Ali with the tailor and his family
It turns out that it's quite a prestigious affair; this going-to-the-Great-Hall-of-the-People-to-receive-the-Friendship-Award business has taken over our lives the last week. It seems that nothing in Ali's wardrobe would even have allowed him into the hotel where we'll be staying in. After trying to borrow and buy locally, we opted to have a suit made - a traditional tang zhuang style. Over the last few days we have also had to buy black shoes, a few shirts, a couple of ties and a tank-top (cheaper than a jacket). Amazingly enough, he's delighted with his new outfits and says he's going to dress like this all the time. Miracles do happen.

As for Lesley, she's had her own begging and borrowing to do but still has to go smart-shoe-shopping in Kunming as nothing in Simao fits her BFG-size 39 feet! The last few days have taken on an added frenzy due to work pressures. Lesley's been putting in solid 12-hour days at the office - enabling her to finish off the training materials (manual, workbook and resources) for the up-and-coming Team Leader-Trainer Training course that starts the first day back after the holiday. She's also been running round like a headless chicken doing all the admin work - getting name lists from the Education Bureaus, fighting with them to stick to the requirements (i.e. send Team Leaders), translate the lists, book hotels, finalise the budget proposal and get the funding promised from VSO, etc etc. The good news is that Hou Wanxia's role in the TDC should be formalised in the next month or two, which will increase her presence in the office. With our departure set for an hour and a half from now, Lesley is relieved to have printed the final draft of the books for proof-reading.

Now we just have to pack our glad-rags into cases and head to the Capital - the Provincial Capital that is! We are spending a few days in Kunming with Paul and his girlfriend, Ava. We've been looking forward to meeting her for a LONG time and Lesley's hoping to recruit her assistance to find some traditional Chinese shoes that will pass the dress code.

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