So I’ve just had an unexpected 3 days off from school, no not due to sickness or a poorly child, it was actually thanks to the Ministry of Education. They issued a decree that stated that years 1-5 should stay at home due to particularly bad pollution and excessively cold weather. Mmmm it hadn’t gone above -20 since we returned after the Christmas and on Wednesday, the day the decree was issued, ironically, it was the clearest day we had in weeks.  The pollution lifted and we could see the snow covered mountains on the far side of the city once more.  (There was also a meeting of important people in the city to discuss effects of pollution on children during the week – think that may have had some influence!)  However, we couldn’t really argue with the Ministry so that was that, 3 days off school for the Nortons, oh except Seb as apparently year 6 and secondary can cope with it, as well as Kindergarten!  We took advantage of our first day off and did our weekly shop. Great idea- head to the Aussie butcher, top up the freezer and do our shop all in one. Unfortunately the supermarket had a really poor selection of bread and fruit and veg – pretty essential items on our list – and for some unknown reason within seconds of entering Pete and I were aware of a strong, oily, fumy smell. As we walked around the store I thought it would improve but it actually worsened in some aisles. Who knows what was up but eventually the smell got to both of us so we completed the shop in double quick time and escaped back up to the ground floor and the fresh air outside as soon as we could. The problem was that actually there was no fresh air. The pollution had returned with a vengeance on Thursday after our brief respite on Wednesday and as we exited the department store the fresh air was actually smog. During our taxi ride home Thursday lunch time we both admitted for the first time that the pollution was getting to us. When we normally point to the 2 tower blocks where we live to the taxi driver we couldn’t on Thursday as they weren’t actually visible through the smog. It didn’t take us long to decide that what we really wanted to do was escape to the country. So we took full advantage of using Friday to catch up on some work and then escaped to the countryside for the weekend, not returning until Monday.

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The smog and car fumes that we left behind.
Before doing so though there was the small matter of the staff Burns night to attend.  Traditional parading of the Haggis, reciting of some famous Scottish poetry, eating lots of food, a little whiskey, some ‘wee turns’ by various members of staff – including a rendition of ‘Ye cannie shove ya Grannie aff the bus’ by the Nortons and a mini Celidh.

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Morning View from my bed -why would I stay in the city with this as an option?

We arrived at the Ger camp by 11 on Saturday morning after a particularly hair raising, break neck speed, minibus journey.  We opted for the hotel room this time, which actually had 3 single beds in the children’s room and a completely separate room for us which meant no arguing about who shares a bed with who!  We then spent 2 days watching films, playing games, walking up mountain sides covered in snow, sledging and at one point even managed a walk in the hills, just Pete and me.  We spent a great 2 days just recharging by taking in, once again, the sheer beauty of the place and the quietness and calm.  Photos on an iphone simply do not portray the beauty of the place – although, yes the sky really is that blue, all the time in the countryside – nor the ‘sound of silence.’

 

This I feel will be our little ‘go to’ place where we can recharge and escape the city. January was a hard month, not in terms of work load, that actually seemed a little easier than Term 1 but in terms of wondering whether I can stick at this for another 18 months and more importantly whether I want to. January is often a hard month, even in England, you reflect, you ponder, you get fed up with the winter weather well here was no different and some of you know I felt homesick but we are over half way through our 1st year and busy planning our summer break in England.  Encouraging messages and calls, the fact that it is now February and the temperature may only be -8 at the weekend, have put a smile on my face…………that and my weekend getaway.

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A 180 degree view with the hotel at the bottom.
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