What is change? It is our only constant.

I learned at a very young age that life doesn’t go according to plan. At least not your own plan. (I don’t know if I believe in fate, though.)
At the age of 11 my biggest goal was attending the high school my brother went to. It was the ‘coolest’ high school in our area, and I always thought my big brother was cool. Right to this day, of course. I had achieved my goal, and my new life at high school was waiting for me. I enjoyed it for about six weeks, and then my family and I moved to South Africa.
That is a massive change for a 12 year old. I am not all too familiar with children, since I do not have any. I have also never really been surrounded by children outside of school life and what a person comes across on a  daily basis. But I remember that life at the age of 12 still ended and started again every minute. Maybe every hour by that time. But all of that changed rapidly when the entire world I knew was replaced by a different reality. One that those around me were familiar with but I was not. It was a confusing time; it was many things.

13 years later, I am so grateful for that change and the lesson I learned from this experience. When it was announced we were moving to a new country, it became so clear to me that the only constant thing in life is change. I starting taking note of all the things that did not go according to plan, and the things that did not follow my desires. And I only observed. It didn’t make me feel upset or afraid. I became so comfortable with change, and change became my normal. Sure I was upset if I didn’t get something I wanted for my birthday, or if other desires weren’t fulfilled in some way. But the unknown made me excited and I realised that when a plan changes, my previous expectations suddenly wouldn’t play a role in the new experience. This only fuelled my excitement every time. I learned that if I go into an experience with little to no expectations, I am so much more present in the moment. I take note of the little things I would have otherwise missed looking forward; only looking forward. The way I made choices started to change, leaving room for unexpected but at times necessary side roads. I wasn’t consciously building that into my plan, but I generally felt less attached to what I wanted and had in mind.
That doesn’t mean I always weigh out my options in the best way, though. Perhaps at times I have been too lax when it comes to decision making. But something I am trying to work on is being present all the time. That includes being present when planning for something that will take place in the future. I think setting goals is still important. But I think that it is through being present in every moment of your life that the idea of what you truly want and need will be more clearer than ever.

I am at these cross roads now. Last month I graduated from a master’s degree in Chinese Philosophy. I had no idea what I wanted or where I wanted to be the most. As I’m writing this I still cannot answer these questions clearly. As I’m writing this, I am reminding myself that that is okay. Like all the unknown situations before, I now find myself there again. Only on a slightly bigger and more intimidating scale. Wanting to make my own money but doing what job, choosing a place to settle for a while, all these choices…
Four months ago I had three criteria: 1) Not staying in China, 2) If I would stay in China (because that decision would give me many options) I would not stay in Shanghai, 3) If I would look for a job in China, I would definitely not become another one of those English teachers.
Here I am. In China, in Shanghai, teaching English (and maths). Did I fail? I felt like I did for a while. I still feel like I have failed sometimes. But what I didn’t know and didn’t include in my criteria is that I actually enjoy the work I do. I am tutoring, not teaching a whole class and I enjoy working with kids. I have discovered they are really funny, and their questions inspire a sense of creativity within me. I am earning my rent and extra money for other ideas I have, which are obviously subject to change. I am in the country where Chinese philosophy is likely to be most present. And I am seeing new opportunities for in my future that I could have missed out on had I not stayed here. Things that make me excited and feel happy, things that challenge me and help me grow. I now see being in China as the biggest part of my process of self-cultivation, living in and with a culture that is so different from my own. But it is through this idea of accepting and going along with change, (and the poster I have in my room reminding me to ‘make life interesting, not perfect’), that I am making the most of everything I am going through every day and doing the best that I can with the resources I have. And I think that is pretty cool.

A quick Thank You to my friend Augi, who inspired me to write. What came out was definitely helpful for myself. Maybe even helpful for you.

Totally unrelated, yet very true t-shirt wisdom of the day: “I have no drinking problem. I drink, I get drunk. I fall down. No problem. Bermuda.”

