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!
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…).
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.
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.
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.
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.