舞狮 Dancing Lions

We will make Dancing Lion Puppets this week so we can do a little Lion Dance song together to celebrate the last week of the Chinese New Year!  Here is one we prepared earlier…don’t be scared, he is just scaring the monster Nian away!

Remember our ‘Dotting of the Eye’ ceremony and our Lion Dance that we did last year? Click on the link to find out more info about this ceremony. We will sing the same Dancing Lion song with our puppets this year, click on the video to hear it, words are below.


Here are the words, don’t forget to bang drums and bash cymbals to make a noise too! Wooden spoons and pans work really well!!! Sing the song to the tune of ‘London Bridge’.

看看舞狮跳舞跳 跳舞跳 跳舞跳

kàn kan wǔ shī tiào wǔ tiào tiào wǔ tiào tiào wǔ tiào
kàn kan wǔ shī tiào wǔ tiào
xīn nián kuài lè

Look at the Dancing Lion dancing and jumping, dancing and jumping, dancing and jumping
Look at the Dancing Lion dancing and jumping,
Happy New Year!

Then replace the bold with 尾巴摇 (wěi ba yáo) ‘shaking tail’, and 转个圈 (zhuǎn gè quān) ‘turn around’.

More info on CNY and another New Year Song can be found on this link.

Happy Dancing! Get ready to dance and make some noise on Wednesday 🙂

杰米奥利弗 Jamie Oliver

My little boy loves cooking, and he loves following Jamie Oliver’s recipes. So when I saw Jamie Oliver’s cook books in China I didn’t hesitate to buy! Integrated English, Health, Maths, Home Economics, Chinese…and the pleasure of making dinner for the family…all wrapped in fun and yummy food!

Jamie’s Chinese name is 杰米奥利弗 Jiémǐ Aolìfú (to see how a Chinese name is made you can click here).  And this book is his 15 minute meals, or 十五分钟开饭 (shíwǔ fēnzhōng kāifàn), literally ’15 minutes serve a meal’.

Lucas loves making a ‘fancy weekend dinner’ for the family, so straight away he looked through the recipes, this is the one he picked to make this weekend for us.  Lucas can follow an English recipe independently with ease now…so I have given him the task of making this dinner for us, with no help from me…from translation, to shopping, to cooking (of course I will go to the shops with him and monitor the stove top cooking bits :-))

‘Glazed sizzling chops with sweet tomato and asparagus lasgnetti’.  So Lucas set to translating the recipe.  Lucas can recognize about 75% of characters in a regular text.  That doesn’t mean he will know 75% of all the ‘words’ in the text, just the ‘characters’ that will make up those words.  His strategy therefore is to type the whole recipe out, using the pinyin for the characters that he knows, and looking up the ones he doesn’t know in a handwriting recognition tool.  Once he has the whole recipe typed out, it is then easy to look up the words that he doesn’t know using online tools.

Some words just don’t come up in even the most updated dictionaries, because new words are being formed all the time in China. As western food products increase in the market, phonetic names are made up for them, and often different areas of China may have different names.  For example 帕尔玛干酪 (pronounced ‘pà ěr mǎ gān lào”, Lucas knew ‘gān lào’ as cheese.  But an element of common sense guessing had to be used with the ‘pà ěr mǎ’ bit…a word in an Italian Pasta recipe…a kind of cheese…it didn’t take long to work out that ‘pà ěr mǎ’ was a phonetic for ‘parmesan’. After spending some time in Kunming, Lucas knows that only a handful of very upmarket supermarkets with international sections would stock such an item as parmesan cheese. So words like these can take a while to appear in online dictionaries.

Next Lucas had to write a shopping list of the ingredients that he needed, taking into account the quantities/measurements and making sure it’s enough for all 4 of us.  So he printed his typed out list and wrote the English over the top. His translation for a ten year old is pretty amazing I think 🙂 (Please note I don’t correct any work of my children as I believe they ‘improve’ without the need of a teacher’s red pen). A few mistakes like writing ‘kg’ instead of ‘g’ they realise themselves…it is much more powerful for kids to find their own mistakes than have a teacher point them out 🙂

The dinner was an absolute hit…and an amazing feeling of accomplishment for Lucas…not only did he prepare, cook and serve a really fancy yummy dinner for our family’s Friday night chill…he had to translate the recipe from Chinese beforehand…some pretty amazing skills being developed 🙂

Ok…the work involved to get this recipe translated, shopped, prepared and on our dinner table was more like 15 hours spread over the week… not 15 minutes 🙂 But who cares…in the moment, meaningful and rewarding learning 🙂

万物解释者 Thing Explainer

Books often provide the spark for a self-led journey of discovery, which is why I had to buy this one when I found it in a book store in China 🙂

I thought it was perfect for the LOTE learner!  The author who works for NASA, claims to be able to explain complicated stuff in simple words, using a vocab of no more than 1000 words.  Things like how the Mars Buggy lands and works.