Living in China – an honest review

Last year August I departed for Shanghai in a terrible mind space and a knot in my stomach that seemed to be made of only fear, shame, self-pity and anger. I was in a pretty dark place, and until a couple of days ago I wondered whether it was a smart move to leave the comfort of my home and the helpful and warm embrace of my parents in such a state; something I was in desperate need of every single day. The only image I saw in my mind the morning of the dreaded goodbyes, was The Bund at night-time; like a solace – a new kind of embrace. It was strangely comforting. Nonetheless, the dark cloud in my mind would override any glimpse of joy or hope I found.

However, a conversation I recently had with my classmate, my friend, changed my perspective. I figured out that, knowing myself, I would have deeply regretted not taking the opportunity I was given. I would have boundlessly imagined all the things I would have missed out on. And perhaps the most rewarding benefit of coming to Shanghai, is that now I know what I do need. Rather than mom’s home cooking and dad’s endless efforts trying to fix me, I needed to do this myself. I still need to do it myself. And what better way to rebuild a broken world than by studying Chinese Philosophy?
Although this proved difficult at first, I am now slowly but surely reaping the food for thought I unknowingly planted 15 months ago – below I have shared some with you of what my life has been like as a foreigner in China.

the Bund


Congruent with the number of people, China displays a variety of a variety further separated by variety. On a daily basis I am amazed at the vehicles I see on the road. Even in between a bicycle and an electric bicycle, I see about 10 different new kinds of vehicles. Some distinguished by the MOUNTAIN of goods packed tightly on top. If you think Shanghai’s sky scrapers have the tendency to walk around, you are wrong because it is in fact a pile of something stacked on a something that is somehow moved by one, just one, person.

The same with tea, although on a smaller size scale. China is infamous for its mellow-feel tea culture. Although one still finds the 5 types of ‘original’ tea, black, green, white, yellow, Oolong, what you actually may sooner come across is one of the many tea shops that do not sell just normal hot tea. It is spiced up, sized up, crunchy, chewy, sweet, sour, hot, cold, weird, delicious, and just a joy for the eyes and the mouth. My personal summer favourite was Oolong with sweet pearls topped with salty cream topped with crunched up Oreo. Quite a mouthful, hmm? It was. I had only about 3, though, during summer before I realised that it was probably not great for my health – unlike the regular tea. Which, by the way, come in 5 story building worth varieties. We call these the tea markets. A wonderful experience for someone who bought boring tea bags in yellow carton boxes that all tasted pretty similar. 

There is so much more to cover, but it’s simply too much too stuff into one contrasting tiny blog post. 

Ironic freedom

Yes, many apps and websites have been blocked in China. But unlike anywhere else in the world where I have been, you can wear a pink wig on your knee cap and people would hardly bat an eye. There seems to be so much room for personal expression in terms of appearance, which is wonderfully liberating. It almost seems as if my old ways have gotten the better of me, so I tend to dress pretty casually and go unnoticed. Other than my blonde hair, which attracts regular unwanted attention. But I’m pretty sure I have seen a girl who traveled back to Victorian times where she undressed an Elizabeth and came back to Shanghai 2018 wearing her clothes going about her own business. I was so sympathetically amused that I was watching her for some minutes, and to my surprise I noticed that I was the only one watching her. Many people here in China are my daily reminder that it’s okay to just be me. Watch a peachy Ted talk on this here. 

The Chinese language

Although it may not always sound pretty, the Chinese language is incredibly poetic in itself. Though simplified Chinese has taken away some of the original profoundness, it still remains in my eyes a language that holds secrets to ancient wisdom of which meanings are still debated today. Partly, because of the characters and what they represent. Did you know that Chinese people today can still read texts written more than 2000 years ago? I find that pretty damn impressive!  


