Goodbye hallo ween
My last class of the weekend proved to be the one in which the students had made the most effort in dressing up and bringing friends.
They are the youngest bunch I teach at 9-11 years of age, and are full of enthusiasm and energy. One of them even brought in a plastic bottle full of live praying mantises, "just to scare me". Job done - they are very weird looking insects!
Mexing it up
Halloween is here again, and our school goes wild for the weekend. The building is decorated, teachers are required to dress up [see Monique, below] and many students do too. After a few years of "sword through my torso", I went for a different look this year - a bizarre, fat Mexican gunslinger growling the phrase, "Where's ma dawg?". It got the usual screams and cowering kids [see photo above].
One of the school's 35 classrooms was decked out as a Haunted Room, with over 500 students trailing through during the 2 hour classes. My students enjoyed various other activities too, such as using loo rolls to dress one of them up as a Mummy, and trying to reconstruct a Dracula face on the board whilst blindfolded [see below].
It's a manic and tiring weekend, with very little getting done educationally, but the kids love it. You get the impression there's not much "fun" in Chinese State Schools"! At my suggestion, all our students are rewarded if they "bring-a-friend" on this weekend. Any newcomers are then given a discount voucher which hopefully attracts some to join the school longer term. Back to normality next weekend, all being well "...now, where's ma dawg?"
I was explaining the word "coincidence" to my students the other day when one of them gave me an unbelievable example. At the Beijing Olympics, China won 51 gold, 21 silver and 28 bronze medals. That's 51-21-28, or 512128. Earlier the same year, Wenchuan (S.W. China) experienced a huge earthquake killing 68,000 people. When exactly? 21st May at 1.28pm. That's 5/12, 1:28, or 512128. I was mightily impressed ...until, that is, I checked it online. The earthquake hit at 2:28pm. So China really needed an extra silver medal! Close, though!
Don't medal with history
Amusing news recently of an exhibition in a Yunnan war museum which accidentally included a "Hello Kitty" badge amongst its display of medals and war paraphenalia. Based on a popular Japanese cartoon created in 1974, "Hello Kitty" merchandise can be seen all over the world, but certainly wasn't around during the second World War! Apparently the museum has now removed it, blaming a "dating error". I'll say!
Hats off to my brother, Dave, who completed the Cardiff half marathon last weekend in just over 2½ hours. He's been training hard for many months (despite heavy family and work commitments) and, although he's not as chunky as he used to be, he's still no "Ethiopian bone-man", so I'm really impressed with the feat. I have personal experience (in my dim and distant youth) of what running over 13 miles feels like, and Dave looks a lot stronger at the end than I ever did! See his blog here. Well done bro'!
Bound to go wrong
I think this sign, which I spotted the other day, is meant to offer services by a blind masseur, but it looks like you're more likely to find handcuffs and ropes than dark glasses there. Enter at your peril!
Do it your shelf
After a busy long weekend, I found time today to put our new shoe shelves together. I've never been much good at D.I.Y. so I went slowly (and having assembly instructions in Chinese doesn't lend itself to fast work, anyway!). The first cupboard took an hour, while the second and third took half an hour each. They felt pretty solid by the end - fingers crossed. Jiajia claims her task is tougher - choosing her favourite 70 pairs of shoes to store inside! Her other 50 pairs will have to go in plastic storage boxes elsewhere. I made sure I bagged a shelf for my six pairs first before letting her loose!
We had our wedding DVD delivered today, plus some lovely photos.
We realise now that, whilst we thoroughly enjoyed our fabulous wedding celebration at the Grand Park Hotel, we missed quite a lot in the excitement of the day.
The photo above shows me entertaining our excited bridesmaid with some impromptu magic.
Later, we failed to fill more than four glasses of the "fountain" with our rather flat champagne [above], while the photo on the left shows the aftermath of an unexpected confetti explosion during the ceremony! You can see more of our favourite photos by clicking here.
Traditionally in China newly-wed couples move into a new house, largely furnished by friends and family. Jiajia and I simply moved back to our existing house, though, after our brief "one-night honeymoon". We have been making plans for new furniture, however, with much of it funded through the generosity of our friends. We bought a small oven and two wardrobes earlier this year. A TV cabinet and cupboards arrived yesterday, a new fridge this morning and three shelving units (primarily for Jiajia's 100+ pairs of shoes!) are ready for us to pick up tomorrow. The house is therefore something of a tip [see photos] as we bring in new furniture, reassign or dispose of old furniture and try the solve the "3D puzzle" that is our current dwelling!
