Happy with uncertainty and change?

484926_443140925723267_1162220661_n ……. this is one way to react to uncertainty….






…..and this is another


“To see things in their true proportion, to escape the magnifying influence of a morbid imagination, should be one of the chief aims of life.” William Edward Hartpole Lecky. Why heck YES!

10 years ago I read the book “Who Moved My Cheese – Spencer Johnson (I know this because my dear friend Frank wrote inside the copy that he gave me: “Move with the cheese” – March 2005) It’s a great quick read for anyone having a hard time dealing with changes in life (big or small) and Frank must have known I’d benefit from it (Unlike him, I’m really not someone who naturally seeks change!). It is a nice reminder of the importance of adapting to change. “The biggest inhibitor to change lies within yourself, nothing gets better until you change.”

Being more ‘flexible’ has been one of my ongoing resolutions.

I recently read the book “I moved your cheese’- Deepak Malhotra (whose title I couldn’t ignore) which acts as a kind of extension to this message and encourages people to take more control over their future (and to not accept change blindly).  It sets out to help readers to change their behavior AND their circumstances.

The same idea is reflected in this quote: “There is a myth, sometimes widespread, that a person need only do inner work…that a man is entirely responsible for his own problems; and that to cure himself, he need only change himself…The fact is, a person is so formed by his surroundings, that his state of harmony depends entirely on his harmony with his surroundings.” Christopher Alexander644113_444066308964062_809204550_n

So: Be more flexible….. but aim to live in harmonious surroundings too.

I am focussing on ‘change’ at the moment because that’s what’s in store for us…again……. Last November I mentioned that there were changes in the company for which my husband works…….and well, he has chosen to take a different path- and we will be leaving Shanghai in July…….destination ….FRANCE! While we are aiming for the department of Vendee on the west coast (atleast temporarily) we have yet to find a house, or car, or school……….

“But didn’t you just move to China!?” I hear you ask.

We will have been living here in Shanghai for 2 years which was more-or-less what we anticipated. It’s the time for expat movement – 6 of my son’s closest friends will also be departing as will 2 of my daughter’s good friends. This period of the year is particularly tough for the expat community – very difficult to stay when many of your friends are leaving but also difficult to leave. Right now I am feeling like I’m in the eye of a great big storm………actually that’s not a good analogy as it suggests that I’m feeling calm……………………

Let’s hope that I can find a harmonious community at our next destination – although that could be a challenge – something I’ll explore further in a future post on repatriation.


Shanghighs‘:A visit to the Power Station of Art with the kids and the work of Yona Friedman.

Shanghlows‘: Coming to terms with the idea of moving yet again …plus all of the emotions and logistics involved in that.

Shangunusuals‘: talk about ‘drive-through’ (below), this customer drove onto the pavement to help-himself to the street-food (note: this is not actually that unusual)



Back from Inner Mongolia and (parts of) the Silk Route

DSC_0277My husband (read ‘my husband and his  generous colleague’) spent a great deal of time organizing this last adventure as it was not a very touristic destination and required many advance reservations. In fact for 5 days -from the time we stepped off the plane at Yinchuan (in the province of Inner Mongolia, west of Beijing) until we arrived in the more common destination of Dunhuang (further west in the province of Gansu and on the Silk Route) – we didn’t spot any other Westerners at all. Consequently our limited Chinese got a work out – ………..and we were often stared at!


Xi Xia Mausoleum (left) and the back streets of Bayanhot town (right)

DSC_0109We weren’t expecting the trip into the desert to be quite as hair-raising as it was. The kids described it like being ‘in a trampoline bus on a roller coaster’ and that’s a pretty good description of the way it felt as the 4-wheel-drive wove it’s way over the seemingly endless dunes of the Tengger Desert.


We slept 2 nights in the desert. What did we eat? This green vegetable/grass(?) Not sure what it is but we ate it while we were in the Desert and later on our travels saw it being sold in the local markets. Rather chewy.

DSC_0241We also saw cynomorium growing, being dried in the sun and then sold. “Suo yang”  is extensively collected as a herbal remedy for illnesses including ‘sexual worries’. 







One of the highlights of the desert adventure was a stop at a farm – with sheep, goats and a donkey and a lovely farmer with wrinkles in all of the right places (as if she were smiling all of the time) and one of her 4 grown children.


We slept in a yurt for one night – not far from roaming camels


We took an 11-hour over-night train journey to join the town of Dunhuang.

Trains in China don’t officially have a ‘1st’ or ‘2nd’ class – presumably because its a ‘communist’ country (?) Instead they have ‘hard’ or ‘soft’ seats/sleepers …. but as the price differs….it really is just ‘1st’ and ‘2nd’ class in disguise. There were no ‘soft’ beds when we booked our journey but the ‘hard’ ones were surprisingly ‘comfortable’.

Dunhuang was an important desert oasis on many of the Silk Routes: “Even at the routes busiest period 7-9th century – silk only formed a part of trade which included everything from precious stones to rhubarb. More importantly the trade routes were the information superhighway of their day. Religious ideas such as Buddhism travelled into China and technological ideas such as paper making and movable printing travelled out.”

“There was never just one Silk Route – and the routes varied according to changes in politics and water supplies.”

“The Silk Routes were not some ancient M1 or Route 66 to be travelled from one end to the other. The majority of states on the Routes traded with their nearer neighbors and travelers were like participants in a relay race stretching a third of the way around the world.”  Peter Neville-Hadley – China the Silk Routes.


Here in the fertile Dunhuang oasis we visited the Mogao Caves (unfortunately photos prohibited!) – The third tallest buddha in the world is housed here and really was an amazing sight. Here is one of the greatest repositories of Buddhist art in the world plus one of the oldest printed books in existence (AD868) –   although none of the 10,000’s of documents were on display as most of them were bought by ‘foreign devils’ (European archeologists) in the early 1900’s. There were 100’s of caves each decorated with buddhist statues and paintings that were remarkably well preserved thanks to the dry, dry climate.


Whilst rice is the staple in the south of China, noodles and dumplings are eaten in the north. We ate noodles practically every day (for breakfast, lunch or dinner) and here are two of the many sorts that we tried: the one on the left was sliced from a block of starch, the one on the right was rolled by hand (and dare I say looks similar to the trofie pasta from Genoa, Italy, where pesto originates from).


We also devoured some ‘crepes’ with sauteed potato and greens (left) and had to try the local speciality…donkey meat (right) which was served with a spicy sauce to dip it in.


We took a taxi trip into the middle of the Gobi Desert’s awesome nothingness – except for a few tourists who found Western children as interesting as the landscape.

DSC_0603During our trip we saw 4 different parts of the Great Wall of China. This part was probably my favorite as it had not been restored and you could see the packed earth and the plant debris with which the wall was made.




We went way out to Yadan National Park Gobi desert which was only accessible by guided buses – which limited our ability to explore but meant that it was the best preserved National Park that I’ve ever seen and one that could rival those of the USA or Australia. The ground was covered with tiny multicolored stones which contrasted dramatically with the large yellow-orange rock formations dotted over the vast landscape.

I recently came across a description of the’ ideal vacation’ by Ann Patchett “What we want out of a vacation changes as we age. It changes from vacation to vacation. There was a time when it was all about culture…. Later I became a disciple of relaxation…. Now I strive for transcendent invisibility and the chance to accomplish the things I can’t get done at home. I think the best vacation is one that relieves me of my own life for a while and then makes me long for it again.”DSC_0434

This vacation was just what I needed right now – some fresh air, some time to chat and read and space, lots and lots of space! (…. and of course some interesting food to discover)