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.

15 thoughts on “About a Girl

  1. Love this post! I remember being envious as I learned about your adventure. Throughout the year, following all of your stories and “complaints” (flips the bird at naysayers) my envy has not waned a bit. The thought of forcing myself and my family to grow and learn in New ways sounds divine.

    As far as the complaints… We all complain no matter what situation we are in. Anyone who says or acts otherwise are fooling themselves.

    Hang tough!

  2. Very sweet post, Karen. It’s been quite the year for you. I admire how you’ve grown through it all. Hope I can say the same for myself this coming year. Love from LA!

  3. I can’t believe it has been a year! This post made me cry! I am so happy that you are happy:) I miss talking to you. We need to talk soon. Call me when you get a chance. I was talking to someone in the ward and was talking about you and they didn’t know you and it made me realize you have been gone from our neighborhood for a long time! We miss you Karen. I can’t wait to hear of the many adventures that you and your family will have in China!

  4. Wow! That year has flown by. A lot can happen in a year and it’s nice to see how you and the fam have changed. We are so excited to come see you guys in just 3 short months. Then, before you know it, it will be summer and you’ll be here again. Just keep swimming!

    • It has flown by! This has been a tremendous growing experience and I’ve really learned to appreciate it and cherish it. I remember returning in August and feeling like, “Huh, I’m glad to be home.” Isn’t it funny that sometimes it takes some of us just a little bit longer to make that transition? No matter what, I am especially thankful that my kids are thriving out here.

  5. Love this post. Love you. Love your faith. Karen, you are such an inspiration to me. I admire your positive outlook and reliance on faith so much. Thank you for your blog and beautiful example.

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