How bathroom pipes work.

Lots of other random stuff, how washing machines work, how car engines work, how a biro works, how a cell in the body works…to the control panel of a space rocket….

What I really liked about it, is the appeal to an older student (diagrams look like they would contain pretty scientifically difficult captions to explain)…but the language is quite simple, so if you are reading in a second language the content is interesting but not too out of reach for an intermediate learner 🙂 Readers can find out about stuff in a second language, and if it rocks their boat, then delve deeper into the science, technology, or maths.  Wow…being able to explain how complicated things work in Chinese…look at the potential for real job opportunities in China….being on the next moon landing team… unblocking toilets….designing shower screens… 🙂

The book has been published in many languages…so just search for the language you are learning and learn the language and a little science at the same time 🙂

灯笼 Lanterns

My kids have been busy making some decorations for Chinese New Year.  A couple of years ago Aurora made an amazing pineapple lantern made from 45 红包 hóngbāo (red packets)! Measurement, 3D tessellation, technology, problem solving when things didn’t go right, focus and determination of fiddly detail, a valuable creative activity that looks awesome!

Fiddly art work has never been an agenda item for Lucas, until now….he all of a sudden decided that he would like to give making a lantern out of 红包 this year.  He chose a pretty tricky one…using 66 red envelopes! But patience and commitment pulled it off….

Aurora decided to use the red envelopes to make a firecracker hanging decoration this time.

红包, (hóngbāo) are red envelopes, (and when not being used to make lanterns 😉), are usually given to children for Chinese New Year with money inside!

The Chinese New Year Lantern Festival is traditionally held on the 15th day of the New Year Celebrations, marking the end of the festival, in line with the full moon.  This year the Lantern Festival Day of the Chinese New Year is Friday 2nd March 2018.  So still plenty of time to make one…even a tricky one!  The video below shows the tutorial for the one that Lucas made.  The lady’s channel though has HEAPS of different kinds of lanterns to make, from easy to challenging 🙂  You can buy the red envelopes from China Town shops or some newsagents.

Tiger Leaping Gorge Hike: Day 3&4

This blog post follows in from Tiger Leaping Gorge Hike: Day 2

The next morning we set off again to our next village, ‘Walnut Garden’ (核桃园 Hé tao yuán). Up high in the gorge now the views were spectacular, and passing goat herders with their herds of goats reminding us this trail is a practical way of life, not just for us to be awe inspired by.

To get an idea of the ‘hairy’ parts of the trail, here are a few piks. We did have last minute parental fears that we were taking our kids on a hike that was a little too adventurous! But now we can say that we survivied, and if we had let fear take over we would never have the tale to tell 🙂 Yes it could be said that tripping over on the thinnest and sheerest part of the track in the wrong direction could have resulted in tragedy. But we know our kids are mature, sensible, agile and fit. Now we have finished our hike, I would do it again with my kids with no reservations, and they would too. Personally I feel that the benefits of such a hike for families far outweigh the risk of danger. If you are a fit family used to walking in the wilderness you would have no problems doing this hike and will have an awesome adventure to talk about together forever 🙂

We finally get to Walnut Garden, and we stay at Sean’s Guesthouse, a guesthouse we stayed at 20 years ago! It was the very first guesthouse in the gorge. Sean runs the guesthouse with his wife Lily and his children, who can all speak really good English, and the food, both Chinese and Western choices, was just heavenly , again paired with an awesome view.

We stayed 2 nights at Sean’s, so that we had a full day to explore the village and walk down to the Jinsha River.  I highly recommend taking this time…especially as it meant trying more of the yummy food on the menu…and even a bottle of the ‘Great Wall Red’…it doesn’t taste too bad with the view 🙂

On our last day, Sean organised a driver for us to take us straight to Lijiang. There is a road that leads straight out of the gorge.  The driver was happy to stop at Jane’s Guesthouse to pick up the kids’ backpacks on the way.  There is also a bus at 3.30, but it wasn’t much dearer for the 4 of us in a private car, and this way we could leave on our own schedule.

