This weekend has been a three-day "Tomb-Sweeping Festival", but I'm back to work tomorrow and JD returns to Kindergarten for his last few months there.
Spot the cheekiest boy in the class!
for the last 20 months we have been living in a tiny flat while our main house has been gutted, extended, renovated and redecorated. Finally, this weekend, we moved back. Ten full car trips to take over the last of our basics we are finally all in - if not quite unpacked or tidied yet.
We now have an extended office, central heating, new kitchen (with new oven, microwave and dishwasher), two new bathrooms, two walk-in wardrobes, new floors and stairs, a utility room, under-stairs storage, new furniture and new double-glazed windows. It was a mammoth task designed, planned and overseen by my good wife. She has really stamped her unique artistic sense on every room, from the "random" tiles to two antique doors re-purposed as table tops!
flew back from my training last night, arriving home at 3am this morning, Up again at 6am to get JD to school and do two lessons at University. Unfortunately, some disappointing news was waiting for me when I got home this afternoon - I had failed the final 3-hour exam on the course. Only just, as it turns out, but it means I have to return to Chonging next week to resit the two parts on which I didn't get close enough. Disappointing, but apparently it's fairly common for people not to get through first time.
I'm off to ChongQing today (a city with a population of over 30 million!) for a 2-day intensive training course run by the British Council. It's a 1½ hour flight away requiring an e-bike, walk, bus, plane, bus. taxi journey for me to navigate. I should be at my hotel by 1am, with the course starting early the next morning.
JD had his birthday party today. We had to rearrange the restaurant's balloons on arrival as they spelled "Happy Baithdry"! Ten of JD's best friends came along with their parents. Then, after lunch we headed upstairs to the cinema and watched the live-action "Dumbo" film (3D in Chinese). Everything went really smoothly and JD had a blast!
Then on Wednesday we had to take him out of school for the afternoon to collect his Chinese ID card and have some preventative dental treatment [see above]. Wednesday night JD was complaining of tummy ache again and so we kept him home on Thursday. By noon he seemed fine so I took him out for some fresh air, meeting up with my old friend Emily and her two-year old, Jonathan [see photo below]. Emily and I reminisced about when we had first met. Little did we know then that, some 16 years later, we would not only still be in touch, but watching our respective children play together! We had intended to visit the newly refurbished Science Museum, but a notice on the door said it was closed - decorations still a week away from being finished.
With "tummy ache tears" again on Friday morning we felt it was wise to take JD to the hospital to get his stomach properly checked out. Blood and stool tests later, the doctor said there was nothing obviously wrong and just gave him some digestion tablets to take. Jiajia and I suspect JD is enjoying his days off school a little too much and perhaps exaggerating his pains a bit. But of course you never know. So extra "Daddy homework" on Friday afternoon and no iPad until he does a full day at school again!
JD has attended two birthday parties in the last two weeks, and his mind is now racing ahead to his own birthday celebrations in a couple of week's time. A typical Chinese kid's Birthday party is a large meal (mostly aimed at the parents!) and then some opportunities for the kids to run around, either in the restaurant or nearby outside. In contrast, we are hoping to invite JD's friends to ten-pin bowling with a mid-bowl pizza delivery. We'll see!
Jiajia's birthday was a few days ago, preceded by my sister-in-law's, while tomorrow is my other sister-in-law's. JD was invited to a mountain picnic party last Saturday [see photos] and today got another invite to a schoolmate's party this Saturday. And then his own birthday is the week after. I can't keep up with the cards, gifts and outings!
One of most frustrating things about living in China is the Government's blocking of various really useful websites such as Google, Facebook, YouTube, BBC etc. Many foreigners therefore use what's called a VPN - software that circumvents the "Great fireWall of China". But this week those VPNs were also blocked, leaving foreigners here scratching their heads in confusion and banging their heads in frustration. Why now? Why at all?? Often these outages coincide with some meeting of leaders in Beijing, but I'm not aware of anything political happening right now. So the Internet suddenly becomes a lot less useful. Annoying.
JD has been back at school this week - his final term there before moving to Primary School in September. And with the return we've once again started to get last minute, and seemingly pointless, homework requests. So, for example, we get a text asking us to "...send a photo of your child inflating a balloon by tomorrow morning" which arrives half an hour after JD has gone to sleep. Jiajia and I are getting quite adept at faking this sort of thing by now (the "balloon" in this photo is actually a plastic ball), even taking photos in advance of say, junk modelling or cooking, in case we ever need to show evidence of something similar later on!
A few years ago in Kunming "shared bikes" started appearing. For 5 Jiao (5p) a day you could use any of the thousands of public bikes parked around the city, unlocking them by mobile phone app where you find them and leaving them wherever and whenever you've finished with them. It proved very popular at first and there are certainly a lot of good things about it. But popularity has waned a little since the early days and an increasingly noticeable problem are the "bike graveyards" - piles of unwanted bikes which you can see dumped all over the city. In theory, the people who run the system should be picking them up and transporting them to subway stations, bus stops and other places where people need to use them. But it's clearly not working very well!
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