My camera died a few days ago. It's been having glitches for some months now, but finally refused to recharge properly or take any sort of decent quality photo. I bought it some 5 years ago and it gets near-daily use, so I can't complain. I've bought a new Lumix model - higher magnification, a lot more megapixels, smaller, lighter, with video and more auto-intelligent modes than I know how to use. Plus, the price was about the same as I paid for my old Samsung. If only the instructions weren't all in Chinese!
A group of 9 teachers from my school went out yesterday evening on what's intended to be the first of a series of social events. This one was ten-pin bowling, a sport new to many of the chinese. Everyone, including me, did pretty badly (the gutters have never seen such action), but I did manage to win 2 of my 3 games. Strangely, the two girls who scored the least all night were also the only two to get strikes! It was a fun time and a chance to spend time with colleagues outside of the office.
Over 80 school staff gathered for a "Ten Year Celebration" meal yesterday evening in a revolving restaurant atop one of Kunming's four star hotels. It took me two hours to get there by public transport however - the first bus did a u-turn after 15 minutes for reasons I never fully worked out. Then we hit tailbacks from two separate accidents. I tried another bus which was suddenly redirected by a traffic policemen due to roadworks and a third bus stopped 2km short of the hotel due to a massive traffic jam which had brought the whole thoroughfare to a grinding halt. But at least (and at last) I got there!
The food was a buffet and had plenty of delicious options to choose from. Then there was a party with "hilarious" games. I'm sure it wasn't just the language barrier - it's occasions such as this where western and chinese cultural expectations seem to diverge the most! After 2 hours of "fun" we finally got to head home. I found a taxi this time and was back within 30 minutes.
Weekends are always busy for me, but this one was perhaps the most hectic ever! Last week I was asked to think up some fun activities for the school's tenth anniversary and they were all implemented. So, for example, this weekend we've had 3500 students playing a treasure hunt game, tracking down eight animal posters hidden around the school which together spell out "Robert's School of Languages".
And each class has also been competing to build the highest "Jenga" tower, (representing building the school ever larger). My classes only managed up to 27 but I was told the overall record was 33!
Then, for older students, there was a multiple-choice quiz about the school's history (...our school has taught over 15,000 students over the ten years, and has a current staff of 95!)
Each class was also tasked with creating a poster reflecting their thoughts about the school, plus there's also been a staff competition to design a new logo for the school.
So it was a bit of a breather to simply monitor an exam for one of my classes [see below], especially as the other two today were "Open Classes" with parents observing their kids being taught and then quizzing the teacher (me)! I'm so looking forward to the next two weeks of holiday!
A "Kunming TV" crew arrived at my house at 10am today wanting to trail me on a typical working day. Interviews in both English and Chinese followed, with some method acting thrown in ("...pretend you normally water the plants"!). Then they wanted to film me driving to work and, after a brief lunch, teaching a couple of classes. A further interview with me and my students and they left to edit the footage into a "National Day" documentary. I'm told the likely audience is in the millions!
This school weekend looks set to be the most manic ever for me. I have one class doing an exam, two "Open Classes" (with visiting parents), games and activities for "Robert's School's 10 Year Celebrations" (which I've been involved in organising) and also I'm due to be followed by a Kunming TV crew all day tomorrow for an upcoming documentary.
A huge "Happy Birthday" to my granddad who turns 100 today! He's not as mobile as he once was (...climbing a tree at 85!) but still he has a quick mind and a genuine interest in all his children, grand-children and great grand-children. He's also the most humble, gracious and courteous person I've ever met. A true inspiration to all who have met him through his long life. I was so happy to meet him "one last time" (again!) earlier this year [see photo]. Have a very special day, granddad!
I got some photos sent through yesterday from the Sams family - a reminder of a fun day in Harrods, Hyde Park and ...errr something else beginning with "H"? This photo was taken by the Princess Di Memorial. Aled and Ben were exhausted after a "pulling silly faces" competition (which I won incidentally ....yeah!)
Ava brought back a little flat pack craft kit from Shenzhen on her last trip there but, frustrated by instructions in Japanese, she soon passed it over to me to complete. Five minutes later I have the "tidy box" all completed (helped by a series of pictures on the back of the Japanese instructions. Don't tell her - I'm still basking in the glory of finishing it so quickly!). Hmmm... "flat pack craft kit" - now that's not easy to say!
Chinese stereotypes of England and the English are sometimes really hard to break down. I forget how often I've assured students that London is not "a foggy city". And the English are not all "gentlemen" (half of them are women, for a start!). And the bridge that opens up for ships is Tower Bridge, not London Bridge, despite what their textbooks say (or, indeed, this mug [see photo] spotted in a shop recently). I do assure them we all wear bowler hats though! Haha!
Ava and I put this afternoon aside to visit some hotels and restaurants to see if anywhere grabbed us for our Chinese Wedding celebration First in line was the five-star, well-located (but surely too expensive) Grand Park Hotel, one of the best hotels in Kunming. But after half an hour with their "wedding sales manager" we both felt we needed to look no further. Their buffet price was half what we expected it to be, with lots of little extras thrown in (free drinks, invite cards, night in the honeymoon suite, etc). I was also impressed by the large "PH" on their rotating restaurant (they say it's for Park Hotel group, but I know it's for Paul Hider) and their fundraising links with "World Vision" - a charity I have long supported. So Ava paid our deposit [see photo below] and we are all booked in for Monday evening, the 10th of October. Plenty of organising still to do, though a lot less than a western wedding.
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