Making lists (PVG – BHX)

I’m coming back to the UK tomorrow for a little while…for an undefined period at the moment (no longer than a month I think) to have a well-deserved break and to catch up on a little UK work. During the weeks running up to this, I’ve been having certain conversations with people where questions as to what I will and will not miss about Shanghai and what I’m looking forward to in the UK have come up…so I thought I’d write a few lists. They are compiled in no particular order and are written as things came into my head over the space of a week or so. They make me smile a lot as they give me a strange sense of realisation about a few things and as to who I am. What would and wouldn’t you miss if you had to leave where you were right now? A fellow Shanghai-er and blogger who is about to leave the city for campervan adventures funnily enough also blogged about this – ‘Fourteen Things I’ll Miss About Shanghai, and Four I Won’t ‘ – it’s so interesting to see our similarities and differences. (Safe travels Fiona!)

Things I will miss about Shanghai whilst I am away:

  • My friends and colleagues…such a family and community here, it’s hard to leave them even though I know I’ll be going back. They have been super amazing lately during unpredictable health times…I’ve met some real “box of trust” friends for life here too…you guys know who you are
  • Exhibition openings, creative events and party times…more so bringing people together for these happenings…happenings that sometimes blow your mind as to how unbelievable they…yes, I am here on the rooftop of one of the most expensive hotels for a VIP launch party because I know the host, ummmm what? How did that happen?
  • Cycling the city with no fear…often to the EXPO park or far, far north…headphones in, music loud, wind in my hair, smile on my face…everything suddenly makes sense
  • The view from my bedroom…usually on a clear day it stops me in my tracks for a minute, but I have pretty good view from my house and bedroom in the UK across allotments and Stafford town
  • Wandering the streets taking everything in…the fact that so many amazing places are literally right there on my doorstep…so many beautiful architectural delights
  • Ballet class with Zhang Hao…although I’ve not been the past few weeks as my membership has run out. My usual instructor Zhang Hao has just got a part in ‘Cats’ the musical, so he won’t be around much anymore to teach. Such a shame. His rigorous and strict routines were the best. The other teacher just isn’t the same…too much floor work not enough bar and point
  • Hearing my neighbour, at periodic times during the day, sing the song “You raise me up” at the top of his voice…my neighbour downstairs singing opera…my neighbour further down the complex on string instruments and the piano…China’s soundtrack at it’s best
  • Practicing my (terrible) Mandarin Chinese with local Chinese children and the lady in the wet market who I buy my vegetables from
  • Carrot juice, green tea and red bean smoothies from ‘Cup of Tea’, avocado smoothies from ‘Blend’, fresh frozen yoghurt, amazing fresh sushi rolls, the tiny Korean restaurant by work on Wujiang Lu, cai bao, anything pumpkin based including nan gua zhou (pumpkin porridge), nan gua bing (pumpkin street treats) and pumpkin soup from KUSH, I’ll miss KUSH too…oh and these 100% Japanese vegetable juices made by Kagome
  • The pyjama wearing Chinese who go out during the day and evening in amazing nightwear as though it’s the height of fashion…actually the ability for Chinese people to surprise you every single day with their absurdity
  • The price of things sometimes…especially travel…3 kuai (30p) for the metro, 14 kuai (£1.40) minimum for a taxi…not looking forward to the UK’s train extortionism though I have managed to get a return ticket to London for £14.25 for this weekend, which is pretty good

Things I will not miss about Shanghai:

  • The fact I cannot ever sit still and have to be doing something, going somewhere, attending something or seeing someone (although I do this anywhere)…”FOMO” here right? In the UK I can actually just stop for just a minute and do things at a much slower pace, or at least try to…and for me not work
  • Putting toilet tissue in the bin…though really this is more eco-friendly right? Public toilets and their no cubicle doors and particular grossness out here, their ability to make me instantly retch and retch just thinking about it…seriously UK you have it good
  • People spitting in the street, hacking in their throat…people who stare at you for inappropriate lengths of time, often take photos or film you without asking and who have no sense of personal space
  • A certain breed of expats some of which are over-confident scooter riders…a particular air of confidence and arrogance in certain foreigners (only certain)…I can live without your insincerity thank you
  • The pollution and unpredictable air quality…waking up to a morning haze…coming home covered in a film of dirt…the intoxicating smell of this places sometimes…not in a good way
  • Chinese men with their vests and shirts off or rolled up in the plus thirty degree heat…now that it’s hotting up they feel it compulsory to show some unnecessary flesh, that happens in the UK too I think
  • Car and taxi horns and the unpredictable flow of traffic that has the potential to knock me off my bike. If you stop moving that’s when it all goes wrong

Things I cannot wait to do in the UK:

