A few last images

As I sit amongst cardboard cartons and the constant – and rather irritating – sound of packing tape being ripped, I am posting my last few images of Shanghai from this past week.

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A little wedding

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Depending on whether there is currently a bird-flu threat or not, it is possible to select live chickens from vendors such as this one who then prepares them on the spot.

 

 

 

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Customized cars are not an uncommon sight.

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A visit to the brand new Natural History Museum of Shanghai.

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The end of year performance for which my daughter’s class (she is Blanche Neige/Snow White in the photo) had been rehearsing every Tuesday afternoon for the last 3 months.

 

 

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My son’s end of year performance (he’s on the right).

Shanghighs‘: I’ll be seeing my Aussie friends and family before the week is out!

Shanglows‘: The last farewells…… and then my mum is still in hospital. Whilst she sounds better, they still don’t know what is causing her kidney difficulties.

Shangunusuals‘: In Australia (the USA and in France) if you need some fruits or vegetables you go to the local ‘Fruit and Veggie shop’. It’s interesting that in Shanghai the sale of fruit and vegetable are kept separate. There are stores for vegetables (and only vegetables) and others for fruits (which do nonetheless sell cucumbers and tomatoes….because…they are technically fruits).

 

 

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The end is nigh.

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One of my favorite photos taken in China (Guilin)

Our time in China has nearly come to an end. We have spent the last month savoring the ‘last ofs’: the last meetings with friends (at least for the foreseeable future) that we’ve met over the past 2 years – including multiple play-dates for the kids , the last bowl of local wontons, a last visit here and there.

My sinophile friend Mel from Santa Barbara sent me an article, and having lived in Shanghai over the last two years I can totally relate to it’s description of China: “China is filled with too many contradictions. Whenever I walk down a Beijing (…Shanghai) alley, my mind flutters between thinking this country is about to regain its place atop world powers because of sheer scale—1.4 billion people, tens of millions more farmers about to move into cities—and believing the nation’s inequality, choking pollution and diplomatic insecurity might doom its rise” – Scott Cendrowski Fortune magazine April 2015. Only time will tell.

I’ve had a think about the things that I won’t miss when I leave Shanghai:  people pushing versus queuing, constant construction and renovation (and the associated noises and smells), spitting in the street, smoking in public places, food scares, molasses-slow internet and blocked internet sites (and restricted freedom), firecrackers, being on constant alert whilst walking along the footpath or crossing the road (to avoid being run over by scooters, cars and bicycles), the noise of car horns blaring, having restaurant dishes served all at different times with the rice very often last (or forgotten completely…but not forgotten on the bill), living in a megacity with mega money-worship and mega consumerism and the embracing of many western things – perhaps without a great deal reflection or respect for traditions, and of course……. the big one……. pollution.

…..and as for the things that I think that I will miss…there are quite a few: relative safety from petty theft, the vast array of available green vegetables (albeit covered with pesticides), walking to and from school with kids, walking to work……actually walking most places!,  regular Asian vacations, cheap haircuts and shoe repair, our driver Ben, working as a speech therapist in English with other therapists from around the world, children’s birthday parties where all the kids naturally sing happy birthday in 3 languages, people walking around the street in their pajamas, living relatively close to Australia with only a 2-hour time difference,

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….the many food dishes especially the street food such as Liang pi – translucent noodles made from wheat (or rice) starch remaining from producing gluten – served in a sesame, chilli oil sauce. The wontons, Cold cucumber in garlic and vinegar and any chinese aubergine dish (they are all good). Thanks to my cooking classes I’ll be able to replicate a few of these elsewhere but might have a hard time finding some ingredients.

But the aspect that I will miss the most by far is the ease of meeting people…people from all the corners of the world. Quite often dynamic, creative, open-minded people.

When I started this blog it was “My intention to observe and be mindful of the the challenging moments that present themselves rather than be swept away by them.”

China has actually taught me to ‘let it go’ – (In a previous post ‘TIC’ -January 2014- I briefly described some of the challenging moments). There have been many occasions where I have experienced something or heard of something happening here that in many places in the world would be considered unacceptable to say the least, but which here they are explained with the phrase ‘This is China’ (TIC). For example, an original product suddenly finds it has at least one Chinese competitor on the market with an eerily similar name*; or your landlord decides to break your rental contract and threatens to cut-off your utilities if you don’t move (our personal experience), and I’m not going to elaborate about the ‘quality’ of home repair or the chronic delays in domestic airline travel.

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Rather than get (too) overwhelmed, frustrated or irritated you just learn to go with the flow- TIC.

I’m sure there will be some potentially perplexing incidences in France and it is for this reason that I intend to keep writing on this blog….I’ll keep you posted.

I also have a new intention…. and that is to remember that “The past is not the future” – 7 years ago I found living in France quite difficult for a number of reasons….but that was then and this is NOW. I suspect that living in France as a parent might be a different experience.

Shanghighs‘: We have found a house in France and so have subsequently been able to stop looking for houses and really start the moving process: enroll the kids into a school, change addresses etc….

