With JD back at school (despite a lingering cough), I've been trying to find time for a bit of exercise. I went for a short run yesterday and have made a couple of visits to my University's 50m-long swimming pool. I've never been a fan of swimming, but with various aching joints, it seems that a less impacting activity might be worth getting into. Plus, exercise which leaves me clean and fresh makes more sense than one which sees me going into class smelly and sweaty. Frustratingly, the swimming pool shuts during the crazy 3½ hour lunch break, which would be an ideal time to use it. So my main options are half an hour before my morning class starts or half an hour after my afternoon class ends. However, 30 minutes of swimming lengths is actually plenty for me, for now. I'm not a strong swimmer and I'm concentrating on trying to improve my (breaststroke) technique as I continue.
JD is back at school this week, after a week of coughing and sniffling nose. I dutifully followed the wife's instructions and gave him various foul-smelling Chinese medical herbs three times a day (much to his disgust). But with no real improvement after a week (surprise, surprise!) I secretly switched to Tixylix cough syrup (which tastes of honey - yum) and he quickly lost the tickle and seemed well enough for school.
On a separate note(book), do you think this is supposed to be DOUGHnuts?
JD is still off school with a cough and cold, but I reckoned he was well enough for a little outing this morning. First, we took a bus to the nearest subway station to have a ride on an underground train or two. JD loved the sliding doors and escalators. We finally got off at the Kunming Railway Museum. I've taken JD there before, about a year ago, but he didn't seem to remember. A year is a long time if you're only 2½ years old!
The Museum is pretty good and seems to have a lot more English now than it did before, some of which seems to have been written by a historian with a major grudge against the West...
They also have various exhibits from the time when the French had a narrow-gauge railway running though Yunnan, and a large warehouse with a collection of real trains - from steam engines to high-speed diesels. Some four years ago, Ava and I had a series of wedding photos taken inside some of these trains and carriages, but now they are all cordoned off with signs telling you not to climb or touch anything!
I was a little suspicious of one steam engine, however, which has a cast steel emblem of the place where it was built - Philadelphia, USA. But tell me, would the Americans really have spelled the name of their own city wrongly??
My birthday yesterday was largely spent teaching at the University. I returned home to open my card (singular!) and "imagine" opening a present. JD threw up twice amidst coughing fits. Ma-in-law turned up with a birthday cake and spent an hour telling us how much it had cost her (I found out later that Ava had paid for it!). Thank goodness for some nice Facebook comments.
JD has been off school so far this week with a cough and cold. He still has plenty of energy, though, so I took him to the Animal Museum this morning. We used to go most weeks before he started school, and we still have an annual pass. As usual on a weekday, we had the place pretty much to ourselves and JD enjoyed running here and there, rediscovering all the things he'd half-forgotten. The photo shows the main dinosaur glaring at JD!
We had a lovely final meet-up with our friends Peter and Judy yesterday before they head back to the UK in a few days. They always come laden with gifts, home-made food, listening ears and good advice. They also keep an eye open for quality Chinglish for me. They spotted these two little gems in lifts recently. Leave custard pies and banana skins outside the elevator, please!
I've just finished the mid-term exams at my University, which was a 2-minute interview with each of my 200 students on the subject of "My greatest challenge". A few were quite conversant, most were mediocre (the same old mistakes, again and again) and a handful were a total waste of time. The week before, I had given them the topic, some useful phrases and vocabulary, and time to practise. Yet many of them replied with "Shenme? What?" when I started by asking them, "What was your greatest challenge?", as if it was some sort of trick question. Some just giggled for two minutes. Others stared blankly as if trying to conjure up words which they really could have (should have) prepared. One told me her greatest challenge was "death". When I questioned it, she changed it to "deaf". On further investigation, it turned out to be "diving"!? Dozens told me that riding a rollercoaster was the greatest challenge they had ever faced - such sheltered lives! Another told me his greatest challenge was .... a word I couldn't understand. When I asked him to repeat it, he just kept saying the same mangled word again and again. I asked him to tell me more about it. Two minutes later, I was none the wiser about what he was talking about. The most bizarre moment was when one student simply handed me a note in English saying, "Sorry teacher, I learned Russian. I can't speak any English at all. My friend wrote this for me." Am I supposed to pass her?
