Retirement Re-Badged

Aveo China Campus

Being part of a Retirement Village can have it’s benefits – beyond the obvious: like-minded neighbours; peaceful and quiet living; security of having retired neighbours watching out for your unit while you travel the world; no gardens to maintain – lawns to mow – pool to clean (someone else takes care of all of these).

If you’re in an Aveo Village, retirement just got a whole lot better!

Being part of an Aveo Retirement Village has an extra bonus – reciprocal visits to the China Campus.

The inaugural exchange happened in October 2016, and I’m proud to say I took the challenge and signed up for a two-week tour of the village near Shanghai. Residents of the Aveo Group of retirement villages in Australia were eligible to participate in the inaugural trip and 20 residents from Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, and the Gold Coast opted to blaze the trail for future travellers. Aveo plan to take 4 groups each year, as well as arranging for our Chinese counterparts to visit our fair shores and see how we define retirement here in Australia.

My limited knowledge of China and all things Chinese had me believing that we would be teaching the Chinese residents a lot about being active in our later years. We were asked to bring equipment and expertise to teach the gentle art of Lawn Bowls, and I assumed we would be teaching a lot more than that while we were there. I couldn’t have been more wrong! Yes, we did take some Bowls, and yes, those with expertise did teach the finer points of using them, but that’s (almost) where our part of the exchange ends. We did manage to teach our hosts the words and actions of ‘Give Me A Home Among The Gum Trees’, but more about that later.

A very successful cultural exchange, on the croquet ground? Oh well, it worked.

As perfect hosts, our Chinese counterparts welcomed us with open arms and treated us like royalty during our stay.

The Chinese residents couldn’t have done more to ensure our stay was perfect in every way

My view of retirement until then was that retirement is passive. It’s something that happens to you at the end of a usually busy career. It’s when you start working your way through the long list of books you stockpiled over the busy years, with the words ‘for retirement reading’ embossed on each cover, even though the History of Russia will be ancient history by the time I actually get to read it.

Retirement is what we look forward to, but worry about finding enough to do to keep us occupied. It’s about winding down; taking it easy; being a lot more sedentary.

But that isn’t how it is in China. There are courses for those who may not have had the opportunity to go to College, and dedicated classrooms and teachers ensure that learning is successful. Some residents are studying English, while others master Calligraphy, Mahjong, or Music. The sounds and signs of practice can be heard and seen throughout the campus. The melodic notes from a piano or flute float down from an upper floor window and calligraphic signs adorn the walls and halls of the learning areas.

The evenings are for gentle exercise in the Quadrangle in fine weather, or the Community Hall if the skies open up.  The days are for the full rigour of the gym under the expert guidance of a personal trainer. And the residents are there: in the quad gaining strength of mind and body with every disciplined but poised movement; in the gym toning muscles and ensuring flexibility in the aging process; in the pool pushing laps; in the dance studio learning the ancient art of traditional Chinese dance or ballroom dancing; in the library stretching the mind; in the craft room creating exquisite masterpieces to share with friends. Participation is active and interactive. Retirement isn’t a passive phase that happens to them, it is a new stage of active learning and growth. Even ballroom dancing is undertaken with skill and precision and there were many talented couples tripping the light fantastic on the dance floor on our first night on the campus.

And the concert at the end of our tour was spectacular! Choirs sang, musicians played ancient instruments, and Mr Bridge Lee gave a very professional rendition of Santa Lucia and Moscow Nights. And the Aussies? Well, what else would you expect? ‘Give Me A Home Among The Gum Trees’, complete with actions, was the order of the day (hastily put together on the day, I might add), and was very well received by all. Our Chinese hosts loved it! and even requested an Encore after our Farewell Dinner the night before we left. Our Aussie host, Julie, was a bit ‘over it’ after the third or fourth time of seeing us all up on the big screen in the Quadrangle, belting out every last note of the song, but I suspect just a little of that stemmed from the homesickness the song evoked in her, having been away from our fair shores for more than just a few years while overseeing the setting up of the China Campus.

I came back to our village with a new perspective on retirement.  I want to re-write the script. There is no need for the retirement phase to be the final journey when it could so easily be reversed to become a new beginning.

The view from my balcony – and this is winter!

What could we achieve in our later years if we adopt a philosophy of learning new skills: A second language; Writing a novel; Learning to play an instrument? Anything is possible – we are limited only by our imagination. We just have to change our mindset from master to student, and actively engage in learning.

The difference between East and West is no more clearly defined than in the learning centres of the China Campus. The emphasis is on learning, training and discipline.

Happy Retirement!

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Photos of China

Photos from China

On the second day of the tour, Joan, Lynette and I decided to check out Zhujiajia, a town just 10 minutes from the Campus. We were fascinated by the waterways that divided the town, with access from one side to the other being across unique stone bridges. From the centre of the main bridge we had a view of both sides.