Are you too lazy to go out and buy groceries, or even to cook? You can order your groceries or just your whole meal. On the same app you can order medication, alcohol, fresh fruit, movie tickets, plane and train tickets, and book hotels. Another app allows you to chat with friends, make phone calls, search for nearby everything, transfer money, and receive money. Yet using another app you can recharge your phone, order a taxi, pay shops, restaurants, street vendors, and even beggars. (Or so I have heard). You can basically organise all your life’s necessities in no more than 20 clicks. The convenience is remarkable. If your phone was not your most valuable before, it sure will be when you live in China. 

The Great Learning

(That’s a little philosophy pun. I don’t mean the actual Great Learning, referring to one of the four books in Confucianism.)
This is not a concluding point, although it is the last one – I am deeply humbled by the way being in China is continuously helping me grow; simply by being here and my daily interactions, as well as the thought provoking classes I am fortunate enough to be a part of at Fudan University. My time spent here since last year August has indeed been my solace, although not limited to The Bund. What I have reaped thus far is beyond what I could have imagined, and it feels as though it has only just started. My personal harvesting season is off to a good start!   

Thank you for reading 🙂 Make your day wonderful. 

As we neared the station, the handle of the suitcase ding-dang-donged passed all the doors. I think the owner got it back…

Weddings and Watermelon

Welcome back! 

It has been a while since you have visited my blog. It has been a while since I have visited my blog, too. Reason being, I had aspirations for this to be a travel blog. But ever since I turned 24, traveling hasn’t been as easy (read ‘cheap’) as it once was. Previously, I had the privilege of flying for less money, thanks to my father’s hard work for KLM. This privilege stops, however, after the age of 24. And as the world turns, I also get older. Which I see as a gift, by the way. Just not when it comes to flying privileges… 

The wedding… 

As such, I haven’t traveled as much as before. But it has given me the opportunity to really take in my surroundings with my feet on the ground 😉 Which is when wonderful things happen – I was invited to a Chinese wedding in a small town called Linyi. This is like a wedding, but those getting married are Chinese. I say this because I recently came across some very tasty food for thought. In the TED Radio Hour podcast I listened to the episode titled  ‘The Person You Become‘, and in this episode 5 people discussed their lives and how it links to their identity. One author in particular, Taiye Selasi struck a deep chord within me, when she said that “How can I come from a nation? How can a human being come from a concept?” She discusses how people when asked where they are from are boxed and labeled with identity and personality after they answer this question. 

… and all its bells…

I found this interesting because a couple of years ago I noticed I did and still do the same thing. Referring to people by their nationality that in my mind justifies certain attitudes and mindsets, whereas that’s really just a product of culture and environment. (Or so I think.) This is the main reason why going to this wedding was so eye opening for me. As I was sitting there with all my senses triggered, I kept thinking that if I were to marry a Chinese man, I’d feel the need to inform my Western friends and family prior to the wedding of what they’re about to witness. After the wedding finished, I concluded I’d just tell them to enjoy the ride, and please don’t be so judgemental. The difference is not harmful, it’s merely different. 

… and whistles…

I counted 5 different songs were played during the ceremony. Paused and changed at any given moment. I knew some of the songs, from romantic Hollywood movies. The bride and the groom looked beautiful, and wore a warm smile as their most eye catching accessory. The parents of the couple were given a sip of tea, I am not sure what the function of that was, but they were all content with its sweetness. The MC of the wedding had a beautiful voice and it was very pleasant to listen to him although I didn’t really understand what he was saying. 

