This week and next sees JD's end of term exams - so even more stress and homework than usual. His after-school class takes on the brunt of the Chinese and Maths exercises with Jiajia and I giving him a little extra, personalised work at weekends.
Recent feedback from JD's teachers are that he is focusing better in class and is much-liked by staff and students alike. We are expecting top marks in English, hoping for a top ten placing in Maths and fearing he'll be bottom ten in Chinese... Fingers crossed!
I was asked (well, told!) to attend a meeting the other day between my University (YUFE) leaders and the foreigners who work and study there. The attendees represented 16 countries in all - mostly Asian and African. I'm the second-longest serving foreigner there (6 years so far), but was still introduced as "Mr Paul"!?
The meeting lasted over two hours and was mostly spent listening to self-congratulatory speeches commemorating 100 years of the Chinese Communist Party and 70 years since YUFE's founding. Gripping stuff. Not.
The secret forest opened again last week, so JD and I visited to see if our den had survived the Winter closure. One section of the ceiling was drooping don and needed a new prop, but otherwise it was all good. And the copy-cat den next to ours (built by someone else - we know not who) has grown and now links up with our complex! How fun!
"Whitey", one of our two hamsters, died this morning. He'd been sick for a month or two - shaking, blind, no back legs working - and I've been giving him food and water by hand (JD lost interest in the hamsters a long time ago!). "Bitey" is in a separate cage and is still full of health and energy, so I continue to have a feeding and cleaning regime!
The European Championships have started and England played their first match yesterday (a 1v0 win against Croatia). Watching it live from China is a real pain. This match started at 9pm but future matches will be a 3am start. This match was on BBC and I watched it on iPlayer (using a VPN), though it hung every 5 minutes or so. The next matches are on ITV which will be even more difficult. Chinese TV shows all the matches, but with Chinese commentary plus you have to pay for a full year subscription. The internet promises free streaming sites but none seems reliable. It's so frustrating and it's times like this that I wish I were living back in England!
JD works very hard in Chinese language lessons/homework to keep up with his classmates (especially since less than 50% of his home life is conducted in Chinese). It doesn't help that he's in the top-rated class of his year group (of 10 classes), in the top-rated Primary School in Yunnan Province! But with our current plans to move back to the UK in 3-4 years time, it's also important to keep JD's levels of English up.
So, an hour of each term-time weekend, plus a daily hour during holidays, is devoted to MY English lessons with JD. His reading is up to scratch for his age and his oral English is above expectations. His handwriting is all joined up beautifully too, possibly because of the care he has to take with his Chinese calligraphy. But spelling is an ongoing problem! So we focus on that, whilst trying to keep the lessons interesting and challenging.
Big news here at the moment is the herd of 17 elephants that have been slowly making their way north from the forests of XiShuangBanna (500km away) to our city of Kunming. They have been marching and munching their way through various towns and villages and are currently some 20km from the Kunming outskirts!
Nobody is quite sure what's prompted this epic journey. Some point to the deforestation in their traditional areas whilst other jokingly mention the "International Biodiversity Conference" being held in Kunming next month! Maybe the pachyderms want to have their say?
Whatever the reason, we'll be keeping our eyes and eyes peeled, just in case!
At 5.30am this morning I was woken from my slumbers by the biggest earthquake I’ve ever experienced. The one a fortnight ago was magnitude 6.1 and happened 250km away in Laos - this one was 6.4 and only 100km away (by comparison, the recent one in Kent registered 4.7). My VSO friends, the LEAF family, however, were less than 30km away and had breakages, a College-wide evacuation and lots of after-shocks. At the actual epicentre, a town called Pu’Er, 3 people died, 300 were injured and 120,000 residents were evacuated. My flat was shaken hard, and my heart was pounding for a while, but there was no damage. For a few minutes after the quake, there was an eerie silence. Then, as if someone had flicked a switch, the croaking frogs, chirping cicadas, barking dogs and crowing chickens all started up once again ...and I duly went back to bed (before a number of concerned phonecalls got me up again!).
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