We celebrated our Halloween a little late this year due to exams. We invited our American family friends over and played a variety of scary and silly games such as "Get the chocolate out of the flour" game [JD lost - see above], "Crisps on a string" [see below], Pass-the-Parcel, "Treasure Hunt", "Guess the crisp flavour" and a "Feely Box". JD dressed as a fish(?!), while I was Spiderman. Our guests were a witch and a Ninja! All good, but not clean, fun!
It was a very pleasant surprise to get a phone call the other day from "Whiskey", a colleague I last worked with some 13 years ago when I was a VSO volunteer. He was visiting Kunming and suggested we meet up for lunch. Unfortunately the reason for him being here was to have a brain blood vessel checked out, with possible surgery to come. Hopefully he'll be fine - it was lovely to see him again.
P.S. Kunming doctors said no operation needed - misdiagnosis!
JD and I attended a foreign teachers' Mid-Autumn Festival activity the other day to make traditional mooncakes. Other teachers also brought their kids and together we had a sticky, but successful, time with the finished products look pretty professional and tasting jolly good too. My Vietnamese friend Cao [to my right, below] came with her two kids (FeiJi and YoLun) and we realised it was exactly a year since we first met (at last year's cake event).
Our last little trip to London yesterday. While JiaJia checked out the Van Gogh exhibition at the Tate Gallery (crowded), JD and I walked to the Imperial War Museum where JD proceeded to tell me imaginative statistics and backgrounds to all the various planes, tanks and weaponry (to the amusement of passers-by). Who knew a Spitfire was from Canada and could travel at 10,000mph?
We also managed to meet up with my good friend Miki, recently returned from running a hotel in Poland. We all joined up for a picnic by the Thames before Miki went on her way and the rest of us headed back to Sidcup to start packing for China.
We spent a final day at Vix's yesterday, eating home-cooked and restaurant grub, and meeting mutual friends and family members who I hadn't seen in over a decade.
Before we took the three trains home, we explored a local garden, open to the public but rarely visited. We had intended to visit this time last year, but torrential rain changed the plans. This time it was dry and we enjoyed the various flowers and (rather strangely, often Chinese) trees.
Then on Wednesday we had to take him out of school for the afternoon to collect his Chinese ID card and have some preventative dental treatment [see above]. Wednesday night JD was complaining of tummy ache again and so we kept him home on Thursday. By noon he seemed fine so I took him out for some fresh air, meeting up with my old friend Emily and her two-year old, Jonathan [see photo below]. Emily and I reminisced about when we had first met. Little did we know then that, some 16 years later, we would not only still be in touch, but watching our respective children play together! We had intended to visit the newly refurbished Science Museum, but a notice on the door said it was closed - decorations still a week away from being finished.
With "tummy ache tears" again on Friday morning we felt it was wise to take JD to the hospital to get his stomach properly checked out. Blood and stool tests later, the doctor said there was nothing obviously wrong and just gave him some digestion tablets to take. Jiajia and I suspect JD is enjoying his days off school a little too much and perhaps exaggerating his pains a bit. But of course you never know. So extra "Daddy homework" on Friday afternoon and no iPad until he does a full day at school again!
Jiajia. JD and I went to an amazing theme park the other day, along with two other families from JD’s school. The attraction has an "Ocean Park" (large aquarium, plus dolphin, seal and beluga whale shows), a "Snow Park" (huge indoor -8ºC building with slides, aerial walkways, train, skating, skiing, "live snowing", igloos etc), fairground rides and a circus! And all this just a few hours drive outside of Kunming!
JD and I spent a fun afternoon the other day playing in a local forest with a Vietnamese family we know. Their Mum teaches Vietnamese at my University and the two kids only speak that and Chinese. So JD had to switch from the English he was using with our American friends yesterday to Chinese! We brought along a small play tent and digging tools and so the kids tried to build a Great Wall with rocks and mud!
We don't get as many visitors here in Kunming as we'd like, so it was a very real pleasure to welcome Josh and his two friends Maisy and Eve to our city yesterday evening. Josh is the son of an old College friend of mine and is currently studying Chinese in Beijing as part of a degree from Newcastle University. The girls are doing similar studies, but in Hainan, in the South of China.
JD and I met them after JD's school (and term) finished today and we shared am meal of cross-the-bridge noodles. Unfortunately, the girls turned out to be vegetarians, but we managed to find some extra vegetables to add to the mix! We then had a wander around Green Lake Park. Josh looks Chinese enough to be ignored by the locals (his Mum is Chinese heritage) but the girls were quickly dragged in to dancing with the locals! It was lovely to meet them all, albeit too briefly - they take planes and trains to new places within a day or so.
JiaJia has long wanted to visit Scotland so, for just a couple of days, we've taken the train up to Edinburgh staying with an elderly couple I have been in touch with since they were fellow VSO volunteers in the 1990s. John and Anna suggested we visit the well-preserved Dirleton Castle on our first morning and drove us there with their dog Joe. In the afternoon we went to a beach on the Firth of Forth but it all got a bit cold and rainy (as Scotland is prone to) so we headed back to their house for some nice home-cooked dinner.
We really enjoyed our day with the Sams today.
Aled is a qualified tennis coach and gave JD a free lesson at his club in the morning, and then teemed up with him at table-tennis in their garden in the afternoon. JD loved it.
