First, coat your elephant liberally with mud …

Have just returned from a few days in Chiang Mai, where I learnt two very useful new skills  – firstly, how to give an elephant a mud bath, and secondly, how to wash the mud off again.

The elephants at the rescue centre have been rescued from performance venues in Thailand – all except the baby, who is three months old and was born there –

– he’s absolutely adorable.

First, we had to feed the elephants with pieces of chopped up bamboo … and that was when I felt something long, sinewy and warm snaking around my waist …

… they have no qualms at all about invading your personal space if there’s food involved.

Then we took them to the mud pool and covered them in the gooiest mud I’ve ever come across.

The elephants loved it, but I wasn’t quite so keen; mud wrestling has never been high on my list of possible hobbies.

After the mud, we washed them in the most beautiful clear water – well, it was clear before the elephant washing began – in the pool beneath a waterfall.  The water was freezing –

and the elephants – sneaky rotters – kept sucking up trunkfuls and spraying it all over us –

I was not amused …

But I managed to get my own back by feeding them their medicine –

which they weren’t too keen on – even though he does look as though he’s smiling in this photo.

After that it was a quick shower with a bar of soap under the power-shower waterfall to try and get rid of the worst of the mud

and then back into town, upskilled and upbeat. What a great day!

 

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What do Donald Trump, the Prince of Wales and three ugly-looking ladies have in common?

The answer could well be that they all have names that I find easy to remember – which is a definite bonus these days.

The new school year has brought with it a whole set of new name problems for me … and I used to think I was good with names.

Having finally got to grips last year with the unfamiliar Chinese names, and got accustomed to the retro British names, I now find myself back to square one.

For a start, I have a whole set of names that haven’t been seen in a school register in England since the 1950s.  In one class there’s Valerie and Clive, who sound more like veterans of the golf club than nine-year-old children.  Then there’s Muriel, who is always referred to as Unfortunate Muriel, for a variety of unfortunate reasons.  Marvin and Mervyn sound like a couple of second-hand car dealers, while Audrey must be the mad maiden aunt who’s probably into spiritualism.

Bryan is still the single most popular name in the school, and I have at least one per class.  Then there’s Dim Keith, Fat Ian, and Kayleb, whose parents are obviously into phonetic spelling.  Cherbelle and Crystalbelle sound so like Disney characters that I wasn’t surprised when a boy accidentally referred to Crystalbelle as Tinkerbell one day, much to his embarrassment once he realised his mistake.

Then we come to the Chinese names, and I seem to be beset with Xs and Ys this year, with a few Js thrown in just to add to the confusion.  In one class there’s Yu Xin, Xin Hui, Xin Yen, Hao Yen, Ya Jing – and in another there’s Chui Yi, Jia Yi, Shu Yi, Jian Jie and Jia Min.  I just call out a name and try not to look as though I have no idea which child I’m talking to.

Another difficulty with Chinese names is that there seems to be no way of distinguishing between boys’ names and girls’ names – so Li-Ann is a girl, but Lian-Ann is a boy – and what’s more he’s a boy who I accidentally called Denise one day, because he and Denise have the same surname … oh dear!

And finally – what do Donald Trump, the Prince of Wales and three ugly-looking ladies have in common?

The answer is, of course, that they have all been unmasked as robbers and are now banged up in prison for the next ten years – what an interesting thought.

 

 

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You can wear any colour you like … as long as it’s red

Things are hotting up for Chinese New Year next week.  Interestingly, it’s always called Chinese New Year, or CNY, even by the Chinese.  In our usual imperialist way, the West seems to have commandeered the term ‘New Year’ for 1 January – so perhaps we should embrace diversity, acknowledge that other New Years exist and start calling our celebration Gregorian New Year?  Just a thought.

CNY is a bit like Christmas is for us, and the celebrations start weeks ahead.  Last week I managed to gatecrash the KL Senior Citizens’ Karaoke Club CNY Lunch

and a jolly fine time we had too.

There are decorations everywhere – my local mall has gone for the Japan-in-the-Springtime look, with blossom-laden trees

and a bridge which Monet would have happily given gardenroom, I feel sure –

plus the ubiquitous Chinese lanterns, of course.  I’ve lost count of how many of those I’ve seen over the past few weeks.

Even Marks and Spencer is offering CNY hampers

and has a fetching display of cardboard lanterns in the entrance –

The local market has gone for dragons and lanterns –

with individually wrapped CNY mandarins –

or – more impressively – apples with a festive greeting branded onto them –

Children are given money in small red envelopes called ang pau, and the local Chinese restaurant has gone all artistic and tied them to their trees

So let’s hope it doesn’t rain between now and next Friday.

 

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