Jiajia and I celebrated our first year of marriage together yesterday evening with a meal out. We effectively got married three times last year (on paper, in the UK and in Kunming) but we've plumped for the middle date to be our anniversary.
We went to a little westerny restaurant not far from our house. The food was OK, the service less so, but it was nice to spend some unrushed time together for a change. It's been a good year which has really flown past (a cliche, I know, but very true for us). However, some people have commented that being married has aged me - I'll leave you to draw your own conclusions...
We had a nice goodbye meal for Monique and Peter [back of the photo] this evening at a Japanese restaurant. They are off next month to teach English in Morocco and will be very much missed at our school. They sit opposite me in the Teacher's Office and I always describe them as the "grin/groan" pair. Monique was generous enough to laugh at any and all of my awful puns while Peter would groan if it was bad and go ominously silent if it was really bad. Kunming's loss is Morocco's gain.
Despite having to rouse myself at 4am, I thoroughly enjoyed the Olympic Opening Ceremony - very quirky and eccentric. Quite a few students told me they preferred it to Beijing's blockbuster event four years ago. As one said, "We had 6000 dancers, but you had James Bond, Harry Potter and Mr Bean"! So far it seems like our athletes are struggling to maintain the good start, but it's early days, I guess. Meanwhile, Dorta has been getting into the Olympic spirit and wishing there was a giraffe-riding event (or possibly the high jump?).
Today was the last day of my term - the end of a busy three weeks of double lessons. Jiajia and I are off to Bangladesh next week for a bit of an off-beat trip and country #95 for me.
It's been quite a year for Britain, what with the Jubilee celebrations, respectability at the European Championships, glorious failure in Eurovision, success on the Tour de France and (nearly) at Wimbledon. Now all eyes are on the Olympics which are finally upon us.
My students and fellow foreign teachers are already teasing me about the various cock-ups; lack of security staff, people threatening to strike, wrong flags, rain, buses getting lost and beds being too short for athletes. Actually, it's been looking a bit embarrassing ever since the logo was unveiled. Why didn't they go with something more like this (designed by a student at a friend's UK school)? Oh well. Fingers crossed for the Opening Ceremony (4am our time - but I'll be watching!), and then let's hope our athletes do as well as in Beijing. And let's hope that Chinese TV doesn't spend the whole tournament following only table-tennis, badminton and diving!
One of our school microwaves has a list of all the things that can be cooked at the press of a single button. Alongside bread, coffee, noodles and rice there is a rather disturbing suggestion of "Healthy Baby". I suspect it might be a little less healthy after two minutes of microwaves coursing through it! Must try...
Yesterday Beijing was deluged with its heaviest rainfall in sixty years, killing 77 people, flooding thousands of houses and leaving a UK friend of mine in a plane on the Beijing runway for six hours. Ava is in Shenzhen and rang me yesterday evening during one of the worst rainstorms she has experienced in many years. With the Shenzhen airport closed, and needing to get back, she took a 3 hour bus ride to Guangzhou today to fly back from there. But she's currently holed up in an airport hotel, with all flights grounded there, too. Meanwhile in Yunnan, we are still amidst a drought, with the recent rainfall here seemingly making little or no difference to local reservoirs. My neighbourhood has been without running water for 5 months, and other areas in Kunming are finally having their water rationed too. Crazy weather.
It seems even my own language school can't escape the curse of Chinglish! There were groans from the foreign teachers when the new school Gift Cards were passed round today [see photo left] and the eagle-eyed amongst us spotted the error on our new ID cards last week, too [see photo right]. A month ago our graphics team were told to run every word of English past a native speaker before printing anything (after posters went up around Kunming advertising our "ENGISH CLASSES") but it doesn't seem to have sunk in yet! Needless to say my boss wasn't amused!
A couple of my students are occasional readers of my blog and one of them sent me some Chinglish he'd spotted recently, to add to my collection. It helps if you can read the Chinese characters, but the correct translation for "Big Meters" should be "Rice", and "Face Powder" is actually "Flour"! It's all to do with Chinese characters having a different meaning when you put two together. Translate them separately by unthinking computer and you get amusing nonsense like this!
Yunnan is famous for its production and consumption of a wide variety of mushrooms - both wild and farmed. However, a spate of 400 mushroom-related deaths in Yunnan in the last 30 years remained a mystery until very recently. This innocent-looking white mushroom is now believed to be responsible. The lack of poisons in the body of autopsied victims baffled scientists for some time, but now it seems the cause of death is a rapid lowering of the blood sugar level with some people dying mid-sentence! With so many fungi on sale in the markets (most of them white) I just hope someone is checking to make sure they are selling the edible ones!