… and food

You know that moment when you are hungry and you go either grocery shopping or out for food and you buy WAY too much? The lunch that followed the ceremony was about that. The first horizontal layer on the table I thought to myself ‘wow, that is a lot of food.’ 😀 . They were happily eating and chatting and I was happily tasting and trying to listen, when more food came and constructed the second horizontal layer of food. Stacked on top of the first layer of unfinished plates. ‘Haha, wow, this is really a lot of food.’ At this point, one’s chopstick skills are truly tested as you have to bend them in such a way to reach the first layer of plates to get a piece of chicken, fish or rice and manoeuvre your way out of the Jenga without dropping your bite. Because then it’s really gone into the abyss of unknown flavours.
And then came the third layer…  

And of course there is the alcohol that plays an important role in many occasions in China. I am not a fan of Chinese White Wine (白酒 bai jiu) because of its strong odour and flavour. There’s no escaping it, though, unless you have a doctor’s order stating you’re not allowed to consume alcohol. Luckily this brand was not as bad as I remembered from previous Bai Jiu experiences and it was rather enjoyable. We cheers every time before taking a sip. To friendship, to new friendship, to weddings, to happiness, to welcoming in China. And then to the bride and groom. Who pass every table and cheers with the people who will wish them well and prosperity. They themselves don’t drink, I’m sure you wouldn’t survive that, but they will feed you 2 or 4 glasses of Bai Jiu depending on your ability or courage. If you have both, then I salute you. 

Which one would you pick first?


Generally, watermelon is not the first fruit I’d pick of the shelves. I’m more of a mango person. But I have consumed so much watermelon during these wedding days and the following trip to Qingdao, I’m afraid that old joke of ‘growing a watermelon inside your tummy if you eat the seeds’ might become a reality somehow. For every occasion, at any time of day, there was always watermelon. Like an old friend that you have deep conversations with.

And now this is funny, where cultural differences come to play and I realised that although me and my Chinese counterparts grew up very differently, neither of us is necessarily right or wrong. When I was younger, I was taught not to slurp. EVER. This is one of the complaints I hear about the most often when people think of Chinese culture. “But they slurp when they eat!” Have you ever tried eating a watery watermelon with all its seeds above a bin and no tissues, towels, or showers around? If only I had the courage to slurp. Which in my mind was gross. I had watermelon on my entire face, my arms, my legs, my feet, the couch, and the ground. It wasn’t my house, either. While the rest of them were slurping, at least they were clean and not super sticky and gross.

I can’t say the same about the floors at the wedding after the lunch, though. Everything that was once on the table, now lay like a dirty halo around the tables. Cigarettes, both glass and plastic bottles, bones of all the animals fed to us, unwanted leftover juice, unwanted leftover bai jiu, and some other unidentified objects. At first I thought ‘yuck!’ and actually wanted to take a picture to show you all. But then I looked around me, and nobody cared less about the filthy floors. Not because they enjoy making a mess, but simply because that’s what they’re used to doing. Sure, we can keep things clean and neat and put in a bit of effort. But if we don’t, so what? (I don’t mean ‘go litter the oceans!!’ But maybe often worrying about everything looking spotless turns us into such nit-picky people who can’t accept imperfections.) Let me tell you, though, the place looked perfectly clean when we entered. My parents always say, “don’t take everything so seriously.” And I didn’t. I walked away from the wedding with a happy stomach, beautiful gained experiences, new acquaintances, and a sense of accomplishment.   

Beautiful memories

Shanghai fun!

When my dear friend Maud came to visit me in Shanghai, who had just been trekking through Australia and Fiji, I HAD to come up with a program that would blow her socks off quite as literally as her skydiving adventure. Did it do that eventually, I sure hope so but you might have to ask her for an objective answer 😉 

How to see Shanghai in two days. So technically, this phrase does not in any way suit traveling in my opinion. It really depends on what kind of traveller you are, and frankly, what activities interest you. If you like brunch, cocktails, lots and lots of walking, shopping, and (some) touristic spots, this is your blog post for your next journey to Shanghai 🙂

She arrived at around 21:30 in my arms. It is possible to get a visa for Shanghai, Beijing and Shenzhen for 7 days, if you directly enter China and stay in one of these three cities. That means, if you have a stopover in Guangzhou or Harbin, this rule doesn’t count. We learned that the hard way. However, be sure to ALWAYS check these rules before travelling because they change overnight. We took the Maglev and then took the metro to my home. The Maglev is a train that reaches up to 430 km/h! Needless to say, you get where you need to be fast 🙂

