The European Championships have started and England played their first match yesterday (a 1v0 win against Croatia). Watching it live from China is a real pain. This match started at 9pm but future matches will be a 3am start. This match was on BBC and I watched it on iPlayer (using a VPN), though it hung every 5 minutes or so. The next matches are on ITV which will be even more difficult. Chinese TV shows all the matches, but with Chinese commentary plus you have to pay for a full year subscription. The internet promises free streaming sites but none seems reliable. It's so frustrating and it's times like this that I wish I were living back in England!
Andy's second surprise was a belated gift for my 50th Birthday - tickets to a Premiership match; Southampton v Liverpool. So Andy, his son Louie (birthday treat for next week) and I braved torrential rain and bitter cold to take our seats and cheer on the Saints. Well, as an Everton supporter, I didn't want Liverpool to win, right? It was a good match with controversial penalty decisions and a stunning first goal. Sadly the best team lost; 2 v 0 to Liverpool. Great fun though.
I haven't ice-skated since I was a youth, so it was fun to head to a small rink in an industrial estate today to give it another go. Esme and Josh were embarrassingly confident. I looked carefree when pushing JD around on a little sledge - less so without the support. JD loved it though. Sometimes he looked a bit nervy, but whenever I paused to catch my breath he was shouting, "...again, again!".
So the World Cup is finally over. I've only really watched England's matches (until they made their early exit) but I've been following the results of the other teams as each of my classes at school had a sweepstake to give the students someone to cheer for (China didn't qualify). But tonight was the final, so I decided to rouse myself at 3am to watch Germany v Argentina. We had a noisy rainstorm about half way through the match which woke Jiajia and JD, so we all watched the second half (and extra time) together. Jiajia provided the best entertainment ("Why can't they just make the goals bigger?", "Why does the red guy keep stopping the game?" and, after the last-gasp goal, "Which team is white again?"), while JD thought he was watching Wimbledon [see photo]. Overall a good match, though, deservedly won by them Germans again.
Dave, Esme and I have been in Hong Kong for a couple of days now, and they will head back to the the UK very soon.
One surprise was a neat collection of twice-lifesize famous football players from various World Cup teams (and one from Sweden, who didn't even qualify!). If only the real Rooney had put in this much effort into England's games, right? I watched the first two England games, despite them being at unearthly hours of the morning here in China. I couldn't be bothered with the third. At least the national team had the courtesy of not raising our hopes at all this time. Lost, lost, and out we went. Nice!
Our final evening here has been spent up Victoria Peak. The last time I was here was some 15 years ago, when there was just a viewing area and cafe. Now there are a dozen restaurants and a dozen more retail outlets! But it's still free to go and see the city from surely the best viewpoint ever. We went late afternoon and, after a furtive MacDonalds, saw it once again as the lights twinkled on. Magical.
Our school has decked itself out with World Cup flags and various footie activities for the students to take part in (including a sweepstake for the teachers - I picked the USA!?). A table football has been set up in the reception and each classroom has been allocated a country to cheer for. Despite the China team never qualiying for tournaments like this, it's surprising just how much of a buzz there is here, with bleary-eyed students rolling in late saying how they'd been up all night "watching Iran play Nigeria", or whatever. Yesterday I managed to rouse myself at 6am to see England lose to Italy. The next England match starts at 3am which will be even tougher to get up for!
Meanwhile, at Kunming Zoo, a baby lion was asked to predict the winning team for the tournament, eventually plumping for Germany. Not a bad choice all told, and it remains to be seen just how accurate his prediction is...
We had our school's termly 5-a-side indoor football match yesterday. We always think we can try to organise it, say, monthly but getting 10 chaps together (in a school 80% women) usually proves too difficult. Plus, most matches end with 1 or 2 players injured (the first time I played in one of these games I broke my toe!). Yesterday's foray resulted in a rather nasty bruise and swelling on my foot, but hopefully not a break this time. I do enjoy the kickabouts, but I fear I'm getting a bit old to cope. I've already had to give up weekly badminton and weight training because of an ongoing tennis elbow problem. Maybe footie is next? Running seems the least dangerous exercise...
