It started about 3 weeks ago…….

…….Christmas decorations began to appear all over Shanghai. Quite surprising when a mere 3.2% of the population calls themselves Christian (behind Buddhism and Taoism……..).

Below is but a small selection of Christmas trees that I’ve taken photos of recently: Below (left) one made entirely of wine glasses and to the right the construction of our ‘own’ tree here in the foyer of our apartment building.




And here in the center of one of the MANY shopping malls around town…… dozens of trees of various sizes having their photo taken by enthusiastic shoppers.







Here are some more enthusiastic photographers  …this time the focus of their attention was a group of children from Blanche’s school who were in the street drawing the autumn leaves. (Note the Christmas trees for sale in the background! 800rmb).

Blanche is still surprisingly happy to pose for curious people passing by (whilst Antoine still refuses to oblige……and I don’t blame him…it really is rather annoying). Here she is with her finished interpretation of an autumn tree. I’m glad that she has not (yet) lost her enthusiasm to draw despite the Chinese style of teaching art which is typically a ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ approach.

Here is a plaque proudly displayed at the front of a group of residential buildings. These notices are dotted around town and I’m supposing they are the equivalent of the Guides/Scouts ‘tidy camper’ badge awarded to residents for keeping their surrounds spotless.

Shanghighs‘: The 4th move in Shanghai (in under 2 years) went well. Friends offered to look-after the kids after school, and the new apartment was looking pretty good by the time they hit their beds. I would have to say that moving at least once a year is highly recommended as an excellent way of de-cluttering the cupboards.

The movers were very reluctant to set-up the bed the way I wanted because they said that the *feng shui was ‘bu hao’ (not good). They were most probably right but I just wanted the desk to fit in the bedroom.

One thing that I’ve learnt about movers is that they typically move with lightning speed, they do not take a break if they can help it, and they have long departed before you realize that not everything is exactly how you’d like it: on this particular occasion a cupboard door on a bookshelf unit no longer opens, the water dispenser doesn’t chill or heat water anymore, the bin is dented…….etc….. But they DID give free *feng shui advice and I love what they’ve done with my living room!

Shanglows‘: So far we have had 2 water leaks in the new apartment…but hey…the internet, gas, water and electricity are all working!

Shangunusuals‘: This is a Luo Han Guo (dried monk fruit) which is THE cure for a sore throat here. I cracked it, poured hot water over it and tried the red liquid. It had a slightly aniseed flavor and was sweet. It was actually for my daughter …. but she wouldn’t drink it!


*Feng Shui (pronounced “fung shway”) ‘examines how the placement of things and objects within it affect the energy flow in your living environment, and how these objects interact with and influence your personal energy flow. Your personal energy flow affects how you think and act, which in turn affects how well you perform and succeed in your personal and professional life.’ (Feng Shui for Dummies)




Safe place – but not for your eye-sight!

I’ve never felt so safe from crime – despite living in such an enormous city! This would have to be one of the major advantages of living in Shanghai.

According to this crime index:, Shanghai ranks 368 out of 372 cities – far better than all of the major cities in Australia.

A friend recently mentioned that this might be due to the numerous CCTV (Closed circuit television) cameras situated all over the city. I had never noticed them……but when I started looking for…. them I found they were everywhere! There are also many ‘security’ officers positioned around town:


….and for a couple of hours in the early morning there are volunteers on street corners to give directions to lost pedestrians.


…I suppose the fear of capital punishment might also keep crime at bay…….!

Shanghigh‘: Absolutely nothing to do with Shanghai, but totally worth mentioning….. my parents celebrated their 50th Wedding Anniversary this past week. They are still busy caring for each-other and for others. Thanks mum’n’dad, truly ‘golden’. Congratulations!


Shanglow‘: During the recent APEC (Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation) summit in Beijing it was rather fascinating to compare the air quality between the capital and Shanghai:


….I wonder if the world leaders were duped?

Shangunusual‘: Here is an excerpt from ShanghaiDaily “Why So Many Chinese Children Wear Glasses” which I found interesting:

‘The incidence of myopia is high across East Asia, afflicting 80-90% of urban 18-year-olds in Singapore, South Korea and Taiwan. The problem is social rather than genetic. A 2012 study of 15,000 children in the Beijing area found that poor sight was significantly associated with more time spent studying, reading or using electronic devices–along with less time spent outdoors.

The biggest factor in short-sightedness is a lack of time spent outdoors. Exposure to daylight helps the retina to release a chemical that slows down an increase in the eye\’s axial length, which is what most often causes myopia.

A combination of not being outdoors and doing lots of work focusing up close (like writing characters or reading) worsens the problem. But if a child has enough time in the open, they can study all they like and their eyesight should not suffer, says Ian Morgan of Australian National University.

At the age of six, children in China and Australia have similar rates of myopia. Once they start school, Chinese children spend about an hour a day outside, compared with three or four hours for Australian ones.

Schoolchildren in China are often made to take a nap after lunch rather than play outside; they then go home to do far more homework than anywhere outside East Asia. The older children in China are, the more they stay indoors–and not because of the country\’s notorious pollution.’

It reminds me of an excellent book recommended to me by the head teacher at WildRoots (Santa Barbara) which is titled ‘Last Child in the Woods’ (Richard Louv) which spoke of something far more prevalent than ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder)………..NDD = Nature Deficit Disorder!

Feeling ‘exy’

While we were technically expatriated to England and the US, we didn’t really feel like ‘foreigners’ in our host countries. Here in China we just can’t blend in as easily due to the language, physical and cultural differences.

It is the same for most ‘expats’ and as a consequence the expat community tends to congregate (and find some kind of ‘refuge’ and home-comfort) – sooner or later for shorter or longer periods – in western-style cafes, bars, restaurants, super-markets, at the school gate and on-line.

