Forget the actual scoreline of the recent 5-a-side football grudge match, the main result for me has been an increasingly colourful bruise on my knee caused by a collision with Robert. Apart from that, and a lot of aching legs, we all got through the game intact and there's talk of making it a monthly event in the new term.
Hubbub at the hub
Kunming's brand new airport opened yesterday. ChangShui is the 4th biggest of China's 500+ airports and expected to compete with Bangkok to become the "hub of S.E. Asia" air travel. Jiajia had coincidentally booked her latest flight to Shenzhen on the opening day, so we decided to get there early for a look-see. It seemed fairly quiet - a lot of the people we saw milling around seemed there to take photos. But it did look amazing though - like a large golden bird taking off (though Jiajia didn't like the colour scheme!). And it's certainly huge - five floors high, with two runways and a urban light railway link which opened on the same day. Unfortunately, what used to be a 30 minute journey to the old airport will now become a 90 minute trek, which will make Ava's monthly trips to Shenzhen even more tiring. But when the new underground network is finished (still a couple of years away), it should get easier. Kunming is certainly a happening city!
PJ the DJ
I did another stint on Kunming Radio yesterday evening, along with show regulars Phil and Grace - Chinese teachers from my school. The topic was "American v British English", but our American teacher failed to show, so I had to put on an American accent at certain points, and ended up demonstrating Scottish, Irish, Welsh and Cockney accents, to a mix of amusement and bemusement.
Catching a code
It's nice to see that it isn't only the Chinese who mangle the English language. My friend Ratch sent me these instructions from her washing machine, translated from the original German.
No 0 v 0 draws with us!
Fresh from the awful match that saw England exit the European Championship, we held our very own school tournament. Four foreigners [L to R: Jan, me, Robert, Andrew] took on five Chinese teachers in a manic five-a-side football, until we could barely move. Our school had a similar match four years ago, which led to me breaking my foot! And at a later school volleyball match, my boss's wife broke her hip! So we were lucky to leave today with just aching limbs and various bruises. The foreigners were winning 9 v 1 when we decided it might be time to mix up the teams a little. After 1½ hours we hobbled off to share a nice banquet. Now if only I had a shower at home!
Buckets 'n bowls
On our first day without running water Jiajia said "...it probably won't come back for months" and I chided her for being over-dramatic. But here we are, four months later, and it just keeps getting worse. First off it was on for a couple of hours, twice a day. Then for only one hour a day. And now just a 30 minute trickle every other day...
As you can see, it's all hands to the buckets when we hear a rare gurgle of running water. We have had quite a lot of rain recently, but presumably nowhere near enough. Having said that, the rest of the city seems to have water nearly all the time, which is frustrating. Apparently the lowered pressure hinders them pumping it up our hill. I've started taking advantage of a shower in an office in one of our school branches. It's something of a trek across the city, but worth it once or twice a week. Otherwise it's all flannels and strip-washes!
I saw this huge caterpillar outside my house today. I placed the key next to it to give an idea of the scale. It got me wondering... you get green insects, green fish and green birds, but never a green mammal. Why is that?
Box to basics
Jiajia bought a fancy blue mosquito-capturing machine last week and we have left it plugged in every night since, to see what happens. Today she had a look inside it and, with a delighted voice, exclaimed "The mosquito machine has got two mosquitoes inside!!" followed by a slightly embarrassed "...but the cardboard box it came in has caught three!"
Tune in, (with) drop outs
My Kunming Radio interview was broadcast yesterday. I didn't get enough warning to record the whole 25 minutes properly, but there's a rough-and-ready 5-minute excerpt below for those who'd like to download it and have a listen. The radio station have also contacted me to say that they felt it went very well and ask me to return again soon for a live show.
Flat (1v2), scream (3v2), TV
I roused myself at 3am this morning to watch England v Sweden on our brand new flat screen TV (a late gift for Ava's birthday plus shared early wedding anniversary present). As time ticked down (seen on our new wall clock) England were a goal down and I feared the worst. But a late brace of goals gave us a 3 v 2 win and ensured I'll be having at least one more stressful early morning next week.
For conducting phonecalls
Come on punsters, here's your chance... Ava has just bought a phone in the shape of a London bus. When someone rings it lights up and toots. There must be a bus/phone pun there somewhere? Put your thinking caps on and Comment your suggestions. The winner gets to name this blog entry and my undying admiration. Tickets please!
[PS Thank you for all your excellent entries.
