Thursday, 1 September 2016

Summer journeys in Sichuan and Yunnan x

This summer we were lucky enough to spend one month in South-West China in Sichuan and Yunnan province.  In my day job I am a social worker for vulnerable BME children so I am aware of just how privileged my children were to have one month ago in the wilds of South-West China whilst many of the children I work with barely left their neighborhood over the holiday.  

I first went to China 15 years after after graduation and went to teach English in Wuhan, Hubei province.  My brother followed a short-time later and met his now wife Keng-Keng who is from Kunming, the capital of Yunnan province.

For this trip I wanted to show and introduce my daughters Malika and Ameenah, to my China favourite hang-outs in Chengdu,the capital of Sichuan province and Kunming, the capital of Yunnan province and and of course the sublimely beautiful scenery outside the major cities.

First stop on our journey was the amazing Panda Research Base in Chengdu, Sichuan Province which is around one hour outside Chengdu. We organised a trip through the Chengdu Lazybones Hostel Templeside Poshpacker, which is a great hostel and located a five minute walk from one of Chengdu's major tourist sites, the Wenshu Monastery.

  The girls absolutely adored the pandas and they especially loved the baby pandas!!  This is such an amazing place to visit in Chengdu but it is best to arrive early as the crowds after midday are phenomenal.

New born pandas!

Baby Pandas!

I love this photo of Malika and Ameenah - this is typical comedy Ameenah!

The People's Park, Chengdu
人民公园, 成都市
Malika and Ameenah adored the People's Park in Chengdu and I was delighted to take them and show them the many delights inside as this was a favourite hangout of mine when I lived in Chengdu 14 years ago!  (Oh my i feel so old!!!)

The girls loved the ancient sugar art lollies; they loved spinning the wheel to choose their animal, they loved watching the hot sugar spun into wonderful shapes, and they loved eating them!

Ameenah and her 蝴蝶 !  (butterfly - hudie)

The girls loved watching the ancient art of Chinese water calligraphy in the park and watching the characters appear and quickly disappear...

Everywhere we journeyed to in China we found ourselves surrounded by crowds of young and old longing to have their photos taken with Malika and Ameenah.  Malika and Ameenah loved this for the most part but there were times they found the numbers of people overwhelming!

Ameenah attracted the most attention as many many folk both young and old wanted to touch her to see if she was real!!  People would frequently approach Ameenah, squeeze her arm and proclaim "hen pang" which means very fat in Mandarin and is viewed as a compliment!


I love this photo of Malika deep in thought at the People's Park...

After Chengdu we headed to Emei Shan, 峨眉山one of four Holy Buddhist mountains in China.  I had climbed the mountain twice before and loved the epic three day climb to the top, sleeping in ancient Buddhist monasteries on the way.  I knew that Malika and Ameenah wouldn't manage this so I planned a child friendly trip which would allow them to experience the joys and highlights of Emei Shan without undertaking a three day trek.

For the first night we stayed in the wonderful Teddy Bear Hotel in Baoguo Town which is at the bottom of Emei Shan.  The girls absolutely loved the Teddy Bear Hotel (as did I!) and would have happily stayed there for the remainder of the trip!

Our room was incredible with a carved wooden teddy bear face from ceiling to floor on one side of the room....and of course the room was full of teddies! 

The beef rice noodles on the breakfast menu were incredible!!

米線 -  mǐxiàn

Malika and Ameenah with the brilliant "Andy" - the laoban   - boss - of the Teddy Bear Hotel...

Crossing a very rickety old bridge on the way up Emei Shan...

After climbing Emei Shan, we took a quick trip to Leshan to see the world's biggest Buddha.  The journey from Baguo to Leshan is just over an hour which was very manageable for the girls.  However there were crowds from all over mainland China in July so not the most ideal time to travel with children.

On the way back from the Buddha we stopped to eat in Leshan and once again faced huge crowds!!

The next stop was Kunming 昆明, the capital of Yunnan Province: 云南

Malika and Ameenah were delighted to meet up with Keng-Keng's grannies, Nai Nai and Po Po.

