Safari, so goodi
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.
I spent yesterday being one of 8 judges at the Provincial Speaking Competition Final (7 Professors and the obligatory foreigner!). With 36 contestants from all over Yunnan, it was a long affair - we started at 7.30am and finally finished for "lunch" at 3.00pm. I was asked to be the Question Master, posing an appropriate follow-up question based on their prepared speech and before their impromptu speech. So no chance to "drift off" either!
Before it all started, we were given a complex briefing on the elements we should be judging on (content appropriateness, fluency, body language, grammar, pronunciation, speech structure, intonation, confidence, etc) but then told that actually it was only necessary to give ONE overall mark, and it had to be 70-95%!? The topic was "The Challenges of 2020" and most talks focused on COVID-19 and how wonderfully the Chinese people have coped with it! The Oral English standards were pretty high though, and nobody "dried up". The three top candidates now go on to National Finals in Beijing.
This was my favourite opening...
Last week in XiShuangBanna (just "down the road") Yunnan, a herd of 14 wild elephants broke into a village looking for corn and food. They stumbled across 30kg of corn whiskey. After drinking the lot, they passed out in a local tea plantation! Glad someone's having fun!
The fast walk and the runs
Yesterday saw a World Record broken in Yunnan (and it wasn't the speed at which I managed to get to the toilet during an upset tummy of a night!). It was actually Chinese tightrope walker Aisikaier Wubulikaisimu walking 18m (58ft) between two hot air balloons suspended over Kunming's Stone Forest in just 38 seconds - the fastest ever such traverse. It may not sound that fast, but it took my parents longer to walk through the main gate of the Stone Forest when they visited there a couple of years ago.
Yunnan v Yorkshire
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!
Two heads are better than one
The photo shows a recent birth in Yunnan Province - a calf with two heads! Better than one, they say. Apparently it can eat with both mouths and seems none the worse for multiple eyes and ears! It does make you wonder what they put in the water, though!
Paul Hider lives and works in Kunming (SW China) and regularly updates this blog about his life there.
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