End of first quarter. Done and dusted. The Year of the Horse is living up to what's been predicted so far - fast moving… yes… it’s definitely fast moving.
I'm in downtown on a Sunday, sitting in a cafe having a small breakfast at 8 in the morning. This is a rare occasion indeed as I would never usually be in town this early.
Shanghai at 7:30am on a Sunday is actually really lovely. There's hardly any traffic on the roads and so we don't get caught in any road rage. Scooters and bicycles all move along serenely, maybe because everyone's still half asleep so they're all pretty mellow. We passed the Bund and saw people practicing Tai Chi and they looked calm and content.
It’s a nice scene to encounter rather than the usual busy noisy place that it is. The city’s activities generally start at 10am with most retail stores closing their doors at 10pm; 10am - 10pm 7 days a week. Most people work 6 days and for the small family-run shops, it's 7 days non-stop until Chinese New Year when they try to take an entire week off. It's a bustling city with not much time for any rest or relaxation.
That's China. Bustling. Busy. Furiously trying to get ahead. Christoph and I, combined, have lived in China coming on 8 years. It's exciting, challenging and dynamic - in China, anything is possible.
But it's also really tiring. The one word that I use to describe China is abrasive. Everyday, a very minuscule layer of your humanity gets stripped away. It’s what I would tell anyone coming to live or work in China; you need lots of energy and a bottomless pit of patience to deal with the everyday.
Our secret: regular breaks. You need to be able to get away. Take a breather and slow down. In Sanya, I took monthly trips to Hong Kong. These were just for the weekends, but they were so I could unwind away from work. In Beijing, I had a visa that required me to exit the country every three months. This was great because I got to have a brief respite each time I left. Since being in Shanghai, we've had our apartment in Berlin which has given me many opportunities to be away. Christoph has regular business trips and the ones to Europe are great for the fresh air and more.
This leads me to my next little retreat. I travel to Berlin tomorrow and will be breathing in deeply and slowing down for a couple of weeks. I'll have the pleasure of catching up with family and friends and hopefully meet Christoph there after another one of his trips to Switzerland. We both need a bit of a breather to catch up with this horse of a year. One quarter down, another three to go!
Housing update: It's one day until the end of March and we’re still in our Shanghai apartment. No news from our landlord thus far, which is good news we suppose ;o)