Lost in translation.

I’m very grateful for Google Translate and use it (when Google is working!) to help me get my message across here in Shanghai . However, when I consider some of the translations from Chinese into English that I’ve photographed around China I understand why people sometimes look at me strangely when I ask them something…..


This one was on the bulk food bins: the ‘teeths’ they are referring to are presumably those of tongs.




I’m pretty sure that the name of this cafe sounds poetic in Chinese written and/or spoken language but just plain weird in English,





This message flashed up on the screen of an ATM and I quickly made my way to a bank to avert my bankcard being swallowed (or some other unwanted event). Eventually after explaining what my concern was, I was told “Oh every foreigner gets this message…..just ignore it”.

Shanghighs‘: I had a visit from my former neighbor Grace and her husband.


Grace is an amazing lady – in her previous job she spent a great deal of time translating documents (hence her impeccable English)   Unfortunately her speech is now very slow and slurred due to the removal of a brain tumor a couple of years ago – which also put a stop to her career). Grace never took vacation and is clearly missing her work and her friends – many of whom apparently have avoided her since she fell ill presumably from fear of ‘catching’ something??? She has just finished writing her autobiography and most probably has other projects in the pipeline.IMG_4259

While Sebastien was completing a 50km ‘Corporate Responsible’ bike-ride with his colleagues on the week-end, the kids and I enjoyed the lake (around which Sebastien rode) and tasting some of the local treats….. which included some kind of water seed (similar to the lotus) and sugar cane.


Shanglows‘: The lovely antique market on DongTai Lu (featured in a previous post on ‘old stuff’) has been demolished………that’s progress for you!

Shangunusuals‘: My 4.6year-old son suddenly stopped walking along the footpath and promptly spat onto it. I had mixed feelings of shock, disgust and pride (it really was a magnificent job!). Whilst spitting in public is on the decline here, it’s still pretty common (hence Antoine’s action!).



Yin and Yang


“In Chinese Philosophy Yin and yang can be thought of as complementary (rather than opposing) forces that interact to form a dynamic system in which the whole is greater than the assembled parts. Everything has both yin and yang aspects, (for instance shadow cannot exist without light)”- Wikipedia

Yin Qualities: cool, dark, moon/night, intuition, up, female, sensitive, expansive, future. Yang Qualities: hot, light, sun/day, logic, down, male, strong, contractive, past.(Institute of Integrative Nutrition)

The main principal of Traditional Chinese Medicine is balance. “It believes that most of our health problems are related to the imbalances of ingredients in our diet. By eating food of the right combination the necessary balance can be maintained. Yang-type food is regarded as ‘hot’. Typically it includes meat, seafood and anything fried. Yin-type food is regarded as cold and includes vegetables and fruit. Excesses of food featuring only Yin or Yang can result in illness” (Chinese Food Life Care)

I’ve been reflecting on balance over the week…

Firstly because I re-read a book called ‘Zen Shorts’ by Jon Muth to the kids which has a story in it of an old farmer who remains incredibly zen and grounded:  “One day his horse ran away. Upon hearing the news, his neighbors came to visit. “Such bad luck,” they said sympathetically. “May be,” the farmer replied. The next morning the horse returned, bringing with it three other wild horses. “How wonderful,” the neighbors exclaimed. “May be,” replied the old man. The following day, his son tried to ride one of the untamed horses, was thrown, and broke his leg. The neighbors again came to offer their sympathy on his misfortune. “May be,” answered the farmer. The day after, military officials came to the village to draft young men into the army. Seeing that the son’s leg was broken, they passed him by. The neighbors congratulated the farmer on how well things had turned out. “May be,” said the farmer“….Is there meaning to this story? …….maybe 🙂

And Secondly – most certainly related to her losing her brand new school bag on just the 4th day of school – my daughter Blanche said- ‘Why is life always hard sometimes?’ to which her wise father responded: ‘When things are ‘bad’ be reassured that it will pass and when things are going ‘well’ make the most of it!’

