Somewhere in Yunnan, China
Somewhere in Yunnan, China
We changed the layout of the blog a bit because it was becoming too large. Now it is split up per year. The "Quick menu" above brings you to the 2021 page.
As before the start is at the bottom of the page.
Apart from working on the Giants Republic I have been working on a copy of Piet Mondrian's masterpiece the Victory Boogie Woogie.
Finally after eleven months of work interrupted by lots of drying time Victory was achieved.
Finally we got around poring the concrete table top for the workbench at the back workshop.
Work on this was postponed due to Covid restrictions and being occupied by other things.
On top of that some extra muscle was needed for mixing the concrete and only two old-timers were available with bad knees. At the end the landlord of the Giants Republic provided most of the heavy labour needed for mixing and poring the concrete.
After my last update of this web site one of my sisters remarked that we were always having parties and big fun at the Giants Republic.
This is however not the case. Keeping the place running takes a lot of time and energy. So much that a lot of the hobby things for which the whole project was intended gets postponed.
Below a shortlist of things that had to be done in order to keep the place up.
In addition to that there is still outstanding work that is not done because of Covid restrictions and the fact that people have other things to do than help out at the Giants Republic.
The microwave oven, also less than a year old stopped working. This simple model cost less than 300 kuai / 50 Euro. None the less the similar model we have at home is now working flawlessly for more than eleven years. The local repair shop wanted a 100 kuai to have a look at it and parts would be extra. I don't like to waste things but potentially spending 50% of the new price on a repair is a bit much.
I had opened up the machine to have a look and nothing was obviously wrong with it. Meanwhile while looking at new microwave ovens on line a whole set of replacement parts showed up as well. But how to troubleshoot a microwave oven yourself?
My friend Brian however sent me some YouTube videos on how to troubleshoot an microwave oven and that got me off in the right direction. After testing a variation of common problems I located the misbehaving part which was inside the timer.
A switch inside the timer had been sparking and got so hot that it had melted the plastic leaver that pushes the switch.
To my surprise the whole thing worked again after some basic cleaning.
A replacement timer cost three to five Euro on line so if it happens again then the whole timer will be replaced.
Once you know the problem things are simple but it took many hours figuring it all out.
Also our garden is small it still takes much of attention. We planted some kale (A vegetable largely unknown in China) and the poor plants were attacked by aphids and caterpillars. The aphids go for the fresh grow buds and slow down the development of the plants. The caterpillars are of a sort that has exactly the same colour as the kale itself and are hard to spot. Usually they can be found by looking for damaged leaves.
Some plants can be a pest as well. There are plenty of weeds that have to be kept at bay and even useful plants can be a nuisance. The Ginger hand pumpkin was at a certain moment blocking the access path to the back workshop and the Chayote / Buddha fists have taken over the guide wires of the sun screen.
The Pizza oven was giving problems with the bottom burner unit, it kept on flaming out which sets of the flame out alarm and that has a very irritating beep. Only after restarting over and over again the thing started working properly. This meant that one had to stay next to it for at least half an hour until it warmed up.
The only visual problem with the thing was that the bottom temperature indicator window was broken and that an insect had decided to make a cocoon in there. On top of that the oven works fine once it has heated up so the temperature set unit and temperature sensor where the main suspects.
Parts for this oven are available on line so I ordered a new temperature set / indicator unit and a new sensor. Together they cost 83 kuai, about 15 Euro. When the part arrived it was the wrong part; a unit for ovens up to 400 degrees. I complained but the seller said that the other part was out of stock. None the less the part can be used keeping in mind that the oven is only build for temperatures up to 300 degrees.
However this didn't solve the problem. If this was not the problem it was most likely the controller / igniter unit. This part is available as well on line for 75 kuai - 12 Euro. After installing this part the oven worked normally so hopefully no more repairs are needed on this rusty old monster.
In the week after the class reunion there was a small outbreak in the town just across Xishan mountain and this let to wide spread Covid testing in Kunming. The village where the Giants Republic is has a road crossing the mountain as well that leads to this town. Therefor the village got locked down and it was no longer possible to go to the Giants Republic.
