We're back at my parents' in Sidcup, Kent for another full and fun week. We visited "Lark in the Park" a community event my parents' church helps to put on. JD got his face painted as Spiderman, and took part in various activities such as painting, pets and puppets. We also visited Hall Place, a Tudor house which was hosting a Lego exhibition.
Then at Cooling Garden Centre, we watched a Bird of Prey show and JD got to handle an owl. And finally my Mum and Dad put on a "belated" Christmas celebration complete with a tree, roast dinner, crackers, carols and presents. How do we fit it all in?
We celebrated Christmas a day earlier than most, since Monday is a normal working day here and JD will be at school. On Saturday, Jiajia attempted her first Christmas dinner and, despite limited ingredients and a tiny oven, we had a fantastic roast chicken with all the trimmings [see above]. That evening, JD made sure to leave out a stocking, biscuits, milk and a carrot for Santa and his crew [below left] before heading to bed. We were amazed he managed to stay awake until 8.00am this morning at which point the present-opening began. JD and I then enjoyed a day of making Lego models [bottom right], as well as various more festive activities. There's nothing like a kid around to make for a great Christmas atmosphere.
JD is getting increasingly excited about the prospect of Christmas, as the pile of presents slowly grows and the advent calendar chocolates get eaten up. We are planning to have Christmas lunch (or our limited version of it) on Saturday and hang up JD's stocking that evening. Then Sunday can be our Christmas Day (JD is at school on Monday) with the present opening and a hotpot with friends in the evening. At least the bitterly cold weather here gives things a Christmassy feel!
We had a quiet-ish Christmas Day yesterday, as is often the way in China. JD brought some excitement to the morning however, totally blown away by Santa's visit overnight and opening all his gifts under the Christmas tree. His main present was a new two-wheeler bicycle which he enjoyed trying out later in the morning. His favourite gift though was a toy electric drill which kept him amused for ages. Ava got the latest iPhone and I got a year's subscription to "The Week" magazine. In the afternoon, I drove JD to a large play centre in the north of Kunming for a few hours of fun and games there. Merry Christmas, readers!
JD's been excited about Christmas (or at least his presents) for some weeks now and, with Christmas Day being a normal school day for him, we decided to let him open some of his presents early over the space of the last week or two. Ava found a boxed set of fake Lego construction vehicles online and so JD has been opening a new toy every few days and then making it and playing with it until the next one. Well, when I say making it, it's actually watching me make it. The models are designed or 6+ year olds and it's been a tough job to complete each one up within JD's hour or so concencentration span, especially when they don't clip together quite so firmly as real Lego. But then at 20% the price of the real stuff, we're not complaining too much! And he's loving the influx of new toys.
I spent an hour decorating our living room yesterday, with ma-in-law hovering in the background complaining that it was all too early and it would mean higher electricity bills (not that she ever pays any bills). I then made it clear to JD and our nanny that, whilst there were various soft decorations around the room which JD could have a little touch of, he was forbidden from touching the tree at all, as it could easily fall over and had electrical lights on it. Less than an hour later, JD walks into the kitchen with a fistful of tree decorations. "He climbed onto a stool to reach them", laughed the nanny. Cue another talk with JD and the nanny about the dangers of grabbing tree decorations AND the danger of climbing onto stools to do it. Never thought I'd end up being the Health and Safety bore!
It's Christmas time at Robert's School. All the classes have been practicing Christmas songs for the last few weeks and performed them for parents over the weekend. Father Christmas has been visiting classes to shower students with sweets and posing for photos in a special school grotto. And then teachers have been doing various Christmas activities with their own classes. Mine have included Wordsearches, Crosswords, Spelling races, Bingo, Colouring competitions, Handicrafts and explaining the Nativity with large self-drawn pictures and a DVD.
As it turned out though, The most popular activity was making paper chains (from pages of old magazines). After ten minutes, the team with the longest chain won and we joined them all together to make a super-long decoration for the classroom. The students loved it and the classrooms looked even more festive by the end.
One of the big perks of my job is my booses' hospitality and my colleagues' cooking prowess, which combines to make an outstandingt Christmas meal each year. Andrew [far left] is an ex-pro chef, with Julian [far right] a keen amateur. Robert [middle] opens up his huge house and well-equipped kitchen, while his wife Rachel buys copious amounts of food, including ordering brussel sprouts online!
So, fifteen of us enjoyed a wonderful Christmas meal this evening. We indulged (rather too heavily in my case) in a huge turkey, brussel sprouts cooked in three different ways, gravy, bread sauce, carrots, beans, pumpkin soup, roast potatoes, stuffing, onions, apple sauce, red cabbage, caramel flan, christmas pudding and cartons/bottles of various beverages! I think it will take me a year to digest, but you don't often get such high quality western food here, so why not make the most of it?
When I lived alone in China, I never used to bother with Christmas decorations. I was, truth be told, fairly happy to be away from the commercialisation, over-expectation and disruption to normal routines! However, with a baby on the scene and a wife who loves to buy stuff, I've had to show a bit more enthusiasm and do my bit! So I have decked out the lounge in rather fun Santas (this year's wifely purchase), a tree with computerised lighting system (JD can stare at this for ages) and a couple of presies. Barred humbugs!
I'm going to buy a new Christmas decoration for our home each year (this year was twinkling lights for the plastic tree) and I make a new Christmas resource for school use, too. This year I drew and coloured in 5 x A3-size pictures and 1 x double-A3, depicting the nativity scene ("not-if-it-is-seen"). I used them in my lessons last weekend and was surprised at how capitivated most of the students were with the story and how little most of them knew about it already. A recurring questions was, "So, where was Santa?".
The photo above right from Bangladesh appears in my Christmas Newsletter this year. But as my UK friend Jo pointed out, it's not the first picture of me on a boat she's received. The one on the left was taken some 15 years ago in China. I don't think I've aged too badly, although the boatman seems to have!
For anyone who didn't get my Christmas Newsletter 2012 e-mailed through to them, do click below to download a copy.
Ava and I joined a dozen others for a fantastic Christmas meal at my boss's house yesterday. One of our foreign teachers is an ex-professional cook and spent 7 hours preparing the meat (a huge turkey and a ham), 6 veg (including my favourites - brussel sprouts - shipped in from Shanghai!) and 2 desserts - all done to a very high standard. Having played badminton in the afternoon (first time in a month - I'm feeling a lot healthier at the moment), I told myself that my overindulgence was almost justified!
Happy Christmas all!
About the author
Past blog entries