I am now back in China and just about recovered from the jet lag so thought I would start another blog page, and run it till we leave in 2 months.
I was in plenty of time at the airport arriving at 11:30am thanks to Dave Martin picking me up at home and driving me there, and everything went very smoothly all the way to Beijing we did hit quite a bit of turbulence for 40 minutes or so when we were about 3 hours from Beijing, and as usual I could not sleep so was feeling very tired when I arrived at 8:30 the next morning. I was sat next to two young Asians who kept to themselves and later in the flight when we had to fill in our landing/entry cards they looked very puzzled so I offered to help and they showed me their passports and seaman ID cards and they were from North Korea.
After I had had a short sleep we took our bikes out later in the day and went to a street repair man as the gears had seized up on my bike, he repaired it for one pound and then we went food shopping in a local market, had tea watched a film and in bed by 10.
Jun had to work Saturday but then was off for 3 days so I went for a good bike ride along Moon River and a walk in the park the weather is quite warm about 20 or so now.
On Sunday Jun and I went with her sister and niece to visit an area of the Great Wall we haven't seen before north west of Beijing about a 2+ hour journey called Lakeside Great Wall it runs across the hills past a large dam then goes down the hill disappears into a man made lake before emerging again at the other side. It was a good climb up but very worth it for the views of the lakes and the village below and the hundreds of blossoming cherry trees and not as touristy as the other two main areas.
Yesterday we went to the Police Station to register that I was back in the country and next week I have to renew my residency visa ( we don't want them banging on the door again late at night like a scene from a John Le Carre novel ha-ha ).
We are still putting all the evidence and docs together to apply for Jun's spouse visa sometime in July it is very complicated and we have to pay 1,200 pounds when we submit it and another 1,200 in 2.5 years time when we renew it followed by 1,400 2.5 years after that for it to be permanent so it takes 5 years in all to get it plus the money we have to pay each year for Jun to be registered with the NHS, and some people still think it is easy for foreigners to move to England ha-ha. We went into the city centre on Saturday to the police station where Jun is registered to get some paperwork stamped, then we hired bikes and biked across to the Govt building to pick up my passport as i had just had my residency visa renewed. Then we biked all the way to the National Art Gallery before getting the metro back home. We must have biked miles and miles and it was really hot but it was a great day and a great way of getting about. Since last year there has been an explosion of bikes available it used to be that you went to the racks and used a prepaid card to unlock a bike then when you were finished you took it back to another rack, but now you register with your phone and when you scan the bike it unlocks it and you can pick them up and drop them off anywhere you want not just at the racks and they are literally everywhere.
When we were walking towards the metro on Saturday the side road gets full of drivers waiting in their cars for pick ups/dropping off etc which isn't allowed so the police regularly move them on and the police car drove down with his lights flashing and loudspeaker blaring and as they drove away and he moved down the road other cars just started parking behind him. Talk about a pointless exercise ha-ha.
Hard to believe I have already been here nearly 2 weeks, time certainly speeds up the older you get or maybe it's me that needs to slow down ha-ha.
I started teaching English to little Ella ( 9 years old) again and have done two 1.5 hour lessons with her, there is also a children's after school club on the ground floor of our apartment block and the owner wanted me to work with the children on a evening which i at first said yes too as she mentioned doing some acting with them. But later she was talking about putting a play on in English with stage sets and costumes for the parents in 3 weeks, most of the children are around 5 years of age so i said no to that as it would have been impossible to do anything in that time.I walked down to Nui Nuis school a couple of times to collect her when Jun was late home or a bit busy it's a great system they have, all along the pavement outside the school there are retangle areas marked 1-5 and each group of children come out marching together singing and chanting with one boy or girl in front of each group holding up a placard with their number on, and as they reach their area they finish singing and disperse to whoever is picking them up. Nui Nui got a lot of stares from her schoolfriends when i was there to collect her.
It is the time of year again for what Jun and I call "April snow" the air is full of white cotton like seeds from the thousands of Poplar trees around the city. We went down to the city centre last Saturday to the passport/visa office to renew my residency visa, which more or less went smoothly i go back 22nd to pick it back up, went for lunch at a Muslim restaurant and then further down the road we bought bread at a Russian shop followed by a visit into a Christian Church all on the same road. After that we went to the south of the city to re-visit the Fa Yuan Si Temple it was full of blooming Lilac bushes the air smelt wonderful, it is an old temple ( 16th c) and is also the Beijing Buddhist Training College. It then took us over 2.5 hours on the metro to get back to Tong Zhou district so went to our local massage/foot clinic and they had just reopened that day after being closed for refurbishment so they were really pleased to see us both and we had a back and head massage followed by a fantastic foot massage, I felt like i was floating when we walked out.