After ten days it became possible again but only with a negative Covid test showing in your Covid App. The first test I did was in our local shopping centre and this enabled me to go to the village again. There I would do a test again for the next trip. In the village the queue is much shorter or there is no queue at all.
Once the outbreak was under control in the area the Party Congress started and testing continued all over. Now there were checks as well on the roads leading into Kunming and every day I have to pass this checkpoint. At first getting passed there took nearly half an hour. After the Party Congress one is waved through.
The mass testing is free of charge and tests are combined per ten samples taken. After registration with your Covid App you get a swap and every tens person get a file for the next ten people.
Thirty years ago the group above started high school together.
The organising committee of the school reunion was composed of Wu Jing (Left), Xu Ying (Middle) and Wang Shuo Yun (Right), and so it was no wonder that he Giants Republic was chosen as the venue for their high school reunion.
Of course the day ended with our by now famous BBQ. In this case with for the first time a roasted duck. The pizza's however got cancelled because people had brought to many food contributions. Still some freshly baked pistolets (crispy buns) got served.
The next day the people that had stayed overnight helped out by cleaning up and making concrete for the concrete work bench. There are no photos of these activities because we were all working too hard to take any.
After that we had fresh pizza for lunch.
At the back workshop I am building a strong work bench with a metal edge so things can easily be clamped on to it.
The bench is mainly intended for metal work and welding.
The base material used for this work bench is concrete. Some of the form work is made with special formwork plywood; that is the orange material. For form work that is less critical and only used once I use old bits of plasticised particle boards that come from the rubbish dump at our compound.
Nearly all the rebar used is old stuff that I found at the Giants Republic.
At the Giants Republic we do a lot of drilling in walls and concrete floors (to make holes for the plants). Therefor it was no surprise that the old drill, that I had taken over second-hand and had used and abused a lot, decided that it was enough and gave up.
So a new one was ordered on line and because the old one had a tendency to overheat I ordered the "improved" model with advanced cooling. This turned out to be a disaster because the "improved" model blows out lots of air to the front and thereby blows all stuff coming out of the borehole all over the place. This resulted in grit all over the workshop where I was drilling the holes.
Dissatisfied by this "improved" model I sent it back and bought the "non improved" model. When that one arrived I realised that they had improved ventilation on that model as well but now blowing air out on multiple sides.
The drill was needed to install shelves. By now I have installed 14 meters / 5.3 square meters of shelves on the walls. Three meters in the kitchen, 4.4 metres in my room and nearly seven in the workshop.
All those shelves are from recycled material apart from the metal supports.
Because the walls are rather soft I decided to fix the shelves with metal rods that go from one side of the wall to the other.
This method is extremely strong and only one rod per metal support is needed. It has the advantage as well that shelves can be hung on both sides of the wall on the same rod.
The Giants Republic is surrounded by Chayote plants that clime on to everything. The Chinese name for Chayote is Buddha's fist melon (Pumpkins, gourds and melons are all called melon here). Last year we planted several over ripe Chayote fruits in our little garden and one not only survived but started to take over the place and now grows both to the left and right all over the Pizza Hut.
These Chayote plants grow long distance. To the left it is about five metres and to the right some four and it is still growing.
Apart from our own Chayote fruits we got a lot from the landlord/lady and had lots for friends and family.
The other long-distance plant is the Ginger Melon or Ginger Handle Melon. This pumpkin is apparently a speciality of Yunnan.
It grows from behind the compound wall towards the back workshop and is now some seven metres long.
Bread in China is of a type that is sweet and soft and more like cake then bread. For that reason I make bread myself on a regular base and often people ask me if I can teach them how to make bread. Because we have the big pizza oven now at the Giants Republic we can make bread there as well so we organised a bread workshop there.
The bread I make follows traditional French and Italian recipes which means they are made with "pre-ferments". The French version is called Poolish and the Italian version Biga. They are the same except from the amount of water used while making them. These pre-ferments are made the day before because they need at least 12 hours to form. Bread made with these pre-ferments is supposed to be more airy and crisp. Bread made with pre-ferments use very little yeast but long fermentation times. But given the high temperatures that day they were still relatively quick.
