Home Sweet Home

We’ve been back in Shanghai for almost two weeks since our Hawaiian holiday and it actually felt really good to come ‘home’. Many of you who know me well may understand how long it’s taken for me to call Shanghai home. It finally feels like home and I know the reasons behind it.

Here’s a little background. Christoph has a work visa which allows us to have a residence permit to live in Shanghai. I have a spousal visa which allows me to stay but forbids me to work in China. Unless a company wants me bad enough to go through the legal hoops to get me a work visa, you can guess that I’ll be a housewife for a while longer. Most companies don’t want the hassle of applying for work visas as the visas are getting harder to be granted. China has recently tightened their requirements for work visa applicants and have started to grade their foreigners according to skill levels; A, B and C. A is the most desirable expert, B is someone like Christoph and C are specialists but not quite; ie. teachers. Teachers are now under scrutiny as you can no longer teach English unless you are from a native English-speaking country. Long story short, no work visa, no work.

Now, when a woman decides to not work, she generally does so to care for her family... mainly children. Hmph. We also decided to not have children so that then leaves me with many daylight hours to fill. There are only so many things I can do until I feel completely unproductive and unmotivated. It’s quite a challenge to really learn about yourself; what drives you or what satisfies you, what bores you... etc. It’s taken me almost two years to feel somewhat balanced. It’s still a work in progress but I’m feeling much more grounded and somewhat balanced.

Christoph has it tough that he has long days at work and daily pressures to deliver. But he at least gets to feel challenged, productive, supported, have a sense of job satisfaction and get to interact with people every day. If I choose, it’s possible for me to not speak to anyone other than Christoph for days on end. One can easily develop a feeling of isolation which is very common amongst most expatriates in China.

Get socialising!

Get socialising!

So, where was my turning point? It started as an understanding and acceptance that I wasn’t feeling at home in Shanghai. I was travelling a lot and didn’t have many chances to engage in meaningful interactions with people nor had I developed a fulfilling routine. Having daily meaningful interactions with someone other than your significant other is difficult to create but I could create a meaningful routine for myself. A few factors had to be considered; 1. use my brain positively, 2. have daily physical activity, 3. possible community work, 4. have a creative outlet.

To use my brain and give back to the community, I’ve since December started volunteer work with a charity that raises money for children’s heart surgery (www.h2hsh.com). I work in admin and co-ordinate and activate new hospital volunteers. The benefit of helping in admin is that it allows me to work from any location which means that each day, I can sit down and dedicate how ever many minutes or hours I need to my volunteer work no matter where I am. This work also makes me use my brain as I am constantly following up processes and interacting between 20-30 people. I also help Christoph wherever I can with office training sessions for his team and I have another charity organisation that I am interviewing for next week. I will keep you posted as to how that goes.

For the physical aspect, Christoph and I take walks together whenever the weather is nice and make a point to walk each day over the weekends. During the week I attend either a yoga, pilates or barre class and I’m thrilled that I’ve found a great studio with wonderful teachers. Finally for the creative outlet, I’ve been really lucky and have been keeping up with making boxes and cooking. I’ve also started sewing, writing calligraphy and flower-arranging. It all sounds quite ‘Little House on the Prairie’ doesn’t it? But I have to say that every little bit helps to keep me sane and happy. Lastly, our apartment is very comfortable, well-connected to public transport and is across the road from a park, ie. green space! Home Sweet Home Shanghai. Finally! :o)

Getting Re-acquainted

We've had a wonderful Labour Day weekend with lazy mornings, long lunches and relaxing evenings in. Shanghai has definitely felt like a different city this time round and it's been great fun exploring it together.

The view on Saturday. 

The view on Saturday. 

The hotel we are staying in is downtown, right in the middle of everything. And as we don't have a car yet, we've been getting around the city by foot, on the subway, with uber cars and taxis. It's been delightful watching Christoph discover a city he has already lived in for 3 years. During the last mandate, he literally went to work, came home and went to work. If he had to go anywhere else, he went with our driver and this allowed him to continue working which also meant that he rarely looked out the window; it's a little sad, I know.

But the good news is that Christoph is at a point where he is getting to genuinely appreciate what Shanghai has to offer. It's a city of 25 million people and the variety of eateries, shops and entertainments seems to never end. Thank goodness we have a decent amount of time ahead of us to get to know our home city again :-)

Berlin, Home Or Second Home?

We arrived yesterday in Berlin and how wonderful it is to be back! It was very naive of me to think that summer would be greeting us, but at least it's not hot and humid anymore. I just read that India has a rising death toll from the current heatwave they're experiencing. It's awful and I hope they receive some respite from the heat as soon as possible. I know that I most definitely feel better having the cool spring air around me now.

Just happy to be 'home'! 

Just happy to be 'home'! 

Christoph and I have been steadily unpacking our suitcases from Bangkok, while pulling out winter clothes from our closet in order to store them away for the summer. Berlin has for us, become a kind of annual ritual of sorts. We come each year at a time of change, whether it be with the seasons or what is happening in our lives. We seem to somehow be constantly moving, orbiting around the globe with Berlin being the geographical point.

Therefore, the wonderful thing about having our small haven here is that we feel grounded every time we come back. The apartment stays the same. Our neighbourhood stays the same. The people we know remain the same. For a couple of travellers like us, we really appreciate the sense of familiarity that we have in Berlin. How good is it that we are be able to travel and explore? We are consistently tested by the strange and unknown and yet, we get to come 'home' to Berlin and fit right in again each time. It's quite a lovely feeling :-)