Shanghai is a BIG city but what sets it apart from other big cities is the mix of very old and very new (the haves and the have nots ………at least in material terms) right next to each-other. Here is an example from a lane which we walk through each morning on our way to school:


Here an enormous 2-storey mansion with garden behind gates and wall and then just 20 meters away from this… a 2×4 meter home (below) situated next to the rubbish bins.


The speed of change is also remarkable…. Below are some scenes from a street fabric market that will no doubt disappear shortly …..

IMG_4571 IMG_4565 IMG_4566

Expatriation has it’s share of ups and downs….here is an EXtract of my EXperiences:

EXploring: one’s curiosity can only be whet by the smell, sounds, sights, tastes of a new country…..

EXpressing: there’s a certain freedom in what you do, say, wear….after all anything ‘weird’ that you do/say/wear…. will be explained by you being an alien (foreigner)

EXpanding: one gets to meet people from not only China but from all over the world, many of whom have branched out and turn their hobbies into businesses. There are many examples but I really like the business ‘FINCH’ which recycles plastic into fancy raincoats suitable for using on bicycles. I recently met the owner who said that she is now branching out into swimwear!

EXciting: Especially in such a huge metropolis that is Shanghai, there is no chance of getting bored.

EXpectations: …can be high, especially in the workplace and in International and Chinese schools where children are expected to be fluent in several languages and to do many hours of home-work (our kids are happy not to be in this situation)

EXasperating: differences in culture are great…….but can be very frustrating at times.

EXiting:  people come and go at regular intervals….. 3 of Blanche’s classmates have left the country in the last 3 months……..

There are surely many more things to comment on but I’ve run out of ‘EX’s’!


Shanghighs‘: Our friend Jerome generously extended his Chinese business trip and paid us a visit. It was a pleasure to see him again (the last time we saw him and his wife Christelle was in Santa Barbara). Here he is enjoying a yogurt (yes yogurt is a drink here!)

Shanglows‘: We are going down…….to the 3rd floor 😦  To keep things as simple as possible, we have reluctantly ‘agreed’ to move from our current apartment (20th floor) to the 3rd floor rather than start house-hunting all over again. See my last post for an explanation for moving!

Shangunusuals‘: Jerome was seriously over-charged by a taxi driver – which was the first time I’d heard of this type of crime in Shanghai until I read this in the latest ‘CityWeekend’ magazine; “Last month 400 Shanghai taxi drivers were nabbed in a sting for overcharging foreign passengers”. Just for information, the flag fee for a taxi in Shanghai is 14rmb ($2.00), the driver may or may not smoke and/or spit, he/she will most certainly have a flask of green tea sitting next to him/her and as long as you can name the cross-road closest to your destination (and it’s not raining) he/she will get you there quickly (whilst narrowly missing pedestrians along the way).


All Shanghai taxis are this style of car – either blue, green, red or this orange. They all have VW badges on them….but they don’t look like Volks Wagons!

Attitude Dude….OMG what a week!

The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life.  Attitude, to me, is more important than facts.  It is more important than the past, than education, than money, than circumstances, than failures, than successes, than what other people think or say or do. ……The remarkable thing is we have a choice every day regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day.  We cannot change our past… we cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way.  We cannot change the inevitable.  The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude…. I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me me and 90% how I react to it.  And so it is with you….. we are in charge of our Attitudes.” Charles Swindoll. START WITH INTENTION


Michael Leunig

There were many terrible things in my life, but most of them never happened.” French writer Montaigne

What’s this all about? ……3 major pieces of news this week.

1. Well, we’re trying to keep ‘perky’ about the strategic changes in Sebastien’s company due to it’s purchase last month by an investment company (think cost cutting and short-term vision)………???

2. We have another move to make within Shanghai.  My sixth sense was right  – despite having a 12-month contract in our home of 3 months we will be moving – against our will – ….next month. After expressing our desire to keep the apartment and current contract, and refusing to accept some money (bribery) our real estate agent called to inform me that the landlord had threatened to turn off the gas, electricity, water and internet connections if we have not vacated the premises by the end of November…… Wait a minute! Surely he can’t do that! Especially as we have a contract….. Um……..Apparently…….. he can!!!  This is ALMOST funny….except that it really is not. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again…TIC (This is China!)

3. My mother just announced that she has been diagnosed with a lesion on one of her lungs………….She tells me not to worry and she is right not to worry………..but still………..

IMG_4464Kombucha – I’d been curious about this lightly carbonated tea-based beverage and when the opportunity arose to try making it I decided to have a go. Its roots apparently go back to the Chinese Tsin/qin Dynasty in 221BC. It uses a mother starter known as a SCOBY (Symbiotic Colony of Bacteria and Yeast) which looks like a gelatinous pancake…yes a little creepy but I like the resulting slightly vinegary drink (but I’m the only one in the family who does). I found my SCOBY  the same way I found my water and kefir grains and sourdough starter – via the community of ‘’

Shanghighs‘: Imagine chocolate ranked 8th best in the world. Imagine a factory where you can taste 250 different flavors of this chocolate. Experience it right here in Shanghai at Austrian Zotters chocolate ‘theatre’.  The kids (and we) loved it. Their 70% cacao bar is the best I have ever tried in my life.


Shanglows‘: Um …family illness……moving again!

Shangunusuals‘: I had to laugh that during the first school council meeting of the year, most time was spent discussing the canteen food (so French!).

Need to work on some electrical wires above a busy street? No problem, just grab a ladder, a few colleagues to hold it steady, and up you go!


photo taken through windscreen of moving car.