Wednesday, December 12, 2012

HOME FOR CHRISTMAS

  One more Christmas night out, one more sleep and in 14 hours I'll be airport bound. 4-00am start but I don't care. I am so excited about being back with family for Christmas. 


Also after 10 consecutive nights of Christmas events I so need to relax, to be with the grandchildren and put the high heels and spanx to one side for a bit! Fear another night out may put me into sweatpants for Christmas, lol. There will be nights when they need to be resurrected, but for the most part I'll be chilling out waiting for Santa.



Shanghai has been a huge surprise. I didn't realise there would be so many Christmas events. We had a night out for my husbands colleagues which was so much fun. I had brought crackers back from UK and put them on the table. No one had the slightest idea of what to do with them. However, once told they entered into the spirit, sadly jokes were lost in translation, but hats were worn even as we left the restaurant, and some I believe were still being worn in taxis on the way home. 


Once again the Chinese amazed me with there love of partying. They certainly know how to have fun. They all ended up back at our apartment where Christmas songs were sung, mainly by my husband, but with the Chinese joining in where they could, wine was drunk and a good night was had by all.


So as I step on to the plane tomorrow I will have good memories of my first Christmas in Shanghai, and will be looking forward to making more family memories in Scotland. 

I plan to, no, I need to sleep as much as I can on the way home. I plan to, no, need to stay away from the food served on the plane. I on the other hand should be staying away from the champagne on route, however, I have absolutely no intention of doing so! Well it is Christmas after all............. and it may help me sleep.


So I want to wish everyone who has passed by my blog this year, A Very Merry Christmas, and a Happy and Healthy 2013.

I hope to see you all again next year.



Sunday, December 2, 2012

CHRISTMAS COMES TO SHANGHAI

Had not expected to be seeing so much Christmas activity around Shanghai. As the Chinese don't celebrate Christmas I had thought, quite wrongly as it turns out, that it would be business as usual in the city.
But I guess the commercial lure of the season is just to much to ignore. So all around the city signs of the Festive Season are on display. From huge Grottos to a few bells and tinsel it seems everyone is jumping on the bandwagon.




Anyone who knows me knows how much I love everything connected to the season. Even the shopping, although here in Shanghai this is somewhat easier than at home as the shops are not all crowded with hoards of Christmas shoppers It is really business as usual here, so no queues for coffee or lunch when out on the weekend shopping trip. It is really very pleasant surroundings in which to seek out these special gifts for people we love. 


If anyone I love is reading this please don't get excited by the photo above, it is only to let you see the decorations, not an indication of where I have been shopping. 

Even my local coffee shop has decorated the windows and is offering Christmas mugs for sale. I just had to buy some and was really delighted that the boxes they came in actually played a Christmas song. Think they might be recycled in the coming weeks. 


If you are interested it plays "We wish You a Merry Christmas."

I will not be spending the festive season in Shanghai but will be heading home to Scotland, to be with the family. I am so excited about it, can't wait to be with them. However, thanks to the world commercialism connected to the season I can start the build up before I head on home.

One thing that took a bit of the shine of the Christmas Spirit was seeing a box of Cadbury's Chocolate Fingers, christmas packing, on sale for 88RMB, in real money £8.80. Seriously does anyone want one so much that they are willing to pay this? Think, or at least hoping not.


So I will be happily preparing for the trip home, shopping in comfort, in reasonable temperatures, enjoying coffees and listening to the Christmas music being played everywhere. I will not however be enjoying a Cadbury Chocolate Finger anytime soon!


Tuesday, November 20, 2012

SCOTS in SHANGHAI

Saturday night saw us "amongst oor ain folk". We were attending an evening hosted by a young couple who have fairly recently arrived in Shanghai. The get together was to bring Scots they had met together, to eat, drink and be merry, which as Scots we can do very well. An evening like this was bound to be a success.



I have to say we were not all Scots, an Irish couple had slipped through the net! I think they qualified as fellow Celts, and the host himself was only there because of his Scottish connection, his fiance, so we really had to accept him, and a couple of English ladies, with Scottish husbands, into the fold. Everyone warmly welcomed only criteria, have fun. And we all did.





