50, 125, 200, 400, 586, 642!
Back in March 2010 an excited blog entry registered surprise at receiving 50 viewers in one day. By January 2011, that had risen to 125. Later that year, it passed the 200 mark and in early 2012 was approaching 400. September 2013 saw a record 586 unique visitors in a day and this month that peak was once again surpassed with an astonishing 642. Many thanks to you all for following my news and coping with the awful puns and Chinglish.
Jiajia (plus the nanny and our good friend Catherine) took JD to the "Bird and Flower Market" the other day. Who needs to pay for a "petting zoo" experience when you can wander from shop to shop with a cute little "foreign-looking" boy. The shopkeepers were only too pleased to let JD play with their animals and he loved every moment (except when a piglet suddenly jumped up and squealed at him!). We are now dressing him up as a turtle to encourage him to crawl...
The nanny and I took JD for a walk yesterday, heading for a temple I'd seen some time ago on the hill behind my house. It's probably less than a kilometre away as the crow flies, but getting there requires a good half hour walk along the road around the hill. Ma-in-law had told me not to bother going, as it was closed today but, as we approached, we smelled incense billowing over the walls and heard the sound of a Buddhist band singing, chanting and crashing cymbals. Then I saw an embarassed nanny:
"We can't let JD go in", she said.
"Why not?" I replied.
"Because your mother-in-law thinks it's bad luck".
"But it's not bad luck. In Chinese tradition, it's good luck. And she's not here anyway. Let's go".
"Yes, I know, but she said I was to stop you."
"I'm not sure, but please leave JD outside or I'll get into trouble"
"But she won't even know"
"...she'll know. She'll find out ...please!!"
So as usual I swallowed my pride and let Ma have her way (even though she wasn't even there!) and had a look-see by myself. It was a small, but reassuringly unrestored and unprettified, temple with a group of surprisingly active and friendly participants. I intend to go back there again properly sometime soon (despite Ma's best efforts to thwart my curiousity) and investigate it in a less rushed way.
Can you see the hidden word in my photos from another temple below:
Do it yourshelf, again
Pleased with the shelving we'd had installed above my office desk some months ago, we decided to add more above Ava's table. The workmen cancelled their visit a few days ago, but turned up just an hour late this morning and fixed the shelves within 20 minutes. The photo [right] is a mixed "before" and "after" shot. We now have so much storage space we don't know what to fill it with!
JD has been sitting unaided for a while now and waves at people, teddy bears and, somewhat bizarrely, lightbulbs...!?
After three weeks of processing a visa for JD's British passport, we felt we were getting close ...until yesterday, when the Public Security Bureau (PSB) asked us to bring JD in for an "interview"! We pointed out he is only 7 months old but they insisted it was necessary for all new visa applicants!? Then, on arrival, we were told quite bluntly that he wouldn't be getting a visa at all. Bit of a shock. Had he failed the "interview"? Eventually, I was taken to a private office where one of the leaders of the PSB, who spoke excellent English, explained that by law any child born in China with one or more Chinese parents is considered to have Chinese nationality. And the Chinese don't allow dual citizenship. Therefore his British passport is not recognised and so they can't give him a visa. The only way to get JD's British passport recognised is to renounce his Chinese citizenship - a lengthy process best done as and when the family decide to move abroad to live. In the meantime, the PSB provide a special Entry/Exit paper on request to allow JD to leave China for up to 3 months. Why this wasn't made clear three weeks ago and why JD was "required" to travel across the city for an interview that was never going to happen, is anyone's guess. This is China!
I'm quite good at keeping presents unopened until the actual day itself, be it birthday, Christmas etc. But not Jiajia; for her, presents get opened on receipt, even when they are not actually hers (she claims it's because she never received any as a child).
So it wasn't a huge surprise to find all my presents unwrapped within hours of her returning from her recent stock-purchasing trip to Shenzhen. Two days early. And MY presents! Still, I managed to hide some cards, and open them (and various e-messages) on the right day. Next year will be the "BIG 5-0", of course, but in the meantime I'll enjoy being a "square number" (7x7) for the first time in a decade, and for the last time before retirement!
