December 31, 2019

5 years in China

This text is for my dad, who is celebrating his 65. birthday today. Herzlichen Glückwunsch Papa!

Eli & my father in HangzhouEli & my father in Hangzhou

Almost 5 years ago, on February 15th 2015, I arrived in China for the third time. I had been to China twice before, first time in 2008 for a short weekend trip to Hong Kong and Shenzhen, and the second time from 2010 - 2011 for an internship with Hilton Hotels in Beijing.

This time, I came from Japan, with a short stop-over at my family’s house, where we celebrated Christmas together and my dads 60th birthday. I had spent the previous half year in Tokyo struggling to find a well paying job that would allow me to appropriately enjoy the high living standards of beautiful Japan. So, I moved to China in mid-February of 2015. I arrived in Shanghai on the morning of Chinese New Year, which is the biggest and most important festival season in China. Even though I had already spent a year in China before, I failed to recognize the importance of that date and was surprised to find the mega-city of Shanghai in a New Year’s slumber. A benefit of arriving during the holiday was that I was afforded an extra week off before starting to work. Nobody who could have properly introduced me to the job was on duty. Plus, my arrival visa did not allow me to work and the public servants who could have issued me the required documents were, of course, all on holiday themselves.

I thought I had come at a very impractical time, and felt stupid for showing up on my employers doorstep, without being able to get to work right away. I felt especially bad because I was lodging in the hotel and enjoyed all-inclusive service, while not having bent a finger yet. Looking back at this starting point, I feel very lucky now. I had time to settle in the hotel and get to know my new job in a very smooth and relaxed manner. Everyone around me was in a festive mood and my arrival on the morning of the New Year is symbolic for the new chapter in my life. I like to think that even my new colleagues took it as a good omen that I would start work on the dawn of the New Year. So much has happened in those 5 years that today I look back and feel a strong sense of pride and achievement. When I packed my bags for Shanghai, I never thought I would have settled down in China five years later. Here I am, working and living the new Chinese Dream.

In 2015 I met Jade for the first time and we became a couple quickly. While 2015 is an inflection point, materially there was no big change in this year. I was knee-deep in work at the hotel and devoured my days-off, spent with Jade and other friends in this enormous and fantastic city. 2015 flew by in a flash, and 2016 opened itself as grand as the year before it had.

2016 was all about getting married. In January 2016, Jade and I had our wedding ceremony on the Island of Shengsi. Having the ceremony at the only proper hotel in her hometown, meant we had hundreds of guests to celebrate with us. I was lucky to have some family and friends come over as well and we had an unforgettable time. We only had a symbolic Chinese wedding ceremony in Shengsi, and were not yet officially married. Thus we took all time between January and July to prepare our personal documents to be be officially married. Especially my German certificates that verify I hadn’t married yet, and was in fact not living a double-life, took time to get by, mail over, translate and notarize. In July, we finally had our appointment at the Shanghai registry office and received our red marriage booklet - the cute and official marriage certificate in China. Having effectively married twice already this year, we went ahead and planned our third marriage ceremony, this time in Germany. In my communal church, in front of my family and friends, Jade presented herself to me in a beautiful white gown and we got our friendly Pastor to give us God’s blessing. All three days were so very memorable, and I love the fact how we played with the dates: the Chinese ceremony on 10.01.2015, the German ceremony on 01.10.2015, and the official marriage registration on 21.07.2016, my 30th birthday.

2017 was as fast paced as the years before, but at least the first few months were calm and quiet before the storm began. In May 2017 I changed jobs, and we upgraded ourselves from a small hotel room as our residence, to a large 130sqm apartment, for which we had taken several months and a lot of money to renovate it. The apartment was completely renovated to our taste, we thought it was perfect and loved the design very much. Especially the kitchen, dining and living room were a welcome change from the hotel facilities we used the prior 2 years. And then 2017 became one of the greatest years of my life for one special reason: our son Eli was born. On 5th September the regular pregnancy check suddenly turned hectic. Because Eli had apparently drunk all of mummies amniotic fluid, he had to be taken out of the womb by way of a c-section right away. He was gorgeous, cute and well behaved from day one and is the best I have done in my entire life. The rest of 2017 went by with me learning to change his pampers and giving him milk during many sleepless nights. A beautiful year which I continue to be proud of, seeing Eli grow to such a wonderful human being.

As the last three years have been nothing but successes for Jade and me, we were bound to make a miscalculation in 2018. We overconfidently embarked on a costly adventure by starting our own cryptocurrency focused startup this year. We were blinded by the ever higher prices and felt in a very comfortable position at the time. However, we lost orientation in what turned out to be a bubble. We lost a ton of money in 2018, hiring expensive software developers and trying to wow investors with our blockchain enabled mobility service. In the end, this whole endeavor was a struggle. Jade and I had to realize that we got on the wrong train at the wrong time. Difficult was also the realization that, the two of us were not good working partners. We were a good team in private, but a bad team professionally, and it showed. I took 2018 as a learning session, which taught me to never work with friends or family together again. It also made me more careful with my money than ever before. It was a difficult year, which I am glad we finally waded through into a brighter and more prosper 2019.

It’s the last day of 2019 today. It has been a good year. Yes, I did break my hand, yes last year still costs us money, but luck has showed its face this time around and blessed us with good jobs, good health and a lot of quality time in the circle of our family. Jade started working in Hangzhou and we’ve all moved to the city together. Jade’s aunt was so generous to help us find a beautiful apartment right by the river which we didn’t have to pay any rent for the whole year. I got a job in Ningbo that allows me to travel and follow my hobbies and keeping myself fit with lots of running during my time off. Now, we’re off to begin 2020 in a new apartment. We’re literally moving tomorrow and will spent our first night of the new year in the new apartment. I have a feeling that 2020 will be a good year for me and my family. To the next decade.

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