What? No Coffee?
I’ve been thinking about my annual missive (have I spelt it right this time?) so I thought I’d draw out a mindmap to cover the events and activities of the year.
Well if you’ve got the patience or are nosey enough to inspect it, you’ll know that it’s incomplete.
On my way to the computer just now I just past the kitchen and noticed the Mokkapot.
How could I have forgotten the Coffee! It forms one of the main elements of our life here in Changsha. It should be at the centre of the mindmap!
Everything stops for coffee at 11:00.
Actually, it’s more likely to be ‘everything starts with coffee’ due to the slovenly ways I’ve been getting into, especially with it being chilly now it’s turned December. We’ve recently unpacked the goosedown duvet which I bought in London 4 years ago before Yvonne arrived and which turned out to be too hot when combined with central heating. Here with the room temperature of around 10C at the moment it is really cosy. Almost too difficult to get out of.
The cats used to wake me up around 7.45 when my alarm goes off, but since Billy (the grey and white one) died just over a week ago, Jack has taken to sleeping all night on the pillows just beside us. So he doesn’t come bounding in any more with demands for food. He’s happy to wait until I’ve actually emerged before asking. And since he’s now over 4kg, his ‘bounding’ could not be ignored. But he chooses to do most of his bounding at bed-time or a little later! Billy was a gentle clamber up and settle down cat. Jack’s an ‘all or nothing’ cat who’s likely to jump from the middle of the bed to half-way across the room.
Shu Fang and Yvonne at one of Shu Fang’s friends’ Weddings
We’re using Shu Fang’s room as our study/computer/storage room. She lives and works in Guangzhou 450 miles away so normally wouldn’t be coming back except for national holidays. This autumn however we’ve seen a lot of her as several of her best school mates have got married. Since Yvonne knew them all very well we were invited to several of them which was quite a treat. We also went to Tang Huangjun’s wedding (remember Diana who was Yvonne’s translator at our London celebration)? They’ve all be really big do’s with hundred of guests and great food! Of course when we got married here it was all new to me, but they’ve all followed the same sort of pattern. Great fun.
Since I’ve written 2 or 3 blogs since arriving I won’t recount much of what I’ve already wittered on about. The main thing to say is that we are very happy here in Changsha and I count myself to be very blessed in having a partner like Yvonne with all her family and friends.
Whole family at Shao Shan, Mao’s birthplace
Of course studying Chinese fills much of my day. Not currently going to classes I’ve been able to get back to my RosettaStone program and have now completed 2 of the 5 levels. Thinking that I need to do some revising of these 2 levels I’ve spent 2 or 3 weeks going over the vocabulary and been alarmed at how much I’ve forgotten, even though the program is pretty good about incorporating things learned at a more junior level.
I’ve also bought the new book our former teacher has just brought out so I’m going steadily through that, revising/learning 4 characters a day. Su Lao Shi (teacher Su) produced this very helpful book on 300 of the most common characters using his particular method of teaching with visual associations to aid the process. It complements the RosettaStone very well.
Using the internet I’ve also found some sites to follow. One of them encourages to students to be involved by requesting videos of particular characters each week which they then string together for a short episode each Sunday. I’ve sent some short clips in which I’m pleased to say they’ve used. www.writtenchinese.com if anyone is interested.
Things like video calls from our mobilephones and social networks have been very important to me, although connections haven’t been working as well just lately. Thankfully I’ve found some technical support from the other side of the world to try and sort out my difficulties.
Our house is part of a block which is 40-50 years old so it’s internet connection is very slow (yes I know the internet isn’t that old). I’m told that the supply to our new house – a brand new 32 storey block – will have much better speeds. I hope so. Currently our supply is rarely fast enough to allow us to download a short 3 minute video so watching movies from the internet is completely out. It seems to cope with The Archers and the Radio 4 Saturday Live podcasts OK. Our house (everyone uses the term, but they are in fact apartments, not individual houses) has faced delays, but the main builder is almost finished and they’re planting trees and bushes all around now. We hope OUR builder can get in there from the beginning of January to turn the concrete shell into our liveable home.
Architect’s photo-impression of our new living room
Putting in underfloor heating will be the first task followed by floors, cupboards, kitchens etc etc. We hope??? it’ll all be done by the time we plan to fly back to the UK at the end of April, which would allow the place to ‘air’ for 3 months before we actually move in. We’re very excited and I count myself as very fortunate to be able to move into our own new home. Yvonne owns her existing house but this is the first time I’ve become a home owner.
Yvonne wonders if we can get rid of our ultra-thick quilted PJ’s once we’re in the new house with its central heating. I’d like to keep them as a fallback option! You’d never do away with the stairs just because we have a lift to the 10th floor!
Leaving London was obviously a very significant event but made particularly wonderful by the special times with family, friends, church and neighbours, not least that 3 of Yvonne’s family were able to come over for a couple of weeks to see some sights. Places we took in included Beachy Head and Stonehenge, and of course places in London. I count myself very blessed by you all. I shall miss being with all my family especially at Christmas and Easter – times we always got together. I’m hoping we can have some Facetime chats on iPads and computers around then.
One big disappointment I had was that I was having such a good time talking with everyone at my farewell do that I have no photos of it! If you have any, please send me copies or links!
Happily I do have some photos of other special times around then…
Sending lots of love to you all,