Keng-Keng is a milliner and she made these wonderful hats for her grandmothers.  She has also recently made the hats for the latest Star Wars film.

The girls had so much fun meeting Keng-Keng's niece Candy and speaking Mandarin with her....

This is Baba Tang, Kengy's father, who is incredible with the girls - one of the most humble men I have ever met.

It was rainy season when we were in Kunming and Ameenah loved parading around the beautiful Green Lake with her rainbow umbrella.

I love this shot of the whole family spanning four generations and bringing together a Yunnan and Irish-Scottish-Moroccan family.

Beside the Green Lake Malika loved to swing upside down on the exercise equipment.

We also travelled to Dali, 大理,  an amazing town north of Kunming, which is home of the Bai people of Yunnan.  Behind the old town of Dali lies the sublimely beautiful Cangshan mountain range which we explored one day after taking a cable car to the West peak.

 The girls loved enjoying the simple Yunnan pleasures on CangShan - sitting and eating delicious cold noodles.  Yum!

Malika loved this traditional Bai outfit that we bought at the bottom of the mountain range.

After Dali we headed further North to an incredible town called JianChuan, 剑川.
Jianchuan is a traditional Bai town, full of artisans, stonemasons and master woodworkers.

We stayed with the local police chief (my brother had stayed there previously) in his wonderful Ming Dynasty house.

The girls loved staying here as the friendly police chief host loved teaching the girls martial arts and traditional Chinese painting!

We arrived in Jianchuan just in time for the fire festival which is mandarin is called the !!

(Huo ba jie).  Once again as soon as we hit town the crowds gathered to take photos of Malika and Ameenah!

Last stop on our journey was a trip to the sublimely beautiful Tiger Leaping Gorge and Jade Dragon Snow Mountain.

I had climbed in the gorge twice before and really wanted to share the experience with Malika and Ameenah.  We hired horses and off we went on our final adventure of the trip!!

I love this shot of the girls heading off on horseback into the mountains...

We stayed in an incredible guest house with the most amazing views across Jade Dragon Snow Mountain and I was really proud that the girls managed a two day trek in such an awesome landscape.

These photos of Ameenah capture the spirit of our final few days in Yunnan province!!

And a rare photo of the three of us at the top of the Gorge!

Monday, 28 March 2016

Naomi Mitchison: Women in World History - A Multicultural Kids Blog Series

For the second series of the brilliant Women in World History, we decided to focus on a woman close to home, or rather, close to our new adopted home, and capital city of Scotland, Edinburgh.

Naomi Mitchison was born in Edinburgh in 1897 and during her lifetime penned over 90 books ranging from travel books to novels to science fiction to historical novels to children's books.  I came across her whilst studying for a MA in Glasgow University and of course one of the remarkable things about Naomi's body of fiction was that it was largely disregarded at the time in favor of  her male contemporaries.

Initially Naomi started her career as a scientist and wrote a significant paper on genetics, highlighting genetic linkage in animals.  However following World War One she decided to train as a nurse.

In 1916, Naomi married a friend of her brother, who like her was from a well-connected and wealthy family.  He became a QC, a Labour MP and then a life peer and while Naomi could have taken on the title, Lady Mitchison, she strongly objected to this.  She did however assist him hugely with his constituency duties and political career.

The marriage was not wholly satisfactory so both Naomi and Dick (her husband) agreed to enter into an open marriage with both parties entering into other relationships.  However Dick and Naomi still had seven children together whilst Naomi dreamed of a time when women could have children with more than one father if they wished.

Her most famed fictional work was The Corn Queen and the Spring King is regarded by many critics as one of the best historical novels of the twentieth century.  She was also a famed feminist and campaigned openly for birth control.  

Naomi was a prolific traveller and penned a book called Mucking Around about her travels in five continents over 50 years.  She also travelled frequently to Africa over her lifetime and was made a kind of tribal mother of the Bakgatla people from Botswana.  (Her Botswana name is at the top pf her portrait - MaBakgatla).

She wrote a number of memoirs in her lifetime and was also a close friend of JR Tolkien as well as being one of the proof readers of Lord of the Rings. 

