It’s hot!

This past week or so we’ve been sweating profusely (at least when out of the air-conditioned hotel apartment).  Whilst uncomfortable I actually prefer the heat to the cold and the kids love any excuse to enjoy an ice-cold drink or a rare ‘bingjilig’ (ice cream) – which incidentally is one Chinese word that they do seem capable of remembering.  I’ve been surprised by the popularity of dairy products here.  It seems that the modern Chinese generation are happily adopting many aspects of the western-diet……….we’ll see where this leads over the coming years ………

Practically all of the expatriates that I’ve met here (and quite a large number of the locals) avoid products made from milk sourced from China due to a number of health scares in the past.  I was wondering how much of such concerns were based on facts or paranoia.  Unfortunately I have heard and read enough stories to be convinced that I need to be more concerned about food quality here than I was in the USA.  Problem being, it will be a full-time job sourcing food from various sources around town.  I hope to find some balance and routine with this shortly.

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Current Chinese government dietary guidelines which include dairy

Despite the heat we headed 2 hours south to a city called Suzhou (which is where my husband was working this past week).  It was refreshing to wander along the canals, take a boat trip, visit temples and the beautiful  ‘The Humble Administrator’s Garden’.  The kids loved the pedi-cabs which really were a nice way to visit the city.

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We ate  the most delicious red berries/currants?:

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And back in Shanghai we visited a small selection of the endless things to do here: aquarium, children’s museum, sculpture park…….

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Shanghighs‘:  Receiving messages from you – friends and family from around the globe – which reminds me that I will soon feel a part of a community here in China too.  My son transporting himself around without complaining (thank you Kim for the scooter – it has changed our lives), 

Shanglows‘:  A deep sense of a loss of control: I’ve always liked to feel in control (despite knowing that ultimately it’s wiser to ‘go with the flow’) and here I am struggling with not knowing or understanding everything going on around me.  China is such a different experience and Shanghai is such a large city that it is surely wisest to finally let go of the ‘reign’s, remain receptive to the experiences that present themselves and enjoy the ride.

Shangunusuals‘:  Going out for dinner with some French/Americans and ending up staying the night at their house!

The housing saga has finally come to an end (and there you were thinking it already had!):  we will now be moving into the 2nd and 3rd floors of a recently renovated house which has a shared garden and is in a quiet lane not far from the school and with a reasonable commute to work.  More details to come once we’ve furnished it and moved in…. this coming week-end! ………….

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Totally blew my intention this past week

Joy, lightness and space went out of the window!

It’s ‘Fascinating’ ….. it didn’t occur to me until recently that I’d actually seen the perfect housing option weeks ago  – only after having seen made aware of the sparsity of other options there are out there – and naturally after it had already been taken by someone else.  Or perhaps ‘frustrating’ is a more appropriate word….. or perhaps even ‘painful crippling  REGRET’.  Regret, I learned, is a mixture of sadness and anger which is difficult to shake off.  I was led astray from my positive gut feeling about an apartment when my head took over the controls and made a bad decision.  In this process I also learned that it was normal for my Chinese relocation agent to swiftly accept my irrational decision without questioning it.  He said ‘I understand’ but much later explained that he was disappointed and perplexed by my decision – so apparently it is not customary to disagree with your ’employer’.  I’ve also learned that it’s necessary to reduce my expectations on the quality of housing here.  So we’re sticking with that nice apartment I spoke of last week – but which is far from school and even further from Sebastien’s work.

I’ve thus had a week of sadness and anger (as much related to losing the home as to not remaining true to my feelings).  Fortunately  as with everything, this too shall pass…….. I just don’t know when.  Oh yes I do! (thanks to my friend Auna Salome): it will pass when I choose for it to end.

Lesson #1 (again!) = FOLLOW YOUR HEART

Lesson #2 (again!) = STAY IN THE PRESENT MOMENT, don’t dwell on past events.

On a ‘lighter’ note, I took the kids to the Flower, Bird, Fish and Insect Market.  My son loved it but my daughter was (quite rightly) concerned about the sizes of cages…….and the smell.

We went to sample green tea in a quaint little tea shop where gesture got us through.  My limited Chinese led me to believe that he had 1 son, but he may very well have been talking about something else!

We caught-up with some other Shanghai Mamas at an indoor play area – to beat the heat.

We’ve also been swimming nearly every day.  My daughter was thrilled to be able to swim unaided for the first time and my son to jump in to the pool ‘all by myself’ (with the assistance of an inflatable device).

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I was convinced these were made of plastic until one of them moved.

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They would have to be really hot in there!

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Shanghighs‘: My daughter composing some fabulous songs in French, also preparing family meals (see below) and having her first independent swim AND her first loose tooth.  She asked someone to translate  ‘I have a loose tooth’on to a piece of paper so that she can share this exciting news with everyone.