Shanglows‘: My mum (in Australia) has been in hospital for two weeks with kidney problems: the feeling of worry, sense of helplessness and all the other emotions that are associated with that have been pretty wearing. Thank goodness dad has been a real trooper. I look forward to seeing my family and friends in 2 weeks time (on a 3 week trip before going to France).

Shangunusuals‘:It’s not really unusual for this time of year, but it’s been raining solidly for the past 5 days.

* I wrote a little about fake products in a previous post Dec 2013 ‘Fakes, Focus and Flies’

Arghhhh!

france-and-its-bastille-day-3-728As my current ‘Titre de Sejour’ (a document which allows me to live and work in France) was due to expire next year , I thought (read my husband thought) that it would be a good idea to apply for French citizenship (whilst not losing my Australian citizenship ).

I’ve had my fair share of paper-work these past 2 decades (UK visa, French residence permit, US residence permit, Australian citizenship and passports for kids, university degree equivalence in 3 different countries, American driver license, Chinese visa…. to name but a few) but this would have to be the longest, most difficult and most expensive one of all (and for the time-being, fruitless…read on). The French might be most renown for their fashion, food and friendliness (ha ha ha) but they are less well know for being the universal masters of redtape:

This is the list of documents that I had to produce: Copy of marriage certificate – less than 3 months old; Birth certificate – translated into French by a Consulate-approved company , (which is of course was a Chinese company and so documents had to first be translated from English to Chinese and then from Chinese to French 240rmb) and then it needed an apostille (yes, I had no idea what that was either!) $100aus (which required sending original document to Australia – which of course got a little lost on the way); Husband’s birth certificate and his parent’s birth certificates; Non-criminal record from all of the countries in which I’ve lived over the past 10 years SO for China 240rmb, legalized twice (once by Chinese officials 150rmb and once by French consulate 119rmb) – plus non criminal records for the UK 80pounds (a complicated matter in itself, thanks Frank for your signatures) and US non-criminal record $20us which then had to be sent back to respective countries to receive an apostille -for the UK 100pounds and for US $100 dollars (except that the US officials couldn’t provide an apostille without the police certificate first being notarized by a ‘California Notary’ – and no unfortunately you can’t simply do that at the US consulate in Shanghai – THANK YOU Mel for sorting that out) ; Sit (and pass) a French language examination 1000rmb (that I’d already sat but whose results were over 3 years old – because presumably my French level could regress….well…actually it has…..quite a bit); Copy of my passport plus passport of partner; Birth certificates of children;Chinese residence permits dating less than 3 months and translated into French 180rmb. A proof of address – with both names on it – less than 3 months old (difficult as we have been re-directing mail from our former apartment on the 20th floor and no longer live on the 20th floor -see post from last November if you missed our 4th move in Shanghai)  and…. a copy of the ‘Livret de Famille’ …..which was not actually mentioned on the original list of documents to provide…but there always has to be one document ‘missing’ – it’s simply a mandatory part of the French administrative process.

I handed all of these documents over to my Consulate ‘friend’, who did some stamping… and then I left her office with a sigh of relief……..only later to receive an e-mail message saying that the American police document that I had provided (and which she had already seen over a month ago) is not actually the correct one required and ‘kindly’ explained which document was needed. It would have been useful to have received this message 6 months ago when I had requested – face-to-face – which document was needed (at the time she’d replied: ‘Il suffit de chercher sur l’internet’ –  ‘ you just need to look on the internet’)

So basically it is too late for me to make an application here in Shanghai as the missing document will take at least 12weeks for the FBI to produce (plus another few weeks to get an apostille).

So we are now looking at how to make the application in France, and guess what?  The required documents are not the same!

The most frustrating thing?…..At the beginning of this post I mentioned that the whole idea of applying for citizenship was to avoid having to renew my Carte de Sejour…….but due to the fact that processing French citizenship applications is so lengthy (upto 12months), I will have  renew my Carte de Sejour anyway!

OK….end of rant…..for now. I have other paperwork to attend to: collecting medical records, completing insurance/customs forms for the moving company, writing-up hand-over reports for my speech therapy clients….blah blah blah………

Shanghighs‘: I’ve met a few really cool people recently: Lauren (a Melbournite who recently arrived in Shanghai and who is finishing her training to be a yoga instructor). She has a great blog here: http://www.lifeiscomingfromme.com; a Swiss-Taiwanese couple who once lived in Torquay, Australia where I spent all of my childhood holidays, and Chuan who is a local who was inspired to start her own wellness consulting company (AWB) after her mother was diagnosed with lung cancer.

Shanglows‘: Discovery that the moving company/Chinese customs need to hold our passports for 3 working days after they have moved all of our belongings. Not very practical really.

Shangunusuals‘: Connecting with people at a deeper level …. just before we’re about to leave!….or perhaps because we are about to leave. I had this same feeling before leaving Santa Barbara 3 years ago.