When we came to Keats School, we decided to partake in some of the extracurricular activities. Two afternoons a week we went to tai ji (video of our amazing teacher will be coming in a later post), and Lee also opted for two weekly calligraphy classes. It turns out he's a natural at shufa. His teacher, the very kind man pictured above, has had one of Lee's works mounted on a scroll. It will be entered in a provincial exhibition hosted by the Yunnan Daily newspaper in the "foreigner" category. Unfortunately, I didn't get a photo of anything other than his first day's work (pictured above), but after the exhibition is over, the scroll will be mailed to Canada. You'll be able to admire his work next summer.
One more day of classes, then taking the newfangled Mandarin skills out for a month on the road in western China. See how many people we can ask such useful phrases as "Do you prefer classical music or going to pop concerts?" and "Do you have the habit of being a picky eater?"
By the way, I have seen very few Westerns but have never enjoyed one until now. I guess the combination of Matt Damon, the Coen brothers, and a female protagonist overpowered my usual boredom with the genre. I'd suggest they give that youngster an Oscar if I hadn't already seen Natalie Portman in Black Swan. I thought she was fantastic. As you can tell, living in the language school bubble has left us with time to catch up on our movie watching. We'll be leaving next Sunday, but hope to find time for Howl and Blue Valentine before we go.
Apparently, way back in 1999, Kunming hosted the World Horticultural Expo. How that slipped by without us knowing is a mystery - we're usually very up on our international gardening extravaganzas. The legacy of what surely must have been wild times had by all is an enormous amount of well-tended green space on the edge of town.
Kunming makes my stomach very, very happy. As delicious as the food is at the school, I have still managed to sample some wares from a multitude of street vendors. Photographic evidence here of last weekend's breakfast choices and a yammy midday snack. For the sake of propriety, I took no pictures of this evening's carnivorous deluge, a score of mutton skewers. No bread, no vegetables, hey, not even a table to sit at...just twenty sticks of grilled sheep flesh and me.
Some advice my brother gave me once that I ignored at the time but has proven to work in Kunming: if you have a problem, throw money at it. Kunming is called the City of Eternal Spring by the Chinese. Lee would like you to know that's "a large, steaming crock o'shite." I'm pretty sure that name was created by the Department of Propaganda in Beijing to justify not providing central heat to anyone in Yunnan province. The temperature drops to 1 or 2 degrees at night, with highs of 12-15 during the day. Sounds not bad, right? Except that when it's two degrees outside, it's two degrees inside. After shivering through the first two days of class, I decided to take your advice, Chris. I went and bought a jacket and scarf and fuzzy slippers. After a couple more days, I was still cold. Now I have bought a jacket with a zip-out liner that at least says "North Face," a pair of hiking pants lined with fleece, gloves, and thick socks. I didn't think I'd need that stuff until we went to Nepal, but now I'm all kitted out. And I wear it all to class and fill my water bottle with boiling water (known in China as "white tea").
Oh yeah, I bought the scarf at Zara. It cost more than the jacket and fuzzy slippers combined, but it's flannel and like wrapping myself in a large blanket. I love it. Am I the only one surprised there's a Zara here outside of Beijing or Shanghai? It's right next to the Marc Jacobs and Louis Vuitton stores. I guess it really is the new China.
I'm going back in time to show you a few more pictures of Malaysia. Go get yourselves a cup of tea and enjoy. First up is the bus ride from KL to Lumut. We were accompanied by Jian Ghomeshi and six hours of Q podcasts - highly recommended by both of us if you need to fill time on a long journey. If you look closely in the rearview mirror, you'll see our seriously hot bus driver, who looked as if he might hop off the bus at any moment and run an ultra (though let's be honest, he's nothing compared to Lee).
From Lumut, we took the ferry to Pangkor. We actually spent Lunar New Year on this island in February, 2000. It pains me to type this because Malaysia has always held a warm and special place in my travel memories, but the last decade hasn't been kind to this little place. After the ferry crossing and a short taxi ride, we arrived at the beach where we spent our first holiday to see this:
The giant construction pit on what was once a beach coupled with a pretty severe garbage problem led to a less than sunny first day for me. Fortunately, as you know from the post "Tough Day at the Office," we did find a stretch of sandy beach further down the road to wile away a few days, and ever-affable Lee convinced me that when the prawns in your salad look like this, it's impossible to feel morose.