Downtown Shanghai

At last we venture out into the city secure in the knowledge that whatever happens there is tea and toast waiting for us back in the apartment now that the long awaited toaster has arrived… more on shopping later.

Kevin likes to travel by metro (underground) where possible as it is cheap, efficient and we can figure out where to go usually without have to ask anyone. The Shanghai metro is vast and very clean. Fortunately there is a brand new station about 10 minutes walk away from us and a journey into the centre takes about 20 minutes for a cost of 45p.

The trains are spacious but need to be as it is fairly crowded. I haven’t managed to get a photo of it but as you travel through the tunnel there are adverts playing on the dark walls through the windows. It’s pretty snazzy and hi tech.

All the metro stations are accessible with lifts and beautiful flat surfaces so that’s good.

Downtown Shanghai is the financial district and the skyline is the iconic symbol of the city with its plethora of high rises.

This is the view from The Bund (which means embankment but as this is an Arabic term the Chinese have their own word which translates as ‘Outer Beach’ but any sand is loooooong gone)

Behind me is the Shanghai world financial centre, or the bottle opener as it is fondly known.

Walking around Underneath these buildings and admiring the architecture from ground level gives you a crick in the neck but the angles afford some great perspectives

The twisty tower is called the Shanghai Tower and it twists 1 degree per floor to offset the winds at high altitudes because of the frequent typhoons which hit the region. The tower has an inner glass structure and an outer one, like two tubes and contains 149 elevators!!!

The middle building is the Jin Mao Tower but it’s quite boring as it just offices and a hotel. However at the top is a glass walkway without rails called ‘wander in the clouds’ which I will NOT be attempting!

Some are clearly ‘no expense spared’ structures

We traversed the spiraling skywalk above the traffic fumes which gave a different view of the buildings.

This one with the balls is the Oriental Pearl Tower which is owned by China television. Apparently you can have a buffet meal in the revolving restaurant at the top for £35.

We were mega impressed by the rubbish bins on the skywalk (we are easily pleased) which were plentiful, one every few hundred yards and each one beautified with a plant beside the ash tray. They wouldn’t stay there for very long in the UK!!!!

All in all we walked for 8 miles only dipping into the ground floor of the buildings for a drink or some relief from the heat and humidity. In one tower we saw some shops and were impressed by the benches in the opticians. We thought it was an optical illusion, but, they really do float!

And I like the top of this tower. Why be boring and square when you can have petals.


Jinqiao is the neighborhood where we live, a suburb of Shanghai. Pronounced GIn-chow it is a much sought after location, a des-res part of Shanghai. Partly this is because it is an enclave of foreign nationals. There are at least two American schools (mine in one), Dulwich, The British school and Chinese schools which offer an English program. The streets are lined with gated compounds of luxury villas and high quality apartment blocks.

Jinqiao is in Pudong which literally means ‘east bank of the Huang-Pu River’. Puxi being the west side. Pudong is really quite new as until about 30 years ago the area was mostly fields and farmland.

To cater for the foreigners’ western tastes there is a Carrefour supermarket, an American owned grocery store stocking imported items and multiple restaurants catering to the western diet such as Papa Johns Pizzas, Mexican, Italian and even a good old Irish Bar!

There is the ubiquitous Starbucks and Costa but the coffee there is really quite expensive at £3.50 a cup! All in all it has the feel of a western ghetto. You could live here quite happily on burgers & fries and a never experience the ‘real’ China.

The roads and pavements are tree lined and well maintained

You can see here the red section for bikes and the ridges section for walkers. After the typhoon when the streets were littered with fallen branches and debris the sweepers worked extra hard and it was all cleared by the next morning! And they do sweeping by hand.

I particularly like this junction (intersection) below as they have recently installed flashing colored bricks which help to tell you when to cross. This is super useful.

As you can see the crossings are quite wide. They are all pretty much this size. So it’s a fair step to walk to either the school, church, shops or metro station. The good thing about that is my increased step count (I am topping 10k steps nearly every day!)

