The Dirty Warehouse

I’ve been exploring the city with one of my best mates, J. Her Aussie-ness necessitates the use of the term “mate,” as opposed to friend. The other day J took me to “The Dirty Warehouse.” While the name suggests something deliciously salacious, TDW is in fact an antiques curio shop, stuffed in a dirty corner of a dirty street…

Dirty street

Entrance. Ta da!

Stuff galore, including old tins.

Need a lift?

Adding to the collection.

J and I, getting dirty.

First Day of School

First day of school! First day of school!

Yesterday morning I felt like Nemo. Or Marlin. Or both, I suppose, as I held Miss M’s hand and skipped from the car to the elementary school door. The Kid trudged along behind us, embarrassed by his mother, who was skipping.

My mind wandered back to the nostalgic ritual of purchasing new school supplies. I remember the smells of new crayons, pencils and erasers, the squeak of new school shoes and the excitement of wearing new school clothes.

For the last two years, 2/3 of The Circus has worn uniforms and their school supplies have been provided by the school. The weeks before we returned to Shanghai, I was happily wandering down the school supply aisles of Target and Walmart, trolling for 25 cent boxes of crayons, stocking up on glue sticks and sharpies. I still have an office to supply…
Miss M & The Kid at Concordia International School.
Mrs. Muir and TK.
Miss M at her cubby.
Miss M and her teacher Miss Lane.Pinky Stinky back to Okiki, a Singaporean local school. Washing station.Nurse station (The Chinese schools check for hand, foot, mouth disease, lice and fevers before allowing the children to enter classrooms.)

Return to Routine

The children have returned to normal sleep schedules (Yes!) and our summer is now over. As I type this, I am making breakfast and preparing lunches for the first day of school. It’s still hotter than hell outside (81F at 6 am) and swampy with high humidity but I look forward to that walk from car to school doors as I accompany The Circus to class. Photos posted tomorrow.

Magical Numbers Revisited

1. 4. 3. 2:15…

As in: The Circus has gotten up the past week at 1 a.m., 4 a.m., 3 a.m. and this morning at 2:15.

A friend and I were messaging each other on Facebook yesterday. At 4 in the morning. She returned to Shanghai a week ago from the U.S. with her two boys and they are still readjusting to the fourteen-hour time difference.

We decided Jinqiao needs a good 24-hour venue, like IHOP. We could hold middle-of-the night playdates there, where sleep deprived moms could mindlessly stare at each other while our children entertained one another. And eat bacon and pancakes. Yum.

I’d write more or post a photo, but I’m falling asleep at my keyboard. At 6:10 p.m…. That’s okay, I need my beauty sleep, especially if I’m waking up tomorrow morning at 3.

For the Five

There are five people who read my blog religiously. Okay, maybe eight people. And, shockingly, they’re not all blood related to me. Since my little, er, writing hiatus, they’ve given me grief for being a slacker. So, time to get back to the electronic pen and paper.

If you’re one of the five (or eight), get ready for this Banana’s experiences in Shanghai… Year Two.

About a Girl

Tianzifang, Puxi [photo taken by Fabio Finotto]
As I approach the one-year mark of our move here, I look back and reflect on the marvelous changes that have occurred in my life. I knew that moving here would provide difficult challenges for someone like me [a "Banana," if you will], but I didn’t understand to what extent. [ie: Ayi/Nanny syndrome, second-class citizen treatment.] I’ve since learned that it’s all about Perspective. I was surprised to find out that I’ve been labeled a “complainer” by an occasional naysayer. I realize I’ve verbalized some frustrations regarding my trials, I suppose in the hope of receiving empathy from those who simply cannot understand. I wish they could walk a mile in my shoes, as an Asian-American amongst the Communist Chinese. Thankfully, the amazing positive support I’ve received from true loved ones has kept me going out here. Often times, I’ve drawn from the well of their love, my own inner strength and my devout faith in Jesus Christ to get me through a hard day. Tomorrow hits the one year mark. Here is a list of accomplishments I’ve worked hard for and am proud of:

  • Moving half-way around the world, away from my family and close friends, as a supportive wife.
  • Helping my children acclimate to a new school [the Kid's fifth school in three years!]
  • Helping The Circus make new friends in Church and school, creating lots of play dates.
  • Creating a loving and safe home environment for my children, centered around Jesus Christ and His love for us.
  • Learning to rely on the Lord and developing a close relationship with my Heavenly Father.
  • Maintaining close relationships and friendships with people on the other side of the world. [Thank you, Skype! And Facebook!]
  • Teaching my children about cultural differences, daily.
  • Teaching my children to have gratitude for their blessings.
  • Laughing and dancing silly with my kids, every single day.
  • Building new friendships for myself in my church community and the kids’ school.
  • Volunteering for my church in the youth program and Nursery children’s program and working hard for those sweet little 3-year-olds.
  • Volunteering for Cub Scouts and running with it. [I wear my uniform with pride!]
  • Navigating around the city and adventuring out and about with friends or by myself.
  • Finding the myriad of individual little Chinese shops and places that sell rubbers bands, pom-poms, poster board, corn tortillas [Thank you, Avocado Lady!], ribbon, basil, or basically anything that we take for granted at a Walmart, Target or grocery store.
  • Sharing such finds and knowledge with other expats.
  • Learning to thrive in a foreign country and making it “home.”
  • Cooking and baking favorite foods without half of the amazing things we have in the U.S. [Thank you, Google! Buttermilk substitution: 1 c milk + 1 T white vinegar.]
  • Relaxing as a mom, allowing my kids to eat ice cream for breakfast, or having dessert before dinner.
  • Learning survival skills for a “Banana”: I no longer speak Chinese, I am treated better if I only speak English. [The irony, I know.] I no longer shop at Chinese grocery stores and tend to shop at expat stores. I no longer try to engage in friendly small-talk with natives. [I think some of these changes are sad, but ultimately have helped create a safer and happier existence for me. I have refrained from sharing stories of being screamed at, grabbed at by taxi drivers, vendors, etc. so my family won't worry.]
  • Learning to love it here in Shanghai. [Thank you, my kind and loving friends!]
  • Learning to ignore the smells of Shanghai. Heh.
  • Still learning to ignore the hawking of loogies. Double Heh and Eww.
  • Helping new expat friends acclimate here by sharing what I’ve learned.
  • Learning to survive for ten days at a time (or half a month) without a husband and running the home smoothly as a single mom.
  • Teaching my children how much Heavenly Father loves them, that He sent His Son Jesus Christ to us.
  • Realizing that I am a strong woman who can accomplish anything I put my mind to, that I have been blessed with strength, courage and compassion and that I am never alone, even in the darkest hour.

In short, moving to Shanghai has taught me the value of my own self-worth. I have learned that I am a daughter of a Heavenly Father, who loves me and knows me. It’s taken thirty-five years for me to learn that I deserve to be treated with dignity, respect and compassion. This has been perhaps one of the hardest and most challenging years in my life. But it has also been one of the best.

Thank you, Shanghai.

Eleventh Hour

Guess what I’m doing at midnight? [sorry, photos taken with ipod touch.]
Just a little something called holiday baking.
I know. “Procrastinator” is my middle name. Actually, I’ve been marathoning it, remember? But, what would Christmas be without holiday treats for family and friends? Tonight, chocolate chip cookies. Tomorrow, oatmeal cinnamon, shortbread, dipped marshmallows and maybe some homemade caramels.

Good thing I’ll be giving most of it away. But still…I’ll be on a liquid diet for months.

All I Want For Christmas

Is My Two Front Teeth!

It’s every musical mother’s dream come true. Miss M’s front teeth fell out within a week of each other, right before Christmas. We’ve been singing the obnoxious song all day, everywhere we go.

Did I mention I marathon it in December? I need to post The Hubs’ birthday pictures and some school and party pictures. The Circus is now officially on Christmas break for two weeks (help) and the Christmas shopping is 90% complete. [Why is there always that last 10% the week before?]

Despite the last minute shopping, wrapping, baking and gifting, I try to take moments to teach The Circus that there are more important things in life than the commercialism of Christmas. Above all, as a Christian, I am grateful to celebrate the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ, as we contemplate the beauty and purpose of His life, death and resurrection here on earth…