Apart from the white flour Mediterranean bread we made my usual full grain and seeds bread that keep longer and are more nutritious. This contains whole wheat flour, rye flour, oats, cooked rice, sun flower seeds, black and white sesame seeds, line seeds, and wheat bran.
Apart from the bread with the pre-ferments we made some quick bread, bread thus with lots of yeast. This was fruit bread and olive bread.
Then it was time to get the hand dirty and start producing bread.
On the left olive bread, above pistolets and ciabattas, on the right fruit bread.
Dividing, shaping and proofing.
The test of the bread is the eating.
The quick breads are ready first and cut up while the pistolets an ciabattas are in the oven. The whole grain flour and seeds bread is still in its proving state in the bread tins.
While the bread was being made we had lunch with Xu Ying's mother's famous cold noodles and fruit.
While waiting for the bread to rise we had endless cups of Puer tea in Wang Shuo Yun's cups on Wang Shuo Yun's table.
And to round it off the BBQ.
The results of our workshop: pistolets, ciabattas, olive bread, whole grain flour and seeds bread and fruit bread.
The landlady invited us to pick as many plums as we liked from the plum trees surrounding the Giants Republic.
The trees are however on a slope and can only be accessed on one side. On that side all the plums are gone. For harvesting the plums on the other side a picking tool is needed.
Mark brought a telescopic paint roller stick to the Midsummer BBQ but the only plastic bottle we had turned out to be unsuitable for plum harvesting. For next try I brought an empty coke bottle and that worked. However I till needed a stepladder to get in reach of the best plums.
The rain and wind that came after the "Peach & Understanding" party was too much for the canvas and the attachment points ripped away from the sheet.
I made a new one by sewing reinforcement band all around and across.
The Giants Republic became thus a sewing workshop as well.
The new rain shed was just ready in time for the Midsummer BBQ. However despite the forecast it was completely dry that time so the new rain sheet has not been tested yet.
The Giants Republic is surrounded by peach trees. They are of an old variety and therefore complicated to pick and rather small and thus of no economic value.
Our landlady suggested that we could pick as many as we liked when they were ripe.
The peaches were ripe, it was the long weekend holiday of the Dragon Boat Festival and the Giants Republic existed now one year. So a good time to organise a party.
The "Peach & Understanding at Dragon Boat Festival" Party was held in three parts on separate days.
Day one on Friday the international part.
Day two on Saturday the family part.
Day three on Sunday the friends and friends of friends part.
After the concrete was poured it was time to fire up the oven.
First try Fruit Bread with raisins and you guessed it: peach. That worked fine.
Second try was "Pistolets". These are crispy small baguettes style bread buns. Turned out fine as well.
And then it was time for the real stuff: Pizza. The pizza worked out fine as well and with a crispy base just as is expected from a pizza oven with a large stone slap in it.
The last time we organised a get together for both Xu Ying's father's and mother's families was when we had our housewarming party eleven years ago.
A family get to getter always turns around food so this one as well.
With so many BBQ's going and the pizza oven and the Tibetan hotpot the speed was so fast that we were finished before seven.
Despite all the cooks involved the broth didn't get spoiled.
The broth turned out to be excellent.
Next step: How to properly cut the fish.
We had told participants that we would provide basic pizza and that if they wanted anything special that they had to bring it themselves.
And they did. One came up with an egg and Wang Shuo Yun with durian and her own made pizza bottom. The Durian &Cheese pizza turned out to be quite nice. Not in the sense of being a pizza but as a nice creamy dessert.
The pizza oven came with three large slaps of marble. Laid out on top of one of my workbenches they make a real good work surface for preparing pizzas. Marble is used in Italy as well for this purpose.
Note that like pizzeria all over the world we have a grapevine on the ceiling, but ours is real.
The "Peach & Understanding at the Dragon Boat Festival Party" was a great success.
The peaches were fine.
The pizza oven worked fine.
The weather was fine despite all predictions.
Chinese don't like olives and foreigners like olives a lot.