The upcoming Olympics is even getting mentioned in China of late, though I get most of the hype from the BBC website. As the torch tours around Britain a number of my friends and relatives have reported seeing it near where they live or work. None more so than my nephew Louie and niece Daisy who, as you can see, went all out to cheer it along its way as it passed through Winchester last week. What a great effort!
The unusually high amount of sports and exercise I've been getting involved in over the last few months leaves me permanently achey but buzzing! Whether it's 5-a-side football (once, so far), badminton (at least once a week), running (6-8km, 2-3 times a week) or weights (1-2 times a week) I haven't felt this fit, or weighed so little, in many years. Euro footie, Wimbledon and the Olympics help with the spirit - even Dorta has been doing her bit. I can't honestly say I'm 100% well these days but, with my various meds, I've been well enough to work up a sweat, which helps with the stresses of doing double lessons during July.
I hosted my annual Eurovision party here last night, thanks to a DVD recording sent by my UK friend, Ratch. Only five friends and colleagues came this time, so we had plenty of food and drink to go around. None of us was particularly impressed with the Swedish winning song, "Euphoria", but then the UK entry was no better. We had most fun predicting (with some accuracy) the political voting of each nation!
Fellow teachers Monique and Peter (left) are moving to Morocco next month, so it was a chance to say goodbye to them. Jan and his wife (and fellow teacher) Juvy, in the centre, are having a baby later in the year, so they'll return to the Philippines for that. And our Australian teacher Ross, and French teacher Manou, both left a few weeks ago, too. So there's a big turnaround of foreign staff next term, Emily (right) is a local, so at least I'll see her again. Ma-in-law made dumplings and then headed for bed. Jiajia was working until late and arrived just as everyone was leaving. A fun evening all the same.
I spotted this cute little chap on our kitchen wall last week, ready to pounce on any ants, cockroaches or mosquitoes that might find their way there. He was about 8cm long. Then yesterday, I nearly stood on a tiny gecko in the bedroom, fully formed but no more than 2cm long. He managed to scamper away before I was able to get my camera out.
If you have no interest in English grammar, you'd best skip this entry. It all started innocently enough, before fast heading into migraine territory.
I saw this sign on a bus a week ago. A nice bit of Chinglish I thought, and decided it would be a good idea to show it to my older students and ask them to analyse why it was wrong and suggest a corrected version. "Standing Prohibited" is what we'd normally expect to see, right? But then I started to work out what type of words "standing" and "prohibited" were in this simplest of sentences....
Well, "Prohibit stand" is clearly wrong. Both words are infinitive verbs and you can't make a sentence from two base verb forms (unless one is an auxiliary, of course, but that's another story as neither is here). However, in "Standing Prohibited", "standing" looks like a (gerund) verb and "prohibited" also looks like a (past participle) verb. After huge and animated discussions with the other foreign teachers, we suspect that this tiny sentence is a passive form of imperative where the gerund verb's function is as a noun, since it being acted on by the main verb, while the past participle verb's form is as an adjective, since it describes the gerund subject ...and if you're still following our grammatical logic at this point, a job awaits you at Robert's School! Who'd have thought a simple two word sentence could be so complex?
The foreign teachers and our secretaries were all invited to Robert's (my boss) house for a marvellous barbecue meal yesterday. Andrew, one of the foreign teachers and a regular badminton adversary of mine, used to be a cook in a restaurant, so spent most of the day preparing the dishes and concocting various yummy sauces. By 7pm, I had won the pre-meal mahjong game and we settled down to burgers, chicken legs, bean salad, green salad, roast vegetables and two huge racks of ribs! Then some table-tennis and Wii games to work off a few of the calories before heading home. Great fun.
Dorta decided to head off to the new airport herself yesterday, firstly on a cheap local bus and then on the newly-opened urban light railway linking the East Bus Station to the airport. What a clever girl!
Compared to the 35RMB (£3.50) "Airport Bus + taxi" route which I used a few days ago, Dorta's trip worked out a lot cheaper, at just 7RMB (70p). But both options still take over 1½ hours and Dorta had to stand for an hour in the local bus journey on the way back, as there were no free seats. She says got very tired and was nearly trodden on twice. Not to mention all the staring!
I teased my classes with a selection of riddles this weekend. Some of the students came up with rather ingenious (if wrong) answers:
Q1: What's got four legs and flies?
[NOT a dragon!]
Q2: What increases by 50% when you turn it upside down?
[NOT the fraction 102/150!]
Q3: If you find yourself in a locked car with a hammer, what's the best way to get out?
[NOT attack the driver!]
I welcome your guesses in the Comments Section before I reveal all!
Past blog entries