JD and I visited YuanTong Temple today. It was buzzing with activity as tomorrow is Ghost Festival in China - a bit like Halloween in the West. Ava has already bought various fake banknotes and paper items to burn in memory of her grandmother. I was intrigued to see that the money is issued by the "Hell Bank"! With the recent worldwide financial crises you might feel they need to be more specific...
As news in the UK is dominated by an airshow jet crashing, China's news continues to be about another crash - the stock market plummeting in value over recent weeks. With millions of Chinese affected and world markets getting increasingly nervous, it could be the start of a huge correction in China's economy, for so long the marvel of the world. Ava has dabbled a bit in the stock market in the past, seeing huge gains in recent years. But whilst those "paper" gains for us have now largely been wiped out, many others have lost their life savings or bank loans taken out to invest in "sure fire" profit. There's a lot of very angry, worried and much poorer people over here.
Our year's pass for the Animal Museum in Kunming ran out today but, despite JD starting school soon, it made sense to get another. At 100RMB (£10) for a year's unlimited entry for 2 adults and a child it's great value for money. JD knows his way around the place very well by now (I take his there every week or two) and yet we are always finding new stuffed animals hiding away in various places, such as this civet-like creature we spotted behind a tree today. Not seen it before throughout our previous 20-30 visits. And I'm convinced the museum staff move some of the animals around when the museum is shut.
We're back in Kunming and we took our last opportunity to meet up with Cindy, Martin and JD's favourite little friend, Liv. The family will do some travelling around China for a few weeks before heading back to Australia. We'll really miss them. JD and Liv excelled at leading each other stray, as you can see!
Shenzhen boasts a small aquarium which we decided to visit today. The first section was devoted to various jellyfish, lit in slowly changing colours which made them look very other-worldly. The later sections had other fish, raging from small but pretty coral reef sized ones to larger turtles, manta rays and sharks. There were even some horseshoe crabs and spiky anemones you could touch. Most of the tanks were a little on the small size however and you sometimes wondered whether the animals really had enough space. But overall, they looked cared for and JD loved it, of course.
Despite threatening weather, we decided to head for the beach today - a 40 minute drive. Not a world-class beach, but clean(ish) sand, warm(ish) water and not too crowded. For a couple of hours we built the requisite sandcastles and jumped over the obligatory waves, before the heavens opened and we scuttled off to a nearby KFC. The rain became a deluge, however (the tail end of a typhoon, we later found out) and so it was Uber to the rescue, with a friendly pseudo-taxi whisking us back to the flat.
One of the big draws of the flat we use in Shenzhen is the neighbourhood swimming pool. As well as a larger adults' pool, they have a small kids' pool which is perfect for JD - he can just stand up in it. Go there at 3pm when they open for the day and you can be the only people swimming for almost an hour. JD because increasingly confident during the many trips there, and was swimming with water wings and holding his head underwater by the end.
During our time in Shenzhen we have been using the Ȕber taxi service for the first time. I'd only read about it before. Your phone broadcasts where you are, a nearby driver gives you a call and picks you up (you can see the car approaching on your phone map). We never had to wait more than 2-3 minutes for a car to arrive. Our drivers were - without exception - polite, on time and driving new, clean, air-conditioned cars. And the cost was 50-70% that of a normal taxi. What's not to like?
When we were in Shenzhen with JD previously, friends invited us to a nice restaurant and, afterwards, we saw kids playing in some dancing fountains. Despite being unprepared with a new set of clothes, we let JD have a run around and he simply loved it. We were determined to return this time, somewhat better prepared. And we were so glad we did. JD spent nearly half an hour screaming and laughing in joy as he got absolutely soaking wet, fearlessly battling the sprays where other older kids were far more cautious and nervy.
JD is enjoying the various local parks in Shenzhen - so much better than the Kunming parks. There is one about 20 minutes walk from the flat (which we have been given use of) which has a huge children's section, with (free) sandpits as well as the usual climbing frames, swings, slides and see-saws. Unfortunately, with temperatures of up to 36°C and 90% humidity, you can't be out playing for more than an hour or so and chilled water bottles are pretty much a necessity. There's another area with free "gym equipment", so you can lift weights, do sit-ups and practise cross-country skiing whenever you feel the urge.
JD is very much into water and sand these days; filling, transporting, digging, etc. We always take a range of construction toys, buckets, spades and moulds [see photo above]. The only problem is that Chinese children aren't so well prepared, so within a couple of minutes of arriving at the sandpit there can be 3-4 local kids "borrowing" his toys ...and JD hasn't quite got the hang of sharing things just yet! So I've started taking him to more secluded places [see photo left] where he can dig to his heart's desire.
JD's best friend, Liv, turned three today, and JD turned 2⅓ yesterday so, with Liv and her parents leaving for Australia in a few weeks, we thought a little party was in order.
Balloons up, home-made cake prepared, snacks ready, presents wrapped, party hats made, poppers popped, pass-the-parcel poised and toys galore. The kids played really nicely together and JD belted out the "Happy Birthday" song which he'd been practicing for weeks before prematurely blowing out Liv's candles - JD thought it was his birthday and, rather bizarrely, so did Liv! It was such a shame when Cindy & Martin had to leave with Liv, knowing that JD may never see his little friend again. "JD very sad" he said as the door closed. Jiajia and I are starting to wonder about a trip to Australia in a couple of years....!
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