It was kind of my parents to send Jiajia and I a Wedding Anniversary card, received yesterday. A bit bewildering though, as we were married at the end of July, 2011. But my parents are not to blame - the postmark clearly shows it was stamped on 2nd July. So it took 4½ months to arrive here! No idea why, as the address was in Chinese as well as English and I usually get post through in about 3 weeks. Still, better late than never I guess!
(Sorry, these pun titles are getting increasingly obscure!)
After 8 months of daily elbow pain, an injection of ozone(!?) and seven weeks of physiotherapy I went to hospital again last week, courtesy of "DL", a nurse friend of Jiajia's who arranged a "jump the queue and pay no money" visit to the top joint doctor there. He had a poke around and agreed it was "tennis elbow", but was concerned it had not improved over the months. He suggested the best way forward was a steroid injection to stop the pain, and a further 3 months of rest to solve the underlying injury. It's now a week later and the elbow pain has indeed gone. Quite a relief. Websites on the treatment suggest that such injections are only a temporary measure however, and I can expect the pain to reoccur in 4-6 weeks. Rest is the only long-term cure (barring an operation), so I need to remember to take it easy for some time yet. It's certainly good to be pain-free at last, though.
See girls and seagulls
Nanny and I took JD to Green Lake Park yesterday afternoon as the weather was warm and breezy. The park is in the centre of town and an easy bus trip from our flat. It's particularly popular at this time of year as it hosts hundreds of seagulls who fly here annually from Siberia. People visit from all around Yunnan to feed them. JD watched them attentively for 2-3 minutes before deciding it was, afterall, quite a scary thing and threatening to cry! So we walked on to other areas of the park, which was buzzing with life due the fine weather. It really is a top-class place for people-watching and interacting. Let me share a few moments of our time here...
Large areas of Green Lake Park are occupied by singing, dancing and instrumental groups. Some are clearly well-rehearsed and enjoy having an audience [see JD enjoying one, below]. Others are more amateur, inclusive and spontaneous. One of the largest consisted of a tape-player hanging from a tree playing a simple ethnic minority tune, surrounded by 50-60 people in a circle, doing simple dance steps to the rhythm. As gaps appeared in the circle, passers-by would join for a few minutes before moving on. Even JD had a try. It's clearly popular as a social and exercising activity, yet not one of the dancers showed even the slightest smile. Odd.
So, ethnic music, traditional Chinese music, musicians practising alone, disco music, warbling soloists, 10 piece bands, buskers - all doing their thing within eyesight and earshot of each other. Like a free musical smorgasbord. Very strange, yet immensely uplifting.
At one point, a young monk ran up and gently touched JD on the forehead, handing over a small plastic amulet. "For luck", he intoned. "For free?" I asked. "For good luck...", he smiled. "And no money?" I pressed. "For your son. For good luck". "Hmm, no thanks", I decided. "Then BAD luck!", he snarled and stomped off. I saw him later with three other "monks" sitting under a tree, having a smoke and counting the proceeds from more naive day-trippers.
Most of the folk in the park seemed to be senior citizens or mothers/grandmothers with babies. (I find myself close to being in both camps!) Half a dozen Chinese ladies with babies held their nerve to make a connection with the "foreigner baby" and exchange coos and boos. The baby in the picture above is just 3 weeks older than JD, complete with 4 teeth. You can sorta see why the Chinese doctors say that JD is not growing fast enough (and no teeth yet, either). But on the positive side, JD always seems to have so much more energy and social skills than the similarly-aged babies he meets; bouncing up and down, waving, smiling, maintaining eye contact. Other kids seem almost zombie-like in comparison.
Later, four students sidled up to us and, in broken English, asked me a few "standard" questions before rather sheepishly asking if they could take a photo with me and JD. No problem. And moments later, one of my own students from Robert's School and his English-speaking mum spotted us and came running over to see the baby. No wonder JD fell asleep towards the end of our visit. And so, bus home, bottle of milk and straight to bed (...for me, while the Nanny looked after JD!).
Flashback: This day in ...2008
Another in my occasional series of “Flashbacks” looking back at blog entries made before this Weebly version started.
