birds & animals

Chinese ‘northern mallard’

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P1160346Spotted this duck swimming with a few of its counterparts along the shore of a small lake in one of the public gardens in Kunming, China. It looks suspiciously like Australia’s Northern Mallard and given the NM was introduced to Australia it most probably is. Like all dabbling ducks it was taking insects and floating vegetation from the surface with the occasional upend to forage below.

Chinese ‘sparrow’

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P1160338This little fellow and his/her flock were one of the few wild birds I saw when visiting China last month. In size and colour they were very similar to the sparrows in Australia and were just as flighty.

for the love of gardens

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P1160645Many of the public gardens, historic houses, or Buddhist temples I visited in China, had lovely water features. There is something about the sound, sight and presence of water in a green landscape that speaks a universal language, evoking in us all a certain charm and heightened sense of relaxation. The Chinese gardens I visited often had large scale lakes full of families cruising around on paddle boats, lagoons filled with water lilies, bulrushes and turtles, and hidden places criss-crossed with narrow but quick flowing streams complete with weeping willows and hungry koi.

Park in Kunming, Yunnan Province
Park in Kunming, Yunnan Province

Whatever the configuration the Chinese people love their gardens and they are well frequented in the day and late into the night. One reason is that many Chinese live in dense housing situations and really value going ‘outside’. Here families can connect with nature, dance together, practice tai chi, play games, enjoy traditional music and gossip.

While volunteering as an ESL teacher at Ronggui in Guangdong Province I stayed in a small apartment in a 25 storey high rise, surrounded on all sides by other 25 storey high rise apartment blocks.

View from the apartment... there were about 25 of these apartment blocks ringing the building I was in.
View from the apartment… there were about 25 of these apartment blocks ringing the building I was in.

The blocks were interspersed with gardens and every night the sound of music, children and laughter floated up to my rooms as the apartment dwellers flocked outside.

... that white sheen in the sky obliterating the background is air pollution not clouds
… that white sheen in the sky obliterating the background is air pollution not clouds

The Chinese people I came in contact with worked long hours (though the pace was slower than at home and there is a long break in the middle of the day) but many of them work 6 days a week so the evenings are often their social and family times. In a crowded city with hectic traffic, air pollution and concrete skylines, it is easy to appreciate why sitting under a tree, mucking about in a paddleboat, or simply watching koi slide past, are valued pastimes.

white pigeons in China

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P1160390 (1)One of the reasons I have been off WordPress for the last couple of months is because I was training as an ESL teacher and then went and volunteered at an International Kindergarten in Ronggui Subdistrict in Guangdong Province. P1160393The trip included a week in Yunnan Province as well and it was here I spotted these white pigeons atop a Buddhist temple. There seemed to be an inordinate number of white cats, white guinea pigs and white dogs in China kept as pets .. I don’t know if a white animal means something special to the Chinese .. maybe someone can tell me?  I’ll be posting some photos and comments about my time in China in the near future.