China / Expat Life

New Normal And A Few Firsts

We’re coming up on two months in China (seriously?!), and I have to say:

We’re beyond settled in.

We’re officially in our new normal.

Shocking, I know, but it feels oh so good!

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Don’t get me wrong, there’s still plenty that I’m not used to, ie:

Being illiterate (I still can’t read Chinese characters at.all.)

A good deal of the food (last night Tom accidentally ordered what we think was liver, but we’re still not totally sure. Again, being illiterate doesn’t help in these situations)

Annnnnd witnessing daily public urination (our parking garage smells like a petting zoo on a 120 degree day…).

But all in all, we’re feeling at home here in Shanghai.

In the last couple of weeks we’ve had a few firsts.

First #1: Our first Chinese Chinese New Year

We just recently ended our first Chinese New Year/Spring Festival, and it was an interesting time to arrive in China. We found out soon after we got here that while most Chinese leave Shanghai to return to their hometowns, most foreigners leave the country to avoid the insanity that is the mass Exodus of Chinese nationals.

While many of our friends hit the road for places like Vietnam and Japan and Micronesia, we were forced to stay put while we waited for our residence Visas to clear. Shanghai was a veritable ghost town in some ways (almost all restaurants were closed for an entire week), and a total mad house in others (never, EVER, sight-see at YuYuan Gardens or ANY Buddhist Temples during Chinese New Year…Just don’t do it…).

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Thought it would be a good idea to visit the Jade Buddha Temple…the line was only about a half mile long (you can’t even see the entrance from back here). We opted to go a different day.

 

First #2: Cruz started pre-school

Cruz simultaneously started his first day of school AND his first day of school in China last week, and it was a little emotional for mommy and A LOT fun for him (he actually asked if he could stay for a full-day instead of a half day…am I really that horrible to spend the day with?!). If you haven’t read the post chronicling my inner-turmoil about this, check it out here.

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One of these kids is different than the others…

 

First #2: Sick kid and doctor’s visit

Mikki got sick last week and it was wretched. She was feverish for a couple of days, and while I enjoyed the round the clock baby shnuggles, I got a bit panicky when her fever spiked at 104.7. Not only that, but she was vomiting after every nursing and refusing all solids, so needless to say our first trip to the doctor was in order.

Thankfully our insurance is very idiot-proof (this experience made me realize I didn’t even know which number to call in case of emergency here in China; it’s 119 for an ambulance btw), and getting in was actually a snap.

Back in the states, our kids always went to urgent care because it was IMPOSSIBLE to ever be seen by their actual pediatrician for same-day sick visits. Here, the receptionist apologized for not being able to get us in sooner than 9:00 a.m., and I called at 7:00 a.m…

I’ll take it.

Long story short, we’re fortunate Tom’s company provides us with amazing health coverage that allows expat clinics to be an option for us. I’ve heard serious horror stories about Chinese hospitals, but the clinic we went to was very similar to what we would have experienced back home; most of the physicians were foreigners of various English-speaking nationalities, and the facilities were great.

Luckily, Mikki just had a virus and was able to sweat it out in a couple of days.

Phew!

First #3: We bought bikes

While we live just a block from a subway stop and Ubers and cabs are pretty abundant, it’s still a hassle taking public trans to places that are just semi-far away.

The bikes have changed our lives. Seriously. There’s so much freedom in being able to just hop on and ride to wherever we need to go.

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Maybe we’ll graduate to a scooter or Vespa some day, but for now I’m content navigating these crazy Shanghai streets on my little beach cruiser!

First #4: I started Chinese lessons

I started meeting with my Chinese tutors last week, and while they’re amazing, I have to say that I’m having a love/hate relationship with my Chinese right now.

I feel like it’s in puberty; that awkward, uncomfortable stage beyond beginner but nowhere near fluent. When you start learning a language you’re so excited to be able to say anything, it’s all fun and exciting and relatively easy (“wow I can count to 10!”). But eventually you get to a point where you’re no longer content just being able to ask for the “check” or  saying “how much does that cost” and “where’s the bathroom.”

You want to be able to have a real adult conversation with someone and you (well, I anyway) get really frustrated when I can’t (that and I hate being terrible at things). It’s awesome to be making progress, but it’s tough when you know enough to know how badly you suck.

That’s where I am.

But I’m making slow and steady progress and am savoring the small victories each day. I can comfortably get around the city on my own and make basic conversation with most people.

Steady progress is where it’s at.

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31 thoughts on “New Normal And A Few Firsts

  1. I love the bike pic! What an awesome way to get to explore. Glad to hear Mikki just had a virus, although I’m sure that was freaky trying to muddle through the logistics of insurance, new country, etc while your baby is so sick. You guys are all studs, what an amazing adventure!

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  2. For everyone who expressed concern… Here’s Cruz wearing his brand spankin’ new HELMET!! 🙂 (whilst unbuckled in the back of a taxi…)

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    • Isn’t that so sad to say? A couple weeks after every doctor visit I SWEAR I could count on getting a bill from the doctor’s office because Tricare would never pay the stupid bill…then I’d have to call Tricare and tell them and they’d say, oops yeah we’ll pay it, lol. You’d think Tricare would be the best insurance our country has to offer, but…

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  3. Glad your doing well. And so glad Miki’s better. Scary when they have a high fever . Bikes are an awesome mode of transportation, and fun! Give it 6 months and you’ll be speaking Chinese (mandarin)!

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    • It was scary! I wish I’d gotten a beach cruiser while we were in ogden, it would have been fun to bike more there too. I sure hope so!

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    • We’re still looking to find one his size, people in China don’t wear helmets (they also don’t use car seats…so going around by car isn’t much safer)

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  4. Really enjoy reading about your daily struggles and triumphs of learning to live in a foreign country!! I also think it is fantastic that Cruz and Mikki will get to learn Chinese as little people. What an amazing opportunity for all of you!! Glad Mikki is feeling better! Was the “liver” good??

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    • I’m so glad for them too, Mikki is already understanding both Chinese and Engish, Cruz is a little more resistant to speaking Chinese but he’s still interested enough to ask how to say different things. Haha! I didn’t even try it, it looked that weird. This restaurant also had goat brain on the menu, that made me want to be a little less adventurous 🙂

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    • He’s very popular amongst Chinese in general, they’re all amazed by his blond curly hair! Sometimes the attention is too overwhelming for him (people taking photos and touching his hair), but mostly he likes the attention 🙂 A lot of people here speak Shanghainese which is really different than Mandarin (most native Chinese from other regions say it’s really hard to learn and understand), but everyone in China also speaks Mandarin (which is the common language in mainland China), and that’s what we’re learning.

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