After 4-5 months of elbow pain and two unsuccessful visits to doctors, I managed to track down an English-speaking physiotherapist in Kunming a couple of days ago. He spent 40 minutes giving me a thorough test and came to the conclusion that the elbow wasn't healing properly because of a shoulder issue that I wasn't aware of. He "demonstrated" this by stretching my left shoulder - somewhat uncomfortable - and then doing the same exercise on my right shoulder - excruciating pain!
In fact, the whole session was really, really painful. At one point, I genuinely felt one of my fingers might be about to break and I was close to tears on occasions - much to Jiajia's amusement! After we finished, the physio suggested I return home and apply ice-packs to my arm to stop it swelling too much! That did indeed help, though I still felt totally bruised and abused for 24 hours afterwards! I've been told I'll need at least 2-3 further sessions, so in the meantime I'll do all my daily exercises and then grit my teeth as we get nearer the next session.
I attended a reception last night hosted by the British Consulate at the request of my bosses Robert and Rachel [left in photo]. It was celebrating 30 years of Chevening Scholarships, which are grants from the British Government to certain foreign students, allowing them to study for a year in Britain. As well as past recipients, they also invited local Kunming leaders in education and business. It was a relaxed evening at a nice outdoor restaurant next to Green Lake, including a rather yummy buffet (I was expecting interminable speeches and finger food).
A couple of days ago I thought I spotted golden arches from the bus as I returned home. I investigated further today and, yes, it's a newly opened branch of McDonalds, just twenty minutes walk from my house on HongShan DongLu! Were I to walk home from work it would be exactly halfway along the 40 minute route ...so tempting! With my usual heavy bag of books and 150 steps to climb up the hill to my house, I think I'll continue to take the bus most days, but further temptation today came in the form of their opening "Two-for-One" deal. My resolve crumbled and I stuffed myself with four burgers for just 20RMB (£2) ...a very welcome change from rice and noodles!
Bread or dead
I bought a sandwich today. The shop has taken to printing an English proverb on the side and I took a moment to try and read it. It wasn't easy, but worth it to see "odd" turning into "plain bonkers"...
"Delicious food If you don't like the delicious food,
thatdose not like the life . A person who likes
the delicious food, Certainly likes the life,
accordingly who candeny she is not happiness."
Star't the new term
Yesterday we had a 2-hour "whole school meeting" with some 60+ teachers. Foreign teachers were told they needn't attend as it would be 95% in Chinese but I was encouraged to be there, as a "manager". As it turned out, the real reason was to collect an award alongside half a dozen other teachers - students from our classes had been the most successful in last term's Speaking Competition. A little embarrassing for me, however, as most of my classes are comprised of top students creamed off from other classes to be "hot-housed" with an experienced foreign teacher. The idea is that they can progress more quickly and advertise the school through their competition wins. So their successes are as much down to innate talent as anything I've done (though I do seem to be able to keep them attending our school, which hasn't always been the case. I've taught some of them for nearly 6 years). Anyhow, 5 of the 25 Provincial winners came from my classes and 1 of the 3 who went to the National Finals in Beijing was my student too. I've decided to spend the cash reward on a meal with the other foreign teachers in a couple of week's time.
STOP PRESS: one of our three students who went to the Beijing Finals came third in his age category! That's THIRD in all of China!!
Coin believe it
A funny story surfaced here in Kunming recently. The owner of a noodle shop received a 68,000RMB (£6,800) fine from a Kunming court but decided to pay 10,000RMB (£1000) of it in jiao coins, each one worth a penny! It took the recipients of the fine ages to find a bank willing to count the coins, but eventually one branch agreed to allocate 18 staff to spend the whole day counting them all! So what I want to know is where did the noodle shop owner got hold of 100,000 1 jiao coins in the first place?
