Start from scratch...
One of the nice things that teachers often do in JD's Kindergarten is to take photos of the class doing something and then send them to the parents' mobile phones. So we were able to see JD and his classmates painting outside during the morning and counter his usual, "Nothing" when we picked him up and asked him what he'd done that day!
A paw ling
It's JD's half-birthday on Thursday, so Jiajia bought him a little gift from the internet. JD enjoys watching the "Paw Patrol" cartoon and will no doubt love the little doggy characters. As for me, I'm concerned at why they are to be found in a "concentration camp"? Did they have an unfortunate run in with some Nazis? Or perhaps someone misunderstood "paw" and thought it was "POW", prisoners of war? We may never now...
JD and I had a fun day out yesterday with five of his classmates and their families. We headed for XiYou Cave with delicious meals before and after the trip. Can you spot JD?
JD and I were picked up by one of the families and driven to the cave. however, the other groups were delayed and so we eventually decided to have lunch before exploring the cave. JD thoroughly enjoyed feeding the fish, spotting and catching insects and tucking into a terrific roast chicken meal [see below]. Afterwards we climbed up a mountain path behind the restaurant until it ended at a locked gate.
Then it was off to the cave. JD and I had visited a year or so ago, but he seemed largely to have forgotten it. It's very commercialised, but the cave itself is very impressive despite being gaudily lit with and various plastic models dotted throughout [see below].
A water assault course, a half-size digger to play on, a cave train and a 0.8km slide to get down the mountain - JD had a blast. Nice day.
This afternoon I had to give a demonstration class to some senior teachers at the University in preparation for the visit of experts from the Ministry of Education in Beijing in a fortnight. Every teacher has had to. I was told four teachers would watch my class - eight turned up. I was told to be ready at 2pm - I finally got the go-ahead at 3.15pm. The main feedback was that I should use Powerpoint more and give more of a lecture. I politely pointed out that my role is to get the students speaking - in pairs, groups and as individuals - not to give lectures. They said they understood and that was fine normally, but that the Beijing "education experts" like to see Powerpoint-led talks. So I need to fake a poor, inappropriate lesson rather than do my normal interesting and interactive lesson. Very Chinese!
Afterwards, I just managed to catch the end of a Welcome Meeting for new teachers to the University which included a tea ceremony [see above]. As I enter my third year at YUFE, I find myself one of the old-timers. It only seems like yesterday I was being welcomed myself.
Flying the flag
It continues to amaze me just how popular the British flag is in China. You see it everywhere - clothes, electric bikes, notebooks, bags, stickers, etc. Not only is it more prominent than, say, the American or Russian flags, but you see it more than the Chinese flag too. Some say it's because the shape is the same as the Chinese character for "rice". Others say it's just a cool and interesting pattern. Certainly the UK is as popular a foreign country as any, despite our historical double-dealing with the Chinese.
There is one...
Snap up a bargain
Most Chinese supermarkets have a depressingly similar range of foodstuffs and you have to travel to a select one or two to get anything slightly more western, or unusual. This supermarket surpassed itself however! Croc meat for sale, with frozen head to prove the source!
The 17th and latest Lattitude training course was something of a mess. Whereas we used to get 15-20 volunteers, this time there were only 4. One arrived a day late to get a cheaper flight and two had their visa applications rejected and arrived a week late after resubmitting them.
The usual 8-day course was therefore squeezed into 6 days for the first pair and 4 days for the second. Locked classrooms, misplaced resources, botched photocopying and having key personnel missing led to some very patchy training and more than once I was quite embarrassed about the low quality and lack of professionalism. All in all, I think this may be my last course - possibly one more by way of a handover - the timing has always been frustrating (coinciding with JD's first week at school, my first week at University and one of Jiajia's busiest fashion periods), the pay is fairly trivial and the volunteer numbers are dropping off fast. I've enjoyed the 10-year run very much, but I feel the end is in sight.
Mocking the smocking
It's a boat time
Teacher's Day here meant a last minute instruction to parents to pick up their child from Kindergarten at noon yesterday so that the teachers could have some fun together for the rest of the day. Never mind that I'm also a teacher and I lose MY afternoon off as a consequence. With the virtually non-stop rain continuing (6 weeks and counting now - rainbows yesterday!) JD and I spent a few hours making an aircraft carrier out of large DUPLO Lego and then various planes, helicopter and smaller ships out of normal sized Lego.
A load of old...
One thing I like about JD is his increasing willingness to chat to strangers. When he asks me a question about why somebody is doing something I usually say, go ask them, So yesterday, as we walked past a street cobbler, JD asked what he was doing. "Go ask him", I said. So he did. The cobbler motioned for him to sit down and they proceeded to have a lovely little chat in Chinese for 2-3 minutes. I think they both rather enjoyed it, too.
Market my words
It was especially busy at the local wet market yesterday, Sunday morning. They do have a modern supermarket upstairs but most folk seem to prefer the touchy-feely, frantic bargaining of the more traditional market on the ground floor. JD spotted a cheap fried potato snack and is seen here tucking into it.
Pic of the day
Paul Hider lives and works in Kunming (SW China) and regularly updates this blog about his life there.
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