When I mentioned the recent death of Norodom Sihanouk, the King of Cambodia, over dinner recently, the last thing I expected (on so many levels) was Ma-in-Law casually saying, "...and he was such a playboy when I met him"! I knew Ma-in-law had been something of a Beijing Opera star in her youth [that's her singing in the photo], but I had no idea she'd sung for China's ruling elite (including first Premier, Zhou Enlai - "...also something of a playboy" she says). It goes some way towards explaining why she (and Ava) have such a strong dislike of government leaders and their frequently duplicitous behaviour.
I had a nice birthday last week, despite it being a working day and feeling dizzy throughout (I'm back under the doctor after 6 months of good health). Ava, Ma-in-law and I went out for a local Chinese meal in the evening. Ma-in-law surprised me by buying a rather yummy birthday cake [see photo]. Bear in mind that Ava has never once had a cake bought for her by her Mum and doesn't get as much as a card on her birthday. Maybe my charm offensive is working?
Then, on the following evening, Ava and I went out for a Pizza Hut meal, using her friend's special half-price discount card! Food tastes better when it's a bargain. Ma-in-law may have been a bit annoyed at missing out on this meal, as a lot of the cake had been eaten by the time we arrived home. Dorta was blamed, but the evidence seemed a little bit dubious!
It's not often the world's sporting eyes are on Kunming, but today sees a World Championship fight in our fair city. As aficionados reading this will already know, Yunnan-born boxer Xiong Chaozhong will be fighting Mexican, Javier "The Demon" Martinez for the vacant WBC straw-weight world title. "Straw- weight" implies I could lift him up with one hand, though I don't think I'll be trying that, as he has something of a mean left-hook! The venue is actually the gym where I play badminton every week. Sadly tickets are too pricey for me, and I'll be teaching at that time anyway. But best of luck to Chaozhong as he attempts to become China's first world champion boxer. The result will be added below once known.
I got a tip-off about these two shops, located in the same street, from my friends Peter and Judy, and managed to track them down this week with my camera in hand. Wonder if the shops have any idea...?
Now that's a needle and a half! And my poor wife had to endure having it poked into her this morning for an amniocentesis test. We'd taken advice from three different doctors and, despite our concerns, they all concurred that it was really necessary because of our ages. Boy, we've certainly seen enough of hospitals for a while.
Last week we had an appointment with Ava's best friend's sister-in-law - a top Kunming maternity doctor - who rang a colleague in another hospital to get us ahead of the queue to have blood tests and scans in advance of the amnio test (and when you see the huge queues in the hospitals, you realise what a blessing it is to have friends with influence). We saw that hospital's specialist on Monday morning, booked and paid for the preliminary tests (including buying the needle itself!) on Monday afternoon and then had them all done on Tuesday morning. Then back in again today for the huge needle! Bearing in mind it's a 30-40 minute drive each way and I've had a return of my dizziness problem for the last few days, we are both delighted not to have any more hospital visits planned for a month. We'll get the DNA results then too.
Q: How do you tell if someone is
Chinese within 10 seconds?
A: Ask them to use a paper clip...
...after watching my students struggle to work out how to clip some game cards back together for me yesterday, I realised that this is clearly not a skill taught in Chinese schools. The same is true of cutting shapes out of paper - the students usually hold the paper still and try to manoeuvre the scissors around (rather than the other way, which is far easier). Our school secretaries have also been known to staple exam papers together in the strangest of ways. I assume this is all because simple stationary skills are not considered "important for passing for the school exams"?
We had an earthquake here this morning. Nobody I know seems to have noticed. Kunming is overdue a big one, they say...
I was on apparently on TV yesterday. It seems to have been an old documentary which the station dusted down and gave a rerun. A few of our Chinese teachers caught it and mentioned it to me today, one saying "You are now an inspiration to me!". Hmmm. Makes me wonder what they thought of me before...
You see an awful lot of this in China these days - unbelievable wealth rubbing shoulders with absolute poverty. Every country has a gap between rich and poor, of course, but it does seem so much wider and more obvious in China. Yesterday, I passed the lady who collects rubbish from our neighbourhood to sell to a recycling plant, with her baby strapped to her back, wearing the same clothes she always wears. I have to say she always has a ready smile for me.
Later, one of my students tells me his parents are currently buying an American business (primarily to get US passports) and a huge 6-bedroom mansion in Florida. He's not sure when they will move there, but learning English has suddenly become more important! There's money out there, but only for the lucky (or corrupt?) few. China has over a million US-dollar millionaires!
Our school had planned an indoor 5-a-side football match (foreigners against Chinese) for this afternoon. A few potential players had already made their excuses before today but, as of yesterday evening, we still expected 8-12 to show. And yet, as Robert and I arrived, meeting Adrian, there was a distinct absence of anybody else. Text messages soon started to arrive, claiming injuries, unexpected lessons, broken transport, domestic punch-ups, you name it! As the three of us gently warmed up, Robert twisted his back and my calf went ping. Then a phonecall came in, a full 15 minutes after the pitch was booked for, saying that a further 3 players were still at school, half an hour away, we decided it was not to be, and cancelled. We'll just have to return to the HPPY SOCCER UNION centre another day!
This week marks the halfway point of Jiajia's pregnancy (by my calculation) and it's certainly rushing past. Despite Jiajia still feeling sick each day, yesterday's blood test indicated all is still well with the baby (although every doctor we speak to stresses the "dangers, at your age", as if there was anything we could do about that). As the prospect of having a child gradually sinks in, we're slowly thinking through the practicalities. A baby room is gradually emerging [see photo below] and various friends have offered to donate items they no longer need (...pregnancy clothes, cot, pram, baby clothes, etc).
Little by little, I'm learning more about Chinese pregnancy superstitions. My suggestion of a relaxing bath for the wife was met with disbelief - pregnant women in China do not take baths! Then, as I had to visit the dentist today anyway (another broken tooth), I said it might be worth Ava having a check-up at the same time. Nope, pregnant women in China do not have dental work done. And with the recent sunny weather I wondered if we could get some fresh air with a car trip to the cemetary to visit Ava's Gran's grave. Gasps all round! Did I not know that cemetary visits were a sure way to lose a baby??
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