Today I tallied up just how many soft toys JD has already accumulated. It's not far off a hundred furry creatures, for goodness sake! I seem to recall as a child I had to make do with a single teddy, a broken plastic car and an empty bottle. Anyhow, here's the latest tally:
Monkeys(x2), a squirrel, koalas(x3), tarsiers(x4), ducks(x7), a hippo, a skunk, a caterpillar, cows(x2), teddy bears(x9), smurfs(x3), humanoids(x4), a mouse, cats(x3), dogs(x2), a horse, a sheep, bees(x4), a hedgehog, a bird, a lion, a polar bear, reindeers(x2), penguins(x2), seahorses(x2), a crocodile, a pig, a giraffe, an elephant and, of course, Dorta. Quite a haul!
Use your i's!
Mengzi had a few chinglish gems to share. As ever, China Mobile managed to mangle its own name. You'd think they'd know how to spell their own country's name!
But the one that got me the most confused was the name of the restaurant next to our hotel. "NAUY UF NAIT" - it's not English, but neither is it pinyin - the Romanised version of Chinese characters that you often see. I wondered if it was Vietnamese (Mengzi is only a couple of hours from the border) or one the local minority group's languages. But then the penny dropped. Click below to see the solution to the Chinglish!
Lake it or not
Jiajia and I spent this afternoon walking round Mengzi's famous lake (after a very lazy morning snoozing in the hotel). This bridge is reputed to be the one where, in the mists of time, a devoted wife used to bring her husband his lunch each day as he studied on the lake's small island. But regularly finding the noodles cold by the time she got there, she hit on the idea of bringing him a piping hot bowl of broth with a thin layer of oil to retain the heat, and then adding the ingredients (thin meat and vegetable slices, etc) once there, to cook in the still hot soup. Thus, "cross-the-bridge-noodles" was invented.
After the lake, we headed into the old town where I started to recognise certain buildings and shops from my time there, 17 years ago. We also spotted some ladies in their distinctive minority groups clothing, though a lot less than I used to see. As clouds darkened, we headed for the new museum.
The HongHe Prefectural Museum was huge and largely deserted. The first few floors were a little dull, but the last floor had some excellent displays of ethnic minority clothes, musical instruments, tools and traditional ceremonies. Ava particularly loved the embroidery and silver decorations on the various costumes and baby-carriers. Outside, there was a huge thunderstorm and we spent a few minutes watching the lightning, from the safety of the museum!
With the return of our nanny after her week's holiday, Jiajia and I decided to get away for a few days before starting work once again. A newly opened line of track now links Kunming to Mengzi - a town where I lived and worked for a year with V.S.O. back in 1996. So, we took the early train this morning for a busy but fairly pleasant four hour journey through towns, countryside and tunnels. The train terminates at a station some 14km from the actual town (the line is due to be completed by the end of the year) and is, rather bizarrely, situated atop a hill, so you have to climb down 200 steps to get to the road where buses/taxis will complete the journey for you
Mengzi itself has seen huge expansion since I lived there. A vast new development to the west has increased the size of the town fourfold. It's not a town anymore - it's a city. I used to take a horse and cart from the College where I worked to the main shopping street. Now there are flashy public buses connecting you to shopping malls and enormous government buildings. On arrival we found a great hotel; clean, quiet, friendly and only 220RMB (£22) a night, including breakfast. Ten minutes walk from the lake and the old town. We'll explore them tomorrow.
Please don't let your siblings end up like this. Pledge whatever you feel you can afford by clicking here. Do everything in your power to help unfortunates like my brother Dave and his wife Sarah. Thank you so much, on their behalf.
He'll never forget
Rainfall almost every day for the last few weeks has left people in Kunming wondering if the 4 year drought here might finally be over. Hey, we've even had 24-hour running water in our house for a month (after 1½ years with just an hour or two a day). Bliss!
The rains have dropped the Summer temperatures right down, too. This has given Jiajia an early opportunity to try various winter clothes on JD; Armani jacket, Nike socks, Levi jeans, etc. Even Ma-in-law has been busy knitting a sleeveless cardigan. JD was rather less impressed with his elephant hat, though. One sympathises!
