The screams eminating from Robert's School are usually caused by excruciating grammar rules. But this weekend kids have been cowering in corridors, falling down flights of stairs, weeping, wailing, whining and wincing... ...can't imagine why!!
You'd think that running on a running machine would be best done in running shoes, right? Well that presumptioon was given a thorough test today by a girl at my gym. At first she managed to keep jogging on the machine surprisingly well in her flip-flops. But as the speed passed Level 9, and she started to text a friend, the machine finally got the better of her! Fortunately the piped music in the gym muffled my guffaws. No great harm was done to her, the running machine or indeed the flip-flops, but she learned her lesson and continued her run barefoot!
Our school goes crazy for Halloween with scary decorations throughout the school, teachers and students getting dressing up, and grammar replaced by games! The Halloween theme this time is "Zombies versus Plants", a wildly popular internet game here in China, apparently. Halloween isn't really my cup of tea, but having missed it last year (in the UK) I'm doing my best to get into the swing of it. I've made a new "sword through the chest" outfit, as few folk will have seen it before. It caused plenty of screams in 2007 and 2008 and the addition this time of a severed hand clutching the sword can only add to the shock factor!
I couldn't resist borrowing my students' new English Notebook today to take a photo of the cover, which has the craziest English I've seen in a long while. It says:
Love is more thicker than forget,
More thinner than recall,
It is most mad and less it shall unbe
Than all the sea which only is deeper than the sea.
I saw this fascinating optical illusion the other day. Before scrolling down, take a moment to look at the black and white picture on the left and see if you can spot an animal there? If, like me, you can't, then scoll down to look at the identical, but coloured, picture below. The animal is pretty obvious there [bottom left]. And then, if you look back at the black and white picture, the animal is now easily seen in that picture too! What's going on there? The article where I found it said that it was to do with the quality of light (colour), rather than just it's existence (black or white). Whatever than means!
The blog entry title also refers to illness. Ava has had a nasty cold and sore throat recently (though taking a break from work doesn't seem to be an option in her mind, which can't help recovery), and I've had a return of neck problems and dizziness this week too. We're both on the mend, I think.
High excitement here at the moment with the grand opening - just 5 minutes walk from my flat - of the "2010 Winter Clothing, Kunming Characteristics Snacks Exposition". Where else, in the same huge venue, could you see the latest in knitwear and kit-kats, pullovers and popcorn, sweaters and sweeties. It's a new must-see on the Kunming tourist trail, for sure!
I was somewhat surprised to hear about the world-wide media coverage of the 33 Chilean miners rescue recently, since mining disasters here in China are so commonplace. For some reason "ours" don't seem to merit the same international attention. For example, just yesterday an explosion in Henan Province killed 20 Chinese miners, leaving another 17 trapped below ground. It's a relatively minor disaster in China considering over 2,600 miners were killed here last year alone! It puts the Chilean "disaster" into perspective a little.
I spotted this innocent-looking sachet in a hotel the other day. Despite all my years of Chinglish spotting (and enjoying, it has to be said) I am still amazed at how often simple English mistakes are made by Chinese companies. It would take them 5 minutes to check their English with a foreigner, or even to use a computer. It seems as if they have no interest in getting the English right - almost as if they don't see it as at all improtant. In which case, why bother to include it in the packaging at all? It's all very odd!
After canvassing (geddit?) your opinions for two weeks, the votes have been counted, results collated, tallies double-checked and, as you can see from the "Jon Snow" analysis [see left], the result is... a draw!! Yes, the painting led to us drawing (geddit?).
Amazingly, the watercolours by myself (Painting A) and Jiajia (Painting B) received exactly the same amount of votes from the 24 of you who kindly spent a few seconds expressing a preference. Some bleating from Jiajia about me voting for myself but, all in all, a fair enough result, I think. Since neither of us won a clear majority, we now apparently need to form some sort of coalition! Maybe next year...!
