Another Lattitude course started yesterday. I've run 13 of them over the years. Originally, six volunteers were expected to attend, but two cancelled late and one failed to arrive, so there was only three (plus one extending volunteer who popped in now and again). I'm running the course over just 6 days this time, as we can probably go faster than the normal 7-8 days it takes with 15-25 volunteers. So far the volunteers have maintained a perfect attendance and been very clued-up in class. Next Monday they will fly to Suzhou and Xiamen to begin four months of English language teaching in schools and colleges.
I was back at work today in the Yunnan University of Finance and Economics. Most of my lessons now take place in this rather magnificent looking building. This term, I have fewer lessons than before and all of are on a Monday, which reduces the amount of travelling I do a lot. My first class comprised 40 girls and 3 boys! The second class turned up 45 minutes late due to them being misinformed by their class teacher and the third class was 65 students in a classroom with 50 seats and desks. Hopefully, things will get sorted out better in due course!
JD hasn't been sleeping so well since we got back from the UK, which is pretty understandable with the jetlag etc. It's led to him being quite grumpy during the day, too. I think he's also missing family, chips and slugs! So today, for a treat, I built a little house for him. Now, if he's feeling incommunicative, he can simply crawl insde and mope.
So we've come to the end of our five weeks in the UK. We fly back tomprrow. We spent today packing and I'm convinced all three of our suitcases are overweight, such is the spending power of my lovely wife!
We've had such a wonderful time. JD has really connected with my parents and all his relatives, and we've managed to see everything and everybody we had hoped for, and more. And, importantly, whilst we usually arrive with one or more illnesses to deal with, this time we were all pretty much well and healthy which make a big difference.
Knowing that we are unlikely to be back here for a couple of years is a sad feeling, and a real shame for JD. But Kunming is "home" (for now at least) and I imagine things wouldn't be quite so special if we were meeting up with everybody all the time. All the same, we'll miss you all.
Walking down the High Street of the small, unremarkable town of Bridport, 5400 miles from where I live, I bump into Andy and Liz Rowe who are 300 miles from where they live.
Andy and I were neighbours for three years at College but had largely lost touch over the last 30 years. Now what are the chances of that?
Whilst we are based at our barn cottage, they are camping (in some style) near a pretty water mill and, having been invited to visit, we spent a very pleasant morning reminiscing and catching up on our lives. "Small world" doesn't even begin to explain it...
We spent today in Lyme Regis, a nice seaside town which combines beaches, charity shops, a picturesque harbour and a selection of coffee bars. After the usual picnic on the beach, the other adults went for a wander along the High Street while I watched over JD who had made a couple of "instant friends" and who together were seemingly trying to dig their way to Australia. One highlight for JD and I was watching a very low-flying helicopter hugging the coastline. Boy, did we ever wave!
My parents drove us to the Dorset countryside today to spend a week with the whole of my family in a huge converted barn.
Unfortunately, our journey ended rather embarrassingly when we followed our satnav's directions across a mountain track which gradually got bumpier and narrower. After navigating through various fields and gates we literally ground to a halt. There was nowhere to turn around and we were scraping the bottom of the car on the rutted track beneath. As local cows wandered over for a look, Ava and I headed off to try and find help, eventually persuading a local farmer to rescue us in his Land Rover by offloading passengers and luggage which lightened the load sufficiently for Dad to tentatively crawl down the rest of the track! Not a great start.
On arrival, however, we've been blown away by the barn conversion cottage which really ticks all the boxes - quaint, clean, modern and spacious. Being miles away from anywhere (except an Iron Age fort on a nearby hill), it's quiet and surrounded on all sides by rolling hills. Our bedroom is huge - the photo below only shows half of it - and the kitchen, dining and sitting rooms are big enough for all 13 of us to sit and eat together. It's the first time my family have spent quality time all together for a decade or more, so it will be really nice to relax a bit and "share our families".
Today marks ten years since I started to keep an online blog (7 years here and a 3 further years on a previous platform which got closed down). With entries every 2-3 days on average, I reckon that's well over 1500 posts. Wonder if anyone out there has been reading it since the beginning? Do leave a comment below if so. Happy Birthday Blog!
We spent a lovely day yesterday with Andy and his family at the Moors Valley County Park, a huge parkland area run jointly by East Dorset County Council and the Forestry Commission. Rather cleverly, I think, they do not charge for entry but there is a hefty car park fee instead. We began by exploring the area on hired bicycles. It's many years since Ava and I rode bikes but, with JD safely tucked into a trailer, we set off through the beautiful countryside cycle paths, stopping only now and then to massage our bottoms and check we hadn't lost anyone!
After the bike ride, we enjoyed a picnic and then on to a huge playground with sandpits, elaborate slides and a model steam train to ride. JD is just loving spending time with his cousins. The park also has lakes, nature trails, a wildlife centre, fitness runs and a very cool "play trail" where kids walk from one large contstruction to another through the forest, each of which has different climbing challenges to try. We were all utterly exhausted by the time we got home for a delicious roast chicken meal, courtesy of chef Ali.
Dave drove us to a halfway point today where Andy picked us up and we are now settling into this huge house which they currently rent while looking for a new permanent home. We'll be sleeping in the large converted attic. Andy and Ali's kids, Louie and Daisy, go to a school literally 100m over the road from the house. Pretty perfect place!
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