I love this Chinglish, which I spotted recently. Sometimes, I feel like a mud teacher, but is my diatom oozing, I wonder?
This week, Jiajia has been concentrating on decorating the new flat, bought on behalf of her uncle. I call him "Drunkle", as he's rarely sober. He's not technically Jiajia's real uncle - just a family friend whom Ava's grandmother made her promise to look after on her death bed. Not that "grandmother" was technically Ava's grandmother either, but that's another story!
New properties in China are sold as concrete shells, with no floor, no plastered walls and only the most basic of amenities. So Jiajia has been scouring markets and the internet to buy wooden floorboards, tiles, lights, sink, taps, etc. She timed it so that she could buy a lot of things on 11th Nov, which is "Singles Day" in China (11/11, geddit?). As well as remembering those who can't yet take part in "Valentine's Day", it is also famous for big discounts in shops and on internet websites. So Ava was up until 3am getting bargains for the flat from, as the floorboard shop puts it, "...the wood of departure Philosophical world". Quite.
Yesterday, Ava and I visited the small flat she bought some time ago for her uncle. As a pensioner, the uncle is entitled to a special government discounted rate but, as he has no savings, Ava bought it on his behalf. However, he has since decided he'd rather stay at his existing flat (which Ava also bought for him many years ago) so we now own a small flat which we can rent, once decorated. As you can see from the photo, houses in China are bought as shells, and it is up to the purchaser to arrange plastering, decoration and furniture/fittings. Our friend "Dancing Man" [bald, at back of photo] is going to oversee the decorating company [led by man with cap at front of photo] and within 3-4 months, we should have a finished apartment. Then again, this is China - all sorts of things can go wrong. Ava and Dancing Man are currently in a Government building getting "permission" to decorate. Only in China!
Nobody was quite expecting the announcement last week that the Chinese Government are now OK with couples having two children, instead of the "only one" policy that has been in place since the 70s. Admittedly, the one child policy has been loosened over recent years with increasing numbers of exceptions (minority groups, disabled first child, both parents with no siblings, then one parent with no siblings etc), but with an increasingly top-heavy population (who will pay the taxes to fund the pensions?) and a worrying gender mismatch (people preferring boys to girls) something had to give. And, without warning, it did. A sudden announcement that all couples were now allowed to have two children (no more than two, mind you) took folk by surprise here and is only slowly starting to sink in.
I've had a streaming nose and cough for three weeks now while Jiajia has had a worsening sore throat, cough and swollen glands. So a reluctant "romantic" trip for us today as we visited our local hospital together.
We saw the best and worst of Chinese medicine. The first (randomly assigned) doctor suggested we both should have a blood test and x-ray, but said she was pretty certain my problem was asthma(?) Having never suffered from it before, it seemed a strange diagnosis to me. We took the tests and while we waited for the results, availed ourselves of the staff buffet, courtesy of our hospital doctor friend, "Dancing Lady". Jiajia's blood test indicated she had a lymph node infection, whilst my blood was OK. Then we went for the x-ray results, only to be shown a large machine. We waved our receipts before it, and out popped our x-ray photos and a printed diagnosis - magic! Jiajia's was clear, but mine showed a lung infection (not asthma!). "Dancing Lady" took us to a lung specialist and he confirmed that we both needed to go onto anti-biotics, though different ones. Seems we're getting old!
I only have one lesson each weekend at Robert's School these days, so I didn't put too much effort into my costume. I wasn't alone either, with quite a lacklustre fancy dress turnout by students and staff alike.
None of my students came in costume, so we did an activity where they designed and made a small clothing accessory on card and then we photographed it, "photoshop-style", to make it look full size. Worked quite well, as you can see below.
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