Two days of junk construction! We have four different routes for the marbles to roll down, all ending in the same collection box. The kids in the neighbourhood loved playing with it once it was finished! This is the sort of thing which happens when you get quarantined for three weeks!!
Some parts of the city are slowly opening up again after the Spring Festival break and the Coronavirus shutdown - a few restaurants are open, supermarket shelves are being stocked again, more cars on the roads, even lines being painted down the middle of streets!?
But the prevailing feeling among the local Chinese here is that the outbreak will get even worse, that it can be spread in almost any way you can imagine, that businesses will go bust, and that we're all going to die....!!
Among the foreign community, it is a lot more measured - Yunnan is one of the least affected Provinces, the mortality rate is similar to flu, infected numbers are stabilising, businesses will bounce back and the worst is largely over. Trouble is, despite that attitude being based on facts, you really can't say it! You get accused of downplaying the emergency, of being cavalier in your actions and of not understanding the severity of it all. And it's all tied up with the differing cultures too, which is always a tricky one here. As I've said a lot recently, "Fear wins over Facts"!
Being largely confined to the house (while Coronavirus apparently rages everywhere outside!) JD had been keeping up 1-2 hours of homework everyday. I usually do some English and Maths with him in the morning, with Jiajia taking over for Chinese in the evening. In between, he's allowed to play! Usually, the homework is using our own workbooks or ideas, but these two were set by his school, to bring in next term (whenever that turns out to be). One was a display on shapes and their properties, while the other was to make up a game involving (fake) money and transactions.
Coronavirus continues to spread through China (and some other parts of the world). Being in Kunming, we are quite far from the worst areas, but we still wear masks outside, have to go hunting for markets selling vegetables, and make do without buses, parks and the subway.
If I'm honest, I think the dangers are being over-exaggerated in our neck of the woods. So far, there have been 70 infected people in our Province of 46,000,000, so the chances of bumping into someone carrying the virus are incredibly small, let alone getting close enough to them to actually catch the infection. But science and facts often take second place to fear and rumors, especially here it seems,
We flew back to China late today. The recent Coronavirus infection is spreading quickly and we had our masks ready as we arrived (as did all the other passengers). Our Province is far from the origin of the outbreak but that hasn't stopped the locals here panicking: supermarkets have been stripped of food, parks are closed, roads are empty and we are getting strident, but largely pointless, texts from JD's school and my University (eg "..if your throat feels dry, drink some water..."!!)
now We've travelled from Hanoi to HaiPhong and now to Tuan Chau Island. The weather is chilly and misty, but the beach (100m away) is empty, sandy and full of shells (if badly littered). JD loves it.
We are here for three days, primarily to see Ha Long Bay- a UNESCO protected site with karst mountains dotted around the coast. We had hoped to take a boat trip there today, but we got a tip that there's a half-price tour tomorrow morning, so we'll aim for that instead. In the meantime, we found a cool (literally) open-topped bus tour which let us see the sights in and around Ha Long city without expensive taxis or car hire.
We spent yesterday wandering around Hanoi's Old Quarter, taking in the traditional French/Vietnam architecture. The highlight was a Water Puppet Show where various characters and animals are operated with underwater poles to perform little acts and dance routines. Very traditional and great fun. ...then noodles to round off the day.
We're off to Vietnam today for a twelve day trip. We fly to Hanoi, then a coach to Haiphong, by taxi to Ha Long Bay and later fly back. I last visited the country in 1997 and it's JD/JiaJia's first time. We've booked a couple of hotels and remain flexible on the last few days. "Du lịch an toàn", as the locals there say!
After a very stressful fortnight of 3-4 hours of homework every evening, JD's exam scores came back yesterday. He did really well, with "A"s in every subject (except a "B" in P.E.). The 96.1% in Chinese was particularly pleasing as JD struggles a bit with Chinese characters, coming from a family who read/speak a lot more English.
I attended the wedding of one of my oldest Kunming friends today. I've known Leah for over 10 years - first as a fellow teacher at Robert's School and later as one of a handful of folk who have tried to teach me Chinese in the past [Kelly, on the right, is another!].
It was a small and nicely informal affair which meant I could catch up with Leah and some other old friends I've not seen in many years.
My term ended yesterday. I print out the students' grades, but then have to copy them freehand onto another a blank sheet before finally handing them in. Someone else then takes the handwritten score sheets and manually inputs them back into a University computer! This crazy process is so inefficient and has such a high potential for typos, it beggars belief! And yet no one (but me) seems willing to question it.
The Final exam for most of my classes was to prepare a 3-person role-play set in a restaurant. There were the usual grades for fluency, vocabulary, pronunciation and content, but also for props and acting. Some did well, some tried to cheat (as ever) and some were largely incomprehensible. But everyone who turned up passed - this is China!
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