We took JD to a huge play centre yesterday, meeting up with a couple of his old Kindergarten classmates and their families. The kids had a blast, exploring all the rides and activities for over 3 hours [JD coming down the slide, top left].
My University lessons are back in full swing after an unusually long, but very welcome, two month Summer holiday. This was one of my classes earlier this week doing a "Running Dictation" exercise...
The Chinese Government have been rolling out a series of education reforms over recent months to "reduce the burden" on young students in China. These include banning online tutoring with teachers based abroad, removal of western printed textbooks, regulating after-school and weekend training classes and reducing homework and exams in Primary Schools. However, JD's school seem to be largely ignoring the "less work" parts. Completing his daily homework is taking longer than ever. He didn't finish until after after 10pm on Monday/Tuesday, though Wednesday/Thursday were "only" 8.30pm [see below]. Crazy.
As an end-of-holiday treat, Jiajia and I took JD to an indoor skiing centre about 30 minutes drive away. It's JD's third time skiing. He loves it and has been asking us to go again for ages.
After JD made four descents of the beginner's slope without falling over, I took him up to the Intermediate slope. It's a fair bit faster. He got down without falling over but ended up crashing into the cushioned fence at the bottom! He decided to return to the baby slope after that!
The centre isn't cheap (£20 each) and Jiajia had to pay full price even though she only wanted to watch. So we persuaded her to at least have a try. Let's just say it wasn't her strongest showing!!
Jiajia, JD and I spent today at the Yunnan Safari Park. Forecasts of heavy rain kept the crowds away and, as it turned out, we only needed our umbrellas as we were returning to the car park to leave. The park itself is huge - 10km to the most distant enclosures. Some of the animals are caged, but most are in large open-air enclosures and seem well looked after. You can pay extra for a bus to take you to the different areas, but we opted to burn off some calories and it was fun to explore the walkways and suddenly bump into unexpected creatures, some just arms length away (think giant tortoises, peacocks, zebras, llamas, ostriches etc). We saved a lot of cash by bringing a picnic but blew it all on various kids' rides and entertainment for JD at the end of our visit! Still, it was a nice end to the day, as the heavens opened.
JD's been desperate to return to the reservoir I took him to a few months ago, to try and catch more clams. To that end, he spent some of his pocket money on a snorkel mask last week which he has been keen to try out. Unfortunately, my eye doctors said swimming was forbidden for a month after my operation, let alone in a dirty reservoir, and Jiajia doesn't enjoy swimming.
So instead, we tried out a swimming pool not far from our house which I found on the map recently, and invited JD's friend "Johnny" to come along with his mum, who was happy to look after both of them in the water. JD had a great time, though the mask wasn't quite as water-tight as he'd hoped.
A really mixed day today. Jiajia, JD and I visited the Bamboo Temple with a friend of ours - Du Laoshi - a 40 minute drive up a mountain on the outskirts of Kunming. We had a good look around, including the famous 500 detailed statues of monks in various poses there. Then we joined the monks and worshippers for a vegetarian lunch.
Thankfully, JD only suffered scratches and bruises and was keen to keep on. The rest of us, including the driver, were a lot more shocked, and we decided to head back to the temple and the car. JD said the gods kept him safe because he'd donated a few yuan to them in the temple. I'm wondering whether they arranged the crash because of the meagre cash amount
But after a rest and a thorough check-up we did drive on to the park and JD enjoyed a few hours of fishing (including catching a 20cm long shrimp and nearly catching a yellow garter snake).
After returning to Kunming, we found a car wash for which Jiajia had a free ticket, and enjoyed a large dumping meal while the car was cleaned inside and out. A day of ups, downs, acrosses, insides and outs.
JD entered another competition yesterday. This one was a little more low-key than the Lego extravaganza earlier this week, but still fun. The task was to make a collage featuring the cat logo of the sponsors plus something on the theme of the "UN International Biodiversity Conference" being held in Kunming later this year. This contest was a nationwide one, so we won't know the result for a week or two, but it was a fun event regardless.