The bosses of my school, Robert and Rachel, helped us a lot with our wedding. Rachel compered the half-hour ceremony, while Robert agreed to give something of a best man's speech. Even the non-English speakers were laughing along as he projected a number of doctored photos onto the wall, allegedly chronicling my many secret, high-profile, romantic liaisons! (P.S. Did you spot Angelina's tattoo?)
Third time lucky!
A flavour of our (third!) wedding, today. It went really smoothly despite all sorts of possible pitfalls. People were very complimentary about the bride's beauty (3 clothes changes!), the delicious buffet food, the distinctive decorations (designed by Ava) and the fun and informality of the ceremony. More information and photos to follow.
The arty dozen
The results of last week's photo shoot arrived today. A really nice selection of fairly arty pictures featuring Jiajia and I in various Kunming locations. Click here to see the best dozen.
What's up, doc ...umentary?
That recently filmed documentary about me aired on Kunming TV last week, to an estimated audience of tens of thousands, but the producer forgot to tell me (or my school) in time, so we missed it. However, it was repeated today and we had advance warning this time, so Ava, her Mum and my school boss, Rachel, settled down to watch it with me this evening. It was very professionally produced - about 20 minutes long - incorporating me doing some teaching, driving and eating pizza along with some (stolen) footage from a previous documentary 5 years ago and excerpts from the interviews conducted with me recently in English and (pretty poor) Chinese. Hopefully they'll supply me with a DVD of it in due course, so my fame can spread even further! Haha!
In the absence of my weekly UK newspapers and news magazines (the school's been closed for 10 day's holidays) and the depletion of my usual back-up store of sci-fi and science magazines (though thankfully more are en route), I've been forced to (gasp!) read a book, albeit light-hearted and non-fiction, called "Chinese Stuff". For someone who's lived in China over ten years, it's a fascinating insight. Every page has a photo and description of an everyday item, nearly all of which I've seen used at some point, many of them daily. It gives background information on the history and common usage of the item, plus amusing anecdotes and explanations. It helps me realise that it's not just the people I meet who appear (to me) to have odd little habits - it 's the same throughout China.
That's a wrap
A third half-day of photos, in temples and "urban wetlands", and we now await the results. Lao Tao, the photographer, has apparently been pleased with what he's got - calling me the "new Tom Hanks" ...yeah right! He told me he had sent one of the pictures of me to the top photography website in China who had already published it to very favourable feedback. I have a feeling this may be what all photographers say to keep their clients onboard, but we'll see!
Another day of photographs - well, technically a half-day, as the photographer has some difficulty getting up in the mornings! We have now scheduled a third (half) day tomorrow to make up the difference. We started our shoot at the Kunming Railway Museum, taking moody shots in backlit steam train carriages, and later to some traditional buildings in the centre of Kunming. We're tired, but hopeful that the finished pictures will be worth the time and expense.
Jiajia and I spent a chilly afternoon and evening today being photographed in a cornfield by a professional, award-winning photographer! He originally wanted access to us for three days, but we eventually agreed on two and are at it again today. His speciality is moody, atmospheric shots, so we were going for "less smiles" and more "wistful gazes"! It remains to be seen what he will produce (he plans to take over 1000 snaps for a final set of 50!) but you can be assured that some will find their way onto the blog here in due course!
Ma-in-law pulled out an old photo album the other day and it was great fun to see how Jiajia (Ava) looked before I met her. She doesn't have too many photos, as cameras weren't common in China in those days and her parents weren't often around. But there are some classics (I mean, just how cute is "Baby Jiajia" here?) and I spent an hour yesterday digitising a selection of the tiny pictures.
Some of them have a real "revolutionary" feel to them, such as "Marching Jiajia" and "Dancing Jiajia". Apparently Ava managed to avoid the more arduous physical activity of her compulsory military service by being chosen for the army dance troupe!
This was the most bizarre of the pictures. Why the photographer thought that a tree growing out of Ava's head would be a good idea is a bit of a mystery. Ava hasn't any idea who most of the people are in the various photos, including this old woman!
And finally we can see why Ava has such a thing for her favourite doll. The resemblance between Ava and "Dorta" is a bit spooky, right? [...Ava is on the left!]
Paul Hider lives and works in Kunming (SW China) and regularly updates this blog about his life there.
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