We thought JD's 85% in the Chinese end of term exam was fairly good until we were told he ranked bottom of the class! We were really upset after all the many hours of homework and preparation we had put him through during the COVID-19 months and afterwards. However, other results came back today including 98% in Maths, putting him in the top ten in his class, and an "Outstanding Student" certificate for English!? Art, Science and Politics were all A's. Just as important was a short written report from his class teacher saying how responsible, outgoing and well-loved JD is within the school. So a better end to the academic year than we feared at first!
These signs have been popping up all over Kunming recently exhorting people to "Follow the Communist Party forever". I wonder what exactly the local people think when they see something like this - it's not wise to ask. Maybe they view it as laughable propaganda, or maybe it engenders some sense of patriotism or belonging. I don't know. But I can imagine how the British public would react if something similar happened the London's streets!
A friend recently sent me some photos taken 25 years ago when I first lived in China. At that time I was a single, somewhat slimmer VSO volunteer working in Duyun, Guizhou Province. How time flies!
JD and I have been gradually extending our den in the Secret Forest. We started it about four years ago with a little stick house, big enough for JD and a friend to sit in. Later we added gateways to either side.
Last year, alongside the regular repairs and small improvements, we started to construct a fence around the area in front of the den's door. Then, this Summer I've begun to put up a roof to cover the fenced enclosure while JD has started to make a little garden in one corner.
The forest is only open in the Summer once the rainy season starts, because of the perceived fire risk. So we have to get cracking once we're let in!
JD starts his "end of year" exams this week. English first (should be fine) and then Maths (like the puzzle above, which he managed to do in 20 seconds but which took me 2 minutes to work out!) and finally Chinese (which will be the toughest for him). JD's teacher is very competitive and likes her class to get the best results of all the ten classes in his year group. So the homework is mounting up!
My academic year ended yesterday with a week of exams - essays and presentations, depending on the class subject. It's been a strange term, starting with online activities and moving to face-to-face classes about a month ago. Hopefully things will return to some form of normality when the next term starts again in September.
Last weekend Jiajia, JD and I went with three of JD's classmates and their parents to a Bai minority village in the countryside. We picked peaches (and pumpkins) and shared a large ethnic banquet.
The drive back home saw some spectacular dusk skies and a curiously vertical rainbow. A fun trip out, despite some intermittent showers.
A dozen workers have been gradually transforming our neighbourhood over the last 2-3 weeks with no warning or explanation.
They started by removing a few trees and sawing off other overhanging branches. Then they went around all the flower beds ripping out 90% of the foliage there. Some of it was admittedly looking ugly and overgrown, but other areas had perfectly healthy and flowering plants (some of which Jiajia quickly rescued before they were disposed of). They have now dug trenches in the earth to lay cables (for something ...we're not sure if it is water or electrics or...?). And yesterday they were ripping up all the growth above the garages which our flat looks down upon. We are hoping they will plant something nice there in time. So, alongside the repair of drains, clearing years of accumulated rubbish behind our flats and painting all the buildings, these seem to be positive improvements to our neighbourhood. Fingers crossed.
This weekend Jiajia and I booked JD in for 30 basketball lessons at a nearby club. He seems to enjoy learning the new skills and the 2-hour sessions hopefully burn off some of his excess chubbiness! He fell asleep on the sofa after yesterday's session, so it must have left him pretty exhausted!
Basketball is easily China's most common participation sport - a lot more popular than table tennis or football.
I got this huge Lego build as a Father's Day present last week. It's made by the Chinese company who used to make the pieces for the Lego company , but now do their own "same-quality" models at 10% of the official price! It was 1500 pieces and took me over 3 hours to complete. Loved it though. Very detailed and full of cool functions.
Yesterday Mr Sun, his wife and son (who JD knows from school) invited us to go climb a nearby mountain and see a partial solar eclipse.As we climbed,the sky was covered by dark rainclouds but, as the eclipse time neared, the skies suddenly cleared and we were able to see the sun being "eaten" by the moon very clearly.
We continued exploring the mountain before returning to our cars and sharing a nice restaurant meal together. The last eclipse I saw was when I was in Primary School, so this will be a very special memory.
Another in my occasional series of "Flashbacks" looking back at blog entries made before this Weebly version started.
Banquets sound great, right? Free, quality food, good company, no washing up, etc. Well maybe, but this term I’ve been averaging a banquet a day (including weekends) as a result of all the school visits I make, and they can sometimes be a real pain. The conversations can be all in Chinese for long periods, the food is often too spicy/bitter/sour or just downright odd (we had “tree leaves and crushed bones” yesterday!). There’s usually the toasting session at the end (being tee-total takes some effort in China) and there’s always a handful of men who see nothing wrong in puffing on their fags whilst others are still eating. However, I’ve become quite adept at pitching in to conversations, spotting the “dangerous” foods and avoiding alcohol without giving offence.
Here are my top tips for surviving Chinese banquets:
Jiajia, JD and I enjoyed a lovely Summer's day last weekend at DouNan Park. It was less crowded that when we went before, and we managed to find a quiet area to have our picnic, play frisbee and go fishing
Although JD failed to see, let alone catch, any fish, he did spot a water-logged Asian Long-Horned Beetle which he proudly scooped out of the water. We let it dry off on a branch before saying our goodbyes as it slowly crawled up a tree.
After the park, we drove to a friend of Jiajia' whose family has recently moved into something of a mansion; 4 storeys, 6 bathrooms, 4 wide-screen TVs, etc, We shared a lovely meal.
JD was given a toy electronics kit for Children's Day the other week and together we've been working our way through the 1000+ experiments outlined in it. Unfortunately they are all in Chinese, so we just follow the circuit diagrams and try to guess what each is going to produce!
We started with lighting bulbs and then adding a fader switch. Next came a speaker which played "Happy Birthday", and the fader became a volume control. After various other increasingly complex experiments, we took a chance, skipped to the back of the instructions booklet and, to our surprise, managed to build a working radio! All great fun!
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