A week from now I would’ve landed back in South Africa after a few days shy of two months living in Shanghai.
If it weren’t for my current tourist visa restraints, I would be pleased not to travel back until my planned trip in February for a wedding in Cape Town. Besides the epic trek of a 2.5-hour flight to Hong Kong, 12-hour layover, 13.5-hour flight to Johannesburg and then another 2.5-hour flight to Cape Town, I’m going to miss this place and all its quirks. My only saving grace is the fact that I’m going to be back in a couple of weeks. The thought of being gone for any longer makes me feel homesick, as strange as that sounds.
Shanghai has managed to creep into my heart and I think it’s going to be very hard for it to ever leave. I’ve read about a lot of people who have lived here before who talk about how much they miss it, although I’ve also spoken to a lot of people who have lived here for a few years and they can’t wait to leave. Suppose it has to do with a lot of different things but I’m hoping my love for the city continues to grow. Sure, there are times where things are incredibly difficult and can be very frustrating, but at the end of the day, you always manage to make a plan.
I now refer to expensive mistakes (which I always learn from) as “School Fees”, and something you’d be quick to assume would be easy to sort out as a “Can’t You Just?”. I also usually end a sentence explaining an issue with “obviously”, because generally nothing ever runs smoothly here and you need to have a backup plan in place, just in case.
Some of the funny things that initially were very strange have just become part of everyday life. My neighbour is a basket-case who would probably star in her own reality show version of “Extreme Hoarders”, she has that much stuff. I came home late last weekend and she was sleeping on the small landing outside my front door. A week or two prior to that I also came home late and her shirt & bra were hanging on my doorknob. She also insists on taking the rubbish, but I hope she’s just very diligent when it comes to recycling and wants to help me recycle too, as opposed to stashing my trash in her varkhoek.
At least it doesn’t smell, so don’t think there’s any food in there. I’ve affectionately called her “The Scratcher”, as I often hear her rummaging through her piles of biscuit tins and plastic carrier bags. She also has a cat who is very vocal, who I think is attempting to compete with her volume levels, as she sits talking loudly on one of her 3 phones that are continuously charging right outside.
I live in a very scenic part of Shanghai that is very popular for photo shoots, especially wedding ones. I learnt the other day that wedding photos are actually taken before the wedding, as in a few days or weeks before. So you’ll have a future bride and groom parading around the streets of the Former French Concession, in full bridal attire, with their entourage of anywhere between 1, 2 or 5 photographers and assistants. There are also lots of families, editorial and even the random “just because” shoots between friends which are always on the go when the weather is good. Every second person here also has a very large camera, which I’m beginning to think is more of a status symbol than anything else.
There are also selfies, lots and lots of selfies. Selfies waiting for the bus, selfies on the metro, selfies sitting at a restaurant table, selfies at the hotel breakfast buffet, selfies walking along the road where everyone has to walk around you while you take it…
I really love where I live and it really is such a central spot in a great area with access to a lot of cool things to do & see. Either it’s a few minutes walk, a few metro stops away or a 20-minute cab drive.
I’m surrounded by loads of cafes, boutiques, galleries, design studios, restaurants, wine bars, a beerhouse or two and various vendors selling all sorts of things from the inside (and outside) of their incredibly small and cramped stores. There are trees lining all the roads, lots of heritage architecture and preserved buildings. It’s clean, it’s safe and rumour has it that one of Mao’s grandsons actually lives on a corner just a few 100 meters from our house. Despite the very real possibility of feeling like you’re living on top of your neighbours, my apartment is on the third floor definitely helps alleviate any claustrophobia.
I was quite surprised, however, when returning from a night in Moganshan, that our building was wrapped in bamboo scaffolding. On asking our rental agent what the story was, he replied saying that the “government was renovating”, whatever that means. It’s taken them a few days to finish constructing it and I’m hoping that with the upcoming national holiday that any renovating will only commence when I’m gone. With not having a full-time job at the moment I do spend a lot of time at home, so not really keen on having people peering into our windows or living with the curtains continuously closed.
It’s also very quiet where I live, besides the man who occasionally rolls around in the morning shouting something on repeat over a loudhailer and The Scratcher, there are sounds of birds, the odd dog barking, a few catfights (that don’t usually last more than a couple of minutes), the nearby school.
My favourite sound is the classic piano pieces that come wafting through my open windows from one of the neighbouring houses below. I like to imagine they’re being played by various music students, as some versions are better than others, with distinct improvements over the last few weeks. It really is quite lovely.
The weather is beginning to turn and I’m bracing myself for a cold winter, have heard stories about how bad it gets. I don’t really mind the cold too much, as long as I’m dressed warmly enough, but I’m hoping to experience some proper snow. It doesn’t really snow that much in Shanghai, not enough to settle anyway, but as you get further inland it can get very heavy. Being in China also allows you to travel very easily inside and outside the country. You can either hop on a short flight to places like Japan, Hong Kong, Taiwan or Korea, or jump on a train and travel for a few hours across the country. It’s all very accessible, whereas travelling to these places from South Africa is a bit more difficult.
I’ve always thought my friends in the UK were really lucky to be able to travel so much because of how close they were to other countries, but I’m actually in the same position myself now, except I’ve got Asia on my doorstep.
Really looking forward to coming home after my trip back to South Africa, but I’m excited to see my family & friends for a good catch up while I’m there. The last 2 months have seriously flown, I’ve kept myself busy and am hoping to return to loads more activity. There are lots in the pipeline in terms of work opportunities as well as with the small business I’ve started, buying and selling merchandise, which I hope to grow over the next few months and incorporate into this blog.
Definitely feel like there’s a bit more change in the air.