JD and I explored a street near our home the other day which we hadn't walked down before. We were surprised to find nearly al the parked vehicles had wooden boards chained to their tyres. I've asked a dozen Chinese folk why this is and nobody seems quite sure. Some say it is to protect the tyres from other cars or from people kicking them. The most common answer though is that it stops dogs from weeing on the tyres. Apparently the urine weakens the rubber. Seems a little unlikely to me though. Odd.
There were three young men smoking in the toilets at Walmart, despite the signs forbidding it. I picked on this guy, tapping him on the shoulder and pointing to the sign above his head. He just shrugged and went back to looking at his phone. So, to the amusement of his friends, I held my camera phone right in front of his face and took this photo. Most Chinese apologise and quickly put out their cigarettes when you mention the "No Smoking" signs, but clearly not the younger generation who seem more liable to ignore (or pick a fight with) the interfering foreigner!
When a first ever zoo opened in Yulin, Guangxi Province, last week, residents flocked the see the "rare and exotic animals" advertised.
They were disappointed, to say the least, to just find some chickens, a couple of geese, a tortoise in a glass tank and six inflatable penguins!
Chinese zoos are not known for their animal care or suitable animal environments, but this one went too far and customers who bought tickets are now looking to sue!
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 Goverment 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 snce 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 (peple 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 then two, mind you) took folk by surprise here and is only slowly starting to sink in.
As I said my goodbyes to students at Robert's School I got asked, by some, for a wide variety of information - my e-mail address (happy to pass that on), my mobile number (thankfully I can never remember it), my QQ number (don't have one) and my WeChat name (paulhider, should you care). In a country where Facebook, Instagram, SnapChat, Twitter, YouTube (or almost anything useful) are blocked, the Chinese have their own social media solutions. WeChat (WeiXin in Chinese) is the most popular. It's a micro-blogging mobile app where people add photos, links or text to alert friends to what they are up to. Unfortunately for me (or perhaps fortunately?) it's 95% in Chinese. And it's also increasingly a medium for placing adverts for jewellry, bags, tea, clothes etc. It's often hard to see people's news amongst the sales blurb. My solution is to swipe through anything not In English, which usually means 1-2 readable posts a day. And half of those are mine...
As news in the UK is dominated by an airshow jet crashing, China's news continues to be about another crash - the stock market plummeting in value over recent weeks. With millions of Chinese affected and world markets getting increasingly nervous, it could be the start of a huge correction in China's economy, for so long the marvel of the world. Ava has dabbled a bit in the stock market in the past, seeing huge gains in recent years. But whilst those "paper" gains for us have now largely been wiped out, many others have lost their life savings or bank loans taken out to invest in "sure fire" profit. There's a lot of very angry, worried and much poorer people over here.
I was loitering in a toyshop today and was intrigued to see this set of war figures which included two flags. The American one was obvious, but I wondered who the other one belonged to. Could this be a little insight into the Chinese way of seeing the world? Who do they think America will be fighting next? Off the top of my head it reminded me of the North Korean flag, but later a quick Google revealed it to be Russia. So no big shock there.
One of the things I've been telling each intake of Lattitude trainee teachers for years is that Chinese students are fascinated by English crosswords, words searches and codes because they have no equivalent puzzles in Chinese. So it was mildly embarrassing to have one of them send me a picture of a Chinese crossword she had spotted in a magazine. It seems each box contains a character, so therefore the clues must be to a compound word or short phrase. Interesting.
As JD was born in China, he is considered a Chinese citizen by the Chinese government. Therefore, as China only allows people to have one nationality, JD's British passport is not recognised and he has no valid passport to fly abroad. So we recently had to apply for a temporary Entry/Exit Certificate from the local PSB (People's Security Bureau), which came through last week [see above]. We'll use JD's Birth Certificate for the internal flight to Beijing, switch to his Entry/Exit Certificate to leave and return to China, and then switch to his British passport to enter Britain. That's one troublesome little boy (or country, depending on how you look at it)!
A nearby city in SW China recently introduced special walking lanes for people who want to dawdle along, playing with their mobile phone, while other people who actually want to get somewhere can use the express walking lane. It makes a lot of sense to me, as slow, aimless pedestrians are one of my pet hates. What do you think?
It all seems to be kicking off in HK at the moment. Not that you'd know much about it here - any news of the "events" is strictly controlled (even the BBC website is blocked now). All I'll say about the issue is, "A1, A2 or A3" is no choice if you want "B". And the signs being held up by the police say, "Warning: Please disperse" in English, but "Leave now or you will be shot" in Chinese. It seems to show that international opinion is still important at some level. Let's hope it all gets resolved peacefully and soon.
You can see these signs on many old buildings in China. I took this picture on my recent visit to Heijing. 30-40 years ago, all the households in a town would be graded by the local leaders in ten categories. Those reaching the required standards received a star, proudly displayed on signs like this, outside the house. The very best citizens got all ten stars. It reminds me of the "housepoints" we used to receive as children in Primary School! This house failed on being "hygienic" and "modern".
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