My First Trip To China


Chinese scene in Beijing







“Your destiny lies overseas, only when you get there, will you start to see the light at the end of the tunnel” Sebastian

After my meeting with Sebastian things didn’t improve at work, in fact, they worsened. It took all I had to stay motivated, but Sebastian’s words kept coming back to me “ You can walk away from good things as well as bad”

It felt like Sebastian knew something was about to change for me, but what?

As the week’s progressed working became torturous, I had little or no energy and found it harder and harder to get myself out of bed every morning. I soon started arriving late, then progressed to having days off sick—I just didn’t want to be there.

A few months later something happened, which really tested my resolve.

I was scheduled to be in our usual Monday afternoon buying meetings in the office. But that afternoon, I was asked by one of our designers to accompany her to a meeting with our customer.

I thought I would have enough time to go and come back before my internal meeting, but unfortunately, I returned about 15 minutes late.

The moment I stepped back into the office, the managing director lost it with me.

He roared…

“ Where the hell have you been Jacqueline!!!. We’ve all been waiting for you!! Why did you decide to go out when you knew we had a meeting? You’re never here when I need you!”

His eyes blazed and his voice trembled with rage. I knew there would be no point in trying to defend myself so I simply stood there, taking the full force of his anger.

“Go and get your notes and get back here now,” he thundered.

I was humiliated and reduced to a small child being reprimanded by her father. I ran sheepishly back to my desk and grabbed my notes.

During the meeting, I only spoke when spoken to and sat with my eyes downcast, too embarrassed to make eye contact with any of my colleagues in case I burst into tears.

Could it get any worse for me?

After our meeting finished the marketing director pulled me aside and asked, “What are you going to do Jacqueline? It’s clear to everyone you don’t want to be here. You’re coming in late every day, you look shabby and you’re making mistakes!”

What could I say? He was right—I didn’t want to be there and yes I did look a mess. I had long since given up making an effort to look good for work.

Then something unexpected developed.

One day the design director came into work and announced she was pregnant with her third child. The news rippled through the whole design office like a flash fire, filling us all with a little hope.

For me, it was just the news I needed to hear—I dared to allow myself a sneaky smile, as I knew this meant she would be soon going on maternity leave.

Was this the change Sebastian had seen?

Well, sometime later, when the dust on this news settled, the director who employed me called me into his office and said “Jacqueline now that Isabelle is pregnant, I’m going to give you the opportunity to prove yourself…You’ve been saying how good you are at sourcing for a long time, so now you can show me just how good you really are.

I’m giving you 3 months!”

He stared me straight in the eyes when he said this—and he had what looked like a smirk on his face.

His smugness irritated me and I felt my resistance building. Meeting his challenge with my own eyes I asked

“Is that a threat?”

“No, it’s not” He replied quickly

“Then what happens after the three months are over?” I questioned

“We’ll have to see” He replied.

Although he didn’t say it directly, I knew he had given me an ultimatum—Sharpen up or be sacked.

I thought about what he said all the way home and through the evening. But all that kept bubbling inside me was anger and irritation.

“Now you’re asking me to prove myself, why the hell should I prove myself. I don’t have to prove anything to you or to anyone else! Was what my mind kept telling me.

That night after many hours of self-reasoning, I decided to prove myself. I would show my boss and everyone else that I could do this job and do it well.

The following morning I was the first to arrive in the office.

When the directors arrived sometime later they were surprised to find me already working at my desk. I had made an effort to dress well and to also ware a smile on my face.

This became my daily habit in the weeks and months that followed.

I would be the first to arrive in the design studio and the last to leave. I began to arrange more fabric sourcing meetings on my own and the fabrics I selected began to be bought by our customer.

Some evenings when I worked late, it would only be me and the two other directors in the office. They would often offer me a glass of wine or Prosecco and we would drink together while we chatted and worked. On many occasions, they had to actually ask me to go home.

When my three months of proving myself were over, I asked for a pay rise and got it.

A few months later in December 2003, I went on a business trip with all three directors. We flew together to Morocco to visit one of the factories we had there. It was surprising and more than a little awkward for me to be with all of them, but I appreciated the value I was now being given.

In January 2004 I went on the first of many fabric-sourcing trips to China.

That initial 10-day trip took me first to Beijing, where I spent three days visiting factories and potential new fabric suppliers. During those three days, my supplier also made time for a visit to the Great Wall, Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City.

The Great Wall was unbelievable, a completely mind-boggling construction beyond all comprehension. It totally captivated my attention and imagination.

It made me think about all the souls that had been involved in its creation and of how many of those had lost their lives in the process. It was awe-inspiring and sad at the same time.

Beijing was an assault on all my senses, from the sheer size and scale of the city; the crazy numbers of people milling around everywhere, the amazing food and its beautiful cultural heritage.

But all this did not prepare me for Shanghai, which was the second phase of my trip.

There was something magical and alluring about Shanghai, it was also a city on a phenomenal scale. It glittered and sparkled in the light as the steel and glass of its many super skyscrapers reflected the sun’s rays.

There was a palpable energy to the city. It was alive with a throbbing pulse that electrified the air. I felt it immediately on entering the heart of the city.

I could literally see the unfettered opportunities floating through the air, like little multi-coloured parcels of promise before my eyes…they were so tangible I could pluck them straight from the air.

I was filled with cautious bubbling excitement.

Something strange also struck me during that first trip to Shanghai.

I had an unwavering knowing that I WAS GOING TO LIVE THERE.The feeling just came upon me one day, like a light switch being turned on.

At that time I had no idea how or why I felt this, but the knowing was so unshakably strong, it frightened me.

Is this what Sebastian meant when he said I was psychic?

I decided to keep my premonition quiet, only telling the Chinese colleague I met who accompanied me during my factory visits.

That year I made 3 more trips to Shanghai. In March 2005 my premonition came true.


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