Peppa Pig To The Rescue

It’s been two weeks since the implementation of Shanghai’s new garbage sorting regulations and so far we’ve had a number of companies, garbage collection points and residents getting fined for not sorting their trash correctly. We’ve also had lots of arguments and one reported case of a garbage regulation volunteer being attacked and choked for reprimanding a resident.

You may have some difficulties too because some of the regulations are not too clear and from what I’ve heard, are already being reviewed by the authorities. However, in order to simplify the rules for kids, we’ve had Peppa Pig come to the rescue!

Helpful Peppa Pig (Image source, That’s Shanghai)

Helpful Peppa Pig (Image source, That’s Shanghai)

Food Waste; Can Peppa Pig eat it? Residual Waste; Would Peppa Pig want to eat it? Hazardous Waste; Would Peppa Pig die if she ate it? Recyclable Waste; Can Peppa Pig make money from it? These four simple questions actually help me!!! hihihi

Hunchbacks of Our Time

When I commute to my various activities each day, all I see around me is everyone's eyes glued to their devices. I'm sure it's not happnening only here in Shanghai but in most countries and cities.

99% of train commuters are staring at their devices, people drive while looking at phones in their hands, scooter riders staring at their phones and people walking while staring at their phones. All this screentime while moving about in sometimes dangerous situations makes me cringe. It'll be very interesting to find out how many accidents occur on a daily basis due to 'not paying attention to what you're doing because you were staring at your phone'.

Can’t get enough.

Can’t get enough.

I was coincidently walking behind the girl above for about two blocks towards the subway station. She was staring at her phone the entire time without a clue as to what was happening around her, she crossed the road while still staring at her phone! If we would have been anywhere else but in Shanghai, with all the CCTV cameras, it would have been super simple to mug her and run off without her even reacting. I overtook her on the sidewalk as it was really annoying being stuck behind her lacklustre walking in narrow laneways. I then saw her come down the stairs at the subway station and immediately plopped herself down to stare at her phone some more. This moving with blinkers on evokes a sense of sadness in me to see how cut-off we poeple have become from one another and our surroundings.

The hunchback generation.

The hunchback generation.

I went to take a seat to wait for my friend and saw these three. They look like they’re asleep or something like that but no they were not asleep, they were just on their phones. Gone are the days of drumming up casual conversations with strangers or even just acknowledging the people in your vicinity. On more than the one occasion, I’ve noticed how people would not be able to describe the person sitting next to them other than it was a man or a woman. But to give a useful description of a person would be impossible for many.

I hope we are able to recognise how regressed this all is and make a real conscious effort to engage with those around us; even a little eye contact with a nod of acknowledgement would be a step forward (or backwards to the ‘good old days’).

Recycling Revolution

Shanghai residents are all gearing up for a massive recycling overhaul. Since this past month, the Shanghai Greenery and Public Sanitation Bureau has been releasing official domestic garbage sorting and dumping guidelines to the general public. It will take time for everyone to naturally be conscious of their garbage habits but I hope this initiative will be followed through with an effective positive outcome for the future.

The new regulations will come into effect on July 1 and we are seeing every building and garbage collection point getting themselves ready for the change. Friends have also told me of neighbourhood door-door knocking with brochures in hand to help clarify the guidelines for residents. Have a look at the charts below and see if they are clear enough. Individuals can be fined up to 200 rmb for failing to sort garbage. Last year, residents were fined for not slowing down at yellow traffic lights and for honking, so garbage sorting should eventually work as well.

It’s quite a detailed chart no? With very specific Asian ingredients.

It’s quite a detailed chart no? With very specific Asian ingredients.

Now I know were to put my hair but I’m not sure if slag is saliva or something else? 

Now I know were to put my hair but I’m not sure if slag is saliva or something else? 

The English translations have been very well done overall. 

The English translations have been very well done overall. 

I’m really hoping that the recyclables will really be recycled. 

I’m really hoping that the recyclables will really be recycled. 

With larger items like sofas, mattresses, fridges etc. There will be collection points where people can drop those off. I’ve also been told that I won’t be able to discard any leftover food in the public trash cans and will have to keep it with me until I come across a food waste bin. Shanghai has been trying to reduce food waste in restaurants this past year and so this will hopefully help with that as well.

New bins at Ikea today. 

New bins at Ikea today. 

This will be a very interesting exercise to witness and participate in and by the time we leave Shanghai, this city is perhaps going to green clean.