We finally managed to get enough Robert's School bodies together for a game of indoor 5-a-side football this week. I'd played with them all before except Eugene [yellow shirt in photo] who is a foreigner studying Chinese at our school. Nice guy. When I asked him before the game whether he had played much before, he said "Yes, a little". Well after a few touches, it was clear he was no beginner. He later confessed to having played in "a few internationals"(!) albeit for Bhutan, a country of less than a million people. Mind you, an early "accidental" knee in the thigh slowed him down a bit...
Ava went off to the markets by herself today, while I cleaned the flat, then bought and cooked a pasta evening meal. I also went for a great run - nearly 2 hours long (a bit of walking on the uphill sections, to be fair) around a nearby reservoir. The city itself is to the left of the dam [in photo above].
Sometimes - not often - Chinglish rises above silliness or groan-worthy spelling mistakes and takes on an almost poetic feel. Check this out:
It's not often the world's sporting eyes are on Kunming, but today sees a World Championship fight in our fair city. As aficionados reading this will already know, Yunnan-born boxer Xiong Chaozhong will be fighting Mexican, Javier "The Demon" Martinez for the vacant WBC straw-weight world title. "Straw- weight" implies I could lift him up with one hand, though I don't think I'll be trying that, as he has something of a mean left-hook! The venue is actually the gym where I play badminton every week. Sadly tickets are too pricey for me, and I'll be teaching at that time anyway. But best of luck to Chaozhong as he attempts to become China's first world champion boxer. The result will be added below once known.
With the recent arrival of two British guys to our foreign teachers' team at work, we now have a mini-league on the whiteboard, since between us we support Liverpool, West Brom, Arsenal, and Everton. And the timing of this has been excellent for me, as Everton are standing proudly in second place in the Premiership at the moment, with the other three teams in their wake. Quite an achievement for my lowly team.
Not only did China overall do pretty well in the Olympic medal count, but athletes from my province of Yunnan managed to get a handful of medals including a gold (ChenDing, left in the 20k walk), bronze and team gold (Sun YuJie, in fencing) and team gold (Guo Weiyang in the men's gymnastics).
Not quite as good as the UK county of Yorkshire, mind you, which would have come 12th in the medal table all by itself had it competed as a country, with 12 medals including 7 golds!
The unusually high amount of sports and exercise I've been getting involved in over the last few months leaves me permanently achey but buzzing! Whether it's 5-a-side football (once, so far), badminton (at least once a week), running (6-8km, 2-3 times a week) or weights (1-2 times a week) I haven't felt this fit, or weighed so little, in many years. Euro footie, Wimbledon and the Olympics help with the spirit - even Dorta has been doing her bit. I can't honestly say I'm 100% well these days but, with my various meds, I've been well enough to work up a sweat, which helps with the stresses of doing double lessons during July.
Fresh from the awful match that saw England exit the European Championship, we held our very own school tournament. Four foreigners [L to R: Jan, me, Robert, Andrew] took on five Chinese teachers in a manic five-a-side football, until we could barely move. Our school had a similar match four years ago, which led to me breaking my foot! And at a later school volleyball match, my boss's wife broke her hip! So we were lucky to leave today with just aching limbs and various bruises. The foreigners were winning 9 v 1 when we decided it might be time to mix up the teams a little. After 1½ hours we hobbled off to share a nice banquet. Now if only I had a shower at home!
I roused myself at 3am this morning to watch England v Sweden on our brand new flat screen TV (a late gift for Ava's birthday plus shared early wedding anniversary present). As time ticked down (seen on our new wall clock) England were a goal down and I feared the worst. But a late brace of goals gave us a 3 v 2 win and ensured I'll be having at least one more stressful early morning next week.