Naomi was politically active throughout her life and a committed Socialist.  She visited the Soviet Union in 1932 with the Fabian Society and spoke out against the direction of Soviet Society.  She also smuggled refugees out of Austria as well as smuggling documents out.  After she unsuccessfully stood for the Labour Party, Naomi became interested in Scottish Nationalism and themes and wrote increasingly on such issues, while advocating for many local issues in Argyll and the Highlands and Islands.

Naomi continued to write until well into her nineties and was made CBE in 1981.She died at 101 in her beloved Argyll and was survived by her three sons, two daughters and nineteen grandchildren.

Initially I brought my daughter Malika on a "treasure hunt," to the National Portrait Gallery,  Edinburgh, to see if she could find the portrait of Naomi.  En-route, I told Malika snippets about the life and times and stories of Naomi.  This portrait was painted by the Australian artist, Clifton Pugh.

Malika and Naomi.

Travel Light is one of Naomi's few children's books and critics compare it to Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter.  Its the story of Halla, a girl born to a King but raised by bears while living amongst dragons.  The book weaves its tales in Constantinople and medieval forests and centres around Halla's youth amongst dragons, unicorns and other mythical creatures.  In the second half of the book Halla is taken under the wing of a hero, who asks her to discard her worldly things and travel light.  
Halla is regarded as a saint, an angel, a god, a witch or a friend by all those she comes across and she can speak all languages including bird and animal languages.  

This is such a wonderful fantastical book and while Malika enjoyed it I think it is more age appropriate for children of ten years old and above.

Buy a new pad, fresh felt-tip pens or pencils and ask your child to write a book called "Travel Light."  Fun, creative and easy....
Malika enjoyed drawing lots of bears and authoring a wonderful tale of travelling bears....

Naomi and Orcadian poet George Mackay Brown

Naomi was a huge vocal campaigner for women's rights and was regarded as a bohemian free thinker and feminist before the term was even coined.

You could ask your child how girls are expected to behave and how boys are expected to behave....You could then ask them whether or not boys and girls should be treated in the same way or differently and why this is.....

If you would like to learn more about Naomi, tune in to this quintessentially British Radio Show, Desert Island Discs, which features Naomi in discussion about her chosen records, book and possessions for a Desert Island....Great stuff from a true original x

Women's History Month Series on Multicultural Kid Blogs

Join us for our second annual Women's History Month series, celebrating the contributions and accomplishments of women around the world. Follow along all month plus link up your own posts below! Don't miss our series from last year, and find even more posts on our Women's History board on Pinterest: Follow Multicultural Kid Blogs's board Women's History on Pinterest.
March 1 A Crafty Arab on Multicultural Kid Blogs: 7 Women Artists Who Changed History
March 3 The Art Curator for Kids: Songs We Can See - The Art of Peggy Lipschutz
March 4 Kid World Citizen: Children's Books about Women Scientists
March 7 Mama Smiles: Picture Books about Great Women in History Your Kids Need to Know
March 8 Hispanic Mama: 4 Latina Women Who Made It Happen
March 9 Discovering the World Through My Son's Eyes: Spanish Children's Book on the Life of Felisa Rincón de Gautier, First Female Mayor of San Juan, Puerto Rico
March 10 Witty Hoots: Some Awesome Women in My Life
March 11 MommyMaestra: Women in World History Trading Card Template
March 14 Crafty Moms Share
March 15 The Jenny Evolution
March 16 Discovering the World Through My Son's Eyes
March 17 Living Ideas
March 18 La Cité des Vents
March 21 A Crafty Arab
March 22 La Cité des Vents
March 23 Peakle Pie
March 24 All Done Monkey
March 25 The Art Curator for Kids on Multicultural Kid Blogs
March 28 Creative World of Varya
March 29 Family in Finland
March 30 The Jenny Evolution
March 31 For The Love of Spanish

Monday, 18 January 2016

Morocco: Global Education Series

WOULD you like to learn more about Gnawa music which comes from Morocco? 

Please click on the below link to take you to our post on Gnawa music which is part of the Global Learning for Kids Series, and part of the MultiCultural Kids Blog.