I have just been for a long bike ride along Moon river 6 miles and the temp today is 25 the other day i biked to the old Muslim quarter in Tong Zhou and had a good walk around, I get a lot of stares there as i have never yet seen another foreigner in that area but i like to visit it.
There has been a lot of talk recently about pollution and we just had 2 days where we had a severe dust storm with very strong winds descend down from Mongolia coupled with heavy smog already here and the WHO says anything over 50 microns is hazardous to health and we were experiencing up to 960 microns and the winds alone brought down parts of buildings,trees and a few fatalities, and two days later its back to blue skies and the temp at about 30.
There is a photograph of an old big passenger boat i have taken and posted a couple of times berthed in the Grand Canal, well its now converted into a restaurant that specialises in traditional hotpot meals.Jun and I went there last night and it was very good, hot pots are basically you order the food you want and they bring it to you all fresh and raw and you have these bowls on the table lit from underneath full of boiling water and you put your food in yourself and eat it as it cooks.It only takes minutes to cook and you then have sauces etc to dip it into as you take it out.
We walked back home through the Canal park and they had a huge screen set up showing a film lots of people stood and sat about watching it, we also checked out a new cinema that has just opened next to where we live so will give that a visit before we head back to the UK.
We spent a couple of hours at a "art village" which is close to us last Sunday, we have been a couple of times before and i like it there, then we are hoping to go to a Buddhist Temple about 80k north of Beijing that i want to see which is quite famous.
There has been another big international conference here in Beijing and as always when they have one of these they impose all kinds of restrictions one of them being reducing or stopping traffic. This time Juns work colleauges where on the works shuttle bus going to the office when the police stopped all the traffic they had to wait there for 2 hours so they got off the bus and stood around in groups at which point the police came and told them to disperse as they didn't want groups stood around.
Jun had to fly down to her home city of Guangdong in the south at 4am last Sunday as her mother was seriously ill with a heart condition, her and her other sister and brother got her in to hospital but they said they couldn't operate as she was to weak and only gave her a 10% chance of surviving, the average cost per day for a stay in hospital is 200/300 pounds. After a few days she was discharged but then became poorly again 2 nights later so she was taken back in to a different hospital, but Jun arranged through old University friends to have her transferred to a better hospital. The staff were not happy and charged Jun 100 pounds for a 2 hour stay, but she is in a much better hospital now, makes you really appreciate our NHS.
Juns sister in Guangong has a daughter who is aged 10 and is very streetwise and the other day she had 2 yuan ( 20p) to spend, so she went to a fruit stall and asked the woman for some fruit for the 2 yuan, the woman said sorry there is nothing you can buy here for 2 yuan, to which she replied " Ha! I think you just don't want my business" ha-ha.
I went for a long bike ride and decided to go through the Grand Canal park and follow the canal down but when i got to the small gate at the back that i use to get in a security guard stopped me. I said are you saying I cant go in or I cant ride my bike in as another man had just rode out of the gate, they pointed to a sign but i said i didn't understand at which point a second guard came up to me and started shouting in my face, I then gave him even more back and he staggered back a couple of steps really suprised, so i just rode off but later i saw that they were doing a load of flood work and the top part of the park was indeed all closed off. I continued my bike ride and about 1.5 hours later i went back to apologise and as i rode up to the gate he saw me and ran to it and started to pull it close, he must have thought i was going back for another go ha-ha. Anyway i did apologise to them both before riding back home.
We have spent this weekend packing ready for our trip back to the UK next Tuesday, I had my last bike ride this morning along moon river as far as you can bike at the moment, at the end of it i then cross a bridge on a three lane ring road to ride back on the other side,where i observed a big lorry driving across on the wrong side causing cars to swerve and horns blaring, somethings don't change ha-ha.
I also went to see a Traditional Chinese Doctor for treatment to my back and legs this morning, him and his wife live in one of the other apartments and run a clinic from there, it was the most painful massage i have ever had, left me feeling very sore and drained, but hoping i feel better later on.