RCS Speaker Meeting January 23, 2024

On 23 January 2024, the Rotary Club Shanghai invited to another dinner meeting. The highlights of this meeting were the many new and returning guests, the induction of Markus Wiegand, and the sharing of our guest speaker Elodie Abbé. Club Secretary and President-Elect Christian Göttker facilitated the evening and stood in (on short notice) for Vice President Jeff Hasenfratz who was supposed to stand in for the temporarily absent RCS President Tiziana Richiardi but unfortunately turned ill. We wish him a speedy recovery.

Our most senior member and co-founder of the Rotary Club Shanghai, Frank Yih, opened the evening with the four-way test. Membership Chair Tilman Rieger welcomed the many returning and new guests as well as the visiting Rotarian Mark Respinger from the Rotary Club Kunming. Frank Yih handed over four club banners from his recent visits to Rotary Clubs, among others in the Philippines and Thailand. Also, Terri brought a club banner from the Rotary Club in Beijing and Mark received the RCS banner from us while promising to bring a banner from Kunming next time.
Then Membership Chair Tilman Rieger invited Markus Wiegand on stage for his induction. For Markus, this was a very special moment, and he was not only happily ringing the bell later but also inviting all Rotarians and guests for a drink or two who were willing to join him later to a bar after the club dinner ended. Markus’ energy, passion, and enthusiasm for joining the club are certainly very promising, and we are very happy that he is joining the club, but more importantly, his father-in-law will be even happier because it was he who tried to convince him to join Rotary for more than 10 years.

Then Elodie Abbé came on stage and shared authentically and movingly how she left China in 2018 (after 22 years) to be closer to her family and, also, because her Nepalese husband wanted to experience something else. Elodie shared the pain she went through of having to leave behind this country that for her had become a home with the many great friends she made, the opportunities for personal and professional growth that she had taken and the many positive experiences she made with the people she met in China. Moving back to France to a very rural area was for her (and her family) quite a radical change (and shock). In her speech, she shared about the things she learned/ realized during this time and would do differently if she had to do it again. One sentence that stood out was: “Nobody is waiting for you to come back”. Originally, the plan was to fly back and forth and run her China business remotely from France, but Covid made this plan impossible, and she was forced to start again from scratch, which was an additional challenge. Some other learnings she shared was the warning to be careful about being too open with the local people in your home country regarding the experiences you have, i.e. the people you have access to in Shanghai, the languages you speak, the speed of life you experienced, the internationality and opportunities of Shanghai and other things that local people would just not resonate with and as a result would label you for being arrogant when you shared them.

After 5 years, Elodie is back in Shanghai, together with her daughter and restarting here again. Her husband and 17-year-old son stayed in France and will come to visit regularly.

Elodie’s honest and vulnerable sharing touched many in the audience, especially those from Mainland China, who were moved by her deep affection for China and the Chinese people.

Written by Rtn. Tilman Rieger