yesterday as if to wish JD a Happy Half Birthday!!
2½ years old... where did that time go?
Today is Mid-Autumn Festival in China and Ava's family celebrated with our good friends, the "Dancing Family", and their relatives in a Muslim restaurant yesterday evening. JD and Ava are front right. The woman in green, centre, is Ma-in-law who is still begging to be allowed to live with us again after her "final straw" outbursts a couple of weeks ago. On her left is "Drunkle", Ava's permanently drunk pseudo-uncle whom JD calls "Smelly Man" as he never washes. Yes, we do have a rather weird and dysfunctional family here!
As ever, when the most of the food has been eaten and the conversation gets too fast or heavily dialect for me to keep up with, I usually take JD out for a look around the restaurant grounds. We both get bored at these sort of events after a while. This sign caught my attention, with it's completely unnecessary "mess" in the middle". Now what's all that about?
JD's been a bit poorly this week. he was sent home by the school's nurse on Tuesday with a "fever of 38°C", though by the time he got home we couldn't get a reading above 36°C. We kept him home for a further day, and he did seem a bit under the weather and grumpy. Yesterday, he spent the day at school but, when we came to pick him up, the teachers said they felt he was still unwell, so he's back at home for a further day today. The weekend is ahead, so hopefully he'll be fully recovered by Monday. Apparently almost half the class's students are off ill at the moment, so there's definitely something going around. Needless to say, the bubble bath photo was taken a couple of healthier weeks ago!
P.S. Had to take JD to hospital on 26th as he woke with spots all over his body. Doctor thinks the spots and fever are connected and are a result of a viral infection. He's on more meds...
Interesting graphics on the BBC website showing the growth in Chinese cities over the past two decades. Guizhou and Yunnan (the Provinces I have lived in over that time) start and finish with only one large city, but the East coast population has just exploded. "Bit scary", as JD would say.
As I said my goodbyes to students at Robert's School I got asked, by some, for a wide variety of information - my e-mail address (happy to pass that on), my mobile number (thankfully I can never remember it), my QQ number (don't have one) and my WeChat name (paulhider, should you care). In a country where Facebook, Instagram, SnapChat, Twitter, YouTube (or almost anything useful) are blocked, the Chinese have their own social media solutions. WeChat (WeiXin in Chinese) is the most popular. It's a micro-blogging mobile app where people add photos, links or text to alert friends to what they are up to. Unfortunately for me (or perhaps fortunately?) it's 95% in Chinese. And it's also increasingly a medium for placing adverts for jewelry, bags, tea, clothes etc. It's often hard to see people's news amongst the sales blurb. My solution is to swipe through anything not In English, which usually means 1-2 readable posts a day. And half of those are mine...
This weekend I'm saying goodbye to all (bar one) of my Robert's School classes. It's been a very happy 8 years at the school and it's sad to finally leave. I'll continue teaching the final 2-hour Sunday class for a few more months, so technically I haven't left just yet. But I'm already feeling out of the loop, so it's only a matter of time.
Strange feeling - Ava is in Shenzhen buying stock, JD is at school all day, the Nanny is working in Ava's store and Ma-in-law had taken herself off to hospital (she waited until Ava left Kunming and is now phoning 2-3 times a day insisting on us bringing her food and visiting). So that leaves me at home, alone, until I head off for lessons this evening. I don't think I've been here by myself for 2-3 years. Where to start? Music on extra loud, out for a run, watching TV without feeling guilty. It's like being single again!
As the Lattitude training course draws to a close, the volunteers are asked to demonstrate what they've learned by giving a 50 minute lesson to real Chinese students at Robert's School. They did really well on the whole which bodes well for their projects where they will work for 4 months. They fly off tomorrow.
This is probably the busiest week of my life combining, as it does, three jobs - "Lattitude" teacher training every day for a week, YUFE University lessons and Robert's School weekend work. It's a half hour e-bike ride between Robert's School and the University, so a typical day might involve 2 hours of biking and 8 hours of teaching plus taking JD to and from Kindergarten (and playing, bathing, feeding him). Long days. So far things have gone to plan though, and all parties seem happy enough with my work. It should settle down next week!
JD's had a week of "half days with Mum or Dad around" at his Kindergarten followed by a week of three-quarter days without parents". As of tomorrow, he is doing full 8.00am to 5.30pm, Monday to Friday schedule. The teachers say he is well-behaved and bright - often the first to help them clean up water spills or help other kids to drink their water as you can see below! But he really doesn't like the obligatory two hour naps midday and usually spends them crying or complaining. One of the teachers took this photo above the other day of a tearful JD refusing to lie down!
I had an odd email through the other day from someone calling himself "Karl" who clearly knew me, but who I couldn't place at all. After an exchange of messages I learned that we met back in 1997, when I attended his birthday party as a favour to his Kindergarten teacher (a friend of mine) who was desperate for a "special foreign guest". He is the little boy in the red suit second from the left in the photo. I had vague recollections of the event but, when Karl sent through some old photos, the memories did come back more strongly. Karl is now about to start studying for a Masters in Sheffield University and apparently tried to track me down on something of a whim. Using the powers of the internet he eventually got my details and plucked up the courage to get in touch. Lovely surprise and a real bolt from the blue!
I've finished my first week at the Yunnan University of Finance and Economics (YUFE), and met 4 of the 5 classes (one was cancelled, although nobody told me!). Each had about 40-45 students in it, with a range of abilities and enthusiasm. Class desks are therefore crammed in, and laid out in the usual grid pattern. Computers and projectors in each room, but not all working and nobody seems to know how to use them. No whiteboards, only blackboard (and no coloured chalk). Bare walls. A confusing mix of high tech and very low tech. As ever, it's all about the teacher adapting to whatever conditions and students levels he finds. Flexibility is key!
Today is my first day at my new job at the Yunnan University of Finance and Economics (YUFE) - a week earlier than I thought due to the University forgetting to tell me of a calendar change. It's just a 20-30 minute e-bike ride to get there, depending on traffic.
It's going to be a really busy few weeks for me with this new job, plus 11 Lattitude volunteers to be trained over 8 days, normal weekend lessons at Robert's School (soon to be handed over) and JD starting Kindergarten. Thankfully, the University have managed to arrange my classes so that I start avoid the first and last lessons of the day, allowing me to drop JD off at Kindergarten and pick him up at the end of the day (once he starts doing full days in two weeks time).
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