village. On arrival we were met by the whole village standing in lines singing, clapping with beaming smiles. The locals were all dressed in their finest traditional clothes and were keen to show us the village. The women showed us how they make the sticky “baba” rice, using a large stone bowl dug into the ground and a 3-man (woman!) thumping device to knead the rice [see photo, below]. It was then served to us on banana leaves with a bowl of fresh honey to dip it into. Delicious!
A pig had been killed in our honour and, as we listened to the local “laba” bugle player and an elderly man singing along in Hani language, we tucked into its various organs! Within sight of the outdoor banquet, Mr Qing pointed out wild raspberries, a peach tree, coffee bushes and a large flowering cactus. We were shown how the elders wear one type of costume, the married folk wear another variety and the youngsters have a different one again. As we were toasted by each group of villagers in turn, the sun slowly set. There were photo opportunities everywhere.
One of the leaders on our table was the local vicar! JiangCheng county apparently has 40 Christian churches (protestant) started by American missionaries back in the early 1800s. It is still the main religion among the Hani and the vicar told us about 150 villagers regularly attend his services on a Sunday.
After the meal, we made our way to the basketball court which had been transformed into a makeshift performance space. The vicar led the community singing and there was music from the bugle-blowing man and a less traditional CD mixing desk! There followed various Hani dances and some of the girls had dressed as various other minority groups to put on an ethnic fashion show [see photo, above]! The crowd standing behind our front row seats were really enjoying it, shouting out encouragement in Hani language and bursting into applause now and again. Everyone was getting very excited by the time we reached the last dance and, before we knew it, the “foreigners” had been dragged out to join in! There was laughter all round at the five of us prancing and hopping about like mad folk! After the dance and the applause, the performance broke up, though the villagers happily milled around, grabbing us to say how much they appreciated our coming, asking for photos and giving impromptu dance lessons. The youngsters tried out some of their English and the two drunkest men just kept poking me and giggling! A couple of the English teachers I train were there too and they enjoyed meeting some new foreigners for a change. It was all so genuinely warm-hearted and welcoming - not at all forced or “touristy”. I overheard one of the "GAP" girls mutter, “..that was just the best night ever”, and she was right! Not bad for a Friday 13th!!
I had a very unexpected meet up today. I was just finishing a restaurant meal with an old friend when the guy on the next table suddenly exclaimed, "PJ??". Now that's a moniker I used at work for a year or two, ages ago - there was already another teacher named "Paul" in the Kunming training school when I started to work there. The guy explained that I had been his teacher at Robert's School some 14 years before and, once he mentioned his English name, "Aaron", I did indeed recognise him and remembered him as a rather cheeky 10-year old. In the intervening years he has got four A-levels, a Physics degree and a Masters in the UK, and is soon to start a PhD in quantum mechanics at York University. Amazing!
China continues to try and maintain a COVID-free country. Any small outbreaks are clamped down on immediately with lockdowns (sometimes of whole cities like Shanghai, pop 26m) and mass testing. Here in Kunming, we are far from the current cases in the East, but last week a single infected air passenger arrived from Shanghai. It caused a panic and everywhere suddenly started insisting on QR health code checking and mark-wearing all over again. My own University organises regular tests of all its students and faculty. It's free, unless you want to avoid the queues and get the test done privately. And so far our city still has just the one case, but....
Past blog entries