With my favourite and lowly football team, Everton, managing to get to the semis of the FA Cup, I just had to find a way to watch it live. My boss Robert is a Liverpool supporter - our opposition - so we both headed to the new (and only) pub in Kunming, "O'Reilly's", which boasts an internet feed showing most sports events live. And so, bedecked in my Everton top and surrounded by very vocal Liverpool supporters, I managed to watch my team score the first goal "live". Very exciting until Liverpool then scored twice and knocked us out! Sadly drinks were on me.
Yesterday marked ten years since David Moyes took over as manager of my favourite football team, Everton. I started supporting them in the heyday of Liverpool's successes (when I was about 12) as they hail from the same city but were considerably less popular. I've followed them ever since, through thick and thin. Over the years they have developed a wonderful habit of beating the top teams and losing to the poor ones. But, as you can see below, under Moyes' superb leadership we have been doing pretty well over the last few seasons, especially when you consider my team survives on a tenth of the budget of the big 4-5 Premiership teams.
So here's to ten more rollercoaster years Moyesy, my son, and let's finally get some silverware (...we get to the semis of the FA Cup if we win this weekend).
After a mediocre season, it was exciting to see my favourite team Everton beat Chelsea in the FA Cup yesterday evening (my time). I say "see", but it consisted of watching text updates every minute online! Still, we came from behind with a last second goal to equalise, and then came from behind in the penalty shoot-out too, to win. Still quite exciting!
Most popular sports in China? Forget ping pong or kung fu... try basketball and football. With a couple of extremely tall players in America's NBA league, China can claim to have make their mark in international basketball. But their national football team is a bit of a joke and deservedly ranked 84th in the world. And yet they somehow managed to beat France in a pre-World Cup friendly yesterday. Love it! Poor France - how embarrassing!
I had invited myself to Rob and Rachel's house (my bosses) this evening to watch Everton (my team - the Blues) play Liverpool (Rob's team - the Reds) live on his satellite-connected TV. It was the usual tough and frenetic derby match, spiced up by an early red card for one of the Liverpool players, and a late one for an Everton player.
My celebrations at the first sending-off [see photo] were short-lived however, as Liverpool quickly scored a scrappy, but winning, goal. Still, as Ava said later, "You lost the match, but you kept your job!".
I had been to a (dull) wedding before arriving for the big event. Rob and Rachel had been to a Foreign Expert's banquet earlier in the evening where, quite amusingly the "Robert Norfolk" namecard had been written as "Bobert Nofork"! Gotta love that!
I found this stretch limo blocking the gate to my flat the other day. All decked out for a wedding, as you can see. I've been invited to a wedding myself this weekend. Never much fun, but I said I'd go as it's an old friend. More exciting is the prospect of watching Liverpool v Everton live on satellite afterwards at Rob's (my boss) flat. He's a Liverpool fan, I'm an Everton fan - I may lose my job, but.... come on you Blues!
About 3 months ago I bought a ticket online to see my favourite NBA basketball team - Utah Jazz - play the (rather more popular) Chicago Bulls in the "02 Arena", formerly known as the "Millennium Dome" in London. Last night was the night. It's a remarkable venue [see photo], especially lit up at night. My seat was way up high, but afforded a good view of the court, the game and the "pre-game" and "time-out" performances (mascots, cheerleaders, trampoline dunk teams, Chinese juggler). I did seem to be the only person cheering for Utah though. I've supported them since visiting their home stadium in Salt Lake City 20+ years ago.
Unfortunately, despite a close game, I felt increasingly unwell during the first half. Maybe it was the height of the seating, the ear-bursting noise, the flashing lights? Certainly it had something to do with the viral infection I'm still battling with. Anyhow, I very regrettably left after watching the half-time display and made my way back to my parents' house and straight to bed. I found out this morning that the game was decided with a last second score which, although my team lost, would have been fantastic to see live. I just hope I'm going to feel better when I go to watch Everton play in a few weeks.
Past blog entries