Some of you may have read about Chinese government restrictions on churches but it appears not to be the case here in jinqiao. We can see spires all around.

This one is the Catholic Church.

We go to the all encompassing Protestant one which is in another gated complex. There are several large halls which are used by various congregations. We attend the 11am one but interestingly it is only for non Chinese nationals

I love walking through these streets though snd in the morning on my way to school everyday I see this

Its a meeting- Asian style! So different to ours.

As the ground here is flat bicycles are endemic. Some are the public bikes which you can pick up and leave wherever (you pay per ride with the QR code and your phone) and some are private. This is just a glimpse of the street outside our nearest metro station

The access to our apartment building isn’t great though I have to say. Not exactly disabled friendly…

But all in all we are settling in to our new surroundings and learning what’s where. It’s lovely when you turn s corner and come across something that you just wouldn’t find at home…

Next job is to explore the rest of the city… Shanghai here we come!


My new school is part of the American Lutheran church’s education mission arm. It has a beautiful campus here in Jinqiao which was established about 22 years ago. It is very well maintained if a little small for the growing numbers of students who want to enroll.

The church cannot proselytize here in China so the mission of the school states that we provide ‘ Education wrapped in relationships’ which I think is a beautiful aim and helps to reinforce the personalized nature of what we do. The school sees every child as a ‘gift from God’ (and I must admit that this is a challenge with some children on some days!!!) but this philosophy means that there is a very distinctive atmosphere on campus. Several people comment that there is something ‘different’ that they can sense when they visit.

And it isn’t just in the artwork or messages around the school.

The staff are overwhelmingly nice and I couldn’t have wished for a warmer welcome. As the orientation period ends and the children begin to arrive, all the new staff found a chocolate on their desks from the Assistant Head of School along with a poem about starting a new position. The head of the elementary school today came round to thank everyone who helped with the registration event. It’s small personal touches like that which makes all the difference.

Every year the school chooses a word to focus on. This year it is ‘Envision’ how we can all work towards making a better future. And on Wednesday’s many staff wear pink to remember those who have had breast cancer (must go shopping for pink items)

I have joined a Secret Friend scheme. Those of us who have opted in get a person and we do something nice for them once a month. We send birthday & Christmas cards anonymously and at the end of the year there is a big ‘reveal’ it a brilliant way of building community and I am going to enjoy trying to figure out who my secret friend is.

In the meantime there is much to get to grips with:

American curriculum, American terminology & American spellings

Mac books

The ‘great fire wall’ means VPNs and other workarounds (which frustratingly don’t always work how you think it should!)

Not to mention finding my way around and between new buildings

A new year has started. Let it be a good one.

The Shanghai chapter begins

We are here. The flight with FINN air was smooth and we liked the layover in Helsinki airport. It’s just the place to stock up on reindeer skin rugs if your supplies run low!!

… and then we were here! Despite dire warnings from the school Immigration was super smooth and virtually empty. They take your fingerprints a couple of times but it all worked extremely well. We collected our six suitcases and were met by my new Principal (what a welcome) who was meeting and greeting all the new staff that day.

And taken onto our apartment… which was a huge disappointment… I think that basically we have been spoilt by living at The Chatrium, which as those of you who visited us knows was 5* luxury. This is China.

To start with instead of polished chrome and glass, the lift smells musty.

The hallway is dark, crowded with neighbors bikes and our unit is right next to the ‘rubbish house’ so again somewhat stinky.

I was tired, spaced out and initially not very happy despite the huge welcome basket of fruit & provisions provided by the school.

The apartment itself is spacious, I would say probably 3 times bigger than the one in Bangkok BUT it

a) overlooks the bins

b) has threadbare thin curtains

c) has a disgusting sofa with bobbly fabric and sporting some suspicious stains…

d) there is only ONE free socket in the kitchen

The bedroom is fine and the bed comfortable (I was thankful for small mercies) but fell asleep wondering if we had made a mistake in coming here.