I spotted this sage wisdom on a baby clothes plastic wrapper yesterday. The blanked out section contains the names of famous people listed by the company as examples of great character for babies to aspire to. No Chinese names (sorry, Chairman Mao), and you'll have heard of all four of them, so how many can you guess before clicking below to see the answer? Guess first now - no cheating!
Mis red the results
A Bangladeshi hotel. A year ago today. Jiajia's been sick all week and we've been blaming the local food. I mention casually that it could, of course, be due to pregnancy. An hour later I'm in a nearby chemist trying to mime "pregnancy test" to the amusement of a Bengali shopkeeper. I finally return to the hotel room and Ava does the test. A red line shows up. We can't read the Bengali, but red means "no", right? We're not sure if we should feel disappointed or relieved and we continue to blame the local food.
A week later, we've returned to China and Jiajia wants to check again, thinking that Chinese tests might be more accurate. We try once again but it's no more accurate. Still red. However, this time Ava can read the instructions and we soon discover a red line is actually a "positive". Gulp. Jiajia's got a baby boy in her. The rest, as they say, is his story.
Flashback: This day in ...2005
Another in my occasional series of "Flashbacks" looking back at blog entries made before this Weebly version started.
Despite only arriving in my new V.S.O. placement a week ago, I’ve been told many times that YiLiang's claim to fame is the nearby "XiaoCaBa" area of pristine, ancient forest and the TianMa grown there – a herb that cures all ills. Today I was woken early and told to be ready by 9.00am for the drive to XiaoCaoBa; “one of the most beautiful places in the world”, I'm told. Somewhat inevitably, 9.00am comes and goes…
2.30pm Someone finally collects me and takes me to a car park.
2.40pm No sign of our car. I'm told to wait in a restaurant.
3.00pm Car arrives. I'm told to continue to wait in the restaurant.
3.40pm Car leaves for an extremely bumpy two hour journey through forests.
5.30pm We arrive (I think) - the whole area is covered in fog. There's nothing to be seen. I'm told to wait in a restaurant.
6.00pm We eat a meal.
6.30pm I'm told to wait in the restaurant.
7.00pm I escape from the restaurant, walk up a muddy path and find a crab.
7.30pm I'm “recaptured” and told to wait in the restaurant.
8.00pm We finally leave the restaurant to go to an allegedly famous "Bonfire Party” in a large field. It starts raining.
8.30pm Torrential rain. The huge bonfire goes out. The party is cancelled. We try to leave, but our car gets stuck in mud.
8.45pm Our car gets onto the road, but is blocked by other traffic also trying to leave.
9.20pm We begin an extremely bumpy two hour drive back in the dark.
11.30pm I finally arrive back at my flat feeling sick and dizzy....
6.30am I'm woken abruptly and taken to school.
7.00am I'm told to give an impromptu speech in English and Chinese to 2000 students about how beautiful XiaoCaBa is!
No folks like the Norfolks
It's very strange when separate worlds collide... today my boss(es) Robert (Norfolk) and wife Rachel [far right and second left] met with my parents [centre] at Robert's parents' house [his mother left, his father taking the photo] in the UK. They had a delicious garden lunch in gorgeous sunshine (hence 4 x sunglasses and 1 x squint) before exchanging anecdotes and gifts from, and to, China. Very jealous!
The fast walk and the runs
Yesterday saw a World Record broken in Yunnan (and it wasn't the speed at which I managed to get to the toilet during an upset tummy of a night!). It was actually Chinese tightrope walker Aisikaier Wubulikaisimu walking 18m (58ft) between two hot air balloons suspended over Kunming's Stone Forest in just 38 seconds - the fastest ever such traverse. It may not sound that fast, but it took my parents longer to walk through the main gate of the Stone Forest when they visited there a couple of years ago.
Paul Hider lives and works in Kunming (SW China) and regularly updates this blog about his life there.
Past blog entries