Our hosts had done a wonderful job of pulling it all together, not just the assembled company, but also the delicious Scottish fare on offer. People had brought along various Scottish dishes and the hostess had worked really hard to produce some delicious food. I had taken along Scotch eggs, always a favourite, and some tablet  http://thecelticcook.blogspot.co.uk/search?q=tablet click on this for recipe.
However I was not alone in producing tablet, but there is never such a thing a too much, so I'm sure as the week went on the supply grew smaller. There was soup, a good wholesome broth, shepherds pie, stovies, an Irish stew, and a bowl of turnips, Shanghai style. Not a bad thing, they were delicious. It is just that some things are not so easy to track down here and sometimes you have to be prepared to compromise. But as far as I could tell it was a turnip dish, okay maybe a few varieties but pulled together tasted good. An attempt had been made to recreate the famous "square sausage" I did not get around to tasting it, but as people were tucking into rolls filled with it there didn't seem to be much wrong with it. There were even tattie scones and skirlie on offer.




The table groaned with a good old Scottish "Bill of Fayre" and everyone got stuck in. Desserts were also on offer, apple crumble, pancakes and jam to name but a few. I'm full thinking about it. "Fu tae burstin' " as a Scot might say, or as we are in China perhaps we should be saying, "wo chi bao le" A truly international blog today folks! 

Anyway, wine, food and conversation flowed. New aquaintances were forged and business cards exchanged. I am sure we will be spending more time with some of these people as our paths cross during our time in Shanghai. There is a comfort in chatting with people who know how you think, know where you come from, and are accepting of new cultures, not only of accepting but embracing them. We shared with these people the experience of living far from home,  the fun and challenges that go hand in hand with it. Until you have done this it is difficult to understand, and for a few hours on a Saturday night in Shanghai we were all able to share tales of here and of home. 

So a big thank you to our hosts. To organise this after such a short time here tells me that they will fit in. You have to put yourself out there and make the best of your time here and this was a great way of doing that. I'm sure many invites will come their way.

I had only one slight regret about the evening. 
And that was I had decided to wear my tartan shoes in celebration of the Scottish night.
6" heels + 4 hours standing = "sair feet" 
"Hell mend you" I can hear my mother say.  Fellow Scots will I'm sure know this phrase.


So a big thank you to our kind hosts. Here's to many more nights like this.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

AUTUMN in SHANGHAI

Today is a beautiful day here in Shanghai. The sun is shining, the skies are blue and it is a perfect cool 16c. The hot humidity of summer has gone leaving everyone feeling more comfortable. The trees are still green, which feels strange but there is a definite feel of Autumn.

This is the time of year I love. I love being able to pull on woolies and to feel cozy and warm. Especially at night when outside it is much chillier and I can cozy up with my magazines, a good book, DVD or on the rare occasion when there is something worth watching on the TV. I feel so happy at this time of the year.

However I do miss being at home. I don't miss the rain and grey skies, but I do miss beautiful colours of the trees and the build up to Christmas, which will now be well under way at the moment. Here of course there is no Christmas, but there are signs of some places cashing in on the ex pats love of this time. Not too much, but a hint of the commercial side of this holiday.

One thing I love to do on these cooler nights is to get back into the kitchen and start cooking some homely warming dishes. Often in summer it is just too hot to put the cooker on. Hard to believe I know but can be the case.

So not quite cold enough for stews and thick soups, but I have made a few delicious soups and look forward to a nice big stew cooking away all day in the slow cooker. I love the smell when I come home and the house and is filled with a nice aroma of supper. I think smells are the one thing that stimulates the brain most. Smells can transport me back into my Gran's kitchen, to Mum's kitchen on baking day and even back to the school dining room. All very evocative of good times. Great memories all prompted by the smell of cooking.

Anyway it was a creamy risotto I turned to this week. A nice comforting dish to be had any time of the year. But as the mushrooms were looking so good at the market this week a risotto seemed the obvious dish.

I choose a big bag of different kinds and set off home to make supper. I knew this dish would please my husband. One of his favourites.

I used to be afraid of attempting risottos, but once you make a few then you realise just how easy it is.

I cannot buy arborio rice here but with so many choices I chose one which looked much like the one I use at home. I knew as long as I could get the starch out of it then I would be fine.

A splash of oil, a finely chopped onion, a small glass of wine and some gently boiling stock was all I needed.

 

I gently sweated the onion before adding the rice. I stirred to coat it in oil the added the glass of wine and stirred until it evaporated. I then started to add the stock a cup at a time all the while stirring gently, coaxing it into a nice creamy dish. There should still be a bit of a bite in the centre of the rice, so constant tasting is essential.


