Today marks one month since we arrived in China. It feels like years ago. We arrived on a typical Saturday morning, it was hot and muggy with a murky sky – like many days since. We arrived excited and tired after a long overnight flight, we were relieved to get through immigration quickly and easily. We had the maximum baggage allowance down to the last gram – there was a lot of baggage weighing and repacking at Christchurch airport. All travellers know, seeing all your baggage inch its way to you around the baggage carousel is a great, great feeling, especially when there is soooo much of it to lose.
We headed across Shanghai on the last leg of our journey; the children were strangely quiet as they took in some of the remarkable sights of their new city on that first drive through it. I remember a similar drive some months earlier, feeling in awe of the incredible diversity of the architecture, where ramshackle structures, seemingly ancient Chinese buildings and space-aged looking sky scrapers co-exist in a stunning and unique landscape. I could imagine how my children were feeling seeing it all for the first time.
It took around an hour to get to our apartment, within a big, green and resort-like compound. We had a little trouble getting into our apartment. Apparently arriving on a Saturday is just not a good idea.
After half an hour to explore the apartment and count the bathrooms (we have an unreasonable amount of those) claim bedrooms and have a half-hearted go at unpacking, we were back in the car.
Before nightfall, we would need a few basics: sheets and towels, duvets, pillows and kitchen utensils, all the things we couldn’t fit into our suitcases and which were not provided in our furnished apartment. Like every fresh off the plane expat we headed to Ikea. Ikea is a busy place at the best of times; Ikea on a Saturday morning in Shanghai while jetlagged and with three freaked out children in tow is insane. Even more insane was our decision to have lunch there. There’s a first time for everything; that was the first time we ate meatballs, with chopsticks, standing up, in a very crowded room where we are visibly the only foreigners. It was possibly also the last time.
We filled the rest of the day exploring our compound, we found the local shop and bought some essential supplies – we paid far too much for a couple of bottles of New Zealand wine for no better reason than it was what we drank at home.
Finally, we finished our first day with a celebratory meal out at a local Mexican (!) restaurant, with a lovely Kiwi family in their fourth year in Shanghai. It was incredibly surreal, the complete normalcy of having a drink while the kids try and find nachos on the menu and debate the merits of chilli beans and sour cream. But we were in China – to stay, it was super hot – in July, this was anything but normal.
One month later, our explorations have taken us further and further out into the neighbourhood and into the city, and we have plans to go further afield and see other parts of China soon. Its hard to say we’re settled in yet, our belongings from New Zealand have yet to arrive, and with the children out of school for another six weeks we still feel we’re in transition from our old life into this new one.
Our one-month anniversary has been a normal kind of a day, Ross went to work, Zoe baked a cake – something which fascinated our lovely ayi, who then wanted me to show her all the ingredients used (that we put milk and butter into a cake is apparently astonishing) she has asked for Zoe to show her how to bake, a reciprocation of last week’s dumpling lesson. Leo got a haircut (we all decided, behind his back, that Leo was going first for this – but it all turned out okay despite having very few words in common with the hairstylist, notably ‘short’ and ‘longer’). Ross and Leo have gone on a short errand before dinner – we’re fairly sure they’ll be coming home on a newly purchased motor-scooter any minute now.
Its been a crazy, wonderful, scary and eye-opening month, I thought about listing highlights and lowlights to mark the day, but to be honest, its hard to think of many lowlights. This is a crazy adventure, but we love it.
Then, to celebrate our one-month milestone, we’re going out for dinner, maybe we’ll even have Mexican.
PS. Just as I was posting this, Ross got home with his new toy! So happy to see the helmets 🙂