Back from Australia

Despite being the middle of winter, our 2.5-week visit to Australia was warmed by time spent with *friends and family … as-well-as by delicious coffee. Melbourne really does have some excellent cafes. I spent one child-free day exploring central Melbourne and all it has to offer:

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Degraves street

galleries, river walks, shop arcades, restaurants, pedestrian precincts, China town!…..

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Eating outside in the middle of winter.

‘Grandpa’ and ‘Grandma’ were kept very busy spending time with their grandchildren –  with mutual delight.

During our stay we also enjoyed bush walks, a steam train ride, motor bike rides, kangaroo spotting, bird life, eating fresh eggs that we’d collected, swings (very rare playground equipment here in Shanghai), rainbows, clean air, food and water, and above all, chatting with folk.

I would have to add that there are a few changes in Australia that bother me: urban sprawl with a lack of planning, the exorbitant cost of living (housing, education, health), and the current government’s stance on a number of social issues (homosexuality, family planning…) and the environment.

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Puffing Billy arrives.

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Jo W with Eliza and Penny

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The Argo – Terry’s amphibious vehicle which amused me more than I would have imagined.

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Feeding the ducks with Lily, James and Ben.

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The ‘folks’ – paternal side

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The folks – maternal side

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Time with Uncle Ian

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My ‘old’ buddies Geraldine and Rachael

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My even ‘older’ buddies Joanne P and Joanne L – I’d not seen Jo P for over 30 years!

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Apparently grandparents are allowed to indulge their grandchildren. Icecream for breakfast anyone?

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Swing Heaven – 7 swings in a row!

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Known as the Hilton Hen House – these chickens lay the best eggs I’ve ever eaten.

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Grandpa having a ‘rest’ from Hide-and-Seek and the ‘Rocket’ game.

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* THANK YOU again mum’n’dad, Ian, Rachael, Geraldine, Joanne L, Joanne P, Joanne W, Diana, Melinda, Rebecca, Rob’n’Marg, Kate, Chris and family, Maggie and family, Theo and family, Liz’n’Bill and all of mum’n’dad’s friends who loaned toys! This last trip back was probably the best since my departure in 1999.

I don’t usually recount airplane flight details, but this one was pretty epic: We were 30mins from Shanghai airport – and I was eager to land as Blanche had already vomited 4 times – when we hit some VERY serious turbulence. Passengers were screaming but I pretended that I was having a good time and Antoine looked like he actually was! We were diverted to the nearest airport  (Hangzhou) and I later discovered that the left wing had been hit by lightening and had been on fire. We remained in the plane for over an hour before we were shunted off and left to ‘queue’ for a bus to take us to a hotel. Now as China Eastern allows more luggage than other airlines, I leave you to imagine what it was like to load luggage and get on the bus after a 10-hour flight with hundreds of other tired and frustrated passengers at midnight. Blanche had one last vomit in the bus and at first I was relieved to find that I had a plastic bag … but later horrified to find that it had a hole in it! Again, I leave you to imagine that.

I’ve lived in China long enough to know that my best option would be to find another means of transport to get to Shanghai and so I arranged to see Ben our friendly driver at 8:30am the following morning. However I didn’t expect traffic jams and so it was not until 11:00 that we were finally home-ward bound to arrive in Shanghai at 14:00 – just in time for our household belongings to be delivered to our new apartment. For those who are curious, there was still no airplane arranged to take passengers to Shanghai when I left Hangzhou at 11:00.

Sebastien’s 16-year-old half-brother arrived from France on his first voyage abroad just a day after our return so I’m feeling exhausted, I’m surrounded by boxes …. but I’m happy.

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Where do people in Shanghai go to relax on Saturday?

In my last post I mentioned that we would be moving at the end of this month. As the new apartment is not fully furnished we headed out to IKEA on Saturday to take a look with -as it turned out – the rest of Shanghai; there were hoards of people:

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…although most people seemed to be relaxing or standing at the queue in the IKEA restaurant…..

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….or sleeping

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Shanghighs‘: The highlight this week was a visit from my cousin Emma (right) and her friend Kate. I hadn’t seen my cousin for about 6 years and it was great to reconnect with her and get to know Kate. Here they are pictured proudly holding their antique tin. They negotiated very well at the antique market before carrying their tin around town. This tin attracted much attention with many people pointing to the characters at the bottom and looking surprised. Apparently it is a tin used by people to carry food during the early years of the People’s Republic of China around the 1950’s.

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Shanglows‘:  IKEA on the week-end and Emma and Kate leaving one very sad little girl who LOVED playing cards with them (Thanks again guys for your patience!)

Shangunusuals‘: negotiating a price in one of the many markets here is a little less fun than in other countries. In Morocco for example, after tough negotiations for, say, a tagine pot, the vendor will shake hands, smile and invite you in for a mint tea. Here the vendors will hand you the goods, take the money and act as if you’ve insulted them.