2014 – Year of the Horse

I see red I see red I see red. Shanghai (and the rest of China) is awash with red and gold in the build-up to the New Year which falls on the 31st of January this year.  The color red is loaded with cultural meaning in China – it symbolizes happiness, vitality and good luck.

If you happen to be a ‘horse’ (1930, 1942, 1954, 1966, 1978, 1990, 2002) watch out! as superstition dictates that you will have bad luck this year.  BUT you can encourage good luck by wearing jade jewelry on the left side of your body and by wearing red clothing every day (which could explain the piles of red underwear that I’ve seen  currently on sale)

Hundreds of millions of people journey home at this time of year to feast on  some important festive foods such as fish because its Chinese name, ‘yu’, sounds very similar to the Chinese word for a surplus, Dumplings  which symbolise wealth, and mandarins as they are seen to represent gold and wealth. Nian gao (New Year Cake) is a festive dessert made from glutinous rice and it is considered lucky, as nian gao sounds a lot like the way of saying ‘higher year’ in Chinese and rice dumplings are eaten as their round shape is a symbol of family reunion.


Chinese schools have 3 weeks vacation at this time of year.  Our children’s school has one and we are heading to the Philippines and are looking forward to some nature.  The Philippines are not reputed to have fine cuisine but I’m sure to find something yummy.

Shanghighs‘: We’ve been having particularly nice weather this past week and I was wondering if the Chinese New Year is commonly called the Spring Festival because of this.  However I’ve been that these high temperatures (18degrees celsius) are very unusual for this time of year.

Shanglows‘: ‘Dr. Zhang Xiaodong, a 31-year-old surgeon at the Shanghai Pudong New Area People’s Hospital, died on Saturday, and tests a day later showed he had contracted the H7N9 strain of avian influenza’ (NYTimes)

Shangunusuals‘: The Natural History Museum was not quite what I was expecting.  I think that the human embryos in jars were a little too frightening for Blanche as were the mummified bodies for Antoine.


Oh my….

Well the first day of the new school, then the second, third, forth and fifth were difficult for the kids (and me!).  Oh how I wish I’d not been forced to change school mid-year.  Other expatriates explain that friends coming and going is all part of the course, but it’s still difficult.

Blanche was so happy last week-end when we invited the children from her class (from the old school – although I think only one of them is actually still a student there) to celebrate her heart-themed birthday party.  Thank you big sister Anne for the party game ideas that went down very well.




A dream I dreamed

Shanghighs‘: Many of the children in Blanche’s new class (of 17 boys and 5 girls) have been really very welcoming and we’ve already had one play-date.  Another good thing about the new school is that Wednesday afternoons are free and so I took the kids to the MOCA museum where they enjoyed an exhibition called ‘A dream I dreamed’ by Yayoi Kusama before wandering around the ‘secret paths’ in the People’s Park (a large park in town).

I was offered the opportunity to work as a Speech Therapist for as many hours (or as few) as I wish per week but……

Shanglows‘: ….. there is a problem as I let my speech therapy license expire!  I’m in the process of finding a way to renew my British, Australian or French license.

As I was feeling completely psychologically drained this week (read ‘depressed’) I decided to try Traditional Chinese Medicine.  After taking a comprehensive case history, measuring my pulse on both wrists, observing the tongue etc.., the doctor prescribed herbs to be drunk daily in warm water.  It’s a ‘Shanglow’ because it tastes absolutely awful but I’m willing to give it a try.


Daily dose of Chinese Medicine. I have no idea what is in these little sachets but judging by the number the doctor must have thought I was a desperate case 🙂

Shangunusuals‘: I did a cooking class with a group called ‘Cookinshanghai’. The reason it is under this heading is that despite loving to learn new recipes, I didn’t actually enjoy the class very much.  There’s something about adding cornstarch, sugar, ‘chicken extract’, dark soy sauce to everything and cooking in a cup of oil that just doesn’t appeal to me.


Before photo


After photo – kungpao chicken, eggplant/aubergine and green beans and soup.


We met a Belgian family recently who had coined and used the acronym TIC (‘This is China’) to help them in moments of challenge/frustration.  Like when things change from one day to the next, often without warning nor explanation.

As an example, here is the message that we received from our children’s school on the last school day of the year:

“Dear Parents,Today we received a Dismissal Letter from the owner of the school: Sonja teacher of K2, Helene teacher of TPS, Hannah teacher of  K1, Jordan teacher of K3 class and myself Pauline, foreigner principal have been dismissed of our mission from today 20th of December 2013. We won’t be able to come back in January, today was our last day.The board will hire new people to replace our team.These teachers and myself feel sorry for the short notice”.  No explanation given….. lovely Christmas present to the unsuspecting staff and families!

And then do you remember that apartment that I regretted not taking last year?  Well I just found out that all of the tenants are being evicted!  Apparently the government would like to take the buildings back.

And then very often I go to buy a particular item at a store to find that it is no longer stocked or that the actual store no longer exists!


Here is a page from a locally printed book.  Done might be better than perfect, but all of this is pushing it just a little!

‘Shanghighs’: We went to Chongming Island last week-end (about 1.5-2hrs north of Shanghai) where we slept in a yurt on an organic farm and enjoyed feeding the goats followed by a delicious hotpot for dinner which used all of the fresh ingredients from the farm – all whilst celebrating Blanche’s 6th birthday.



‘Shanglows’: Whilst hoping that the new French school director might actually be good, it turns out that he is Mao reincarnated.  But miraculously we have been accepted into another French/Chinese school just around the corner from home.  I still think that one of the International schools would be a better option but French husband is being…. well…. French!  We start next Monday.

‘Shangunusuals’:  On our way back from the island trip we stopped in a small restaurant for lunch.  I’m not sure how, but Ben our driver started to help the chef cook in the kitchen…. quite unusual! TIC