Two of my school's foreign teachers leave at the end of this term. I shall be particularly sad to say goodbye to Marie and Mark as both are ex-VSOs and both joined the school after my encouragement. They have both been excellent, reliable and creative teachers as well as good friends during their years here. Mark is returning to Wenshan (about 45 minute's flight from Kunming) and the previous job he had there, working at the Teachers' College. Marie leaves for Paris and a "new man" - the first time she has lived in her own country in decades! Bon voyage chaps!
Ava and I have been together for exactly a year today. It's been an unusual year with me being away for 3½ months, and JiaJia being away for a week or so every month buying stock. But for two oldish people used to being single, that's not been an overly bad thing, I think. Absence makes the heart grow fonder, and all that. We're still very much together, yet to have an argument(!) and about to travel to Thailand for two weeks together. Who knows what the next year will hold? Happy Anniversary, JJ!
I purchased one of these powered-by-sunlight dancing flowers, [see photo] the other day and have installed it in my lounge window. Having bought it from the "Everything for ¥2" shop and yet been charged ¥8 (80p) I simultaneously feel I have got a bargain AND been cheated! It happily dances away whenever there is enough light, so now I don't even have to look out the window to see if it is a sunny day. Cool!
When the organisers of the, "Construction of Thoroughfares for Cultural and Media Cooperation Meeting" decided they needed some foreign faces amongst the thousand delegates for the TV cameras to pick out, they contacted Robert's School (and other places). Unfortunately Mark (a fellow teacher) and I drew the short straw and so found ourselves catching a coach to a hotel on the outskirts of Kunming at 7 o'clock this morning. The "meeting" turned out to be six hours of mind-numbingly boring speeches on, "the use of Renminbi currency as a common fiscal settlement instrument for Pan-Asian trade partners".
Now I've been tricked into these thing before, so this time I came armed with a newspaper, an MP3 player and a Rubik's cube! However, after I'd finished all the news and the batteries had run out there was still 4 hours to go and there's only so much time you can spend trying to solve the Rubik's cube. So I drew a picture of a cowboy riding a horse...
And if you want an idea of just how stupefyingly dull today was, just read the first sentence of the invitation letter (and yes, it's just ONE sentence!).
My blog is now five years old, with the most recent year on the brilliant "Weebly" platform (sooooo much better than the old Yahoo one!). I've made over 1000 entries in that time and the site is visited by 50-100 individuals daily (143 today!!). I find it's the most efficient way for me to share and record my news and experiences with friends and family, near and far, plus a cathartic way for me to get through the odd difficult times. I follow the blogs of 4-5 other people too so, if you have one, or fancy starting one, do let me know. I'd highly recommend it!
My sister-in-law, Sarah, recently sent out a UK fashion magazine for Ava to peruse. There are Chinese versions of Marie Claire and Vogue here, but Ava swears their fashions and styles are different, and lag behind the West. Anyhow, Ava took the mag to read on the plane to Shenzhen where she goes each month to buy stock for her shop. Apparently she was quite taken by one of the jackets [see photo, left] and decided to track down the factory that makes Dolce and Gabana clothes for export. Sure enough, she found the exact same jacket for sale there at a fraction of the cost [see photo, right]. Smart girl - in more ways than one!!
Lesley and Edie flew off to Beijing this morning. It's been great having them around for more than the usual fleeting and cramped half-day or so. I've had some nice chats with Lesley and some cracking games of Monopoly with Edie. Her mental maths and strategic acumen is frightening for someone so young! I did manage to beat her once, after landing on Free Parking, picking up £3000 in cash, waving it in her face and shouting "LOSER!" Tears stopped play... but I still call that a win!! Ava has also got to know Lesley and Edie really well too and we will both miss them a lot as they leave the city, the Province, the country and then probably the continent!
After a bit of shopping this morning L.E. and I went to Ava's flat for a delicious home-cooked lunch. But when Ava and Edie disappeared afterwards, Lesley and I suspected a plan was being hatched. Sure enough, half an hour later, we were invited into the bedroom where, to upbeat music, Edie treated us to a fashion show wearing various of Ava's clothes [see photo]. She had mastered the "fashion walk", the "pouting" and the "hip swing". Hysterical, especially when, without warning, one of the tops suddenly slipped down to her waist! Edie is off to Ava's shop this evening for, no doubt, further fashion indoctrination, while Lesley joins me at school to watch my lesson (and hopefully tell me where I'm going wrong!).
The first half (Lesley+Edie) of the LEAF family arrived in Kunming today. They are staying with me for a couple of days while Lesley observes some of my classes as part of the "Diploma in Teaching English as a Foreign Language" course she is studying for. The rest of the family (Ali and Freda) will join them as soon as Freda's passport arrives from the Embassy! After 5 years in China, LEAF are finally moving on. First to Beijing where they are helping a friend set up a Home School business. Then a tour of New Zealand followed, hopefully, by a new job - they are awaiting confirmation of a post being created for Lesley in Malaysia.
Remember that hospital mural that has me chortling on my way back from work every Sunday (see 7.7.10 entry)? Well this section caught my eye today. The doctors seem hard at work, but what are those crazy nurses up to behind? Is this some sort of medical treatment of which I am unaware? Any suggestions in the Comments section please!