Shanglows‘: Refer to above!, husband being away all week in France, my son drawing on the hotel room walls,

Shangunusuals‘: The quantity of oil used in cooking: I swiftly bought some vegetable oil (against my personal preference) because after preparing only a couple of dishes, I noticed that our baby-sitter/ayi had used almost half a bottle of $15 dollar olive oil (all imported foods are very precious here).  Mind you, the dishes were good.  And whilst on the subject of food, the children have had ‘snacky’ things offered to them by complete strangers on a daily basis – something that pleases them (but not me) no end.

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My daughter has really enjoyed preparing meals and giving them names. This particular one was titled ‘Food is Supplies’, but there’s also been ‘Salads are Joy’ and ‘A Treasure is a Sandwich’.  This has been a highly successful way to have her brother eat everything.

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Snacking on some street food – not sure what this sesame ‘pancake’ is called but it was yummy (if not a bit oily!)

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Lotus – and  judging by the gestures of the vendors, I believe you can eat the little seeds. I must try next time.

This week in images

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Crickets inside little cages made of bamboo.

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Temporary exhibit infront of Shanghai opera – lantern warriors that light up at night

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The source of the bell ringing in Shanghai: ‘Recycle tricycle’ – When you hear the bell ringing, bring out your recyclables for collection.

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Some ingredients for Chinese medicinal tea

Shanghighs‘:  Cicadas started singing this week, A  bbq/4thJuly/40th birthday party with a lovely bunch of expatriates – inclusive of trampoline for the kids!,   Ayi (baby-sitter) cooking-up some wonderful dishes (she is multitalented)

We may have found somewhere to live; finally I realized that being close to greenery was essential and opted for an apartment in a complex with a ‘large’ garden and even a swimming pool – it is not really central but I finally accepted that it was impossible to have everything.  Now we just have to wait for the landlord to sign the contract.

‘Shanglows‘: Construction work everywhere, some of which starts at night;  having our offers on a few properties refused (competition is tough and prices are high).

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Shen Jian – buns filled with pork which are then steamed and then pan-fried

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Fried lotus root – the children adored this.  We found it in  a very cool restaurant called ‘Vegetarian Life-style’ which served-up a wide array of interesting dishes

Breathe deep…… or perhaps not.

mzl.mvimpedd.320x480-75Breathing is something I’ve been forgetting to do recently. Obviously not the shallow survival breathing, but rather the big revitalizing, clearing, ‘ahhhhhh’ breaths.  I’ve been so wound up with making decisions and coping with the (formally simple) daily tasks.  Consequently I have been feeling pretty stressed.  I am frustrated at not knowing everything about my new environment right NOW.  I’m reminding myself that ‘It’s the journey that counts, not the destination’.

Actually come to think of it, deep breathing outdoors is actually discouraged here in Shanghai on certain days:  most people here refer daily to the ‘air quality index’  daily to check the quality of the air, which seems to hover between ‘moderate’ to ‘very unhealthy’ although I actually saw a few ‘good’ readings this week!  It does of course depend on whether you  check the US consulate or the Chinese official readings (which differ somewhat).

I was surprised  to hear that our shipment of affairs only just left the port of Los Angeles this week.  I suppose that just gives us more time to find an apartment/house, something that is still occupying a lot of my mind and time.  I think I’m having a hard time accepting the reality of living in a large city and not finding my perfect little oasis/home.

Fortunately there was time this week to explore some more of Shanghai’s offerings including The Bund (see photo below) and the Shanghai Museum – filled with some amazing relics of years past.

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This man is constructing a broom from branches. These brooms are used all around town to sweep the streets.

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Typical scene down one of the many lanes of Shanghai

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Watermelon anyone?

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Ready to grill

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On the ‘Bund’ walk-way looking over the Huangpu River towards the modern skyline of the Pudong region of Shanghai

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Personal adds in People’s Square – wives and husbands wanted.

Shanghighs‘: A sunny Sunday stroll along The Bund (A region on the west side the Huangpu River which divides Shanghai into two regions known as Puxi to the west and Pudong to the east)

Shanglows‘: my discovery that when it is raining very heavily (and you  have 2 heavy shopping bags and no spare hand for an umbrella) it is impossible to hail a taxi in Shanghai due to extremely high demand.

Shangunusuals‘: In The People’s Square park we came across a large crowd of people looking at pieces of paper posted on boards.  We were curious and discovered that they were CV’s of young men and women plus a description what they were looking for in a wife/husband.  I didn’t see any young people around but there were plenty of mothers and fathers desperately taking down notes.  Further in the park parents had set themselves up with tables, photos and I even saw one handing out leaflets regarding their unwed child.

Photo taking by complete strangers of the children continues: just today in the Shanghai museum a total of 6 people requested to take a photo of my daughter – and that’s not counting the people who didn’t ask.  Whilst novel at first, this is actually getting a little annoying and I’m not sure exactly how to respond other than asking my children if they are happy to agree (my son refused).  It’s odd enough to want to take photos of complete strangers but all more so in a city where foreigners are not THAT rare.