I fry the mushrooms in a splash of oil and knob of butter. I also season them well with salt and pepper. Once the rice is ready I season it then add the cooked mushrooms. Mixing it all together.


To finish off I sometimes add a handful of grated parmesan, or to make it a really special and extra creamy a spoonful of marscapone will do the trick. This is for special suppers only, not for mid week nights.


So soon we were tucking into a nice bowl of risotto and of course nothing to do but drink the rest of the wine which I had used to cook with. We both enjoyed it. The mushrooms were really earthy and delicious. A very satisfying supper indeed.


Thursday, November 1, 2012

CHINESE COOKING CLASS

Yesterday I went to my first Chinese cooking class. Although I do what I can at home I wanted to check out the real way to cook good Chinese food. We were a group of 10, two celts, two Germans and the rest of the group were American. Our teacher, Mike, was in fact Korean, and not Chinese, so were were truly a multi cultural group.


The class started with a trip to a wet market, much like the one I use, only this one was much bigger. Mike helped out answering our question on some of the more unusual fruits and vegetables, giving us tips on how to prepare and cook them. I love being able to but fresh bamboo shoots, fresh dates and fresh water chestnuts. It's great to see all the rows of neatly arranged produce just waiting to be be turned into something delicious. 

Then on past the rows of rice. So many different kinds, one good for sticky rice, another better for fried one for boiled, it goes on and on. I am still experimenting with the different types. It seems they all turn out to be sticky by the time I've cooked them. I'll crack it eventually.


No hard sell here. "Man,man lai" is a phrase they use here which means take it easy, and I think the person photographed here is taking the advice very seriously. Anyway a group of foreigners are probably not going to be his biggest buyers today.


We continued our trip around the market, finding new and interesting things around every corner. Some of the things and smells not so pleasant. But you kind of get used to that here, and it doesn't bother me as it did in the beginning, although  few of the ladies were very new to Shanghai and found some things very difficult to deal with. I know it's not how we do things in the west, but it's not so long ago you would find live chickens at markets and be able to buy parts we no longer use, although it seems there is a new revival of nose to tail eating. Easy to find that here.


YES LIVE PIGEONS FOR SALE................
 AND YES BELOW IS A SELECTION OF BIRD HEADS FOR YOUR DELECTATION


My husband had duck head for lunch this week, not sure why. He said it tasted fine but here wasn't much eating in it. Really! A big part of the Chinese enjoyment of food it chewing and sucking on bones. Not for me, especially when they are spat out on to the table in front of you. There are things here which I don't think I'll ever get really used to. But it is all a great experience, one I would not have missed.

So as we wandered around, a group of women many meeting each other for the first time, we had fun getting to know each other. Finding what had brought us all to this amazing city, mostly our husbands! We were a group of lucky ladies looking for things to do in our adopted city, and there is never a shortage of things to do. I find the thing is there is almost too much to do, and to see. So meeting at this class meant from the get go we all had something in common, a love of cooking, or for eating, and most of all a wish to become more familiar with the cuisine of Shanghai.


Soon were all back in the kitchen, chopping and preparing. Mike had good English and explained the dishes well. We were cooking Shanghai Noodles, Spicy Green Beans and Mike would demonstrate a Spicy Chicken Stir Fry. It always amazes me at just how few condiments and spices are used to produce the amazing flavours. Garlic, ginger, dried chillies, light and dark soy sauce, pinch of sugar and salt and a shake of pepper are the only flavourings we used. Although in the Shanghai Noodle dish we did put a pinch of five spice. I am always surprised at how few spices are actually used to produce such wonderful flavours.


The green beans were the first dish produced and we all tucked into them. It was surprising how all the dishes tasted a little different depending on how much of the various spices we added. But they all tasted good.



So the afternoon progressed, we were creating new dishes and at the same time making new friendships. I was a great afternoon. All too soon it was time to go our separate  ways. We had all gained an insight into new ways of cooking. Some of us would be trying out these dishes as soon as we could. Some of us would probably never cook them, but had enjoyed the company and the fun of the day spent in the company of like minded women. We will probably meet up again at various events and classes, some of us will have made new friend. But whatever people get out of these events one thing is for sure is that they are always fun.


So thank you ladies, and thank you Mike for helping make my time in Shanghai a great one, and for creating another memory of my time spent here. 
Cheers!








