This was a mosaic coaster made by JD.
JD was awarded a special Certificate at school this week. He had been asked by his teacher to enter a National Art competition about a month ago (celebrating the COP-15 Conference held in Kunming last year) and we were all pretty stunned to hear he came top in Yunnan Province and second out of all China!
Admittedly there was a bit of parental help in thinking up the idea and drawing some of the creatures, but that's pretty normal in China, and JD coloured in most of it. So we were all chuffed and JD's Primary School teacher apparently gained a lot of kudos.
JD finishes a three day course of IV drips today. After a fever earlier this week, we took him to hospital for a blood test. That indicated a very elevated white cell count, and the doctor strongly advised an intravenous antibiotic drip. JD has been in fairly good spirits since then, mostly at the thought of three days off school. We are hoping he will be OK to return to his class tomorrow as he has important end-of-term exams next week.
JD [bottom left in photo] and his classmates had a series of presentations about planets and space travel this week.
I thought JD would love this as he's very much into tech and spaceships. But he said it was largely about how American rockets are rubbish and the Chinese ones are the best. Must everything be political in schools here?
JiaJia and I challenged JD to an Art Competition last week (to get him off the iPad for an hour or two!). We decided to all draw the same thing (JD chose one of his aeroplane toys) with the best sketch winning a prize [L to R below: Jiajia's, JD's, mine]. Who won, do you think?
JD's schoolteacher is fully aware that Jiajia has a Masters in Art and JD's English is fluent, so she often sends us details of Art/English Competitions for us to enter "for the glory of the school". The painting below was a JJ/JD joint effort for Teacher's Day!
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.
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