JD really enjoyed digging holes with his classmates, putting in the tree and watering it afterwards. Then there were snacks for the kids followed by some fun runaround games with little prizes. And thankfully the rain held off until the drive home.
Smoking is one of the things that annoys me most about living in China (yes, there are a few, including spitting, squat toilets, drivers not indicating, internet censorship etc). Whilst the West has finally woken up to the dangers of passive smoking and how antisocial the whole thing is, China still has a tobacco and cancer epidemic on it hands. The West coast cities - Beijing, Shanghai and the like - have successfully banned smoking in most public places, but Kunming is "far from the Emperor" and although you see more "No Smoking" signs these days, they are widely ignored. Even in the staff room at my University, supposedly educated Professors light up underneath signs forbidding smoking [see photo] and other teachers just turn a blind eye. I've asked the non-smoking staff why they say nothing and the common response is they prefer to avoid confrontation and maintain relationships. Not me. Being foreign gives me a certain leeway in confronting them and politely asking them to smoke outside. I've had apologies, nervous giggles and angry grunts, but none has yet to refuse. My one-man anti-smoking campaign continues!
Look a little closer and you'll see that this Tower Bridge isn't quite the same dimensions as the London original. It's bigger and better (they say) although it doesn't lift up to let tall ships through. This is Suzhou's latest attraction. Ava, currently in Suzhou buying clothes, says she's yet to spot it. Come on girl - it's big enough!
JD had just a half day at school today (due to International Women's Day earlier in the week and the predominantly female staff at his school). So I picked him up midday and we spent the afternoon with two of his school friends, and the father of one of them. We started in a small University wood where the kids spent an hour digging with various tools and construction toys I'd brought along.
An old play area there had broken concrete slides from another era. The steps to the top had all disappeared and there were worrying-looking metal spikes sticking out through the stone, but we lifted the kids up to the top for a couple of slides, before having a go myself.
We then decided to drive to the larger forest where JD and I often go. We climbed the hill there and JD and I showed his friends the den we had made. Unfortunately, after an hour or so, a forest ranger approached us and, rather embarrassed, said we would have to leave as, during the dry season, people were only let in to visit the temple. Playing in the woods was apparently a fire hazard, despite torrential rain yesterday and none of us smoking or planning a bonfire. Stupid rule, but this is China and when your only job is guarding trees, it's what you do.
So we headed off to the Yunnan University campus where we played chasing games with the boys followed by some drinks and snacks. It was a nice warm half-day and I feel we made the most of it.
Just last week, I was saying to someone that it's odd how almost everything we see and use each day is made in a factory somewhere, but we almost never see these factories, let alone visit them. I jokingly suggested that they may not even exist.
Then yesterday, Jiajia said she wanted to visit a factory making fitted kitchen units to see if she could get a discount by cutting out the middle man. So we headed out of Kunming to a real factory, nestled in the hills. Not a place I'd like to live or work in, but fascinating to see in action.
I've had another attempt to rouse local action about the increasing amounts of dog poo in our neighbourhood. JD and the other local kids are forever stepping in it or getting it on their clothes. So today he and I made new poo signs and replaced all the old ones (which had run in the rain) and then collected all the poo we could find in 2 large paper bowls and deposited it outside the neighbourhood Maintenance Office! They have been very lazy about wanting to do anything about the poo, so the poo is now coming to them!! Next, I am drafting a large sign which I hope people will sign, asking owners to keep control of their dogs and pick up their poo. Fingers crossed!
This week is crazy busy. Its my first week back at University, teaching Writing this term. JD returns to Kindergarten amidst tears. We also have two guests staying in the house, plus I'm training 8 teenage volunteers to be English teachers in Chinese Colleges as part of their gap year. It's a lot of teaching and an awful lot of driving around Kunming on my e-bike to get where I need to be for all the lessons. The volunteers' arrival flight was delayed on the first day. so we postponed their Welcome Banquet until today. We went to a restaurant with a Song and Dance show thrown in. At the end, the volunteers were persuaded to take to the stage and join in one of the dances, much to the crowd's delight [see photo].
Past blog entries