From the mega metropolis of 30 million to a quiet German neighborhood, from the 16th floor of a high-rise building to the lone house and garden, from the green polluted sky of shanghai to the intoxicatingly fresh air of the countryside… we find ourselves in a whole new ecosystem.
We took in a few fish to live in our small pond last week and since then they have been hiding as they get used to the new environment. We are not so different. I feel the urge to settle in and find my way in my new ecosystem.
Despite of all the change, something inside me is dancing in joy and wellbeing. Thank you Germany for the chance to be well and happy as we get ready to call you home.
Behind and right next door to the glitz and glamour of Shanghai, real people live their real lives in the old lanes. The first shock you get walking through the very old parts of town is the extreme narrowness of the alleys and the very small size of the overcrowded rooms people call home. It is quite a wake up call that I make sure I take myself through at least once a week so as not to be fooled by the fake reality that expats tend to exist in in a place like Shanghai.
One of the cons of an expat life is the constant change a family has to go through. Your friends come and they go. Deep friendships are naturally formed with people since all are away from home, from extended families, and they cling to each other in search for a sense of belonging, comfort and support. And then the time comes for one of the families to move, leaving a hole behind, an emptiness, a missing piece of a puzzle that needs to be rearranged once again.
I have watched Lea go through so many strong friendships since we moved to Shanghai now more than 5 years ago, from extremely powerful bonds that still endure across distances, to fleeting ones that got forgotten, but somehow the need is always there for a new friendship to grow.
I watch her today as she declares a new friendship and prepared the ground for yet another year of shared adventures, celebrations, ice creams, lollipops and sleepovers…
We, foreigners living in Shanghai are often found to be very annoying to the local people of authority. We are sometimes referred to as the ‘why people’. With the summer here now in full power, the pool is open in our compound, and with that come the strange rules. One rule is that you must wear, outdoors, a swimming cap at all times if you were to enter the pool (a rule that is adhered to for almost one week tops). Naturally, every year we ask ‘why’? The answer is “there is no why, it is a rule, why do you ask why? What is wrong with you?”
Can you imagine living your daily life and never ever asking why certain things are they way they are when they don’t make any sense to you? I am a ‘why’ person and proud to be one!
photo: Lea with her friend on top of her new inflatable dolphin wearing the cap, don’t ask me why 🙂
Lea arrived to Shanghai in 2006 when she was just 2 years old. Since then China has been a new home to her. I often think about the influence that this move will have later on her life as an adult, growing up multilingual, mixing with different cultures, being a foreigner away from home; how will all of this play a part in shaping who she will become? In many ways, children find themselves in places and situations created by their parents and with very little choice on their part, at least at that very early age. And we as parents always hope that we are making choices that are for the best of our children. Somehow, China will always be an important stage of the forming of Lea’s life.
Today I was having lunch in a Shanghai neighborhood where many expatriates reside. I was stunned to see at what a young age children are starting to smoke cigarettes these days, or was it always like this? These skaters looked so young, and so “cool” with the whole attitude of “look at me I am totally grown up now”.. and yet I felt that a lollypop would me much more fitting at their tender young age.
English, German, Chinese valentines cards delivered to us from our daughter and received by us in Arabic… this is life as an expat in a city like Shanghai!
We realized that as a mixed nationality family , we sound like the tower of Babel at our dinner table: I speak with my daughter only English, her father speaks to her only German, my husband and I speak together only Arabic and we all speak to the baby sitter Chinese!
Yet somehow, no one is ever confused 🙂 Happy early Valentines!!