And the winner is... Steve with "For conducting
phone-calls". Your prize is (lost) in the post]
Look out! The stars of "Star of Outlook"
China has an annual English speaking contest called "Star of Outlook", which culminates in televised finals for children of all ages. Before that, each Province has its own local competition to decide who gets to qualify for the Beijing finals. Yunnan Province, which has a population equivalent to England, had well over 1000 children taking part, with a 100 or so from Robert's School alone. After three preliminary rounds, just 50 students made it to the Yunnan finals, eight from my school and three of those from my own classes.
Robert watched the Yunnan finals and was a little disappointed that none of our eight finalists won their age categories. But we did get three second places and two of those were students from my classes. So well done Robert's School, great result for our students and, dare I say it, a small pat on the back for me too!
Airing my views
I spent a couple of hours this evening at a Kunming Radio station being interviewed for an English Show sponsored by Robert's School to be aired later this month. Questions started with the Jubilee and Royal family, moved on to how I came to marry a local Chinese woman and life with her mother, and ended with a comparison of Chinese and Western Education. Thankfully there were translators on hand throughout.
Taken for a ride?
When I married my darling wife, I always knew there would be "three of us in the marriage" (to quote Lady Diana), with Jiajia's mother living with us. I hadn't quite bargained for our needy fourth resident though. "Dorta" seems to get as much attention as I do and a lot fewer complaints. Her latest gift is a rocking horse which Ava spotted in Shenzhen and couldn't resist buying and shipping back to Kunming. Jiajia's spending habits tend to rise when I'm not around, and nothing is too much for her "Dorta"!
There's only one thing on my students' minds at the moment - EXAMS - and it's not the two-page ones I set them every month. Ask any student how long until their end-of-term exams start and they will be able to tell you the exact number of days (throughout the year Chinese schools have large posters counting down the days until the exams starts - it was exactly 16 days when I asked them today).
I read some telling statistics recently. The highest percentages of Senior School students reported to be "under stress" were USA (62%), Japan (69%), South Korea (75%) and, at the top (or bottom?) was China (86%). It does seem to be the only thing students think about at this time of year. Recent reports about students in Hubei Province are even more worrying [see photo]. Schools there have set up IV drips in the classroom to ensure the students have "enough energy to study". One wonders what's in the IV bags ...can't be good, can it?
Can someone PLEASE explain what the
intention was for this T-shirt slogan...
(or click here to purchase one!)
Third train lucky
My third attempt to take Kunming's light urban train was more successful yesterday. There were only twelve or so passengers scattered though the three carriages, all OAPS taking grandchildren for a train ride... nobody seems to genuinely need to use the train to get anywhere. With tickets for the hour-long return journey costing just 1.5RMB (15p), the train service can't make any sort of profit. I spotted about 50 employees on our trip alone.
After 30 minutes of shuffling along, hooting its way through Kunming's streets and holding up the traffic, we arrived at ShiZui. There was nothing much to see there, except for the train engine being unhooked from the front and rehooked to the back of the carriages.
Our journey back was just as uneventful. I actually decided to hop off at the half-way station, which is surprisingly near my house. It gave me the chance to be on the road, held up by my own train! A really fun (and cheap) trip out on yet another sunny day.
Streaming the river
I was delighted to see a live feed of the Jubilee Thames Boat Pageant on the BBC website last night. And it streamed very smoothly too, so I was able to watch all the 1000+ boats heading down the river for over an hour. The picture above is a screenshot from my computer, so you can see the quality. Despite not being a royal fan, it looked like a lot of fun. Shame about the weather though.
Jubilee, I do believe?
Apparently there some sort of royal celebration going on back in Blighty this weekend? Our school has got in the mood by devoting this month to all things British. As you enter, the National Anthem is playing, and there are British flags and red, white and blue balloons everywhere. The teachers have been told to adopt the three colours for their clothing and the students can win prizes if they answer British Culture questions posted around the corridors. Next weekend there is an "afternoon tea" planned! Not quite boat pageants or international beacons, but we're trying! Want to try one of the culture questions? "What country is closest to the United Kingdom? (a) Belgium (b) France (c) Ireland."
If I was asked to sum up Chinese culture in one word, it would be "Guanxi".
My latest article for the Merton Chinese Cultural Group magazine is about Guanxi. If you don't know what Guanxi is, or even if you do, you may want to have a read of my article. Do click below.
Paul Hider lives and works in Kunming (SW China) and regularly updates this blog about his life there.
Past blog entries