Here I am stuck on the tarmac, waiting for my plane to take off but ironically it isn’t de-icing holding me back but smog!! So I thought to myself - what better time to write a blog.
Happy New Year, once again, but this time it is in honour of the Chinese Wooden Horse. Yes, the horse. Unfortunately the element, wood brings some challenges along with it. According to Reuters:
“The coming Chinese Year of the Horse may bring conflicts and disasters related to fire but strong gains in stocks linked to wood, the year's two dominant elements.”
Following the theme of challenge, Raymond Lo states: "The upcoming Horse year is also a 'yang wood' year, when people will stick more to their principles and stand firm." Also noted was, “It is hard to negotiate or compromise as there are more tendencies for people to fight for their ideals." In other woods... a tough year for me!
The government happily allocated January 31 to February 6 the official Spring Festival holiday – what they forgot to share with the masses was that you actually have to make up most of those days over “working weekends.” You read that right, and yes it means that you are supposed to head to the office – hangover and all! I claimed “Western” ignorance so got away with it this time.
I was thinking back to my last blog and to all the adventures and fun times I have had since then. Time really does fly by here in China – it might be part of the constant flight or fight mode I am in – but nonetheless I find a part of me trying to hold on to and embrace special moments and opportunities.
My ski trip to Japan proved a grand success – so much so that during a sake induced evening I might have agreed to partner in the purchasing of a place in Niseko – let's just hope that everyone in the group was also sake induced and a bit foggy! Asahi beer on tap is life changing and no Japanese food I have had out of the country comes close to the real thing. I will definitely be back.
Home over the holidays was amazing and for the first time in a long time I wasn’t quite ready to leave. Home is truly a special place where I can always ground myself, be revitalized both internally and externally and leave slightly more balanced than when I arrived. Friends and family are essential for the soul – plus a little home cooking never hurts.
Since arriving back in the motherland of all motherlands, it is back to metro rage, taxi blunders, facemasks and adventures.
One way to deal with the hard living in Shanghai – it really isn’t that hard - is to embrace what surrounds me and sign up for great adventures. My first weekend back in China found me in Harbin, which is actually closer to Russia than Beijing. It is so cold that it put my Canadian bravado to shame, but due to some extreme layering and lots of coffee breaks it was a very successful and memorable adventure. So why Harbin, you might ask – the reason is the famous ice festival. It was one of the most amazing things the eye can see and only in China can you build a life size ice city each and ever year. Famous global landmarks were replicated, even the Rome Coliseum made the list. Ice slides and castles aplenty made for lots of laughs and awe stricken moments. The trip also allowed for a quick jaunt over to the Siberian Tiger Park where yes, you can cheaply purchase live chickens, goats and cows to feed to the eagerly awaiting tigers – once again, only in China. I enjoyed the whole experience until I saw the poor little lions and panthers freezing their little paws off and wondering how on earth they ended up in Harbin at-40 temperatures when all they want is sand, sun and Sahara – oh where did they go wrong!
As part of my “cultural training” I accepted the challenge of being one of the emcees for the annual work Chinese New Year Party. Apparently this is a big deal. So big that it entailed costumes, hair, make-up and rehearsals. The event was a compilation of something between karaoke idol and a bad case of charades! Needless to say, there was a lot of laugher - but not too much because everyone was very serious about their acts. I had to restrain myself on a couple of occasions, I must admit!
One of the major recommendations from friends upon my arrival in Shanghai was the importance of leaving the city during the New Year's Festivities – what I didn’t take into account was the true chaos and mass exodus of people heading home to enjoy time with their families. Through nothing short of a miracle I found a flight to Thailand – Phuket more specifically. I am off on another adventure and mission – this time to learn how to scuba dive, meet up with an old friend from school, and work on my tan. Although Santa (thoughtful man) did gift me 25 air masks, I am happy to be leaving the city during these heightened smoggy times– note back to being stranded on the tarmac due to smog.
I have finally signed myself up at a local gym. I am not sure what I am more proud of enrolling or bargaining the price down by 20% - now I can justify when I don’t make it every day. One of the first things I wanted to do upon enrolment was to join a Pilates class – let’s just say, it wasn’t the most successful experience to date. Not to be deterred, I signed up for a spin class. I might have had a case of mismanaged expectations but they whole sing while you spin was a bit over the top. Also, it was hugely challenging to decipher the English spin instructions being belted out throughout Katy Perry’s "Fireworks" and Beyoncé’s "Single Ladies.”
Time to bring this blog – aka short novel – to an end. Until next time...
Lots of Love from Shanghai and “Have a good life” (that is what the Chinese like to say).
Emily (which means “love rice” in Chinese) xxoo