In the next few days I discovered that all the apartment blocks have fairly grungy lifts! That’s just the way it is is China! And the newer blocks have much less space. We went into other teachers’ flats and saw how homely they had made it. That was inspiring.

Then we discovered that we could have furniture that we didn’t like removed (this never happened in The Chatrium) so we set about using our generous relocation allowance to make the place more acceptable. We now have two decent sofas, one given and one an ex-showroom piece and extremely comfortable to sit on. We have invested in an air purifier, a smart TV and some IKEA units. Through a friend of a friend we have acquired lamps, pictures and various other bits all for free! I feel that the place is coming together now.

There is still a way to go but I am feeling much happier than that initial day. We got s cool and groovy kettle which lights up the temperature as the water boils

Have a look at the kitchen:Note how low the units are in relation to me. I think that they were made for the Asian build and not towering westerners! I am not tall but even I have to stoop slightly when chopping things up!!! Surprisingly there is a double sink but no draining board.

The school is nice and the staff couldn’t be friendlier. There is so much to sort out, to learn and to take in. The staff have been so patient with us and so understanding. In this intake all are American except one Aussie and myself. On the whole I have found them to be larger than life characters, outgoing, gregarious and can talk at both speed and volume without me needing to say a word! It’s so different from the typical British reserve. Concordia operates along Christian values with its foundation in faith and this is abundantly obvious in the way we have been welcomed.

We toured the campus and I was surprised to see most of it looking like this

Or this

With only 10 days to go before the students start. I would be panicking but everyone was totally laid back and assured me that it would all be ready on schedule. Such faith!

We have been full on all week getting Chinese SIM cards, bank accounts, Learning basic phrases, completing more online courses, sorting out health insurance and health checks. In China to qualify for a work permit we were all shipped to a nearby medical center where we had chest x-rays, ultrasound scans, eye tests, ECG and blood tests. The Chinese medical staff were not all that fluent in English and could be quite abrupt at times so we were prodded poked or flicked when they wanted us to move. At one point the dr said to me ‘you are normal’. So there you have it! I wouldn’t have thought it myself but apparently I am ‘normal’!!!

One big task was to get the WeChat app tied to our bank account. This is going to be so handy as here hardly anyone pays with cash. Everyone uses their phones to pay, even in market stalls! WeChat is like What’sAppp but with more functionality like translating and scanning.

A quick flying visit to my new library and it is full of boxes too but looks nice.

And I will for the first time in my career be responsible for fish!

And my favorite thing so far is that we don’t have to use a lanyard for our ID badge. We can use beads instead! Small things can make a big difference

A time of transition

What a summer we have had. It has been a real whirlwind of travel, catch ups and activity but we have had a blast.

To be honest when we landed it felt as though we had never been away. Everything was so wonderfully familiar. Perhaps it was the jet lag but we did feel as though the whole two years in Thailand had been an extremely vivid dream. A bit like JR Ewing from Dallas waking up in the shower after several seasons. We marveled at things like the lines in the road, speed cameras and cats eyes!

It was a summer of seeing family and in particular it was wonderful to finally meet Steph, Oliver’s new girlfriend and to help the two of them move into their new flat in Bagshot.

There was a fair amount of boring admin that we had to clear up this summer like Chinese visas in Manchester for both of us, a new passport from Liverpool for me, a new driving license for Kevin, updated bank cards, credit cards and other really really boring stuff that we haven’t been able to complete when out of the country. In between all that we had coffees, lunches, meals, drinks and catch ups with loads of old friends and thoroughly enjoyed meeting some new ones We traversed the country and put over 2000 miles on the clock of our hire car. We feel truly blessed to have such an amazing circle of family and friends. Very fortunate indeed. Here are just some of the highlights:

The weather was extremely kind to us and we avoided most of the school holiday crowds but unfortunately it was over all too soon and the departure date loomed large. Having said that after 4 weeks of touring and living out of our suitcases we felt ready to stop, unpack and sleep in the same bed for a while!