Sunday, October 28, 2012

HAIRY CRAB SEASON

Tanks of crabs in shop
The Hairy Crab Season has arrived in Shanghai. Ever since arriving here, seven months ago, I have been hearing about this delicacy. They are in season through October and November, and people go crazy for them. Shops open up selling only hairy crabs. People sell them from buckets in the street, and it seems that every restaurant you go into is selling them. There is no getting away from the hairy crabs.


Market seller
 Believe it or not there are even "fake" crabs for sale. Fake in the sense that they are tagged with fake tags stating they are from the best crab areas. This must be the silliest fake I have heard of here, apart from maybe the fake IKEA store which looked exactly like the IKEA we know and love, except the furniture was all pre built to look exactly like the original. Now anyone who has struggled with assembly of any flat packs I'm sure would welcome this, fake or not.

Knowing that it was only a matter of time before we were either, invited out to eat these little crustaceans, or gifted some, I though I should find out as much as I could about the cooking and eating of them. From what I could see there would be very little to eat as they are not big.

If you are wondering why they are called hairy crabs, it is because there is hair in the claws and legs. Unfortunately you can't see this in the photographs.

My language teacher kindly brought in a video of what to do. I learned all the appropriate lingo and watched with care. 

Hairy Crabs
 As I had thought, there is not a lot of eating in a hairy crab. In fact the Chinese suck the roe, and sorry to say the sperm from the bodies, as that is all that is left once the heart, intestine and gills are removed. The heart was a big no no, on no account should we eat this. I know, the thought of it made me feel quite ill too. I made sure I could tell the sex of the crab, I could probably manage a bit of roe.

 Hope you are staying with me!

Well the day came. My husband texted me on the way home from work to say he had "the crabs" My did we titter! Anyway, a very kind colleague had gifted us a bag of crabs. So now I would have to put my knowledge, and my stomach to the test.

Crabs arrived in a very nice weaved parcel. Inside were eight crabs.


So I set about preparing them. I put the water on to boil. I had been told to add beer and ginger to it to give more flavour. Who am I to argue? I put the crabs into the steaming basket, popped on the lid, placed the basket on top of the boiling water and waited for them to turn pink. 




Ready for the pot
In 12 minutes they were looking ready to eat. Nice and pink.
I carefully removed them from the steamer and cut away the string. I placed them on a board with the mixture of back vinegar and grated ginger sauce for dipping.

Prepared for eating
As you can now probably see from the picture they are not so big. Not quite as big as my hand. The claws were about the size of the top of my thumb, and from what I was thinking there wasn't going to much meat in there.

So finally my thought on Hairy Crab. Sorry, but I have to be honest and say there was way too much effort for too little return. Give me a nice, sweet, large  Dungeness crab any day. At least there is nice chunks of crab to eat, not just a lot of sucking out little pieces. 

I am happy to have had the experience, but won't be rushing to do it again.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

WINE SHOPPING

One of the things which is very expensive to buy in Shanghai is wine. Of course, as with all imported goods it carries a heftier price tag, and as yet we have not found a Chinese wine which we would buy.

Our supplies were running very low so it was good to hear that our local supermarket would be holding it's bi-annual wine sale. 2 for 3, 3 for 4, 4 for 5 or 5 for 6 depending on what you bought. On top of that there was another 20% off the total. A sale we could not miss.

Lots of samples on offer helped us make our choice. Well not quite, as we already had a good idea as to what we wanted, but who would refuse a free sample? We could have been missing out on some fantastic product as yet unknown to us. A risk too big to take lol.


Soon we were being followed by a variety of people all trying to push their wines. But we stayed focused on our search, picked out a friendly face and she helped us navigate our way through the wine marquee to our chosen wines. Pinot Noirs, French, Chianti Ruffino, Riojas, Australian Sauvignon Blanc, always a safe bet, French Chardonnay, yes I know it's not as fashionable as it once was but I like it! What can I say? A case of Prosecco  completed our purchase. However we had to go to another cash desk to get free wines. It was chaos. However we remained patient, I pointed out they had not given us all our free bottles! I wonder how many people were done out of a bottle or two amid the chaos. I was not to be detracted, and we soon had our full entitlement and made our way home.



Our driver seemed somewhat bemused as he loaded it all into the boot, but was delighted with the bottle we gave him. He must wonder what we are up to.



So wine racks looking very healthy, with some to spare. So no popping out for an odd bottle or two. Hopefully this will stretch until the next sale in the spring, or am I being a tad optimistic there? 