We were enjoying the hike so much, we wanted to pop our packs on and carry on through the gorge (you can do to get to the Shangri-La end), but we had an overnight train booked in Lijiang.  Maybe next time 🙂

Here are some tips we can think of if you go:

Yunnan weather is hot and dry, even in winter during the day, so take sun screen, and lip cream. We saw other western hikers with red faces 🙂

Gorge weather is unpredictable, is always cold Winter mornings and evenings, and can be cold in Summer too.  We wore the same hiking clothes each day, and took one spare set of clothes to be comfy in for the evening….including thermals, polartec jackets AND big down coats.  They take up a lot of room in packs…but it’s nice to be able to sit outside in the evening 🙂

Take instant coffee or coffee/tea bags if you like a cuppa before setting off, there are kettles in the guesthouses.

Don’t underestimate the walking times…they are not exaggerated like some western NP walks are. Allow the recommended time plus a few extra hours to get to your planned village before dark, especially if with kids.  Take a headlamp though just in case 🙂

If with kids, allow at least 3 nights to do this section of the hike.  Not because they are slow….my kids were at the top of climbs way ahead of me! But if you are not rushed you will enjoy your family time together and be safe 🙂


Follow in our family’s Mandarin learning journey on our Facebook page Mandarin Motion 

Tiger Leaping Gorge Hike: Day 2

This blog post follows on from Tiger Leaping Gorge Hike: Day 1 

After a good night’s sleep, leaving the Naxi Family Guesthouse, we made our way up the notorious ’28 bends’, 28 switch backs higher up the mountain. 28 bends and about 3 hours later we arrived at the Tea Horse Guest House (茶马客栈 chá mǎ kè zhàn) in Yacha Village (牙叉村 Yáchā cūn) for a little lunch.

After tea and lunch at the Tea Horse, it was another 2 hours, this time mostly level, walk to Bendiwan Village (本地湾村Běndìwān cūn).

We stayed at the Half Way Guesthouse, with deteriorated and patched up floorboards it felt like it was about to fall over the cliff…but the view from our room was pretty amazing, and we would have had a great view of the fall 🙂

After another good sleep (thank goodness for the electric blankets in these guesthouses these days) we left for Day 3 of the hike, click to carry on reading. Or follow in our family’s Mandarin learning journey on our Facebook page Mandarin Motion 

Tiger Leaping Gorge Hike: Day 1

This blog post follows on from Tiger Leaping Gorge Hike : starting in Lijiang

After a few days of exploring the Jade Dragon Mountain towns, we were ready to head off to Qiaotou (桥头 qiáo tóu), where we would start our hike to the gorge.

It’s not only train stations with added security, getting on a bus requires the same passport scrutiny, baggage screening and body scan. Our bus was bound for Shangri-la (香格里拉 Xiānggélǐlā) also known as Zhongdian (中甸 Zhōngdiàn). Lee and I visited this town 20 years ago and nearly FROZE. It is the closest you can get to Tibet without having to go through the paperwork to get there! This time, being the coldest month of the year we gave it a miss and just focused on our hike, we got off the bus at the town before, called Qiaotou (桥头 Qiáotóu). We walked to Jane’s Guesthouse 峡谷行客栈 (xiá gǔ xíng kè zhàn) who let us leave the kids’ backpacks there for 5¥ per pack for however long we were hiking. We knew parts of the trail were a little hairy, with really steep drops…and we didn’t want the kids to have packs that might ‘overthrow their balance’! So Lee and I carried all the stuff we needed for this hike.

It was a 45 minute walk or so till we actually got to the start of the track. It was the ‘high trail’ we wanted to make sure that we were on (the low road that has been built into the gorge for ‘lazy tourists’ is a bit boring and dusty). The high trail is the trail that has been used by the villagers and goat herders for many years. We kept our eyes open for the blue signs like the one in the pik above, to make sure that we were on the right trail. It’s winter, but in Yunnan province the winter days are blue skies and a harsh sun. So our packs were pretty much full with the layers of clothes and puffy jackets to keep us warm at night 🙂

Lucas was pretty happy to see the 芦 (lú) reed flower on the way. This character actually forms part of his Chinese name 芦卡思 Lúkǎsī.