The beautifully-carved shutters of the windows of our hotel room look out onto a delightful courtyard surrounded by wooden rooms and complete with it's own stage. Jiajia couldn't resist a little dance (to minimal applause it must be said!). After exploring the many ornate rooms and corridors in the hotel (in which we appeared to be the only guests), we headed into town and found a steep path that led to a small temple. The lady in charge there was really friendly and seemed a little put out when we politely declined her invitation to share lunch.
In the afternoon, we decided to brave the rain and low-lying mist clouds and tackle the 500+ steps leading up to FeiLaiSi or "Fly Here Temple"!. Flying there would have been a less painful option! The promised views were mostly clouded over, but we did get a glimpse of the town for brief moments [see photo]. And of a small crab on the steps of the temple, which wasn't quite what we expected!
The Temple itself was fairly run-of-the-mill, but we appreciated the chance for a sit-down out of the rain, before attempting the slippery return route.
By the time we returned to HeiJing, it was time for a well-earned meal, a shower and a soft bed for our aching limbs!
We'll leave tomorrow, and hope to find a quicker and less hazardous route back.
Jiajia and I took a late holiday break today to the town of HeiJing, north of Kunming. We went by car (rather than by train) which turned out to be a mistake. Heavy rain, landslides, water buffalo, reckless oncoming traffic, potholes, herds of goats and a disheartening lack of signage led to the "4 hour" journey taking us over 6 hours. HeiJing itself is over 500 years old and was built on the riches of nearby salt mines. The ornate and traditional buildings of that era are still here to be seen, along with cobbled, pedestrianised streets, ancient temples and a river which seems to be going from "near-empty" to "surging" with the non-stop rain!
The highlight of the visit so far has been our hotel. It's very traditional [see photo] and about 150 years old. The rooms are fairly modern within though and the main street of the town is just a 5 minute walk away. Now if only the rain would stop!
Ava and I were hungry guests of our good friends, Peter and Judy, last night. Judy was a teacher at Robert's School for some time and they return to China perdiodically. After a yummy home-made meal (spag bog and jammy custardy sponge) we embarked on an epic game of "Risk". It was eventually won by Peter - not surprisingly as he is a former naval officer (...and vicar ...and beekeeper... long story!).
My Mum hit the big 7-0 today! She's not looking too bad on it either, is she?
All the family (minus me, of course) attended a surprise gathering to celebrate, with the usual cards, cakes and presies. Then there was a day in a farm being driven around by tractor, feeding animals and letting the children (and certain adults) run wild, no doubt. Happy Birthday, Mum!
After the temple trip yesterday, Ava and I drove to the building site which, in 2-3 years time, should materialise into brand new flats, one of which is Ava's latest property purchase. She got a good deal on a, as yet unbuilt, 16th floor flat there, and hopes to make a tidy profit selling it once it's completed. I just hope their building specifications are a little more accurate than their spelling [see above].
With another day off work, I suggested showing Jiajia the Daoist temple I stumbled across back in May. It's on the outskirts of Kunming, and tucked away in the middle of a run-down town apparently called Garlic Village! Splash along a muddy road, climb over a rubbish tip and walk past a stinky, overflowing public toilet and there it is, up a steep flight of stairs - a real gem. The monks were holding a funeral ceremony when we arrived, in full song and wearing some beautiful robes. As we watched discreetly, the head monk spotted us and seemed to shoo us away. But as we started to wander off, he ran out and made it was clear he was inviting us in to watch (but no photos). We stood behind the drummers watching the elaborate dances, chants and burning incense.
Exploring the rest of the temple was equally fascinating, not least the animal life there, such as enormous spiders and their webs [photo, left], goldfish, a goat, a giant toad and this little turtle [photo, right] seemingly trying to copy the pose of the dragon's head he's resting on!
Today was a holiday (Chinese National Day) and so Ava and I found time, at last, to do some painting. It’s something we have planned for some time – even buying the brushes and paints six months ago! Ava has a Masters degree in Art while I attended some watercolour painting evening classes a decade ago! We decided to paint the same thing – a lakeside photo that Ava had snapped some years ago. Inevitably, a frisson of competition ensued! The two resulting paintings are shown below and YOU can help choose the best, by voting for your favourite. The results will be announced later this month (assuming I win!)
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