Durian Pizza is actually quite nice.
We need more chopsticks when hosting more than twenty guest at a time.
The pizza oven is 12 years old and spend seven years on an open balcony and then five years in storage. The protective cover was penetrated by a tile coming of the wall above the balcony and there is now a hole in the top plate. This led to a situation that rain water could enter and that resulted in lots of corrosion. There is a reason why I got the thing for free.
After drilling and grinding several rusty bold and nuts away I could open up the inside and inspect the burners. The burners where fine and functioning but everything not made of stainless steel was extremely rusty. So time was spend grinding away rust and welding new nuts in place there where the old rusty ones had been cut away.
However assembled again the bottom burner kept cutting out. After a night thinking about it I realised that the exhaust probably was blocked because it worked fine when the bottom plate was out. Cutting some more exhaust holes indeed fixed the problem and the oven worked again.
The thermostats worked fine but the bottom temperature indicator gets stuck when it reaches 160 degrees. Looks like the regulator works fine however. Anyway this part is available on line for 73 kuai (10 euro) so if needed I can replace it.
At the end of May, after nearly five years in storage, the pizza oven finally found its destination and hopefully can shine again.
It needs a good cleaning and some testing to see if it still works. One of the thermostats was said to be not working properly when we got it.
Anyway got a new and full bottle of gas for it so even if it doesn't work we can BBQ on our gas barby.
By now electricity and electric light have been installed at our "Pizza Hut".
But often there is too much light during the day so shadow netting was installed as well.
Next step; bringing in the actual pizza oven.
During the Labour Day holiday we held a two day gathering to mix and pour concrete.
There were three projects at hand: The platform for the pizza oven, a small ramp inside the compound and a larger ramp next to the house for better access to the open workshop at the back.
Again friends and friends of friends came to help and were rewarded with cakes and a BBQ.
In addition we had three students of Wu Ying and made it into a training session. The Giants Republic became a training centre thus as well.
I myself had hurt my back and suffered from both Lumbago in my back and RSI in my right arm so help was not only welcome but rather necessary.
Not only labour was provided but as well banana bread, cake & pies and Chinese jelly.
Special thanks to Xu Ying's mother for preparing the cold noodles lunch and BBQ food and to our landlady for providing additional food for the hungry workers.
After the theoretical session about concrete and its uses in general we had lunch and got cracking.
On the second day the three students, now with muscle pain as well, worked on laying the long ramp until we ran out of sand needed for the concrete.
The base of the ramp is created by embedding bricks, tiles and concrete rubble in fine aggregate concrete. In this way we save cement and got rid of stone waste at the same time.
My thanks again for all the help and goodies received.
Apart from the food and labour contributions we received as well a folding bed and an inflatable bed plus some bedding materials. It all helps to make it possible to stay overnight at the Giants Republic.
Thanks as well for the photographic material like the three photo compilations around this text and most of the pictures used above.
It is spring and everything is growing. The compound is surrounded by green trees again and our little courtyard garden is doing well as well.
The pizza oven platform is growing as well as you can see in the picture. The formwork and metal reinforcement is done. In the coming days we will pour the concrete slab.
Lately we have been only sporadic at the Giants Republic. The weather was cold and wet (So no need to go there to water the garden) and it was "Tomb Sweeping Festival"
During Tomb Sweeping Festival people go to the graves of their ancestors and clean them up and give gifts of paper money and things like paper clothing, cars and even houses and smartphones to be used in the afterlife.
The road to the Giants Republic is the same as the road to one of the biggest cemeteries in Kunming. One day we went to the Giants Republic and we were stuck in traffic for one hour and fifty minutes.
However we had to go again because the cement, sand and gravel we had ordered would be delivered. That day the queue for the cemetery already started in Kunming itself and would thus be some two kilometres longer. We then turned around and took the motorway to the Giants Republic. The motorway exit for the cemetery had a queue of two kilometres as well but we could bypass that.
Once at the Giants Republic things went wrong. The truck delivering the building materials crashed through the top of the septic tank and got stuck there.
