This was the picture above an animal story on the BBC website. I initially assumed it was a piece about an owl, until I looked closer and read the article ...about drug-sniffing dogs!
When our gatekeepers started clearing out an empty room by the neighbourhood entrance the other day, I assumed they were setting themselves up a new office. Apparently not. It is actually a designated "State Propaganda Area" filled with patriotic displays and slogans urging us to work hard, love our country and respect our leaders and the law. The painted sign on the outside wall [left] says, "Work hard and you will get promotion. Be lazy and you will lose your job". Profound!
One of the few disappointments of our time in the UK was getting notice of a traffic fine in the final week from when we had hired a car. I have no idea of what it's for as I thought I'd been very careful to keep below speed limits and park correctly. As yet, no paperwork has come through to our UK address, but I fear it's just a matter of time.
Then today, my Chinese driving license also got blemished. JiaJia received a parking fine yesterday dating back to June and persuaded me to take the points, as my license is (was) clean while hers is, let's say, cluttered! She also needs the car more than me. Our trip to the traffic police office today did at least provide some amusing Chinglish.
We are back in China and the unpacking is pretty well finished. As you might expect, it is a little hard to adjust back to life in a different country and culture after six weeks in the UK. The hawking and spitting noises in Kunming Airport's toilets quickly brought it all back though!
JD has been seemingly unaffected by the switch, just enjoying seeing his old toys again and sleeping in his own bed. He also showed no signs of jet lag. I woke at 4am one morning but otherwise have been alright. JiaJia though has had a few days of going to sleep at 5am and finally waking at midday. She's never the best sleeper, but this time it's taking her longer to adjust to China time. She is already back at work. I have a further week's holiday, while JD has two weeks vacation left.
And so our wonderful six weeks in the UK has finally come to an end. We' spent our last day or so at Mum and Dad's packing our luggage, eating out and saying our goodbyes. Thankfully our suitcases turned out to be under our weight allowance (just!) and our flights back went fairly smoothly. As ever, it was sad to say goodbye to everyone, but our "real" life awaits us here, back in Kunming. For now, at least...
We've spent our last few days in the UK chillin' with my parents - walks in the park, haircuts, visits to garden centres (JD attended a "Pixie and Fairy" event) and various admin - bank, opticians, post office etc
It's been particularly lovely for me to see my small Chinese family
bonding so well with my wider UK family over the holidays.
We found ourselves in Edinburgh during their annual Arts Festival - the largest in Europe. So we spent our last morning walking around the centre of the city enjoying the street artists and teasers for many shows. We actually managed to catch an hour-long play based on the "Taming of the Shrew" performed by teenagers and adapted as family viewing. JD loved it, especially when we met the cast outside afterwards and they pointed out that JD had called out more answers than the rest of the audience combined! JD's favourite memory though will undoubtedly be meeting a "real" fairy in the street and having fairy dust sprinkled over him. He was disappointed not to be able to fly afterwards. We had to make do with the train back to England instead.
JiaJia has long wanted to visit Scotland so, for just a couple of days, we've taken the train up to Edinburgh staying with an elderly couple I have been in touch with since they were fellow VSO volunteers in the 1990s. John and Anna suggested we visit the well-preserved Dirleton Castle on our first morning and drove us there with their dog Joe. In the afternoon we went to a beach on the Firth of Forth but it all got a bit cold and rainy (as Scotland is prone to) so we headed back to their house for some nice home-cooked dinner.
My parents remain very involved in their local church, despite laying down various responsibilities over recent years due to their age, so a visit to Sidcup Baptist Church is in order whenever we are in town. JD has shown an interest in all things spiritual in recent months - praying to various gods, saying grace before meals, interacting with fairies etc. So he joined in the service as best he could - singing along and eagerly joining in the children's activities. We always get a very warm welcome from the SBC church members and we feel very at home there, despite only visiting once a year on average!
We're back at my parents' in Sidcup, Kent for another full and fun week. We visited "Lark in the Park" a community event my parents' church helps to put on. JD got his face painted as Spiderman, and took part in various activities such as painting, pets and puppets. We also visited Hall Place, a Tudor house which was hosting a Lego exhibition.
Then at Cooling Garden Centre, we watched a Bird of Prey show and JD got to handle an owl. And finally my Mum and Dad put on a "belated" Christmas celebration complete with a tree, roast dinner, crackers, carols and presents. How do we fit it all in?
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