This is a pretty common sight around Kunming. It's not protection from COVID and it's not a religious covering. Its purpose is to stop the woman's face (and it is always a woman) from getting in any way tanned or sunburnt. Pale skin here is highly prized and Kunming's altitude and cloudless winter skies pose a challenge to this aesthetic. Personally, I think that if the focus is to look beautiful, hiding your face in a balaclava is hardly the solution!
I read a BBC article with some good news about China the other day. Although China is still one of the top polluting countries in the world, its efforts to switch to cleaner energy are huge and growing fast.
China already has more large-scale solar energy power plants than all other countries added together. And Chinese Solar/Wind energy is set to more than double in just two years time - faster than anyone predicted. Sure, China is still building coal power stations at some pace, but there does seem to be a genuine desire for a renewable future.
This is what happens when your discover your Green Card has your name as "Hider, Paul John" (space after the comma) but your Social Security card has your name as "Hider,Paul John" (no space after the comma) ...chaos ensues.
The system assumes you are two separate people and the kindly, but bewildered, staff at the Social Security Office, unfamiliar as they are with foreign names, can't work out how to rectify it.
After two hours, the problem was finally solved ...we think!
It's interesting to see the recent G7 Conference focusing as much on the "threat" from China as the Russia/Ukraine war. We've certainly noticed an increase in the confidence of the Chinese Government to throw its weight around, both domestically and internationally, in recent months and years. Time for us to move on, perhaps?
I woke yesterday to text messages informing us that all Primary and Secondary schools are closing again, for at least three days. Yes, COVID is still perceived as a major threat to life in China and, with 100 positive cases in Kunming (pop: 7m) and three deaths in Beijing (4 hours flight away) life here grinds to a halt, once again! Today my University went into lockdown. We will probably have to teach online again next week. Groan!
Meanwhile, we all have to queue for 30-45 minutes every day or two to be tested, and guards check everyone's phone health codes at work, on buses, in parks and shops etc. After three years of this it really has gone beyond tiresome, especially when the rest of the world (using vaccines that actually work!) seems to have moved on.
P.S. As I suspected, all teaching is online again until further notice...
This graphic shows the current world reaction to COVID-19. Blue means "No restrictions", Orange is "Limited restrictions" while Red is "Full restrictions to maintain a zero-COVID policy". China is on its own!
So I started my term doing online lesson, JD's school has been closed this week because of two COVID cases found in a town near Kunming and, as now (with 25 more cases found) we are all required to attend a testing centre every other day. Will it never end?
I was asked by my University to attend a "Thematic Briefing on the Sixth Plenary Session of the Nineteenth CPC Central Committee" yesterday. To be fair, the organisers tried their best to make it accessible and fairly interesting (Powerpoints in English, real-time translations, phone app "games", gifts, etc) but there's only so much fun you can wring out of "XiJingPing Marxism Thought"!?
Posters have been put up all around town over the last month or so, reminding people that the great Communist Party of China is celebrating 100 years (yesterday). Happy Anniversary, CPC! My phone translates the poster content as a heady mix of self-congratulatory and confusing messages. Most Chinese people I know just shrug. Politics and its associated propaganda are not a conversational priority here.
This is a fairly common sight in the Chinese countryside - boards laid alongside the wheel arches of parked cars and vans
It's taken me some time to find out what the reason is. I'm told on good authority it is to stop dogs weeing on the tyres, because of the belief that their urine degrades tyres and causes punctures. I'm not sure dogs really do that, or that their urine has any effect at all but hey, this is China! Facts often have no bearing on local traditions.
I saw this sign in a public toilet the other day. Apart from the confusion between "sweeping" and "mopping", I was bemused as to why they were asking the toilet-users to do the job. And what does the tagline bottom left mean? ..."Patriotic Health Seven Special Actions"?? What's patriotic about mopping a toilet and what are the other Six Actions?
It's that time of year again when hundreds of peasant workers descend on Kunming's trees and paint the bottom of the trunks white. But why?
The simple answer is, nobody really seems to know! Everyone has their own theory - to protect them from bright sunlight. to prevent the bark cracking, it looks beautiful, it stops insects crawling up, it stops cars hitting them, Chinese tradition, etc. Whatever the reason, the Government spends a huge sum each Winter decorating thousands of Kunming trees. Odd, to say the least!
Unusually this year, Chinese National Day and Mid-Autumn Festival fall on the same day, so there is a full week of holiday throughout China. Apart, that is, from my University where we have just have one day off! They blame COVID, and promise we'll get an extra week in the Winter holiday. But I'm suspicious ...all the other Universities and schools in Kunming have got a full week. Mean!
One of the most frustrating things about life in China - perhaps THE most frustrating thing - is the constant blocking of large parts of of the Internet by the powers that be. Useful sites like Google, Facebook, blogs, YouTube and the BBC are only accessible by using special software. And occasionally, even that software is blocked for a few days because of some "meeting in Beijing" or a "sensitive anniversary" or something, I'm back in today after three annoying days with little news, little personal contacts and no blog updates. Catching up now!
Past blog entries