We were both happy and scared to see the track…we couldn’t actually believe our eyes at how steep it started…it was pretty much 3 hours of UP 🙂

We were really happy to find our first guesthouse of the hike, The Naxi Family Guesthouse (纳西雅阁客栈 nàxī yǎgé kèzhàn) in Nuoyu village (诺余村 Nuòyú cūn). The hosts were very welcoming and friendly, and the food was yummy with an amazing view of the gorge!

The food on the menu at the Naxi Family Guesthouse is all grown around the village and on the terraced fields around.

The mountain views from the guesthouse just seemed to make the food yummier and the sense of acheievment from the days hard climb more rewarding 🙂 As the sun went down the colours of the mountains changed.

Time for sleep…to read about day 2 of the hike click the link. Or follow in our family’s Mandarin learning journey on our Facebook page Mandarin Motion 

虎跳峡 Tiger Leaping Gorge Hike – starting in Lijiang

This blog post is the first one in a series of posts about the Tiger Leaping Gorge Hike. Click on the links to jump to Day 1, Day 2 and Day3&4 of the hike.  Or follow in our family’s Mandarin learning journey on our Facebook page Mandarin Motion 

Tiger Leaping Gorge (虎跳峡 Hǔ tiào xiá) is a spectacular hike in Yunnan Province (云南省 Yúnnán shěng) along the Jinsha River (金沙江 Jīn shā jiāng), a tributary of the Yangtze River (长江 Cháng jiāng).

Tiger Leaping Gorge Hike

Lee and I did the hike 20 years ago! It was such an awesome experience, we have wanted to share it with our kids for a while now. In our previous trips to  Yunnan Province, the kids had been a little too young to tackle a hike like this one.  This time, at ages 10 and 12, and having done some extended hiking in Australia now, we thought they were ready.

I wrote this blog to share our journey with friends, but also for anyone in the world thinking about doing this hike. We could not find any travel blogs of anyone doing this hike with kids…so we hope other families may find the blog helpful in making the decision to take the first step  🙂  Please feel free to ask any questions in the comments 🙂 My kids also plan to do a blog from their perspective, I will link when complete.

For the direction that we wanted to do the hike, we needed to get to Lijiang. We took an overnight train from Kunming (the capital of Yunnan Province) (昆明 Kūnmíng) to Lijiang (丽江 Lìjiāng).

Security at train stations has increased a lot since our last visit to Kunming.  A terrorist attack a few years back has made for SWAT teams to be permanently stationed there, all luggage is screened and everybody is body scanned.  This together with our passports being checked a million times makes entering the station quite time consuming and chaotic, but did make us feel a little bit safer.

You can buy ‘Soft sleeper’ (软卧 ruǎn wò) tickets, which are 4 beds in a compartment (like the one in the pik above) that you can close the door to the rowdy noise and smoke (yes you can smoke at the end of the carriages on Chinese trains…the smoke surprise surprise does waft all over the train though).  Hard sleeper carriages  (硬卧 yìng wò ) are 6 beds to a little compartment and are a little cheaper, but the compartments do not have doors so you are still sharing with the rest of the passengers’ noise and smoke!  Hard seats (硬座 yìng zuò) can also be purchased even cheaper, not recommended for a 9 hour journey though! You can buy the tickets from any ticket office in China, and foreigners can now book long distance train tickets online before they get to China. You will need passport numbers to book, and ensure that your name is typed in the booking EXACTLY the same as it reads on the passport, including middle names, hyphens etc.  If it is not identical they will not issue your ticket!

Lijiang is located at the foot of Jade Dragon Snow Mountain (玉龙雪山 Yù lóng xuě shān).  It is very touristy, but luckily in January it is very low season, so we didn’t have to share the town with thousands of other tourists 🙂 There are lots of other less ‘touristy’ towns around the base of the mountain which are only a bus ride away to explore.  One of these towns is Baisha (白沙 Bái shā) (When the name of the town is hyperlinked you can click and learn a little more about this town).

3 nights exploring Lijiang and the villages around the mountain gave us time to adjust to the higher altitude, and we were ready to get a bus to a town called Qiaotou to start our hike.  You can read about the first day of the hike clicking this link.