9 Years In Shanghai

“I,m not the same, having seen the moon shine on the other side of the world” Mary Anne Radmacher

That pivotal trip to China in January 2004 would be the beginning of a huge life changing transformational shift for me, but it would take many more years to fully manifest.

So coming back to the story…

That initial visit to China was exciting for so many reasons. Although, in all honesty, it had never been a dream of mine to go to China… the moment I stepped onto the shores of Shanghai, I knew my future lay somewhere between its nostalgic old lanes and its sparkling modern skyscrapers.

At that moment in time, I can truly say I had the most amazing job—a dream job really. Travelling the world and going to vast factories to select what I deemed to be the most beautiful, cost-effective fabrics that could be translated into stunning designs for our garment ranges.

What a job! I loved it.

And trust me, the fabric mills in China were unbelievable…I mean really unbelievable. It seemed like every day, I would be taken to another huge impressive weaving, dyeing or knitting factory. Each one more dazzling than the previous…and often with thousands of workers.

Honestly, some factories were literally the size of three or four football pitches and many could be called state of the art as they had incredible levels of financial investment in the latest European machinery.

But all this glittering technology was a huge surprise and nothing like I imagined China would be…. Although I think my ignorance could be excused, as I only had limited knowledge of the China I saw on the news to go by.

I’m embarrassed to say that I expected to see people wearing mandarin collars and riding bicycles everywhere, but well… my expectations were well and truly out-dated weren’t they?

In Beijing and in ultra-modern Shanghai, there wasn’t a mandarin collar in sight, although many people did ride bicycles.

The factory owners I visited that first trip, were dripping in wealth and money and were very proud of the fact that they had children studying abroad in the best universities.

They owned fleets of people carriers and luxury cars and I guess they belonged to the growing numbers of millionaires in China … about 350 million at that time.

But it wasn’t just the factories that were on a huge scale. Some restaurants in Beijing and Shanghai were incredible sizes, serving upwards of 500 covers. They dished up vast arrays of delicious cheap, eye-catching food that was so much tastier than the Chinese food served at home.

And eating out was certainly an experience… but I must say that it was the highlight of the day for me.

In China, the freshest food is considered best…so in the beginning, I wondered why many restaurants often had different small animals sitting outside in cages like chickens, ducks, and geese. Or huge fish tanks stocked with fish, crabs, lobsters and the like. in seafood restaurants.

It later became clearer to me that these animals were waiting to be someone’s lunch or dinner when I was presented with a bucket stuffed with a wriggling fish and asked if I was happy with it.

It came as a bit of shock when the penny dropped and I made the connection between the animals in the cages and the food on my plate.

And it was this stark reality that eventually made me turn to vegetarianism… but that’s another story.

Needless to say, my bosses were suitably impressed by the quantity and excited by the prices of the many beautiful fabrics I brought back from my trip.

The sheer quantity and excellent prices of the fabrics initiated the beginnings of a serious dialogue regarding our future business in China.

In April 2004 I went back to Shanghai for a further two-week trip. Then in August, I hosted our customer in Shanghai for a week. Then again in October I was back visiting the factories we had begun to develop relationships with and to also visit the biggest fabric fair in Shanghai.

I became more and more confident about the potential of China for our business with every visit. But for me a two-week outing into the uncharted waters that was China, was like trying to know the full depth of the ocean by dipping a plastic bucket into it—it felt futile.

So every time I came back from Shanghai, I would tell my bosses:

“ If we’re serious about China, we have to have an office, if we’re serious about China we have to have an office”

I said this in all earnestness, but I also secretly hoped that if they ever decided to open an office in Shanghai, it would be me they would send to work there—I was fast developing an attachment to the city and could really see myself living there.

So for all of 2004, I basked in the reversal of my fortunes at work. Due to all the business, I was doing on my trips to China, I was now the respected fabric-sourcing manager I always hoped I’d be.

And as 2004 eased into 2005 I decided to spend New Year quietly reflecting on all that had passed. On New Year’s Eve, I went to my mother’s midnight mass service—it was so beautiful and made all the more special by a two-woman choir singing the descant of Silent Night. It was so touching, it both filled me with joy whilst almost reduced me to tears.

On the morning of the 1st of January 2005, I awoke suddenly as if jolted out of a nightmare. Gasping for breath, I sat bolt upright. Then an acute inner knowing surged through me, penetrating my awareness with an absolute certainty that I would be moving to Shanghai.

“Oh my god I’m going to Shanghai,” I said out loud.

My certainty alarmed me, so I didn’t dare share my foresight with anyone but instead booked an immediate appointment with Sebastian.

Sebastian just smiled warmly when I told him what I’d felt and reminding me that I was psychic, he said “Yes you will be moving to Shanghai in the very near future and in fact I have a date for you… You will be going in March or April of this year”

Oh, my god, my premonition was true!

It was amazing and also a little unbelievable to be given a date by Sebastian…but he had got so much right about me in my previous readings that I knew I could trust his intuition.

All I needed to do now was just sit back and wait for everything to unfold.

My next sourcing trip was already planned, so in the middle of January 2005 I went to Shanghai once again and by now I had a few friends who helped make my visits a lot more fun.

After a week of long days visiting factories all over China, going for dinner, then out dancing was a welcome end to the week for me. That first Friday night out with my small circle of friends, I met HIM.

For the purpose of this post, I will call him Kallum—It was instant attraction and I’ve got to say, the most profound first meeting I’ve ever had with someone. It wasn’t just that he was incredibly good-looking (Kallum was an ex-model) but it was also a meeting of minds.

It felt like our connection transcended the physical. We talked about everything and by the end of the weekend, I thought I had found my perfect match, but I would later realise that he was simply the carrot.

I left Shanghai on a high…knowing I couldn’t be sure I would see Kallum again, but if Sebastian and my own intuitions were correct, our meeting again was already destined.

Two weeks after I came back from my trip, my bosses called me into the office and said “Jacqueline we’ve opened an office in Shanghai, will you be willing to move there to help set it up? If you say yes you will have to be there before April this year, what do you say?”

On the 27th of March 2005, I moved to Shanghai and began a new chapter in my life.

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