Moons and Golden Weeks
We are on the ascent to Golden week holiday. It is the holiday associated with the Mid Autumn or moon/mooncake festival (Zhong Qui Jie) and the government grants a week off work. Out of the 4 Chinese festivals, this is my favourite, partly because it was the first festival we experienced when we moved to the country, partly because Chinese New Year is so big and generic across Asia, partly because I have no idea what goes on in the April tomb sweeping holiday (its a solemn, private family affair), partly because never having competed in a dragon boat race, the June Dragon boat festival seems to lack some essential experience, partly because there's something so romantic about celebrating the full moon and I enjoy the moon cake preparation and intend to bring this tradition with me wherever I end up next! Also during October, it feels as though a burden has been lifted from the shoulders of the city as we find our breath again, enjoy blue skies, golden sunshine and cool breezes without the sickening humidity as of June-August.
Gideon and Emily's school decided to start the year online again for the first 3.5 weeks from August, because the government was anxious about a spike in Covid again (there were a few hot spots over the summer but cases didn't exceed a few hundred and there hasn't been 1 case in Suzhou for a year or so now, apparently. But China is set on a 'zero Covid' policy and it is therefore still quite difficult to travel domestically. Actually, teacher friends have signed documents confirming they will not travel at all over the next holiday. Masks still required for public transport, entering malls etc and temperature checks and 14 day electronic tracking codes must be presented everywhere you go. Even the children are required to show a health code confirming they haven't been in any hot spot areas in the last 14 days, which would seem unlikely given that a 6 year old and 8 year old probably wouldn't travel out of town in a foreign country without their parents. The current immigration policy here would mean the reality for our family is; if we were to leave soon, we wouldn't be allowed to come back. No wonder anxiety levels in expat living seem to continue to increase.
So the online learning was so much nicer than our 2020 experience of no online lessons except for random school work flung on to school internet platforms. This time around there was a full timetable and live lessons and nearly everyone was in the same time zone. It didn't take the kids long to figure out that they could watch youtube whilst 'listening' to lessons and it did begin to take its toll after week 3, during which the kids were pillow fighting and Gideon whacked his head on a deceptively sharp sofa corner and needed stitches.
Thankfully, the kids could go back to campus from early September. Gideon to year 4, Emily to year 2 and both are doing alright, they're the kids who are as good as gold during school hours and can be pretty awful when they're home (not always, they can also be lovely). Maybe it's preferable this way round than the other? But the Jekyll & Hyde syndrome can be a little waring!
In other news- we discovered we could travel all the way to the shores of Taihu via our new subway line 5 . It takes 55 minutes by subway to leave the skyscrapers behind and find the horizon. This fact brings joy. I'm loving helping 2 sweet children one morning a week with their homeschooling. I am also volunteering in Gideon's school library 1 morning per week- boring for some but given the craziness of most of the week, it's actually almost blissful to be ordering books on shelves in a quiet environment. I'm loving being a part of a bible study/ discussion group on a Friday morning; I find it very helpful in my otherwise haphazard expat trailing spouse's schedule, to come back to being rooted again in truth (and baked goods). Also enjoying being a part of a small writer's group, who are aiming to put together an anthology on the theme of climate change. I am mainly contributing poetry. It may actually materialise 1 day, so watch the Amazon space. And then there are days when I'm sitting with ladies 10-20 years older than me, learning to crochet. These are probably the days when I most question my sanity. Mike is in his 5th year of teaching at Dulwich High School and is continuing to run regularly in Suzhou Striders; 4th anniversary of Parkrun coming up in 2 weeks! We have been watching the Designated Survivor series on Netflix which is quite good. Emily's continuing with some ballet and apparently starting up a drawing club for toddlers and Gideon's entered the football home cup for another season.