Cheers everyone!



Tuesday, October 16, 2012

SHANGHAI TENNIS MASTERS

I was very happy to be at the final of the Shanghai Masters on Sunday. I was even happier that a fellow Scot, Andy Murray, had made it through to the final. As he was playing Djokovic I knew this would be a great match to see. This was to be my first live tennis event and I was really excited about it.


We arrived at the stadium with lots of time to spare. A wander around the various eating, drinking and retail areas, a quick bite of lunch and we were all set. The stadium looked amazing. The roof is in the design of a lotus flower. When the roof is closed all the points of the flower come together to meet in the centre. It must be amazing to see the "petals" swivel inwards.

However, as it was a beautiful late summer afternoon the roof would remain open. It was so nice to be sitting outdoors, wearing t-shirts this late in the year. Even when we were leaving the venue at around 9-00pm there was no need for a coat or even a cardi. Is this really mid October?

So we settled down to watch the doubles final. Have to confess it was not so exciting. It seemed that more than half the stadium was empty at this point. Obviously everyone was waiting for the big event. But I feel as we had the tickets for the day, why not enjoy as much as we could.

Soon it was time for Murray and Djokovic come onto the court. The stadium was now filling up and the atmosphere had changed significantly. A great game was about to begin.


The crowd were cheering on both players, and I was surprised by the number of Chinese people carrying Scottish banners, flags, and Murray banners. This accompanied by shouts of "Mullay, Mullay" made me smile. Yes, the Chinese do pronounce "r's" as "l's". It was really funny. The game was soon underway and as expected it was a great one. Both players playing a hard fast game. From the beginning you could sense it could go either way. Obviously our hearts were with Murray and we were willing him on. No one was giving an inch and the first set eventually went to Murray much to our delight. 


Second set was also very close but Murray just couldn't close on it, although had a couple of match points. Still a third set was okay by me. Sadly it was not to be Andy's night in Shanghai. He had won this final for the last two years, but tonight Djokovic won through. It was not a walkover by any means, it was a great final.

Did the outcome spoil my day? Not in the slightest. I saw a wonderful game of tennis in a wonderful city, and it is another wonderful memory of my time here. Can't be much wrong with that.


I think these two players are about to dominate the tennis world for the next few years. The number one and two spots will be theirs. The next generation of tennis superstars. Can I dare hope to see them play again? I certainly hope so, maybe next time the result will be different.

My experiences in Shanghai just go on and on. I am so very lucky.



Tuesday, October 9, 2012

SHANGHAI to SCOTLAND

Just back from a visit home and had a wonderful time. I am now back in Shanghai, thankfully jet lag free, cases unpacked and contents all back where they belong. Can't believe the clothes I had taken home have been packed away and I'm back to wearing my summer clothes.

This set me thinking about the things I miss, and the things I am happy to have left behind. About what I like better here in Shanghai, and what I miss having left behind.

It goes without saying that the biggest negative about being away is leaving family behind, and never a day goes past without thinking of them. Skype brings us together and keeps us in touch, sometimes we speak more than we would at home. So family aside here is the list of things that come to mind.

Scotland's advantages:

1. Breakfast in Cafe Gandolfi. A must when back in Glasgow.
2. Lunch in Rogano, another must when back in the city.
3. Black pudding, Scotch pies and Fish suppers.


Rogano's Bar
4. Meeting old friends and catching up over coffee, lunch or a nice glass of wine. Always fun, especially with a real fire blazing, a glass of wine and memories shared.
5. The friendliness of shop assistants. Always having time for a cheery word and friendly chat.
6. Beautiful autumnal mornings. Chilly but sunny, and lovely blue skies and the smell of damp leaves in the park. 
7.Warm scarves and gloves.
8. Night skies filled with millions of bright shining stars. Especially in Dalbeattie which is a designated dark sky area.
9. Being able to go into shops and buy clothes which fit. In China everyone is tiny and oh so skinny.
10. Simply being in a familiar situation. Knowing what every label says and how much it costs without having to think too hard about it. So simple but so comforting. 
11. People, even strangers, being interested in my living in Shanghai. 

Scotland's disadvantages.

1. The rain.
2. The rain
3. Dark drab coats, thanks to the rain!
4. Dirty litter strewn streets.
5. Bad language. Only in Scotland do people punctuate words with obscenities ie: abso"fuckin"lutely tre"fuckin"mendous. Apologies if this offends you. While I hate it there is also something in me which makes me smile when I hear it, and hear it you do frequently.