Another Chinese mine disaster today in Hangcheng with 28 dead so far.
However the Chinese Government are quick to point out that the number of mine accidents and deaths last year was 18% lower than in 2008. Sounds impressive, right? So how many accidents and deaths are they referring to? Fancy a guess? Click on "Comments" to see how close you got.
Who needs a removals van, when you have two strong feet? I expect he needed a bed for a lie down after this trip!
The next step up from carrying stuff on your back is to pile it high onto one of the many electric scooters in town. Or, if it's a little bigger, hire a man with a "tricycle truck" to pedal it from one place to another. Lorries are banned in the city during daylight hours, so there's really little option!
A museum exhibition of firearms? Count me in! I noticed last week that the normally fairly dull Yunnan Provincial Museum was putting on a display of weaponry and so, despite a persistent cold and cough, I headed out there yesterday to check out the guns! Rather ironically, on arrival, I had to walk thorugh a metal detector and have my bag checked. With an enormous armoury a few feet away, what exactly were they afraid I would bring in?
The exhibition was surprisingly well attended; mostly salivating men, but some women and children, too! I've been to the museum three times before, but never seen as many visitors as the guns attracted! All the most important firearms were on display - Gatling (an early machine gun), Colt .45 revolver, M-16 assault rifle (8 million worldwide), AK-47 (75 miliion worldwide), plus a rather worrying number of seemingly homemade Chinese guns....
Sometimes even the simplest things seem to be a trial when you live in a foreign country. A month or so ago, I decided it was time I changed the head of my electric toothbrush, having used the original for a year or more. Ava and I have kept our eyes open for a place that sells replacement heads for a while, but without success. So today I took a bus to the shop where I bought the toothbrush last year, only to find it being demolished. So another bus to a large department store where I'd seen electric toothbrushes for sale in the past. Yes, they sell toothbrushes, but no, not replacement heads. They kindly wrote down the address of the Phillips replacements store in town. Another bus and I finally tracked the little store down. Yes, they repair Phillips electrical items, but no, they don't sell replacement heads. They wrote down yet another address for me, somewhere "quite far away". So I headed back to the main road to hail a taxi. The first dozen sailed past with passengers in, but the next pulled over for me. Then, as I opened the door, a chinese woman jumped out from behind me and dived into the seat with a quick "Sorry" (in English). What a cheek! At this point I gave up and caught yet another bus home. A wasted 3 hours. Perhaps I'll try again another day. My teeth deserve it!
When the number of daily unique visitors reached 99 last week, I wondered if my blog would ever breach the "100 in a day" mark. I didn't have long to wait. On July 8th, 111 different people visited my blog! When I started five years ago, I would have been blown away to get anyone taking a look. So a big thank you to YOU for checking in now and again (and do sign the Guestbook Page if you haven't already!). Here's to 200!
The hospital on my walk to work has some fun murals painted on the outside walls, showing all the medical procedures they can do. This one always makes me laugh. The nurse on the left is offering a syringe, but the nurse bending down seems to be showing her how big she really wants it to be!? Or maybe she's practising kung fu? There seems to be a nurse in the background holding a sign, too. I can't read the Chinese but the English could be CARD, HARD or even BEARD? Probably WARD. But, most worryingly of all, I can see four nurses in the middle, but only 5 legs? Amputation Department, perhaps?
I do love programmes like "Derren Brown" where they show how people can be subtly manipulated through sub-conscious prompts of which they are totally unaware. I had my own experience of that last weekend. In one class I drew a picture on the board to illustrate "excited" to my students [see photo, left] but it was only after the lesson that I saw the skeleton picture behind me [see photo, right]. I've probably seen it many times before in previous classes but it had never registered. However my own picture was so identical I can't believe it was simply a coincidence - just look at the angles of those legs and arms! It really goes to show how much you absorb without even realising it.
Kunming has (once again) banned excessive honking in the city. A month long campaign starting today is limiting drivers to three honks in succession! None of the previous campaigns have made any difference, but hey, fingers crossed. It does get very noisy outside my bedroom window sometimes, though most of this comes from moped alarms continually going off and the two chemist shops who try to outdo each other with loud and repetitious tannoy recordings of their latest prices.
As for the lady in the photo - Grandmother Zhang (101 years old) hit the news recently when a horn started growing out of her head! Worryingly, you can see another starting to grow on the other side of her forehead too. What the devil is that about?
In the West, kids' crazes come and go pretty rapidly but in China they tend to hang around longer, perhaps because children here have less purchasing power? You can still see skateboards and scooters on the streets here and only yesterday I saw kids playing with Pogs and Pokemon cards. And the king of the crazes - Rubik's Cube - is alive and well in Kunming (make that "Kubeming"?). I've seen lots of varieties; the normal 3x3x3, a 4x4x4 and even a 5x5x5. Triangular and spherical "cubes" are also in the shops. Most intriguing of all are a 2x2x2 (harder than you'd think) and the hollow cube I bought yesterday [see photo above]. I even saw a Rubik's Cube statue [see photo below] in the road on a random bus journey today! Craze-y!
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