Joan & Lyn on a blustery day in Zu Zha Zhou

Joan & Lynette on a blustery day in Zhujiajia

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The essence of China – Zhujiajiao

Our first major expedition was to Nanjing. The bus took us to Shanghai Station where we boarded the Bullet Train to Nanjing. The train was fast, quiet, and extremely comfortable. Attendants provided snacks and bottles of juice along the way, and we were able to sit back and relax, taking in the unique scenery that we sped past on the journey south.

I guess that's why it's called the Bullet Train?

The Bullet Train – fast and comfortable

A selfie with Ping Ping

 

 

 

 

A selfie with Ping Ping (Kelly) our tour guide at the start of our 3-day stay in Shanghai. We were booked into the fabulous Radisson Blu for 2 nights.

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An old London Cab in Nanjing

An old London Cab

 

 

 

 

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Mr Lee enjoys the Chinese Opera at the Tea House

 

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A trishaw – still a good way to get around town

The view from the 25th floor

The view from the 25th floor of the Radisson Blu Hotel in Shanghai.

 

After a great dinner at Lost Heaven Restaurant, we were treated to a spectacular view of the city on our first night in Shanghai.

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The trip included a mind-blowing show on a very wet night in Shanghai, featuring acrobatic acts. The level of fitness and precision involved in the acts was unbelievable. The highlight was eight motorbikes zipping around the inside of a cylindrical wire frame, at great speed, in synchronised precision. The worst part was I couldn’t take any photos, so you’ll just have to believe how impressive it was. If I hadn’t seen it myself, I’d say it was impossible.

The dinner before the show was just as special; a Hot Pot at a restaurant in the shopping centre next to the hotel.

The following photo is from a model of the campus. To say it is huge certainly wouldn’t do it justice. I have so many photos and stories to share it will take me a while to catch up, but I’ll certainly try

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Aveo China Campus – model

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Planning Stage

Suzy Cornelius outlines the travel opportunity for Australian Aveo residents to visit the Aveo campus in Shanghai

Suzy Cornelius outlines the travel opportunity for Australian Aveo residents to visit the Aveo campus in Shanghai. It sounded good, but got even better when I found out there was a Starbucks right next door. I signed up immediately!

From the first brochure in July – to our departure tomorrow, there have been emails, meet-ups, and lots of planning happening. We’ve come through it all, and we’re about to set off on a seriously exciting adventure. For my travel buddy and I here at Murwillumbah, the trip starts an hour earlier than everyone else – at 5am. With the time difference between each side of the border, there’s a lot to work out to get the timing right.  We were scheduled to leave at 6, but we’re just a little bit nervous about possible heavy traffic on the highway – so we’ve decided to start out a bit earlier. Most people know I don’t do mornings – so just getting to the airport is going to be more than a bit of a challenge.

Alan talks to Christina, with Nicola from Freedom Travel, at the meet-and-greet morning tea in Newstead, Brisbane.

Joan, Lynette and Maureen buddied up to discuss the finer details, like, ‘what to pack’.

Luckily for us, the Murwillumbah bus is going to be our transport to the airport. At the unlikely hour of 5am (I didn’t even know that time existed!), Alan and I will board the bus, being very capably driven by Bev, and make our way to the Gold Coast. All Gold Coasters will have made their way to the designated spot, where we’ll meet them. From there, it’s on to Brisbane airport. I wonder if we could fit the bus through the drive-through coffee shop on the way? I know there’s a warning about the low-hanging beam at one of them, so I’m guessing we wouldn’t fit. I’ve always wanted to go through a drive-through in a bus and watch the worried look on the face of the attendant as they try to calculate serving 20 people in one hit. Maybe it won’t happen tomorrow though. Anyway, it’s okay because I stocked up on some coffee lollies today, just in case. I need my coffee! My eyes don’t even open until I’ve had my caffeine hit for the day.

What I’m still in denial about is the fact that, to be on the bus at 5am, I have to be up about an hour earlier. Now that’s going to be worth witnessing, when I figure out that my eyes will need to open just before 4am and I actually have to make the exit from my comfy warm bed a few minutes later. And the sun won’t even be up then!

And as the clock ticks slowly on, the realisation of how little sleep I’ll actually get tonight is starting to register, so it’s off to bed now, and I’ll report in sometime over the next two days, hopefully.

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Review of China Trip – Part 1

Review of China Immersion Program

Inaugural Trip 2016

 How do you capture the trip of a lifetime in a simple review of the highlights? I’m not sure if it is possible, but I’ll start at the beginning.

When I bought my unit at Mountain View Murwillumbah in 2015, our Sales Consultant, Molly Cornelius, apologised for having to be away early September, just prior to settlement, as she would be visiting her mother at the Aveo China Campus. When Molly explained the China Campus, my mind raced ahead to the possibility of exchange visits.