Happy Children’s Day

Welcome to June and greetings from Shanghai! Thank you to everyone for Christoph’s lovely birthday wishes. We had a quiet weekend in Shanghai and absolutely loved it. June 1 is also International Children’s Day and so there were many parties throughout the city in celebration of all the little ones in the world.

We had a slow start on June 1 and after a leisurely breakfast together, Christoph headed off to the dentist while I made my way to a kid’s birthday party. After our various outings, we circled back home for a much-needed apero of G+T and nibbles. This was followed by a global picnic dinner of some of our favourite things; crackers and dips from Australia, cheese from England, wine from Italy and chocolates from Switzerland. It was luxuriously decadent; Christoph’s perfect birthday meal and a representation of how small our world has become.

Kumihimo: who knew strings could look so fancy? They can be bracelets or necklaces.

Kumihimo: who knew strings could look so fancy? They can be bracelets or necklaces.

So now, what’s with June? Christoph is working full throttle on his factory project shuttling between Shanghai, Jiaxing and Mainburg. I’m quite booked up with kids’ activities, volunteering work and crafts. My newest learning is kumihimo which will be added to my list of ‘Skills I Have But Can Not Earn Any Money From’, hihihi. June will keep me mostly running around but also a little sad as a good friend, VB, will be repatriating back to Australia at the end of the month. There may be some shedding of tears but that is the Shanghai life. People are constantly coming and going and we try to get used to it but that still doesn’t make it any easier. I’ll have to go friend-finding... again. sigh

On with other June news, here’s this month’s challenge if you’re up for it:

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I’m going to try my best to not be a collector of plastic bags. We‘ve already stopped using plastic straws since a few months, instead we use these metal straws we bought in Australia, and I always have my trusty re-usable carry bags with me for those small purchases. Also, I always have my re-fillable water bottle with me so in a way, I‘m almost half-way through the program. Let’s see how much more we can do about reducing our plastic use by the end of the month ;o)

Shanghai Marriage Market

Wow! What a busy few weeks we’ve had since getting back to Shanghai. Busy isn’t a word that I like very much anymore; I don’t like to hear how people like to say that they are busy just to sound interesting. So what other words can I use to describe our lives instead? I’m not too sure at the moment.

What I can share is that we are both very well with Christoph working hard to get the factory underway. After getting back from Switzerland and while still suffering from jetlag we had visitors, VZ and VM, come to stay. It was great to see them, spend time together and to show them what we get up to in our home town. Most guests leave Shanghai pleasantly surprised. I like that. It’s hard to describe what it’s like to live here; the good stuff, the bad stuff, the challenges and the small accomplishments. Until you come and stay and see for yourself, Shanghai is another world.

I took VZ and VM to the marriage market which takes place in People’s Square Park everyday but the biggest turn out is on the weekends. I’ll describe it as a kind of online dating but old school. Grandparent and parents display A4 pages of handwritten descriptions of their children. Age, gender, height, education and what they are seeking. You then approach the parent and give them your candidate. If the attributes sound good to both parties, then photographs are shown and possibly phone numbers.

This was on a quiet day but still lots of people.

This was on a quiet day but still lots of people.

What we found interesting was a significant section was devoted to Chinese citizens living and working abroad. Countries that stood out were the States, the UK, Australia, Canada and Japan. I wonder if those people know that their parents or grandparents are husband/wife hunting for them. If you were over 30 and had no time to date, would you mind? What I also noticed was that they do want their children to marry a fellow Chinese citizen.

A friend’s assistant who is a 36 year old female, decided to go there last year to see if she could find a husband. Her credentials are good; she works for an Australian company, is Shanghainese, is smart and healthy. After approaching a few parents, she was berated for the fact that she will never find a husband while earning such a high salary! She was told to quit her job and get a lower-paying one so she would then be more interesting to the potential suitors. Unbelievable! A strong independent woman can never win in such a market.

VM was lucky during our visit. She was approached by a father who liked her height. He didn’t mind that she spoke not a word of Mandarin but said that VM would be very suitable for his son who is also very tall. I politely told him that she’s not currently looking. While I was translating some of the profiles, another man came up to me to ask what in particular I was looking for. Sorry, Alison, I told him that I was looking for a husband for my younger sister (the parents don’t like tourists to snap pictures and to be nosy so I needed a cover story). I was quite intrigued as to how business-like it all was. He asked for age, education and height, and I think he was an agent because he seemed to be representing a few candidates. He also asked if she looked like me and of course I replied that she is much prettier :o)

It’s a whole other world but in the end you just hope that everyone finds what they are looking for.

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.