With the weather turning a little wetter and our limbs a bit sore from walking around town and climbing mountains, we've taken a couple of more relaxing days exploring our more immediate surroundings. We've been renting the house of a friend of mine, and her large neighbourhood boasts a play area for kids, basketball and tennis courts, an outdoor swimming pool, table tennis tables, a sand pit, streams and ponds. So JD has been learning to play ping-pong, digging tunnels and trying to catch some minnows, when he's not doing his daily homework!
We climbed a mountain yesterday morning to visit a Nunnery we had heard about. Sadly, after taking over an hour to get there, the Nunnery's coffee bar, cactus displays and gift shop detracted from any authentic religious interest and we left quickly.
We did have a nice vegetarian lunch at the nearby GanTong Temple (though twice the price of the Temple in Kunming where we sometimes eat).
Afterwards, we took a cable car further up the mountain and enjoyed some exploring of the ponds and cliffs there. After taking a tuk-tuk home we treated ourselves to a KFC delivery! Well, we had eaten veggie midday, and walked over 5km uphill!
We all took part in the (Bai and Yi minority) Torch Festival yesterday evening - bonfires and torches everywhere, a short firework display and people running around gleefully smearing ashes on strangers' faces! It was a really relaxed and fun event. We loved it.
JD got a lot of attention (foreign faces stand out), proudly holding his burning torch, and got more and more blackened as the evening progressed. Afterwards we got a lift home for well-earned showers.
Jiajia, JD and I are off to Dali today. It used to take some eight hours to get there by sleeper train, but now this beast can do in two. We are having a fortnight away - our first trip outside Kunming for three years - and JD is keen to relive his last visit here when he and I went horse-riding, cruising on the lake, cable-car up the mountain etc. We are staying in a friend's house while she is away on her holidays, so we can spread out and have a comfortable base to explore from.
JD and I shared lunch with "Kevin" yesterday. I haven't seen him since he was my student at Robert's School some ten years ago. He is now a fluent English speaker, about to finish his degree in Computing, and debating about which country to do his Masters in! It's amazing to see how so many of the "little kids" I once taught have grown into smart, motivated young men/women!
Not sure what to make of this. In JD's English class, the students are told to call America, "Star/Stripe" and Britain, "Riceland" - the flag looks like the Chinese character for rice (米). It seems that even writing the names of foreign countries is considered to be an unpatriotic act in modern China? I do wonder how the Chinese government would react if western students started referring to China as "Yellowstar"?
With exams all over and a week of sunshine ahead, we've been hitting the paddle boats on both Green Lake (with some of JD's school friends),and LianHua Lake (with just JD and I).
It's a good way for JD to get some exercise in a controlled area (ie no cars or pedestrians) with fresh air and a cool breeze. The pedals are too close for me to be able to help much (...that's my excuse) so I just let the kids wear themselves out, whilst ensuring they are not about to bump into any boats, ducks or islands! And at 40RMB (£4) an hour, it isn't going to break the bank anytime soon.
The workmen continue to dig up our neighbourhood, laying lengths of large water run-off pipes. JD is enjoying watching all the digger action, but boy - it ain't 'alf noisy!!
We live on the highest of three levels of housing in our neighbourhood. We've noticed the other lower two are about to get their areas dug up, too. But at least that won't be as disruptive for us!
One of my adult students, Sunny [below right], invited me and the family to his son's wedding yesterday. It was quite far away, but he was keen for us to attend, so we went along. There were about 500 people there for a brief ceremony (largely ignored by the audience) and a meal. For many it just seemed an excuse to smoke and get drunk.
The most memorable part of the wedding was the music choices! Beforehand, Black-eyed Peas' "Where is the Love?" was played on repeat! Were they trying to say something? The groom entered to Taylor Swift's "Shake it off", and the bride to David Bowie's "Starman"?! The parents came in to The Carpenters' "Desperado" and the couple left at the end to Oasis's "Don't look back in anger". I kid you not! Irony?
Two of my longest-standing private students finished the final "New Interchange" textbook in the series today, and I gave them both home-made certificates to prove it!
"Wendy" and "Sunny" study English with me for 1½ hours each weekend for fun. Wendy has better pronunciation and listening, while Sunny has better grammar and vocabulary, so they make a good team. And my wife joins them most weeks too, to brush up on her English!
A dozen workmen (and women) have been digging huge trenches around our neighbourhood roads over the last week. Nobody seems to know why. JD asked one of the workers and he said he thought it was to drain excess water. But we live at the top of a hill and never get any flooding. Jiajia herself declined to ask the workers saying, "It's none of my business."!? There seem to be trucks down the hill carrying large plastic pipes, so it may well be a water thing!
Past blog entries