  • Taste fresh air…taking in huge breaths…and 1-2-3 breathe. It was the first thing I noticed last time I went back
  • Regain a sense of space…physically and literally, and personally and emotionally…being able to drive, walk or cycle down an empty street and not see a soul…stopping to take this in whilst smiling contently
  • Sleep in on Saturday morning…then going to buy a copy of Saturday’s bumper ‘The Guardian’ newspaper…sitting in the middle of my lounge (or somebody’s lounge) on the floor in my pyjamas for hours with bad bed hair tied in a bun, numerous pots and cups of peppermint tea…reading the newspaper’s every single supplement with a black biro in hand, trying to complete the crossword (probably very badly)…eating a brunch breakfast of poached eggs (sourced from the farm by my parents house), a peppered mackerel fillet accompanied by lightly charred asparagus and a homemade Hollandaise sauce…perhaps with a berry smoothie (usually made with home-grown fruits but obviously, none cultivated this year)
  • Wake up in my king-size comfy bed in fresh clean, white cotton sheets, with the radio on quietly in the background…keeping things white in Shanghai is hard because of the pollution
  • See my family and get a hug from my parents…no doubt at the airport and no doubt with tears. Love you guys
  • See my friends all across the UK from London to Bristol to Nottingham to Staffordshire to Wolverhampton to Peterborough to Worcester to Gloucestershire and so on
  • See my best friend Georgie‘s baby James and how much he has grown physically and in personality…and seeing other friends newly born babies, yes I’m apparently at that age…it’s wedding and baby kingdom…i’m not fond of Facebook for that reason right now as my life seems quite different sometimes from that kind of reality
  • Take a nap in my Mom’s bed whilst her cats come and sniff me to work out who I am then wondering where on earth I’ve been
  • Swim, swim, swim…in reality I could do this in Shanghai but it involves a little more effort to go and in price
  • Go for a haircut at ‘Francescos’ and then afternoon tea at ‘The Soup Kitchen’ with my Mom…a Mother-Daughter ritual
  • Have Dad chats…Poppa K is one heck of a talker and I can’t wait for conversations
  • See my doctor and communicate my troubles easily without unknown “China” concerns
  • Go to the cinema with my brother and watch a film on the big screen rather than illegal, pirate versions on my disappointing flat screen TV in my apartment or my noisy laptop
  • Drink water from the tap
  • Cook and bake in my kitchen and oven…ginger biscuits, cakes galore, homemade wholemeal pizza, roast vegetables…the list goes on and on
  • Eat licorice…you simply can’t get it in Shanghai, only the under-par Haribo wheels that aren’t real licorice
  • Have a bath…actually a jacuzzi bath in my house…for hours…and hours
  • Shop for food at Waitrose and at the farm shops by my parents house
  • Go for Snugburys ice cream…rum and raisin standard et al…heard they have a strawberry and pimms flavour especially for the Queens Diamond Jubilee…nice!
  • Lay down, roll around on and smell the grass in my garden…actually to walk through parks, on lawns, and through the countryside, specifically by my parents house as this is something you just cannot do in Shanghai
  • Cycle on my UK bike with its big white rimmed wheels, light blue shimmering 1980’s Raleigh frame and wide bars
  • TO NOT GET BITTEN BY MOSQUITOES…this is a big one…can’t wait for that light relief and freedom
  • To go on UK adventures…art museums and gallery trips…new discoveries and experiences…going to the seaside and staring out to sea/see forever

Things I will carry on doing in the UK that I do in China:

  • Leaving my outside shoes at the front door and wearing slippers inside
  • Never putting my bag or hangbag on the floor
  • Being ME…thinking, worrying, over-thinking, making things happen, caring, dreaming big

Things I am fearful of when in the UK:

  • Being overwhelmed…overwhelmed by the ability to hear and understand what nearly everyone is saying…an aural and visual overload of information. I know I struggled last time…though I’m assured by Phillip Reed, a recent Shanghai returnee to the UK, that I just need a transition-quarantine period
  • Feeling a little out of place
  • Being seen as a little more direct as I have become used to China’s here and now, pick up the phone and speak to someone straight away, arrange things last minute, being to the point ways
  • Feeling confused about where I belong…though I’m hoping a few things with clarify this over the coming month
  • Not getting to see everyone I want to as my friends are so important to me
  • Not wanting to go back to China…a usual feeling if you come back to your hometown from anywhere you are living right?

We’ll see what happens…until then, I have a 30kg suitcase to get down 7 flights of stairs to get a 4.15am booked taxi to the airport for 20 hours of travelling ahead of me via Dubai. I’ll speak to you from the UK. It’s going to be, well, different…


  1. your post made me smile. so many things that i recognise and that i am familiar and a little scared of myself… after my move, i found that things fall back into place very quickly. it is hard work but very exciting too. of course i miss shanghai but then being here makes me realise that all the things that i have experienced in the past and in china are things that can’t be taken away from me and i will carry them with me wherever i go. it is hard leaving friends behind but then we live in a very fast world and since most of us have a like-minded travel spirit, it is for sure that we will meet each other again. 🙂 it is great to live with memories but stepping forward is even better. off to new adventures, miss marsden! i will be waiting for you on this side on the planet! 🙂

  2. Reblogged this on I Rez Therefore I Am and commented:
    SHANGHAI, 3 July — Lecturer in Visual Arts at the Academy of International Visual Arts, Shanghai, and PhD candidate at the Birmingham Institute of Art and Design, Rachel Marsden is making one of her Shanghai to Birmingham, or “PVG-2-BHX” if you like, trips today, and takes the occasion to make a list of things she misses, and doesn’t, about each city.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s