A few months after moving in a flyer arrived in my mailbox advertising a meeting about the China Trip at Robina. I reserved my place immediately; after all, it wouldn’t hurt to just find out about it. I sat through the meeting, hosted by the very talented Suzy, and began to crystallize the idea of being guided through China by the very competent team of people associated with Aveo. But, I have to admit, the one word that tipped the balance from ‘probably’ to ‘where do I sign?’ was Starbucks! Knowing that I could get my caffeine fix in the great land of tea was all I needed, although I have to admit I thought the great Seattle coffee place was actually on the campus. I pictured myself rising early, sitting at Starbucks for my eye-opener double-shot of caffeine, and then effortlessly facing whatever the day had in store.

Starbucks – although not on campus, it was still only 10 minutes away at Zhujiajiao – very do-able.

As the plans developed, my excitement grew … a little. Having no idea of what to expect, I wasn’t exactly brimming with excitement, but I went through the motions of getting the paperwork sorted, and working out what to pack.

The pre-travel morning tea brought emotions to the surface a little as I met fellow travellers, especially, Alan from Mountain View, and Joan and Lynette from the Gold Coast, which started a chain of phone calls and emails over the following weeks. Knowing someone in advance really made a big difference.

Joan, Lynette and Maureen at the Pre-Travel Morning Tea

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Alan discusses the trip with Christina, and our travel agent

The Journey Begins

There was something magic about standing outside my unit in the early morning darkness on departure day, waiting for the Mountain View bus to transport us to the airport, via the Gold Coast.

 

 

 

 

On to the Gold Coast to pick up the others, and then to the airport.

Arrival at the Airport – a lot of very excited travellers.

The long flight was broken-up by our short stop in Hong Kong. By the time we finally arrived in Shanghai, we must have looked like a line of zombies filing through Customs and Immigration and out into the terminal, to be greeted by our local hosts. Finally, we were on the bus for the last leg of the journey – to the Aveo China Campus.

 

By the time our rooms were sorted out, luggage delivered, and wind-down chats completed, it was close to 2am. My head finally reached the pillow. And I slept!

Next morning, in the bright light of day, the full extent of the campus was breath-taking. The dining hall was massive, and the breakfast was a very welcome change from the airline food from the day before. We were ably assisted by the lovely Wendy, who didn’t speak very much English, but certainly took care of our every need – always there with the coffee, tea and hot water (the local beverage of choice), and anything else that was required to make our dining experience the best it could be.

I have to admit the rest of the trip is a bit of a blur in terms of days and times – they just happened. And the highlights?; like Topsy – they just grew. Each day I would be heard saying “Now that was the highlight of the trip!” – only to be outdone by a scene or event the very next day.

If there was one highlight that really stood out it would have to be the day Lynnette, Joan and I decided to use some of our down-time to visit Zhujiajiao, the ancient water-town just 10 minutes drive from the campus. “We’ll only be an hour”, I assured Julie when we left; “we’re only going for a coffee, and then we’ll get a cab back”. The arranged transport picked us up from the Campus Square at 10am and dropped us a short walk from Starbucks. After enjoying a coffee, we ventured across the ancient bridge, took heaps of photos, and stepped off the other side into a vibrant market area. The rest, as they say, is history. Lost amid incredible 100% silk (rayon) scarves, tanks of therapeutic fish that gently nibble your feet, and model bullet trains, time quickly slipped away. While waiting for Lynnette to have her feet nibbled (the only one brave enough to partake of this extraordinary therapy), I realised how late it was, and how many WeChat requests for our whereabouts I’d missed. The only solution was obvious. We’d go back to Starbucks, use their free WiFi and message back that we were safe, and would return soon.

Joan and Lynette

 

 

 

 

To go back a step – there was one bit of sage advice given by Suzy somewhere in the planning stage that I had not followed: “Buy a Chinese SimCard at the Airport” she’d said. I didn’t! As soon as we had our second coffees securely in hand, I ventured to the counter for the password for the WiFi. “Do you have a Chinese Cell Phone” they asked? Obviously not, and without it – no WiFi. So, only one course of action required – enjoy the coffee and scenery, and face the consequences when we got back. Seriously, anyone else would have done the same thing, right?

When the cab delivered us back to the campus at 4.30pm, we immediately made our way to our units, heavily laden with shopping, only to be confronted by Julie, standing with hands on hips, informing us that a search party was minutes away from being assembled and dispatched. Grounded! But worth every minute. We were only sorry that we’d missed the cooking competition at 2pm back at the campus, but the experience of Zhujiajiao was exceptional – not to mention two trips to Starbucks for coffee and very western-style pastries. I may just be a tad guilty of leading Joan and Lynnette astray on this trip – but I will add that they were more than willing participants. I really believe the events of the day sealed our friendship; we have vowed to make our way back to China next year to see more of the history and beauty that make this land unique.

 

The entrance to the Campus is very colourful and very welcoming.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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