Eurovision Song Contest 2018

Brace yourself people.... Australia has made it to the Eurovision Song Contest Grand Final... again! Woop woop!

Image source: Eurovision Fan Club of Australia, Jessica Mauboy singing for Australia 

Image source: Eurovision Fan Club of Australia, Jessica Mauboy singing for Australia 

Australia was invited to enter in 2015 as a one-off entry and would be allowed to participate again the next year if they won. But I think Europeans have a soft spot for us Aussies as Australia even though we didn’t win, we were invited to participate again the following year! Then this year’s contest is now the fourth time Australia has entered the contest and we are in the Grand Final on Saturday May 12 thanks to Jessica Mauboy’s energetic performance! Keep watching folks and fingers crossed!! Hang on.... what happens if Australia wins? Does that mean we host it in 2019??!

Update: Australia didn't win... but what a great Aussie effort!!!

Suddenly Famous in Bavaria

On Christoph’s last business trip to Mainburg, he was joined by his National Sales Manager, GL, and Technical Director, VW. On their last day, the two Chinese colleagues found themselves featured in the local newspaper. We found it hilarious and are so happy that they’re now small local celebrities ;o)

The only two Chinese in town that day.

The only two Chinese in town that day.

The article is about restuarant outdoor seating but the fun banter from the company went like this: Newspaper in Mainburg reporting on lazy Chinese who seem to be unemployed and therefore sitting in the streets and drinking alcohol while Bavarians have to work. Hehehe

Surprise, Surprise!

I hope everyone had a great start to the new year and are recovering well from all the fun and frivolities. Here's breaking news from Germany that can make kids smile: Due to stormy weather, a freight ship has lost a shipping container full of Kinder Surprises off the north coast!

Langeoog Island. Image source: NOZ

Langeoog Island. Image source: NOZ

Well, not the entire chocolate-covered egg, but only the plastic egg with the miniature toys inside. It looks like an awful environmental disaster and I'm hoping that the sea creatures in the area aren't swallowing them up. Residents of Langeoog Island, where the plastic eggs have washed up, are collecting as many as they can to help with the clean-up and primary schools will soon be bussed to the beaches to assist as well :o)

Image source: MM

Image source: MM

Our friend, MM, happens to work on the island and sent us pictures of her small stash. MM's clean-up effort will go to her nephews but she was just too curious and had to open some to see what was inside :o) Surprise!

Sweet November

I have been away from my blogging for a while but I do have legitimate reasons for it. Other than the usual galavanting from continent to continent, November has been keeping me especially busy with a new activity; it's called 'buying a house'.

Christoph and I bought a house. In Perth. In Australia. The running gag is that we bought it online; some of you may be horrified by the very thought of that, well I am too when I think about it but the truth is that we did indeed buy it online. However, to our merit, the house is in Perth where I have family members who were more than happy to help us with our property enquiries. One of the perks of having a big Asian family is that everyone is there to help each other :o)

The story began with Christoph and I brainstorming about where we could buy property that would be somewhat safe and away from all that is happening in the world. We ruled out America for obvious reasons, Asia is difficult as you mostly need to be a local to buy, Singapore had priced itself out of our budget and South Africa was too unstable with Nelson Mandela gone. I love New Zealand but it's really just too far away. It became an interesting exercise to go through; listing countries you like alongside the reasons why you can't live there.

We ended up with Australia, land of the free. Due to Sydney being currently unaffordable and Melbourne, well the climate isn't ideal, we concluded with Perth, my hometown. I still have a good network of family and friends there, I know the city and as a citizen, I am allowed to buy an old house (non-citizens are only permitted to buy newly-built).

I informed my eldest brother, KL, of our plan and started looking at real estate websites, this was back in September. A couple of weeks later, on a Monday morning I spotted a small house that looked like it would work; good location, recently renovated and most importantly, within our budget. I called the property agent. Called my brother. They met that afternoon. KL looked at the house. He liked what he saw and lo-and-behold, we put in an offer.

What would be a normal procedure for most; offer accepted, pay deposit, put house through a pre-purchase inspection, get loan approval, sign papers, return papers etc, turned into one heck of a circus act for us. Most of the time, our nomadic lifestyle works well but this was the one occasion where it gave us logistical nightmares.

Our offer was accepted while Christoph and I were in Bangkok, the day before he was going back to Shanghai (and then to Germany and then two weeks through Asia) and me onto Chiang Mai (then more of Thailand and then to Myanmar). In order to verify our identities and sign papers, we both needed to show up at an Australian Embassy or Consulate with our original ID and papers (ones that no sane person carries around with them, especially when on holidays!).

We scrambled to transfer the deposit, as we both did not bring our banking security tokens with us on holidays either, but managed it with kind-hearted family help :o) The key thing was that we had to keep everything rolling and co-ordinated so that when we met again, all the paperwork would be ready for us to sign at the consulate in Shanghai. The day of the offer acceptance was the day before Christoph and I were going to be apart for almost a month. We had deadlines to meet or else the sale would not go through, hence we were working within a very tight time frame.

We had a fair few nail-biting moments and a frustrated second visit to the consulate before we received finance approval and settlement eventuated on Nov 11. Pretty much two months post-offer acceptance but they were the two months during which we both had the maddest travel itineraries of the year.

I landed in Perth on Nov 8 and on the next day, saw the house for the first time (I must say that it is a pretty house). Three days later our house settled and I had the keys in my hand. We had a home open within the week and now we have tenants moving in on Dec 2. Perth mission accomplished!

