Monthly Archives: December 2012

Shanghai Christmas

What a wonderful Christmas in Shanghai. We are so fortunate to have a large “family” of Ex-pats here who host so many wonderful events and look out for each other. The season started with a “Stars and Stockings” party at Jane’s house.  A fabulous night of laughter, 80’s dancing, great food and booze.

The next day, Isabelle and Oliver were at the Shanghai Expat Association’s Christmas Party at the 4 Seasons in Downtown Shanghai.  Even Santa came to visit them there! Kids from all nationalities from all over Shanghai were enjoying the festivities – so many crafts that the kids did not get through them all.  They came home laden with home made Christmas tree ornaments, gingerbread houses and presents from Santa.

Santa and Isabelle

Santa and Isabelle

IMG_8546

Santa and Oliver

On Christmas Eve, we were all at Marie and Tim’s house – with the same lovely group of people that we would be enjoying the rest of Christmas with.  This was a lovely relaxed affair and we were home by 7:30 pm ready to continue exciting the kids about an imminent visit!

Christmas Eve with Oliver

Christmas Eve with Oliver

Our Christmas Tree - ready with presents.

Our Christmas Tree – ready with presents.

Christmas morning the children woke up at 6:30am. We could hear squeals of excitement and giggles as they opened their stockings together.  They managed to contain themselves until 7:30 and then came in to “wake” us up.  We had a wonderful relaxing morning opening presents, playing with toys and enjoying a leisurely breakfast.

What could these possibly be??

What could these possibly be??

Just what we wanted!!

Just what we wanted!!

At 12.45 we walked around the corner to Lin and Nick’s house as they were hosting Christmas Dinner.  Nick works for Intercontinental Hotel group and they were catering it, so no-one had the burden of preparing the meal.  The staff had completely taken over the kitchen (using the garage as a staging area) and had even set up a bar!

Half of us at the table (bar is in the background).

Half of us at the table (bar is in the background).

We were 5 families in 1 house – 22 of us, including all the kids.  We had a fabulous meal – 5 hours at the table, laughing all the time.  The kids managed about 45 minutes of eating before they were all off playing together.  Again, it was so relaxing – no cooking or clearing up to worry about.  When you are so far from home with no family around, this could not have been a better celebration.

Daniel, Cai, Harry, Oliver and Luke.

Daniel, Cai, Harry, Oliver and Luke.

Lia, Isabelle, Amelie, Maddie and Seren

Lia, Isabelle, Amelie, Maddie and Seren

A choice of desserts.  The mini Christmas puddings were delightful!

A choice of desserts. The mini Christmas puddings were delightful!

What a wonderful group of friends to celebrate Christmas Day with.

What a wonderful group of friends to celebrate Christmas Day with.

After a brief 90 minute re-charge back at home, we were off to more friends – Suzanne and Brian’s, for the evening.  Another fantastic get together.

Boxing Day, and it was our turn to host.  The morning was a flurry of activity; cooking sausage rolls, legs of lamb and preparing for 30 people at our house at 3:00pm.  Our wonderful Ayi, Angela, was a huge help and stayed through the afternoon to help with the kids.  We had set up a craft activity area for them downstairs and some other friends had brought their Wii system for the older children to play upstairs.  While they were occupied we played our traditional Boxing Day “Dirty Santa” game.  Absolutely hilarious to see the tacky, gaudy gifts that people had found for less than 50RMB (£5/$7)!!  It was the perfect wind-down from a very hectic Christmas and we were cleared up before 10:00pm.

Jane winning Michael Fish fridge magnets in our Annual "Dirty Santa" game.

Jane opening Michael Fish fridge magnets in our annual “Dirty Santa” game!

All in all, for a very different Christmas, it was perfect.

Owen's fabulous Christmas Cake

Owen’s fabulous Christmas Cake.  Beautifully fed over the last 2 years and then beautifully decorated.  Better than any “professional” cake!!  It was YUMMY!

We decorated the house

Our house all decorated for Christmas.

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A Shang-high and Shang-low week or Juggling Act Part 2

Last week, Owen was in the UK for the week.  I took Thursday and Friday off so that I could focus on the kids (plus all the Christmas activities that were taking place or needed to be done).  I am so fortunate that the Ex-pat community is so supportive of one another.  My friends here all know that I work (sometimes long hours) and I had many emails offering to look after the kids, feed us or cover school bus drop off and pick up.  It is such a relief to know that I am not alone when Owen has to travel back to the UK for his pain relief medication.  In fact, I was over whelmed with the emails that came pouring in.  I am not alone here. Neither is Owen.    This is truly a community that cares about one another.

