Feeding the Soul

We are in our last few days in Berlin and have started packing for our flight back to Shanghai this weekend. We had such a fabulous time visiting our dear friends in Switzerland. It was an epic road trip to make sure we were able to touch base with friends we haven’t seen in a long while. If we missed you, we do apologise, but it was definitely a squeeze for time. We hope to make it to you when we next have the opportunity!

We could not have asked for nicer weather, Walenstadt.

We could not have asked for nicer weather, Walenstadt.

Christoph and I soaked in the most stunning weather which allowed us to take plenty of walks through the most simply beautiful places. I’m sure almost every Swiss resident is aware of how lucky they are to be so close to such amazing nature. I love the mountains, especially when they are snow-capped. I love the green with the abundance of trees in all shapes and sizes. I love the blue with wispy clouds and then the smattering of stars in the evening sky. All these aspects of nature when living in a big city are the details we forget; that we miss them. And when we do get to see them again, we smile, like the smile we give to a long lost friend ;o) Here’s a small selection of places that made us smile on our trip.

Having a cuppa at one of our favourite spots in Lucerne.

Having a cuppa at one of our favourite spots in Lucerne.

So thank you to RR, HR, PZ, CZ, MS, JB, SS, LZ, MM, IR, MF, JF, GM, LA, OM, BT, LK, JK, YS, KB and AK for the best Easter break we’ve had in a long time! ”Let us be grateful to the people who make us happy; they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.”- Marcel Proust.

Happy Easter Weekend!

Greetings from a beautiful sunny Easter day in Switzerland. We’ve been loving the time we’re having with friends and family and have definitely been indulging in good food, good wine and good conversation in each instance. With such great company each day, how could we not?!

Our neighbour saying hello. 

Our neighbour saying hello. 

We have been and are trying to counter the indulgence by talking regular walks in the fresh air.

Christoph at one of his favourite walking paths near the Zurich airport; a popular plane-spotting location. 

Christoph at one of his favourite walking paths near the Zurich airport; a popular plane-spotting location. 

We’re now half-way through our Swiss road trip with more laughs to come; see you soon!! xx

The Cost of Convenience

It’s begun. Facial recognition can be used to pay for your groceries at Carrefour, one of the bigger supermarket chains in China. It’s done through the two most popular mobile payment apps, Alipay and Wechat Pay.

Facial recognition payment is only available at self check-out counters so far. 

Facial recognition payment is only available at self check-out counters so far. 

Blue is Alipay and green is Wechat Pay. I try to only go to the supermarket during the off-peak hours and love using self check-out counters (cashiers here have a tendency to be quite heavy-handed with your groceries). These machines popped up a couple of weeks ago and they’re super simple to use. The only issue is that the facial recognition payment feature is only available to Chinese nationals, I still have to scan my QR code. But the machines do operate in English and another bonus is that no one throws my groceries around.

I find it convenient, as do those aged 16-35. However, especially those who are 55 and older, the pace of the technological advances is leaving a lot of people behind. I know that this doesn’t just apply in China but also in western countries with the growing use of online services instead of personalised services. However, here, you can buy, transfer, order and pay for almost anything through your mobile phone. It’s phenomenal to think of the amount of transactions the country goes through in one day.

Here’s what Christoph and I do with our phones on a regular basis;
- Mobike app to ride a share bike, top up the balance through Wechat
- ride the subway and bus with the subway card on our phone. Top up through Alipay or Wechat
- ride Didi car service, which is the Chinese Uber, and it gets paid through my Wechat account
- in almost every shop and restaurant, we can pay with Alipay or Wechat
- order take out and pay when it arrives with either Alipay or Wechat
- order groceries and pay when it arrives with either Alipay or Wechat
- send and receive money from friends through Wechat or Alipay
- pay the doctor bill with either Alipay or Wechat

Did I forget something? My wallet? Well it contains cash that not many vendors accept anymore, so not much use in carrying it with me these days. The past two years have had us experience the speed at which technological convenience has advanced that I can leave the house with nothing but my phone. House keys perhaps? No, soon our building will install facial recognition screens to gain entry so no worries there. The cost of all this convenience, of course, is that my daily habits are there for all to see. Lucky for me, I’m ok with that; it’s not like I have anything to hide.

Needle in a Haystack

That’s what it felt like when Christoph asked me to replace damaged buttons on his suit jacket. On one sleeve, two buttons had somehow broken off. Either when we moved or when we sent it to the dry cleaners; we have no idea. What Christoph thought would be very straight forward for me was not a fun exercise at all. Try going to an entire building that is dedicated to buttons and find a button that is exactly like the one you have in your hand and asking them for the price of a mere two buttons. No one took me seriously.

Button shopping at the Button Building and Christoph’s fixed jacket. The simplest of tasks in China can turn into the biggest feats.

Button shopping at the Button Building and Christoph’s fixed jacket. The simplest of tasks in China can turn into the biggest feats.

