How exciting to see signs going up nearby showing how to get to the new Underground station which will be walking distance from our house. And how frustrating to realise that they haven't even started digging the tunnels yet and the train line is estimated to be at least 3-4 years away from completion!
I took JD to the Golden Temple today - quite a hike up a large hill, aided by an "Alpine Sledge" which drags you halfway up and later lets you slalom back down at the end of your visit, and it was a lovely warm and dry day (we're coming off a fortnight of almost non-stop rain). The highlight for me was catching this gorgeous beetle.
This week saw my last lessons of the academic year, with just exams to run next week. It took me a while a year ago to get used to classes of up to 45 students, after 8-10 in my last job and the attitude of the students was quite different too, with quite a lot of apathy from quite a lot of students. Smartphones were a constant curse from day one - seemingly an unstoppable temptation for many of the students. But as the year progressed I think I managed to get most of the class to focus more with a mixture of humour, interactive activities and a polite but firm refusal to allow any sleeping or under-desk texting! We had Powerpoints, educational games, visual aids and songs as well as grammar, homework and Speaking/Listening exercises. Some of the foreign teachers have not been offered a new contract for next term but apparently my feedback was good enough for the University to keep me on. And despite having only 4 hours teaching next term, all on a Monday, I get paid the same wage. So perhaps that opens up opportunities for extra work elsewhere from September.
The students at JD's Kindergarten painted paper ties for their Fathers last week, so I proudly wore mine today. It's the first Father's Day when it's really sunk in that I am a father (largely because it has gone unnoticed and uncelebrated in past years).
And I happily take this opportunity to thank my own Dad for his great support, inspiration and love over the years. Happy Father's Day to you, too!
We drove past this enormous building in the middle of the countryside the other day. It turns out to be the main auction house for Kunming's huge flower industry. Buyers come from far and wide to purchase large consignments of various plants and flowers. Apparently it's a "Dutch Auction", which means the price starts too high and gradually gets lower until a buyer decides it's low enough and buys the lot immediately. I'd love to see inside someday.
I spent yesterday morning representing my University at "The 1st Yunnan Conference on the International Exchange of Professionals". The three hours of speeches were as boring as the Conference's title suggests - are there really no "experts" out there who know how to use Powerpoint effectively?? The focus of the morning was "Attracting Talent to Yunnan" but whilst the talks were big on aspiration they lacked any real practical measures and I wasn't really sure who out of the 500+ audience was getting anything particularly useful from it all - most seemed to be playing on their phones. Oh well. Nice buffet.
Last week I spotted that one of JD's front teeth was wobbly. Neither he nor we could remember any incident that had damaged his tooth, so we decided to head for the dentist to get it checked out. The dentist did an x-ray which showed that the tooth had completely broken off from the root and she suggested pulling it out immediately to avoid any future complications or infection. So after a bit of strawberry-flavoured numbing medication she tugged it out so fast, that JD had no time to wince or cry. So now we need to wait another couple of gappy years for his adult front tooth to come through.
We spent most of today at a mushroom farm owned by a friend of ours. She has bought a disused school in the countryside and set up shelves of fungi in the old classrooms and in purpose-built sheds outside. It felt rather odd for me to be walking around an educational establishment which didn't hum to the sound of students and teachers,
The school's old playing fields have been reworked into vegetable patches and areas for a couple of cows and some chickens. JD enjoyed digging for potatoes, picking runner beans and dragging out squash. He was fascinated by a grasshopper and faced off against the grumpy bull. It's only an hour or so drive from our house, and we were given a very warm welcome, so we are thinking of visiting again quite soon, for the fresh air, fresh food and to give JD a chance to get his hands dirty.
This is a huge sign near the classroom where I teach. It says, "Teachers, you are so hard-working!" I assume it was erected by the University, in which case it seems like a really hollow, self-congratulatory exercise. Or could it be the students who clubbed together to encourage their hard-working teachers? That seems equally wierd! And yet Chinese colleagues I have spoken to about it seem to consider it quite normal, and are surprised to learn there are no similar signs in the West. "Don't Western students love their teachers?" asked one. "Errrmm, sometimes", I replied.
An amusing story has surfaced about a display in Beijing put up last week to celebrate Children's Day. Passers-by soon noticed that one of the bears appeared to be sticking up his middle fingers in the direction of a nearby Government Office! The artist was summoned and, despite pointing out that bears only have four fingers and therefore there IS no middle finger, he has been made to remove the display.
June 1st is Children's Day in China. JD was part of a large performance by his Kindergarten this morning, before getting the afternoon off from school. His role was a "goose" - he is the white bird on the left in the picture above. He wasn't too keen on the outfit (all the other geese seemed to be girls!?) but he did pretty well, singing the songs and doing the dances.
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