JD and I had a lovely day with our good friends from the UK, Peter and Judy, who are in Kunming for a few months. As ever, they came laden with presents which helped JD overscome any shyness rather quickly! We wandered around Green Lake and had a boat ride before sharing lunch and returning to the house for a coffee, a chat and a play with JD. They are a lovely couple, with enviable listening skills! JD was crying, "Where is Judy? I want Judy." for over half an hour after they left.
JD's school doesn't believe in giving much notice about anything. A text to Ava last night informed us that a parent had to be at the school for a couple of hours this morning and then take their child home for the rest of the day. I think the idea was to show some of the things the kids get up to during a typical day. It included an educational cartoon [see above], singing, toilet trips and a cup of tea!
There was also a simple cooking activity, which involved the children rolling small dough balls [see left] which were then boiled and eaten in a sweet milk sauce (called "tangyuan"), It was interesting to see how JD interacted with the other students (all of whom are older than him) - not always in a very caring, sharing manner!
In the afternoon, had to attend a short meeting at the University where I work, but it was an informal one and they were happy for JD to be there. Afterwards, he and I went to the Uni's swimming pool. I get a hefty discount as a teacher. It is Olympic-sized, clean and was not at all busy, though a bit chilly. JD was shivering after 20 minutes. We then went to the Teacher's Canteen which served us up some fried rice [see above]. JD fell asleep in the car on the way back. Busy boy.
We had a visit recently from a Chinese friend of a friend, called "Adam". JD was quite taken with him and wouldn't be carried by anyone else while he was here. We only had a short time, so we (Ava, JD and myself) took him to Green Lake which is always busy with impromptu singing, dancing and various hobbies (kite-flying seems particularly popular recently). One activity I hadn't seen before were the half dozen folk wielding large brushes and doing Chinese calligraphy with water on the street.
Apparently they demonstrate their skill for free but passers-by can hire a brush and get a free lesson for 5RMB (50p).
There was no stopping JD, of course, who wangled a free brush and proceeded to "tidy" the messy characters by slapping his wet mop everywhere (much to the delight of the crowd who quickly gathered).
My electric bike is proving a real boon. I can drop JD off at school in 20-30 minutes, depending on traffic. From there to my University work is another 20-30 minutes. From University to home is the same. Very often the roads are completely jammed with stationary cars, but the e-bikes can whizz past in their bike lanes and they rarely clog up for long. Last week I passed the 1500km travelled mark.
I've given out my fair share of homework over the past decade or two, but I'm going to have to start getting used to receiving it. Despite being only 2½ years old, JD's kindergarten are already piling on the homework tasks each week and they are way beyond his ability and far outside of his areas of interest. But this is China. The first week was a "junk model" (we sneakily reused a life-sized dragon head I'd made for a previous Halloween), and the next week was a 5-page A4 booklet showing how you care for the environment (it took me two hours - see photo above - JD stuck a few pictures in and cut paper randomly for a while). This week's is a crochet project (see below - JD tossed the ball of wool around). I don't know whether we can keep this up for much longer!
Today we visited a Tropical Forest Park. We had imagined it as fairly pristine and untouched but, this being China, it was actually a bit touristy with concrete paths guiding you past various tropical, signposted plants and trees. Animatronic elephants and monkeys screamed as you approached them - a bit sad considering this area used to boast large numbers of the real thing. We did enjoy the treetop walk though - rope bridges strung up at canopy level (50m high) to give you a new appreciation of how tall rainforest trees actually are. JD clearly has no fear of heights as he scampered between the bouncing and swaying bridges!
We have only praise for the generosity of our friends here, but our daily routine of breakfast, 2hr drive to a village, a banquet, play mahjong or wander around, another banquet and another 2hr drive back to the hotel ...it can get a little tiring after a while. We try to keep JD amused as best we can [the photo on the left was taken on the back of a pick-up jeep over bumpy roads] and look for things of interest along the way. His big love at the moment is construction machines of all types and thankfully (or not?) XiShuangBanna is developing very fast and we play a version of "Excavator I-spy" on our travels.
XiShuangBanna still has some untouched forest areas, but they're disappearing fast and more commonly seen now are banana plantations and rows upon rows of rubber trees, which we enjoyed seeing up close.
The food we have been treated to has largely been local dishes, fresh from the fields. Apparently, our hosts have tried to "dial down the chilli" for my sake, which is kind, though I hadn't noticed! The occasional dish has raised eyebrows, however, such as these bamboo grubs. Crunchy and with a smoky flavour, they are a bit like a packet of Monster Munch ...with legs.
We find ourselves in sub-tropical XiShuangBanna, in the far south of Yunnan near the border with Laos. We were picked up last night by "Dancing" Man and Lady and he bravely drove the 12 hours overnight to MengLa town where we have checked into a rather swish hotel.
The "Dancing" family have good friends down here who are looking after us with banquets, free accommodation and various activities planned. The first of these today was fishing, which JD thoroughly enjoyed, showing no fear of the flapping, sharp-finned little fish!
After a few hours emptying the pond, we wandered around in the countryside a bit, finding a chilly little stream. With temperatures here in the mid-30s, JD couldn't resist, so he took a dip. After ten minutes, and with no warning at all, the heavens suddenly opened and a torrential downpour threatened to drench us before we got to the car - crossing the stream and climbing the bank wasn't as easy as it looked, with sharp stones and thorny bushes!
Once we'd dried off, we headed back to our hotel where JD and I enjoyed a more conventional swim in their outdoor complementary swimming pool, full of kids who had seemingly never seen a foreigner before, let alone a western child!
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