We had a great Christmas Day. JD opened his stocking presents in bed in the morning. Then, we opened our main presents after lunch. JD was delighted to get everything he had hoped for - Lego, drone, earphones, tent, cooking tools, Frazzles etc. We even had a surprise Christmas Spelling Test, where JD won cash prizes for every English spelling he got right! I got a Lego Death Star with 4200 pieces!
Then Jiajia pulled out all the stops with a traditional Christmas dinner - roast chicken with all the trimmings, plus crackers and mince pies!
JD is keeping track of the number of days to Christmas with a self-made Post-it Advent Calendar! It has no chocolates or nativity pictures, but at least he gets to rip something off each morning and savour the countdown! He has already opened one present, actually, since we are all in quarantine with COVID - using his spare time throughout each day to construct a huge Lego aircraft!
With JD's Primary School having been closed for a month now, his schoolwork is all assigned, handed-in and marked online. Up until last week, he has done this though the day at "Cleaner School" - his after-school club attended by 5-10 students, usually just to do homework but now doing classwork through the day too.
But with COVID ripping through the population now, since the removal of pandemic restrictions, "Cleaner School" has closed down too. JD has had COVID this last week but is now back to 90% health and so the schoolwork continues. Jiajia has to do the Chinese and Maths with him (90% of the total) while I pitch in with English and "generally keeping everyone less stressed"!! The holidays can't come quickly enough!
Nearly three years after China first "introduced" COVID-19 to the world, the Government here finally removed most pandemic restrictions last week. Not because the battle was won, mind, but because of the nose-diving economy and protests around the country from weary citizens fed up with daily queues for tests and the threat of being dragged off to a quarantine facility if they dared test positive.
But with the poor take-up of less effective Chinese vaccines, the overnight removal of restrictions was bound to lead to a huge wave of infections and inevitably a lot of deaths, even with the current milder strains.
And so, along with dozens of our Kunming friends, we all caught COVID this week. I started it early, and Jiajia/JD went down with it a few days later. Not nice, but bearable, and we are all coming out the other side now - just in time for Christmas! However, with predictions of over a million deaths to come in China, we've been lucky, I guess. Let's hope it the beginning of the end of this thing at last.
Modern technology seems to get more and more unbelievable, year after year, month after month. If you had told me 5 years ago ago that I - sitting in South West China - would be able to have a video chat with my brother while he walks his dog in the British countryside, listening to me on speakers built into his hat, I would have said you'd been watching too much science-fiction!
And then tonight, I shall be watching England play football in Qatar on Chinese TV, streamed to my laptop, while simultaneously listening to BBC commentary on my phone (using a Virtual Private Network to get round China blocking the BBC) - and all LIVE!
And my university lessons are all online too! Crazy!
Once my birthday is done and dusted, the pressure is on (from JD) to put up our Christmas decorations. This year he was keen to pitch in with his own ides of what to put where, and how to decorate the "showing its age" tree! We'll gradually add presents underneath it, over the next fortnight, to build up the excitement. Jiajia is already scoring the internet for cheap and cheerful stocking fillers, Christmas crackers, sweets, mince pies and presents!
We spent a fun day out in the countryside today with one of JD's friends, Johnny, and his family. Seven of us squeezed into their SUV for a 45 minute drive to a famous vegetable market (closed because of COVID) and on to a farm/play area. The kids had great fun fishing for tiddlers, trying a shooting range, feeding a couple of camels(!) and digging up carrots. It was a hot and breezy day, despite being Winter, and we returned home with sunburn and fresh vegetables!
The Internet tells me that Chinese dwarf hamsters can live "up to 2 years" and that a 1½ year old is considered "elderly". So, as "Bitey" turns 2½ this month, with no obvious lack of energy and looking as healthy as ever, we wonder just how long this chap can keep going? JD had long since lost interest, so it falls to me to feed Bitey, clean his cage and give him the occasional outing. And yet he still has a nip at me, given half a chance!
I woke JD up at 3am this morning to watch the World Cup footie with me. After England's 6 v 2 heroics over Iran last week, I was sure this match would be a great introduction to the thrill of international football for JD. Sadly it was a dull affair and we trudged back to bed as soon as the final whistle sounded.
I woke yesterday to text messages informing us that all Primary and Secondary schools are closing again, for at least three days. Yes, COVID is still perceived as a major threat to life in China and, with 100 positive cases in Kunming (pop: 7m) and three deaths in Beijing (4 hours flight away) life here grinds to a halt, once again! Today my University went into lockdown. We will probably have to teach online again next week. Groan!
Meanwhile, we all have to queue for 30-45 minutes every day or two to be tested, and guards check everyone's phone health codes at work, on buses, in parks and shops etc. After three years of this it really has gone beyond tiresome, especially when the rest of the world (using vaccines that actually work!) seems to have moved on.
P.S. As I suspected, all teaching is online again until further notice...
Despite us all having coughs and colds, we travelled to Green Lake today to have a lunch, celebrating my Birthday in a pretty (if pricey) restaurant there. Ma joined us, despite "being on her death bed" all last week (she said). Jiajia ordered a wide variety of meat and veg. JD especially loved the squid. We'd brought along a birthday cake too but, by dessert time, were all too full to eat it. So we'll tuck into that this evening.
One of the blocks in our neighbourhood went into lockdown earlier this week. Apparently one of the residents had had contact with someone who had had contact with someone else who had tested positive for COVID!! That's how paranoid things are here these days. So the COVID response team stopped anyone leaving the building until everyone could show three days of negative Nucleic Acid tests.
Our Province has 47 million people and there are currently 44 cases of COVID. Yet we are still required to have tests every two days and people are genuinely nervous.
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