After offloading the truck by hand the truck could drive out but the tank is severely damaged. Hopefully they soon will build the new sewage system so that we don't have to repair the septic tank. This project is however slow and frequently interrupted.
The first building project was a two brick high support for the ramp I made for rolling / driving things in and out of the workshop.
I have done many building programs but always had others to do the actual work for me. So this two brick high wall was my first attempt at bricklaying by myself.
The next project is making a concrete slab over the old outdoor stove. Once the slap is there I can bring the gas pizza oven, which I got already years ago and is now in storage, to the Giants Republic.
Another option is building a wood fired pizza oven because we have plenty of fire wood.
The weather changes fast. Now temperatures in the upper twenties in the afternoon. The dry season arrived as well which means watering the flowers and vegetables in our garden. Luckily the succulents on the roof need water only ones a week.
At the end of February, at the end of a week that started with snow on Monday, the weather was right to finally bring the drawer cabinet we got given months ago inside.
Friends and friends of friends came to help and were rewarded with cakes and a BBQ.
The cabinet is 272 centimetres wide and too large to go via the stairs. The only option was to hoist it up to the roof and then lower it down the stairways. The overhanging edge of the roof prevented us from simply hoisting it up and therefor a kind of rails to guide the hoist around the protruding edge was needed. For this I had constructed a locking system to keep the tubes, used as the rails, in place on both the roof edge and the ground below it. The tubes are 6 metres long and only at one point this coincided with the height of the building. A strong paracord was used plus three pulleys to lift the cabinets weight of 65 kilograms and to overcome the friction between the wooden gliders and the rusty rails.
Once on the roof the wooden gliders had to be removed and the pulleys and ropes reorganised to lower the cabinet down the stairways.
How this was done can be seen on the pictures below and the time lapse clips and video clips on another page.
And then it was time for more cake and the barbecue.
With most of the renovation work done it is back to painting. Some at home because it is still rather cold at the place right now.
I wanted a large painting for the large room upstairs. At home I started to make a copy of Mondrian's Victory Boogie Woogie. I made it before but not at full size. The size is 126 by 126 cm but because it is hanging from one point it becomes 188 by 188 cm. This is pretty large and I had to extent my painting board for it. It now just fits under the ceiling.
I glued a broken traditional set of roof cats together again and started painting them as well.
The only thing we seem to do nowadays is having barbeques and fooling around with succulents.
That is indeed the only thing we did. It was Spring Festival and the weather was quite bad and cold so no work at the Giants Republic accept from this single trip with aunts and niece.
But the carful reader will notice that in this case we are using a traditional Yunnan charcoal barbeque next to our infra-red one. Charcoal has the advantage that one can warm one's hands on it.
After the BBQ the ladies rearranged the succulents on the roof into a proper roof garden (See picture above).
Growing succulents is a common hobby here.
One of XY's friends grows them on the roof of her office building in downtown Kunming.
Frankly this hobby got a bit out of hand and she now has far to many. And as with other stuff to many you bring the surplus to the Giants Republic.
Apart from all these succulents we got a suitcase full of crockery, many of which are small Puer tea cups, that were to nice/small to be used for the plants.
And as usual we had a BBQ again with all the participants. This time with solar coffee.
This was followed by the Puer tea that one of our guest brought. Anyway we have now enough teacups to start a teahouse.
The place already has solar water heating which is shared with the landlord family and the family next door.
I added a solar cooker to this.
At the moment the sun stands very low and the cooker can only be used at noon. Even at max inclination the mirror does not focus on the bottom of the pot but on the side but it still works and now we have solar coffee.
As one can see earlier in this blog the locks of the place are old and cranky. Finally we got around to replace some locks and add additional security measures to others. All of this will not be described in this blog because this information on this semi-public place might actually compromise the security of the place.
But here an example.
The year started with a BBQ with XY's mother aunts and nieces.
They were invited to pick strawberries at the plot of our landlady.
On top of that we were given so much green vegetables that the whole family could eat them for the following week.
© burma-road.com holds the copyright on all pictures, clips, text and maps used on this website unless otherwise indicated. (2007 - 2022).