So, the Shanghai-high part of the week was the support that I received.  The Shang-low part of the week was the juggling act…..

I feel guilty calling upon my friends to help.  I know that they really want to help and that they do not think anything of it.  But, I still cannot help feeling guilty.  In my head, I am trying to work out when I can repay.  And, I know that they don’t want repaying!  It is part of the Ex-pat life to support one another and I am trying really hard to be a part of that.  It is so difficult to release some of the independence and “I can do it” mentality.  Work is especially difficult at the moment as we approach year end with lots of changes for 2013.  I am feeling under pressure all round.  It is a constant juggling act between home and work – the experts are right – you really cannot have it all 😦

Christmas at BISS

 

The children are certainly getting into the Christmas spirit at school.  Friday December 7th was a busy day at BISS.  In the morning Oliver had his Christmas concert and then we were back again in the evening for the school Christmas Carol Concert.

The concert consisted of 5 nursery classes and 3 Reception classes, all dressed in a different Christmas theme and singing their little hearts out!  I think they might have all been over-whelmed as they were on the stage in the Theatre with all the lights on them, and the Theatre was packed full of parents!  (Owen was in the UK and unfortunately missed his performance – thank goodness for video cameras!)

Different themes for different classes.

Different themes for different classes.

The Concert lasted about 30 minutes with lots of different songs about the Holiday season.  All the children were so good – singing loudly, sitting in the correct places and generally not much crying!  There were a few who got upset when they saw Mum or Dad!

Oliver's class were Christmas presents and he was wearing a lovely top underneath.  His costume was a surprise!

Oliver’s class were Christmas presents and he was wearing a lovely top underneath. His costume was a surprise!

Oliver had also had a trip to the post office last week to send the Christmas card he had made:

Oliver's Christmas card.  It arrived in our mail box after a Class trip to the Post Office!

Oliver’s Christmas card. It arrived in our mail box after a Class trip to the Post Office!

The inside of Oliver's Christmas Card.

The inside of Oliver’s Christmas Card.

We had Emma, Ava and Ethan over for dinner in the evening and then all of us climbed into our van to go back to school for the Carol Concert.  It was a lovely performance with all years involved.  We had a couple of dance performances – ballet, jazz and tap.  The band played a few songs – there is a very talented saxophone player who improvised one song!  And, of course, the different school choirs – from the very youngest (Rainbow Choir) up to Secondary/Senior school.  At the end, it was a sing-along for everybody with favourites like Silent Night and We Wish You a Merry Christmas!

There was even an interval so we could enjoy mince pies and mulled wine!

Ethan, Ava, Isabelle and Oliver at the BISS Christmas Concert.

Ethan, Ava, Isabelle and Oliver at the BISS Christmas Concert.

Shenzhen – naps and squat toilets

Sunday night I travelled to Shenzhen in the south of China for a business meeting.  Shenzhen is only a 30 minute drive from the border to Hong Kong.  It is another huge city – 20+ million people, but a fairly new city.  in 1979 it was still a small village!  It has greatly benefited from massive foreign investment and is designated as a Special Economic Zone – one of the most successful in China and is one of the fastest growing cities in the world.

The customer I was meeting is a large Chinese multi-national company.  The morning went very well and then we broke for lunch.  It was off to the canteen at lunch for a delicious buffet lunch.  After which, our team returned back to the meeting room but I was amazed that all the lights were off.  And, you could hear a pin drop! It is nap time at the office.  I had never seen anything like this.  The staff pull out thin mattress pads, pillows and blankets from under their desks or storage lockers.  Some people even have a low cot/lounger bed.  They then go to sleep, usually with their heads under their desks.  I could even hear snoring!

People were OUT COLD.  I so wanted to take a photo but refrained as I did not want to be disrespectful to our customer.  I tiptoed past the cubicles trying to ensure that I did not disturb this patchwork quilt of sleeping.  At 2:00pm, the lights again come up to full power and it is back to work!

At this same multi-national global company, I was amazed to find that the ladies toilets were all squat toilets.  Oh my goodness, I would actually have to use one of these.  I have successfully avoided them to date, often in discomfort, but still unwilling to try.  Well, there is no choice this time – I have been drinking bottles of water like it is going out of fashion and I REALLY have to go.  Mission accomplished, is all I am going to say on that subject!