Of the seven stalls I visited, only one was willing to help me actually look for something similar. I was so relieved that I bought eight whole buttons! I know that I overpaid; I was eavesdropping on their phone orders and the vendor had just taken an order for 400 buttons at .40 RMB per button. I paid 1 RMB per button and was very happy about it. It allowed me to complete my search and get they hell out of the building! Phew!

Quinoa, Avocado, Kale and Poached Eggs

It’s a beautiful sunny spring day in Shanghai. The first since I’ve been back and after moving, have time to attend a pilates class and enjoy my favourite salad lunch at a cafe around the corner. At this very moment, I’m sipping a cup of coffee while lounging in the sun where no one else is dares to sit for fear of turning brown! (hihi) Since Women’s Day on March 8, I’ve noticed quite a few things female-related in Shanghai. The one that sticks out right now is the noticeable shift in the dining/cafe scene.

Shanghainese women are leading the way when it comes to trying western fashion, fads and food. The fashion, Louis Vuitton, Burberry, Chanel etc, had already been conquered since many years with fads following closely; I’m hoping athleisure wear will go soon. Now I am noticing the food factor. In Starbucks queues, 90% are young women. In the cafe I am currently sitting in, 98% of customers are young women.

Young women ordering kale salads, poached eggs on avocado toast and green juices; all things I like to order, except that it doesn’t seem like they actually like eating it. Most appear to come for the ‘photo’ factor, or in the west it would the ‘instagrammable’ shot. There is a mini photo-shoot happening at almost every table! It’s quite weird to watch but fascinatingly interesting as no one seems to mind if you stare. The ‘model’ I suppose is quite proud to have an audience.

Business Lunch   

Business Lunch

 

Unfortunately, because the food is so foreign, most diners leave more than half of the meal uneaten. It is such a waste of resources. Beside me, a table of five ordered a dish and juice for each person and after taking a photo of each item and picking through everything, they quickly left the cafe with everything half eaten on the table. On the other hand, the ladies in the above picture were in fact having a business meeting, so western food was chosen to show their internationality and no photos were taken but they too weren’t really into the kale or poached eggs. Can you imagine this happening at each and every table? It’s crazy... welcome to Shanghai.

We Have Moved!

Greetings from Shanghai and our new home! I got back from Australia 8 days ago and spent the time packing, moving and now unpacking... the joys... not.

We were very happy in our last place but our rental agreement was up for renewal and the owner wasn’t being reasonable. The rental increase was too much and the owner would only extend for a year which meant that we would have to go through the whole negotiation process again and too soon for our liking. In the meantime, however, Shanghai had built quite a few new serviced apartments which lead me to spend two weeks in November last year apartment-hunting. Not only did I find something suitable but it was also lower in rent! Yay!

Not our new apartment! Christoph joined me during the weekends on the apartment-hunt. Obviously this one ended up being on the ‘not suitable’ list.

Not our new apartment! Christoph joined me during the weekends on the apartment-hunt. Obviously this one ended up being on the ‘not suitable’ list.

Even though the building is new, the reason for the lower rent is the location. There isn’t a convenient subway station close by, but one will open towards the end of the year. There will also be a fully-equipped gym available, but that will also only open towards the end of the year. It seems we like to move into places that are construction sites which then turn out really nice by the time we leave. Aya.

On a domestic note, I have been completely spoiled and had a dishwashing machine in the last two apartments in Shanghai. Now we have to wash by hand; the hardship!!! hihi Other than that, everything else is as it should be. We are very comfortable and should be all set in another week or so. I still have about 6 boxes left to unpack. I’m doing one per day from now on as Shanghai life has taken hold with each day being filled with teaching craft classes, cultural awareness training, hospital volunteering and manning phones. Just the way it should be ;o)

The Average Australian

It’s been a full schedule of meetings and gatherings since I’ve been in Australia. Christoph is back in the office while I’m in my final leg of this visit.

What struck Christoph and I on this trip was the fact that we are seeing so many different backgrounds and faces all mixed together. South African property agents, Pakistani taxi drivers, Sudanese Uber drivers, Indian retailers, Chinese bankers, German plumbers, Swedish waiters, Vietnamese beauticians... the list can go on and on. I’m certain we can find someone from almost every country on earth here but what is wonderful is that every one of them call Australia home :o)

Also, I finally have some photos from our time together in Perth and Sydney. Have a look in the Photo Gallery!

Western Australia’s South-West Region

Greetings from Karridale! Not a place many would know but a hint is that we’re not too far from Margaret River, WA’s premier wine region.

We’re tucked away in our forest accommodations for the next couple of days. 

We’re tucked away in our forest accommodations for the next couple of days. 

Christoph and I reunited in Perth almost a week ago and are currently down south exploring this fabulous region of Western Australia. There is a lot of beautiful coastline to see, beaches to swim at, wines to sip and coffees to enjoy. Also great hiking to be had but we’ll need to plan for that on our next extended visit.

I’ve been away from Perth most of my adult life and other than the handful of trips down south as a teenager, I haven’t had too many opportunities to fully enjoy what the area has to offer. So being here with Christoph and travelling through the area together has been magical. We plan to visit Hamelin Bay tomorrow to visit the wild stingrays... photos of our WA trip will come soon!