Day 1

We had a good night sleep, and the next day after putting on our eskimo suits braved out into the cold and headed straight for a fantastic brunch at the Pink Pig. Their food is healthy, filling, colourful, and delicious. The staff is very friendly, too. From there, we headed on to register Maud at the police station, because she was not staying in a hotel but with a friend. This rule also applies to accommodation in an Airbnb. A very simple and quick procedure, so no worries if you need to do this. After the police station, we took on our first adventure: the fake market.
One of those places China is known for. Made in China, like most things in the world, but then fake. I once saw a car driving that had ‘Rnage Roevr – Land Wind’ written on it.


I just hope it didn’t have a tromo in the front instead of a motor. Aderzombie & Pitch, for example, can be found, and many other brands. Although I must say, it’s incredibly difficult to tell the difference these days between the real and the fake.
Clothes, shoes, electronics, glasses, and souvenirs can all be found here. Yes, you can barter, but please do so with respect. Remember you are talking to a human being who is trying to earn their money. Maud bought chopsticks, cards, tea, a teapot, and gloves there. I bought two hoodies. This particular fake market can be found at the Science & Technology Museum metro stop (line 2).

After we finished our shopping, I took Maud to the wrong street, but which eventually turned out to be rather interesting. Instead of Nanjing East road, I took her to Nanjing West road, which is well known for its length, absence of vehicles, and the sea of people. We walked along this road until our feet couldn’t bear it any longer and we sat down to have a coffee at the only available table in 3 cafes that were situated next to each other. A well deserved coffee break!

the Bund

When our feet had rested, I wanted to show my friend a good, Chinese meal: Hotpot. I took her to my favourite hotpot restaurant, Faigo (小辉哥火锅). A must try if you visit Shanghai! Hotpot in general is very famous in China. After filling our bellies with mostly veggies, I took her to Xintiandi (新天地) for a drink. A perfect mulled wine on a cold evening. We spent much of the rest of the evening there, with the bill to prove it…

Day 2

We had brunch at Cafe des Stagiaires this time. A very French themed bistro, with tasty food and good coffee. We walked to the French Concession from here, an area in Shanghai where most of the expats can be found. The French once settled in Shanghai, and this area has French buildings, cafes, and many French people.
I wanted to show Maud the parks of which there are many in big cities. Especially on weekends, parks are a great introduction to Chinese culture. Families fly kites, the elderly do Tai Chi, play music, sing, and dance. We walked passed a big crowd dancing together, and it wasn’t before long when we got noticed and Maud was asked to dance. The man who took her hand was very enthusiastic, and had some good moves. I felt dizzy just watching, and later really was dizzy when I danced with him too. We went to Zhongshan Park (中山公园), and I really recommend visiting a park if you come to Shanghai. Bring a kite, a microphone, a chess board, or your dancing shoes and join in any activity! You will do yourself and the Chinese people a favour 😉

For dinner, we had hotpot a second time. It’s a perfect meal for winter time. After dinner, I showed her the very famous skyline of Shanghai at the Bund. Everytime I see it, it mesmerises me. To think how quickly Shanghai has developed in some 30 years is unbelievable. Try to go here at night, and capture the ‘I <3 SH’ flashing by on the buildings.
Sadly, Maud had to leave the next day. Her trip was short but sweet! And I hope well worth it.

I miss you, girl! Keep up your good and hard work. See you soon <3

A quick summary of activities:

  • Brunch @ Pink Pig & Cafe Des Stagiaires
  • The Fake Market @ the Science & Technology Museum metro station
  • Walking @ Nanjing East Road
  • Drinks @ Xintiandi
  • Views @ The Bund
  • Hotpot @ Faigo
  • Walking @ Shanghai
  • Dance and learn about Chinese culture @ Zhongshan Park