Last night I slept in a hotel I’ve never slept in before, with the curtains closed and no noise outside. Just before I went to sleep I changed my alarm clock from 7.00am to 6.50am to give me a few extra minutes to check out and catch my early bus. I slept soundly but, at some point in the dark and quiet, I woke up and reached for my clock to see what time it was. The exact second I touched the clock, the alarm went off. It was precisely 6.50am! Now explain that to me!? My alarm clock is digital, so no clicks or tick-tocking to mark the time and, back at home, I never awake before my alarm. But here, it seems my internal body clock was not just aware of the approximate time to get up but knew, to the exact second, when 6.50am would be!? If the event were more “significant”, one could easily attribute supernatural forces to what is essentially either an amazing feat of the body, or a total coincidence. Strange.
Free chairs for JD!
JD's finally ready to eat with us at the table and, courtesy of a high-tech high-chair, which my parents in the UK kindly funded as a Christmas present, he's now eating his milk and mush at the same level as the rest of the family. Eating is still his main problem area, however. He is all smiles and curiousity and gurgles, until he sees that dreaded milk bottle or bowl of mashed-up food. Then it's cries, squirms and a huge fuss.
Despite how comfortable the high chair is, JD seems to prefer the box it was delivered in! Surrounded by toys and able to sit up and lean on the sides, he can play there for ages, watching people come and go around him. He also got a lovely reading book in the post from UK friends yesterday, but it was the plastic wrapping around it that really took his fancy! What can you do?
I've had a nasty cold and cough for the last few days, leaving me very tired and headachey. The cough mixture I was recommended made me laugh, though. The instructions for its use start off very sensible but then descend into a Chinglish frenzy!
Health is going to be a sensitive issue with JD, I fear. Chinese tradition is to either take very strong medicine at the earliest sign of an illness (antibiotics for a tickly cough, IV drips for a headache, etc) or take traditional Chinese medicine which is usually supposed to work at the same time as you'd expect to be recovering anyway ("...with this herbal infusion your cold will start to feel better in just 3-4 days").
There are no "Health Clinics" here, either, so a trip to the doctor means a trip to the hospital, with all the parking, queuing, mixing with ill folk which that entails. JD was dragged off to the hospital yesterday by my nervy wife after a couple of loose stools, despite my "Baby Medical Guide" saying, quite clearly, that simple diarrhoea for a couple of days was nothing at all to worry about. This is a real cultural minefield in which Jiajia and I will have to tread carefully in future.
Can't container self
Barely a day goes by when you don't read about some bizarre thing happening in China. Jiajia and I have a standing joke that I'll read out a short and bizarre news anecdote from my UK newspaper and ask her which country it emanates from. Always China of course. Latest bonkers news story was a Chinese driver whose car was squashed flat by a shipping container which slipped off a passing truck. And amazingly, she survived! Only in China.
These things dragon
Halloween is done and dusted for another year. The students thoroughly enjoy it - the teachers uniformly hate it. It's always chaotic and frustrating, but this year more than most perhaps. The organisation is always last-minute, and was particularly complex and unworkable this time. Fortunately the kids were happy enough running around the school in semi-darkness enjoying the very well decorated corridors and "Ghost Room".
My home-made dinosaur head [above] was well-received, although my classes asked me if it was, "a Chinese dragon", "a horse" or "a turtle"! I did come close to losing my temper a few times when one-too-many over-excited children decided the right thing for a dinosaur was a good beating around the head with the swords, sickles and clubs they'd brought with them. Traversing stairs with a view through a tiny mouth hole, head wedged in a box, wearing glasses, being hit from behind without warning - it hurts, I tell you! Other teachers did their bit too - Chloe [right] was particularly scary and we also had witches, pasty-faced ghouls and vampires aplenty.
It was, as you'd imagine, a really tiring weekend. Give me a grammar class anyday. I've developed a nasty cough and cold as a result, but at least I have a few days to recover now.
Wood you believe it?
Seen this before? Try to spot a human face hidden in the woods.
Once you see it, you'll never NOT be able to see it!
Click "Read more" below if you give up!
Paul Hider lives and works in Kunming (SW China) and regularly updates this blog about his life there.
Past blog entries