YES…Balance, Zen, Yin and Yang!



It was the Mid-Autumn Festival this past week and we made the most of our long week-end – AND I was lucky enough to get a morsel of Antoine’s hand-made moon-cake (right)


We went swimming, went to Pudong (east Shanghai) and re-visited the antique warehouse and the organic ‘Bio-Farm’ where we had a picnic and fed the goats.



Antoine performing his newly learned ‘Peacock Dance’.


We also headed off to the recently built Yuz Museum because I find contemporary art good at grabbing children’s attention – and this art space did not disappoint.

There are so many private collections such as this one popping up all over  Shanghai (such as the ‘Long Museum’ just a few 100 meters away from Yuz) which makes me think that there is either a sudden interest in sharing personal art collections, or some kind of tax incentive in doing so……





660,000 cigarettes were used to create this piece. I suppose that at the equivalent of around $1.50 per pack of cigarettes this ‘tiger skin’ piece was relatively cheap to create.


This one was fabulous – a pile of rubble, which moved as though it was on the ocean


This realistic piece called ‘Angel’ was really rather creepy but I couldn’t stop looking at it.


Shanghighs‘:… and we stumbled across a great Xinjiang restaurant. (I wrote about this cuisine in my post on Xi’an). Yum.

Shanglows‘: I have been miserable at trying to slow down BUT I found a nifty little ‘app’ called ‘Eat Slower’ which is helping me do exactly that ..(when I remember to use it!)

Also, here in China at the beginning of the meal, the host might say “mànman chī” (慢慢吃), which literally means “eat slowly” which differs from ‘Bon appetit’ which means ‘good appetite’!

Shangunusuals‘: Traditional Chinese Medicine also stresses the harmonious combination of tastes for meals: sweet, sour, bitter, salty and pungent. This can explain some common dishes such as rice congee for breakfast served with aged boiled eggs (salty and pungent), pickled vegetables (sour and salty and sweet) and peanuts (bitter?)













Wanghouzou means walking backwards and it’s a common sight here in parks. Apparently performing wanghouzou conditions the knees and lower back, increases agility, improves posture, and helps maintain balance. You’re now tempted to try aren’t you?


Although they often do walk backwards, the kids didn’t risk arriving late to class and walked forward and fast to their respective schools…..so fast that both were the first to arrive and be greeted by their new teachers. I suppose after 2 whole months of vacation, they were happy to say goodbye to me! (…but not nearly as happy as I was to say goodbye to them….ha ha ha)

Here is Blanche (below) with one of her ‘copains’/boy friends.


As it turns out she has a few such friends. One admitted to me at the end of last year that he was ‘amoreux de Blanche’ (in love with Blanche) and just yesterday a mother whom I’d not met before said ‘Oh…you’re Blanche’s mother, I’ve been hearing about Blanche during the whole summer vacation!’ I don’t have the heart to break it to them that she already has a fiance in California.


After inspection by the school nurse Antoine places his little green (‘all clear’/not sick) tag into his name pocket by the classroom door.


You can see and feel the excitement here (my excuse for the blurry image!)


Antoine is in a class with a male teacher and all of his copains. He’s a happy boy.






‘Shanghighs’: Having some time to do yoga again

‘Shanglows’: Blanche has been questioning us about Father Christmas, The Tooth Fairy and Easter Bunny…. is this the end of her childhood innocence and wonder???  She is thinking that if these characters DO exist, then they must be subcontracting … in order to be able to serve the entire world. Here is a copy of our response to her recent letter to Father Christmas:


IMG_4105‘Shangunusuals’: Here is a photo of a delivery in front of a restaurant … waiting patiently on the doorstep (note it IS still hot here). This kind of break in the refrigeration chain during transport is really not unusual here (it is common for street store owners to sell yogurt directly from the cardboard box that it was delivered in from the footpath). What is surprising is that I’ve not heard (first hand) of anyone actually suffering from food poisoning.