A one to three
It all seems to be kicking off in HK at the moment. Not that you'd know much about it here - any news of the "events" is strictly controlled (even the BBC website is blocked now). All I'll say about the issue is, "A1, A2 or A3" is no choice if you want "B". And the signs being held up by the police say, "Warning: Please disperse" in English, but "Leave now or you will be shot" in Chinese. It seems to show that international opinion is still important at some level. Let's hope it all gets resolved peacefully and soon.
One point five
JD turned 1½ years old today. By coincidence, the daughter of one of our foreign friends in Kunming turned 3 on exactly the same day. So we joined her and 3-4 other toddlers for a little party in Green Lake Park. JD enjoyed the train [see photos], but not as much as squirting water at the plastic ducks. He needed four goes on that before losing any interest!
It's been 18 months of fast development for JD and a steep learning curve for us ageing parents! JD is just getting over his first cold, so he keeps pretty healthy. He is a very inquisitive chap and has a good memory for words, places and even tastes that he likes/dislikes. He tends to mix with kids who are a year or more older than him, but seems to take this in his stride and is often the one doing things that the others try to copy (climbing, poking bugs, jumping off walls, splashing in puddles etc). Without wishing to sound soppy, we're very proud of out little rascal. Happy Half Birthday, JD!
I take JD to the Zoological Museum most weeks. He loves working the lift, shouting out the names of all the animals he knows and pressing all the display buttons. There are also a couple of interactive computer games beamed onto the floor and JD gets very excited, stamping to "frighten fish" and "scare away moles", etc. We're usually the only people there, and we have an annual pass which lets us in for free. The animals are generally very life-like, with the notable exception of this forlorn-looking creature which always makes me chuckle.
JD's favourite section is the entomology display (insects to you and me) where the floor is glass and you can spot various creepy-crawlies under your feet as well as in the cabinet displays. Until recently, his vocabulary only extended to "mayi" (ant) and "bee", but I've been trying to teach him that the bigger insects are beetles. Helpfully , on the way home this week, I spotted a live one - a "stink bug". We popped it in a jar overnight and, pretty soon, JD was saying "beetle" beautifully as he tapped the glass.
Then yesterday at the play park, I spotted this gorgeous praying mantis in a bush. Once again, I found a plastic box and we had a little guest for the night. The Chinese word seemed much easier to pronounce, so JD has now added "tanglang" to his insect vocabulary!
Why? Just be cars...
Various cities in China held a "No Cars" day this week.
Parts of Kunming were cordoned off and eerily quiet.
Not quite so successful in Beijing....
You can see these signs on many old buildings in China. I took this picture on my recent visit to Heijing. 30-40 years ago, all the households in a town would be graded by the local leaders in ten categories. Those reaching the required standards received a star, proudly displayed on signs like this, outside the house. The very best citizens got all ten stars. It reminds me of the "housepoints" we used to receive as children in Primary School! This house failed on being "hygienic" and "modern".
Unitted we stand
If there's one area where JD is often less than well-behaved, it's feeding time. He makes a huge fuss when offered milk or solids, and shows little interest in snacks, juice or fruit. We think part of the problem is a quickly-bored mind and a burgeoning desire to do everything for himself. Having cartoons (or Chinese "X-factor") on the TV has kept him distracted enough to be fed up to now, but he increasingly prefers to be given a spoon, a fork or a pair of chopsticks and have a go at feeding himself. It inevitably ends up in a huge mess, but he seems to enjoy the process!
Let sleeping dogs lie
Two days ago was Jiajia's half-birthday. As is my tradition, she awoke to half a birthday card, half a slice of cake and a truncated rendition of "Happy Birthday to you". As is also something of a tradition, she had no idea what I was on about it, after a childhood where even her birthday was seldom mentioned. She got her own back though with a funny hand-drawn card for Chinese Teachers' Day, which I had no idea was yesterday. The drawing [see above] shows a portly me teaching a class of various disinterested animals the word "pig". And this is the woman with a degree in Fine Art!
Blue clue, green seen
Back on 11th May, 2007 I made this blog entry about a caged bird I had spotted in the countryside:
"Keeping singing birds is a very popular hobby in China. If you walk along the street and hear a chirping bird overhead, you can be fairly sure it’s in a cage hanging from a branch! The most commonly kept breed of bird looks pretty dull, but sings beautifully. But this bird [see photo, right] looked as pretty as it sounded. The owner said it had no name (birds are rarely named) so I called it “Bluey”. I have no idea what kind of bird it is but I’d love to know. I’m trawling the internet, but if you know, or you know where I could find out, please drop me a line!"
I never did find out what the bird was until, that is, last week when JD and I visited Kunming's Zoological Museum. There, in one glass cabinet, was "my" bird, looking a bit the worse for wear, but definitely the same species. It turns out it is a "Green Magpie", though quite when green becomes blue is still a mystery.
Tomorrow is mid-Autumn Festival where Chinese families get together to exchange over-priced, but lavishly packaged, pastry cakes and gaze at the full moon (clouds permitting). The mooncakes can be filled with meat, meat/sugar(!?), fruits, bean paste or egg. Not being able to read the box means it's always a bit of a lottery and, being dry and mass-produced, I've never eaten one I've really enjoyed. However, that didn't stop me entering an online competition to win 300RMB (£30) of hand-made mooncakes from a top Kunming Hotel and, lo and behold, I won! They made a good gift for a generous friend of ours and she, in return, gave us a box of eggs, which are much tastier.
With the Lattitude course finishing last weekend and the beginning of term, I was working from 9am to 9pm for 10 days on the trot. Jiajia has been away in Shenzhen for a week, too. I've been leaving home before JD wakes and arriving back half an hour or so before he heads off to bed. I've felt bad about him hardly seeing his parents for over a week. I was therefore a bit nervous to read about a recent study which shows that modern working fathers spend five times longer each day with their children than they did 40 years ago. However, that apparently amounts to 25 minutes a day now, compared with 5 minutes a day in the mid 1970s! So I seem to be managing the average, even on a busy week. Phew!
JD blags yet another freebie from our nearby chemists!
Salt with a deadly weapon
Our trip to Heijing last month included a trip to the Salt Museum there. Amongst the more dull exhibits was this photo montage of people in stocks and chains, with some apparently being beheaded. I had to ask Jiajia for a translation to find out what it was about. Apparently the mining, purification and selling of salt (a valuable commodity in those days) was a strictly controlled process and the poor individuals in the pictures had merely been caught trading the stuff without permission. Ouch!
Goosey goosey gone-da
They've doubled in size in the last two weeks, they've grown claws on the end of their webbed feet and they poo copious amounts! We've finally decided enough is enough, and the geese left today to live with a friend of a friend who has a countryside farm. JD said his goodbyes to HeiHei and JingJing and we hope they enjoy a happy life before being dispatched and served up in a restaurant!
Paul Hider lives and works in Kunming (SW China) and regularly updates this blog about his life there.
Past blog entries