Showing posts from December, 2017

Snack Safari

When we were living in Kenya, just outside Nairobi, we would sometimes go for a little safari in the Nairobi National Park that was maybe ten minutes’ drive from our bungalow in Kisembe Road. On other occasions, we went on safari to the Mara, Samburu or Nakuru. The essence of a “game drive” is that you never know what wild animals you are going to see or if you will see any at all. On a smaller scale, I get a similar feeling of excitement whenever I am walking down the street in Shenzhen around lunchtime and there is a simple reason: street food.
Why do I like street food so much? Maybe it is because I have no idea what it is called or what it is made out of, but my guess is that it is going to be delicious and it usually is. Another thing that makes street food more enjoyable is the amazingly low price. However, one of the best things about street food is that they cook it right in front of you and it is always fun to see how they mix up the ingredients so quickly and flip over that p…

City by the bay

Hang on! That is San Francisco, isn't it? Yes, I think so and there was a sentimental song about leaving one of my internal organs somewhere or other. Anyway, Shenzhen is more or less on a bay, although perhaps it would be more precise to say that it is on a muddy delta. There is, however, a rather pleasant park that goes along the seafront (or maybe the mudfront). My dear Irisha insisted on calling it "the Corniche". Memories of the Nile in Egypt or Qatar, I should think. Actually, this waterside public space reminded me of the Aspire Park in Doha, as it was all a bit too new and antiseptic. At least there was no fake birdsong on the loudspeakers and there were no Qataris throwing trash everywhere (and expecting all of the Nepalis to pick it up for them).

The waterside park is the foreground for some silly sculpture and some even more silly buildings. These outlandish constructions came First, Second and Third in in the International Crazy Building Competition. This show…

Ping An and PM

For several weeks, Irena has been feeling unwell. She has been waking up in the morning with swelling on her forehead, face, lips and throat. Usually the swellings gradually fade away after a couple of days.
As well as the physical discomfort and the embarrassment, she has found it difficult to plan anything, as she never knows when these swellings are going to come back. For a long time, we thought that perhaps the swellings were caused by some sort of allergic reaction, but we really did not know what was causing the problem. Irena does not have much faith in doctors anyway and she had already been to the clinic once about this problem. Finally, this morning I managed to persuade her to give the medical profession one more go.

Green Oasis School gives all of its teachers and their families free medical insurance through the Ping An group, so our visit to the Chiho clinic should not cost us anything. More importantly, the doctor was able to tell Irena the cause of her problem: t…

A Chinese Christmas, December 2015

There isn’t one. Well, what I mean is that there is no Christmas holiday for most people in China. 
Tomorrow is Christmas Day, 25th December, but for just about everyone it will be just an ordinary working day here in the Middle Kingdom. I am a foreign teacher at Green Oasis School and so I am getting a two-week holiday, whereas teachers at ordinary Chinese schools get no holiday and neither do their students.

Today is Christmas Eve, 24th December, and it is a Sunday, so my church, Shenzhen International Fellowship, had a Christmas service this morning. Afterwards we invited our dear Chinese friends, Bill and Julia, to have lunch with us at our apartment. It was nothing too fancy, as Irena had been on the worship team and so she wanted something quick and easy: jaozi (dumplings) and salad, with Julia’s excellent apple pie for dessert.
(As readers of my blog will already know, the best thing to do is to boil the jaozi and then fry them in hot oil, so that the pastry is a bit brown and…

Expat Focus Article

Simon Hill Who are you? Where, when and why did you move abroad? 

My name is Simon Hill. I am from the UK, but my wife Irena comes from Russia. I was a housemaster at a boarding school near Salisbury. We left the UK in 1998 and went to Kenya for two years, then Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Romania, Qatar for five years, the UAE and now China.

This is in fact our fifth year in Shenzhen, just around the corner from Hong Kong, where I am a primary teacher at Green Oasis School. During our years of wandering we have also bought a house and an apartment in Bulgaria.

What challenges did you face during your move? 

Moving to China was a bit awkward because the HR people at my school told us that we had to leave, after we had only been in Shenzhen for a week. The Chinese Embassy in Qatar had given us business visas instead of working visas (the blue Z visas). It took nine weeks before we could get a new passport for my wife and the proper Chinese Z visas.

When we finally returned to Shenzhen, our freig…

A Winter's Tale, Part 1

Yesterday’s walk in Lizhi Park here in Shenzhen was enjoyable. The sky was absolutely blue, without a single cloud, and in the Sun (and out of the cold wind) it was as warm as toast. At night, our apartment is so cold, as the windows are not double-glazed and you can feel the cold air coming in. But shivering at night here in Shenzhen made me think of the winters in Bulgaria. We have only experienced part of one BG winter, so how are we going to cope with the real thing next year?
It all starts with Autumn (or Fall, if you are an American). This is a wonderful time in the Bulgarian countryside, with walnuts and mushrooms to be found. Here are just a few of the walnuts we collected from the trees at the end of our garden. Our villa is next to an abandoned orchard, so we are going to follow Auntie Bulgaria’s example and have a go at making lots of cider.
Even by the middle of October it can be chilly in Kalotina, as we discovered back in 2015. When we first arrived in Shenzhen, the HR pe…

A Boring Blog about Blogging

In his wonderful BBC travel series, Around the World in Eighty Days, Michael Palin says that his round-the-world trip could only be interest of interest to other circumnavigators and therefore most ordinary people would find it boring. I have to disagree with Mr Palin, as I must have watched Around the World at least fourteen times. 

What has that got to do with blogging? As I have mentioned in a previous post, I used to bore to death all of my poor wife and my colleagues at Green Oasis School by talking endlessly about Bulgaria. (In fact at one point, I had the idea of marketing Bulgarian real estate here in China, but that particular attack of insanity did not last long.) Now I bore everyone to death with the latest news about my blog. “Yesterday I had nearly 200 hits!” and “Expatfocus have done the piece I sent to them and they also mentioned my blog!” 
Et cetera, ad infinitum.
It is freezing in our apartment. Yes, southern China is supposed to be a “sub-tropical” climate. Well, you c…

Another Life in the Day

5.30am. Yes, it’s the alarm. After my usual slow-motion ablutions, dressing and breakfast, I walk through the park. It takes me about twenty-five minutes. Sometimes I am feeling lazy or else I am in a hurry, so I hire an orange and silver Mobike. You scan the bike’s code into your smartphone and the five-minute cycle ride costs 1RMB. Actually, I have to type the number of the bike, as the scanning does not work on my stupidphone.

After a few skyscrapers glanced through the palm trees, I arrive at my school. Green Oasis School, aka GOS. My school does not seem to be too interested in the Chinese government’s plans to abolish Christmas. (As students of English History will know well, scrapping the festive season has been tried before, of course, after King Charles lost his head, the UK had a Republican government and Christmas was abolished by Act of Parliament.)

Each morning, “signing in” takes the form of standing in front of a video camera that eventually recognizes me and says my name…