A walk through the woods followed by an ice-cream and a delicious barbecue rounded off a terrific day.
Today we drove with Krista to a nice pub "mid-way" to our new host Cat and our mutual friend Jo and her family. Cat's family are all away at the moment in various parts of the world, enabling her to open her house to us for a few days. From there we will visit our old friends, the Sams family. So far, JD has coped really well despite the ever-changing friends and beds.
We are spending a lovely few days with my friends Krista and Stuart in their picturesque house in Chippenham. They have arranged some great little outings eg JD getting drenched in the water playground and a visit to a set of canal boat locks including a short barge ride.
We're spending a few days at my friend Ratch's. Ratch and I exchange emails once or twice a day while in China, which is more contact then I get from anyone else! It was great to visit her and husband Steve.
JD and I met up with my old friend "Nita" the other day, along with her husband and cute 1½ year old daughter. I first met Nita some 13 years ago and we've stayed in touch ever since. I've known her as a young student, a fresh-faced teacher, a wife and now a mother. They are such a lovely little family and it was so nice to catch up on their news and for JD to meet them again.
JD and I enjoyed a very relaxed and, in many ways, un-Chinese wedding last Saturday. My old friend Lilly Pu married Cedic - a French guy - in a lovely restaurant next to the Green Lake. We arrived at 2pm as instructed and I was pleasantly surprised to find my British work colleague Tom and his Chinese fiancé there too. Neither of us realised we both knew Lilly. It was good to have an extended chat with him as we usually only meet briefly for work maters. Nice guy. JD soon made friends with 2-3 Chinese children and spent the afternoon running around and playing with his toys. Later, there was a short ceremony, some very nice food, and the wedding cake.
A nice shot of JD from our recent trip to the Astronomy Centre, waiting for his turn to look at solar flares. Behind the telescope are Kaiya and Zaden, two American friends of his who we spend a lot of time with.
Zaden (the boy, largely hidden behind the telescope) is exactly a year older than JD. He visited our house today, in fact, to play with JD's Chinese New Year present - a huge military plane complete with soldiers, jeep and a lot of weaponry! JD originally chose a "logging truck" but, after the crane snapped off as we took it out of the box, we had to go back to the shop to complain and he upgraded to a monster plane!
We had fun last weekend, visiting a countryside village with JD's Kindergarten friends. First, we spent a few hours fishing. I only caught a minnow and JD only caught a couple of dead fish floating on the water! But the other parents had better luck and we finished with three large fish which were cooked up for lunch.
After lunch, we went to a small bakery and had a go at making and decorating our own biscuits. JD had watched a film called, "How the Grinch stole Christmas" last week and, when the biscuits came out of the oven, we were shocked to see that one of them looked spookily like the Grinch! See what you think...
Julian had pulled out all the stops for ingredients - half kilo of prime beef, bacon, shallots, mushrooms, cheese, lettuce, fried onions, BBQ sauce and sesame seed sprinkled buns. JD had a blast and, after initially scaring "Bootsy" (their son's nickname) to tears with his over-enthusiastic greeting, slowly started bonding and playing with him. The burger-making and later eating was thoroughly enjoyable too. A lovely visit.
I can often date my Kunming friendships to what I'm called. When I first joined Robert's School a decade ago there was another teacher there called Paul, so I adopted the moniker of "PJ". When the school moved to a new location a couple of years later the earlier Paul was long gone, so I started to be called Paul again. These days I'm called a variety of names; "RouRou" by JD and Ava, "BaoLou" by Ma-in-law, "Mr Paul" by my permanently muddled University students, and so on.
So when I received a text out of the blue referring to me as "PJ" I knew it was a colleague from some years ago getting back in touch. So JD and I shared a nice lunch with "Sophie" [centre] and a few of her students yesterday. She's since married a Danish guy and together they've set up a training school in a town some ten hours drive from Kunming. It's nice to be remembered, even after so many years.
After yesterday morning with JD in the hospital, we were delighted to meet up with Fintan - the son of friends of mine - who is travelling around China for the first time, and alone too! We picked him up for a dumpling lunch at our house, before heading for YuanTong Temple (the hundreds of turtles all seem to have gone) followed by people-watching (and JD boat driving) on Green Lake. It was a lovely, sunny day and great to get to know Fintan better. After a "Cross-the-bridge-noodles" dinner, we parted company, although a goodbye meal later today is planned before he heads off on his onward journey.
Last Sunday was a terrific day spent with four of JD's classmates and their parents. We all met at the Kunming Botanical Gardens which was surprisingly quiet and spacious. Everyone had brought picnic food, which we shared, and one family had a small tent which the kids loved. The weather was warm, with a cool breeze. We had expected to stay a couple of hours but finally left after six! Lovely trip.
[As we left, Ava fell clean through a drainage grill in the road, scraping and bruising her left leg up to the knee. Karma, anyone?]
JD's actual birthday was back at the end of March, but with illnesses, conflicting parties and Ava being away we only managed to arrange his celebration this last weekend. JD dressed up in his smartest clothes, including gelled up hair and we met up with six of his friends, and their parents, at a McDonalds for a "happy meal" lunch. After eating, opening presents, playing games, blowing out the candles on a "Frozen" cake (the film, not the temperature) and singing a bilingual "Happy Birthday" we all headed upstairs where there is a large indoor play centre. The kids spent a happy couple of hours playing there before we all went our separate ways.
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