Because it’s time to go
Harvest remains one of my all-time favorite albums. A true classic that is now, unbelievably, 40 years old!
Where has the time gone?
Good question. For me, the time really has gone, and now it’s time to go.
The movers are coming Sunday, the exit paperwork four days should be done by Wednesday, and then my family and I will depart Shanghai for good.
Did I mention I live in China?
Hard to believe we have been here now for five years. If you asked me 7 years ago before we started our expat life where we would end up, China would have been the LAST place on that list. We lived in a small town of 10,000 at the time–actually we lived OUTSIDE the town. The idea of moving to a city of 21 million was repellant to say the least. At our first job fair, my wife literally tossed the China job offer in the trash (with great force, I might add) so sure was she of never working here, and so we ended up in Kuwait.
Kuwait was definitely…..interesting, but that’s another story for another day. We lasted two years–the dust and heat took its toll, and suddenly Shanghai didn’t seem that bad a place anymore. At the next job fair, we didn’t trash the offer, we signed it. As it turned out, the last 5 years have been good for the family, and much of we thought about China has been proven wrong….well, mostly wrong.
Without getting into too much detail, let me highlight just 2 aspects of Shanghai that make it a bittersweet place to live–and leave.
#1 Air Quality
This is the big one. Yes, the air is a problem–and one that never really goes away. True, Shanghai air is much better than Beijing’s, but that’s hardly a ringing endorsement. While most days you don’t notice it, we did have a few weeks this fall and winter where the AQI was over 400–severely polluted, which means stay indoors as much as possible. When the API is that high, you don’t smell the air, you TASTE it. Long term exposure at those levels–where particles less than 2.5 microns, which no mask can filter out, damage the lung tissue and can enter the bloodstream directly, are definitely toxic.
Well, that all depends on who you talk to. Here in China, the government standards are somewhat more ‘flexible’ than those in the west, leading to a substantial divergence between the ‘official’ version and what the US Embassy (which has its own monitoring device in aBeijing) publishes on their website. In 2010, the Embassy was reprimanded by the Chinese government for describing the air quality in Beijing as ‘Crazy Bad’ and pressured the US to stop making these readings public. Fortunately, these readings remain public today–in fact they have expanded monitoring to Guangdong, and just last month, Shanghai. iTunes now has an app which gives you the data for hundreds of cities, for those who really want to know.
Here’s a screen shot from today:
If you look at the PM10 reading, it reads 525–25 points into a ‘beyond the index’ reading. I have no idea where Jining is, all I know is I don’t want my family anywhere near there. Unfortunately, the 8 million residents of Jining don’t have a choice
#2 The French Concession
When the international settlement was founded, the French–true to fashion–refused to join. Instead, they maintained their own quarter of the city, with a police force, administration, and a separate set of rules. Technically, people could commit crimes in one part of the city, then rush to the safety of the French Concession, and pay off a few people to look the other way. Sort of like a Rick’s Cafe á la Casablanca, only bigger. Not surprisingly, corruption was rampant and it became a haven for gangsters in the 1930′s. But it also developed a style that was distinct from the rest of the city–tree-lined avenues; opulent mansions and apartments, build from the incredible fortunes that people made in Shanghai a century ago.
Fortunately, much of the French Concession has been preserved, and to walk through it today is like taking a trip back in time–many of the old mansions and buildings have been saved; the trees are still there–larger than ever. And there are hundreds of amazing and affordable restaurants to suit every palate: Mexican, Italian, French, Indian, Lebanese, Korean, and of course, Chinese (actually, there are within China at least half a dozen separate cuisines that demand their own venues). Many of these restaurants are housed in the old mansions that were once home to the nouveau riche of the Orient. And they are AFFORDABLE. For someone like me, who rarely went to restaurants before, we have now become spoiled by the convenience. Last Saturday, for example, we hit no fewer than 5 restaurants in the French Concession and the Bund, part of our farewell tour. I don’t think there is anyplace else that has the range, quality, and affordability of restaurants, and we will miss it dearly.
There is one other thing that I will not miss that pertains directly to investing, and, the whole point of this post
#3 China Standard Time
Shanghai is 12 hours ahead of the East Coast–we live in the future! So that means my trading day starts here at 9:30 PM, (an hour later in winter, no DST). At first I figured this would be a blessing. I could work a full day, and then have hours to prepare for the trade day to open. What I didn’t realize was this: the markets don’t close until after 3 AM, making it difficult to impossible to both trade the full day and be halfway coherent for work the next day. Over the years, this has been exhausting. I inevitably stay up too late, and by the end of the week I am in a chronic state of sleep deprivation, which, as I learned, does little to enhance my work or trading effectiveness. A week from now, I will leave CST and finally move to a more trade-friendly time zone.
Will this improve my trading? Well, it can’t hurt.
As for trading, for the record I made 2 easy trades today:
Sold RGLD for a 30% gain–a small position (wish it wasn’t) and one that might still keep rising, but I’m trying to teach myself to take profits. It’s easy to know when to buy–its knowing when to sell that is the real skill in trading. I still need to work on that. The chart showed it had run well above its 20 day ma, verging at OB levels, so that seemed as good a time as any to sell.
Bought more SVVC. Shares are trading BELOW cash levels, so this seems like a no-brainer. Went to a 3/4 position. Thought about selling some VHC, as I have an oversize position, but decided to stick with it–people wiser than me feel the best is yet to come. We shall see about that.
Oh, almost forgot. In case you were wondering….after the chaos and confusion of Shanghai, we decided to move to someplace more safe and stable….