It's one of those things now. We sit back and ask ourselves, "Did we really just buy a house?" and soon after exclaim, "Crap! Not only did we buy a house, we're also going to be landlords!".

Crazy With Brands

We have settled very nicely into our apartment and have been steadily exploring our new neighbourhood. Our compound is named Royal Gardens and the buildings, suitably, have gold detailing and gold trims on the balconies. Luckily, the gold theme has not come into our apartment!

Anyway, this post is about brands. You know how the majority of Chinese are brand obsessed? Cars, clothes, watches, gadgets, perfumes etc. And just the other day, I had 3 Maseratis cruise down our very small street along with the usual Bentleys and Porsches. I can confidently say that our new neighbourhood is very much upper-middle class. Roughly a 5 minute walk from our front door is a big up-market department store called Takeshimaya. It's a Japanese company and offers all sorts of luxury goods and has a great supermarket in the basement.

Christoph and I went for a stroll and decided to pop into Takeshimaya to see what it was like. We saw the usual department store goods but what stood out was a German brand, Leifheit, who specialise in household products. I actually like this brand and have some of their things in our Berlin apartment, but had until now never seen them in China before. So we moseyed on over to have a look and see what kind of pricing they had for the Chinese market.

The salesgirl happily informed us that the clothes-horse was a quality German brand and is currently on special. Originally 1,899 RMB, it is now only 1,299 RMB. We were quite shocked to hear this and double-checked what we heard was correct; 'Yes, it's only 1,299RMB today.' Christoph then swiftly brought up the product on his phone through the German Amazon store and showed the salesgirl how much a person in Germany would pay for it; 34.99 EUR (converts to 258 RMB).

Leifheit clotheshorse; luxury brand. 

Leifheit clotheshorse; luxury brand. 

The salesgirl was completely stunned! She couldn't believe it! We showed her the product on amazon.de and compared the product name and number. She was speechless while we were quietly giggling. We promised her that we wouldn't tell anyone in the store how much it really costs in Germany and wished her luck on a sale :-)

Chinese Laundry

On beautiful crisp clear days I really enjoy walking to my appointments. I was meeting some friends for lunch and couldn't help but notice how much laundry was hanging out to dry. I often see laundry hanging from windows and balconies but today was exceptional as it was everywhere along the sidewalks.

Street laundry in downtown. 

Street laundry in downtown. 

We had a few days of heavy rain earlier in the week and I guess today was the first day that many were able to dry their laundry. I just love how it's there for all to see... with some nifty make-shift bamboo poles propped up between trees.

I Am Woman

My sister Linh shared the below cartoon titled 'The Average Asian Aging Process' with me recently and we both had a good chuckle while nodding our heads in knowing agreement. The majority of Asian woman are lucky to have such youthful looks but nothing lasts forever ;-)

Image source: unnamed but if anyone knows for sure, please let me know.

Image source: unnamed but if anyone knows for sure, please let me know.

While the above image captures the external changes that will happen to me, the below cartoon shows what I experience internally... lol! (P.s Christoph doesn't smoke so replace the cigarette with his iPad.)

Image source: www.stylist.uk

Image source: www.stylist.uk

There's Always Something To Be Thankful For

Firstly, Happy Thanksgiving everyone! We had a very interesting weekend which we think will forever be another one of those China experiences we'll be able to fondly look back on.

It was on Saturday morning when we were advised that the PSB (Public Security Bureau a.k.a the police) wanted to check our room sometime that day. We thought that it was one of those standard passport checks that they used to do in Beijing and so we were happy to comply with the notice.

Nothing happened until we got back to our room that afternoon. At 16:15h we were informed that we had to leave our room immediately. We had no idea what the reason for this was and believed that we had just been kicked out of the hotel! We must be really annoying guests! We were very confused and the managers who spoke with us were then confused about our confusion. We asked why? What was going on? It then became clear that no one had communicated with us as to what was actually happening. They thought we knew whereas we thought that the PSB didn't want us in the country.

It turned out that a high-ranking international official was due to check in and with very short notice, the hotel was told to increase the security level of said official. Our room is in close proximity to the room the VIP would check into even though we're on a different floor. The PSB however, wanted all rooms within a particular perimeter to the aforementioned room to be completely empty. We were given 30 minutes to pack our things and were not allowed to access our room during the official's entire stay.

It was in no terms the fault of the hotel. You can't defy the PSB and they can give you as little or as much notice as they want. No choice. We totally understood the hotel's awkward situation and made haste to pack and get out of there as fast as we could. The hotel had organized another room for us so we ended up feeling like we were going away for a weekend. We packed for 3 nights and moved rooms within 35 minutes. Not too bad considering we were trying to figure out what we were doing in the next few days and Christoph trying to work out what gadgets he needed to still be able to work. I now know that we can easily do it in 10 minutes if the situation required it ;-)

So there we were; exiled in a temporary room. It wasn't bad but it did remind us of how settled we were in our 'real' room and how nice our 'real' room really is. Thank goodness our thoughts of banishment were totally out of context! The PSB had absolutely no interest in us; they just wanted empty rooms.

We spoke with a hotel manager afterwards and they told us of a particular guest who also had to move. He was a Chinese-American and kicked up quite a bit of fuss. The one standout line from him was: "I'm an American citizen and I don't have to follow Chinese rules!" Yep. He used that line. He also threatened to call the US Embassy. Can you imagine that conversation? "Hi Embassy? The PSB are making me change rooms but I don't want to. I demand assistance!" Lol.