So really not too many disadvantages.

 One of the huge advantages of living in Shanghai is the warm weather. Since arriving here 6 months ago the first time I had worn a coat was on my trip back home. It does rain, and heavily, but it is still hot and soon passes and I know the next day will be back to summer. It is now almost half way through October and it is still 24c. The heat and humidity of summer have gone but I am still enjoying warm days and being able sitting out on the balcony with a glass of wine in the evening.

I think weather definitely affects your mood and your personality. It's easy to be happy and smile when the sun is shining, harder to do so on dreich Scottish days.

One think I don't like here that at this time of year at 5-30 it is getting dark and by 6-00 it is really dark. China operates on one time zone across the whole country and there is no changing of the clocks here. Give me long summer nights anytime. It is always dark here by 9-00pm.





Monday, September 17, 2012

LUCKY or WHAT

When living in a foreign country there is always the though of how things would work if you find yourself with a major problem. The last week has shown me just how the Shanghai authorities can, and will help in this situation.

The reason for needing help? Well with one week before flying home I could not locate my passport. Pretty major loss, as all my visas are also included within the passport. Fortunately I hadn't left it it until the last night before getting the passport out.

Of course, unless I could get an emergency passport which could be given through the British Consulate I would not be leaving China. Before I could do this I had to report it lost or stolen at local police station, who then sent me to the local visa office. It was here I would be able to collect a reported lost document, which in turn I had to take to consulate. First little hitch, but not unsurmountable, it would take two working days to process lost document. This meant it would be Monday before I could get it. I was flying home Wednesday, and there were still a few more steps to the final papers.

It was a long weekend. I was not the happiest of people. For anyone reading this who doesn't know me, I have to let you know I don't lose things. I file, I organise and like everything in its place. So I was so angry with myself. My only excuse could be that I have to carry my passport with me, I have at some point mislaid it. I really thought it was going to be in one of my handbags. But with every bag turned inside out, every drawer searched and every possible place I could think of being searched it was obvious it was not going to be found.

Fortunately a pre arranged night out on Saturday got me out of the house. A few drinks and a comedy show took my mind off the possibility I would not be going home in time for my niece's wedding, and a chance to be with my family. This was making me so annoyed with myself.


Eventually Monday arrived and I was back at the visa office. The paperwork I had filled in on the Thursday was pulled from the file it had been put into, and the official filled it in at this point, and stamped it. Why, I wondered has she not done this on the Thursday. However no point in challenging them.

Now off to Consulate. All went well. £100 would get me an emergency passport, valid for one return trip! It would be ready in three and a half hours. So I could pick it up at 2-30. I had then to get it to a local police station to get them them validate it before finally going back to the visa office for the final stamp. It would close at 4-30, and there was no guarantee they would do it within the time, it could be up to five days. It was a very tense day. I had my husband's assistant with me and my driver.



Police station looked as though it might scupper the whole procedure as they wanted to see rental agreement on apartment. I don't know how, but my driver managed to over ride their refusal and get the much needed stamp, or chop as it is called here. The chop is all powerful. Time was now running out. It was at this point my driver really came through, he drove like a formula one driver. No cones could stop him, indeed he was even overtaking police cars. He was a star.

Finally we arrived at the visa office. By the time we had reached the final point, there was 15 minutes to go before the office would close. Still no one would promise us what we wanted to hear. But the second from last person we saw wrote " extreme urgency" on the top of my paper. The end was in sight.

Final stamp? Not quite! I have to return at 4-00pm the following day. I leave home at 4-00am on the day after to begin my trip home. So we are really cutting it fine. I am almost breathing normally, but until it's in my hand I'll still have a few doubts.

It is now one hour before I go for the final paper. I have packed, and I feel more relaxed than I have in days. All my own doing and I still feel very annoyed with myself. It will not happen again. The final paper won't give me re- entry into China, I will have to apply for that once I get home, but that wont be a problem. I'll cope with that.

So it seems it's all worked out. A few hairy moments. A few people wanted to use their power to make it difficult, but they were always pleasant, just doing their job! Would it be any different anywhere else?
  I don't think so.

So hopefully tomorrow morning I will be flying home. If paper is not ready at 4-00 when I go to pick it up, well who knows. But if you don't see me blogging for a few weeks then you will know I am home enjoying time with my family and friends.

Thanks to everyone who made it possible.