JD took part on a huge Lego Competition this morning along with 43 other kids of a similar age. He got first place in the initial round ("Make your name out of Lego"), then made the tallest tower (though not the most stable, so 4th place there) and then came first again in the final solo round ("Make an amazing building"). Overall - an amazing first place! His prize was a Harry Potter Lego set worth 700RMB (£70), a certificate and a handshake with the head of the bank who sponsored the event. JD was gob-smacked, and we were pretty chuffed too!
This week and next sees JD's end of term exams - so even more stress and homework than usual. His after-school class takes on the brunt of the Chinese and Maths exercises with Jiajia and I giving him a little extra, personalised work at weekends.
Recent feedback from JD's teachers are that he is focusing better in class and is much-liked by staff and students alike. We are expecting top marks in English, hoping for a top ten placing in Maths and fearing he'll be bottom ten in Chinese... Fingers crossed!
JD works very hard in Chinese language lessons/homework to keep up with his classmates (especially since less than 50% of his home life is conducted in Chinese). It doesn't help that he's in the top-rated class of his year group (of 10 classes), in the top-rated Primary School in Yunnan Province! But with our current plans to move back to the UK in 3-4 years time, it's also important to keep JD's levels of English up.
So, an hour of each term-time weekend, plus a daily hour during holidays, is devoted to MY English lessons with JD. His reading is up to scratch for his age and his oral English is above expectations. His handwriting is all joined up beautifully too, possibly because of the care he has to take with his Chinese calligraphy. But spelling is an ongoing problem! So we focus on that, whilst trying to keep the lessons interesting and challenging.
JD had a blast last weekend, spending an afternoon/evening with his best friend, "LiuLiu" (translates as "66") and his younger brother. LiuLiu is in JD's school/year but a different class. They became friends at Kindergarten and still meet up at school break times to play together.
While JiaJia chatted to LiuLiu's mum, I watched the kids running around and playing in the forest. Then we had a nice meal together at a nearby restaurant. Fresh air, exercise and tasty food.
JD has his mid-term maths exam today (Sunday!) and spent most of yesterday (Saturday) practising for it. Let's hope he does as well today as he did in his mock exam yesterday when he finished the hour-long exam in 20 minutes, scoring 99%. Fingers crossed.
When Jiajia took JD to his first sushi meal a month ago (I was away) he fell in love with it. He wanted to take his friends to the restaurant for his birthday, but it only seats a dozen people so we vetoed that. However this last weekend he declared that he wanted to treat Jiajia and I to a sushi meal with some of his Birthday money. Very sweet.
So we went there yesterday. JD loved it and Jiajia is happy to eat it, but it was a bit of a trial for me. I don't like seafood and it doesn't like me. I settled for a seaweed soup with minimal fishy bits, but I still woke with a gout attack this morning and I suspect it's no coincidence.
My tongue was bleeding all last week from the number of times I had to bite it - JD's English teacher has been driving me crazy!
First she criticises JD for using joined-up writing. Then she sends home a list of the "mistakes" being made in his letter writing. I see nothing wrong with his G and k. I see lots wrong with her Q, and who puts a tail on a capital U? Not even JD's English textbook shows written letters the way his teacher insists on!
And then today we get "example sentences" to copy which include the following...
I'm told I should keep my mouth shut - it's the Chinese way. But sometimes it's hard to ignore a teacher insisting on mangled language!
JD had his first day back at school yesterday, preceded by some tears for fear of not having finished all of the huge amounts of holiday work his school gave him to complete. As it turned out, he'd done enough and, by the time he got to after-school homework club [see above], he was much happier. Here's to the new term.
We spent a fun day yesterday at "Yunnan Colourful Paradise" - the biggest theme park in Yunnan, an hour's drive away. Joining us were JD's best school friend GuoDingEr and her parents. Together, we went on some rides, watched some shows, saw a big parade and ate some snacks. The day ended with a spectacular water display and firework show. As you can see below, I am not a fan of scary rides and regret being pressured into two of them! Nightmare! JD had a blast, though.
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