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The five stages of grief. I’ve heard it all before. As expats, we are warned about it  – Denial & Isolation, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and Acceptance. They are lurking around every corner. Our international school held a meeting about it. Articles in expat magazines are dedicated to it. Other bloggers blog about it. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, click here. Or here. Or here. (Some of these sites use different terminology, but you’ll get the gist of it.)

I lost my mother many years ago and there have been many situations in my life where I had to process through these stages. It’s not fun, people. My husband says I’ve hit the “wall” and I’m now experiencing this phenomenon. Maybe I have. Maybe I am. Maybe it’s not such a bad thing… life is a journey and perhaps my path has just become a bit rocky?

Am I unhappy? No! Not at all. In fact, I’m frustrated that I even have to move through these stages. Again. I’m a little tired of it all.  Right now, I’m a bit isolation with a splash of anger. But at least I recognize it!  I’ve kept to myself for the past couple of weeks, taking care of sick kids and adjusting to my chaotic new life. Throughout this post I will insert the stage that pertains to my thoughts…

Let’s talk about how my life has changed here in Shanghai:

Driving. We have a driver named Jason. He’s wonderful. Respectful, funny, helpful and is kind to our kids. He is also a maniacal driver, which is the norm here in Shanghai. If not, we would never get anywhere!  I am not used to having a driver and believe I never will be. It sounds glamorous, but it’s not. I have to plan everything. I can’t just hop in the car and run to Target. (Wait, there is no Target here. Another way my life has changed.) I also share him with my husband which is not really an issue, rather something else to throw into the mix of my planning.  It makes daily living a bit more of a challenge. I’m not surprised by how many expats just order food etc. from online markets. It just takes 3x longer to get anything done here. That’s life and I just need to accept that. (Denial.)

Shoes. I walk EVERYWHERE. Or ride my bike. Heels and bikes don’t mix. (Unless you’re Chinese. Then you can rock the heels on the bike/scooter. I’m just not there yet.) For now, I’m wearing Toms but with winter coming I need to find sensible shoes. For my enormous laowai feet. (Size 9 1/2.) My driver says there is a shoe market that caters to giant expat feet. Heading there next week to search for some walking shoes. My dilemma is – I don’t REALLY want any sensible shoes. I’m being resistant.  (Denial? Anger?) Maybe I SHOULD wear heels when riding my bike while carrying wine. In the water bottle holder. Who knew wine would fit there? I learn something new every day.

Wine on bike

Cleanliness. We remove our shoes in the house for a reason. The Chinese believe (very strongly) in expelling phlegm from their bodies. I’ve read that they do so because they want to expel evil spirits from their throats.  Whatever. They do it because they are always coughing from the pollution and smoking. So, they spit. Everywhere. I just don’t get it. (Anger?) Then there’s the public urination. (ANGER.) So, shoes off people. I’m ok with this, except now that it’s getting colder we all need slippers! I need to head to the copy market and pick up some FUGGS. Fake UGGS.

Pollution. Ahhh…air. Don’t take it for granted. This week has been bad here in Shanghai. AQI over 250 – nothing compared to Beijing – but horrible nonetheless. This is bad, bad pollution. Indoor recess kind of pollution. PM 2.5. Particles small enough to invade your lung tissue and never, ever leave. This is not pollen or dust. Rather teeny tiny cancer-causing particles of doom. And the smell. When I was riding my bike home from school last night with my daughter, the brown air just smelled so bad. AQI was around 280. Gross. (Anger.) It’s saddening because our family will leave here someday, escape the poisonous air. The Chinese can’t. They live here, and don’t notice how horrible it is. It’s become their reality and that just upsets me (Depression?)  I’ve been wheezing and coughing this week, and have two children doing the same. I ordered Vogmasks and hope they arrive soon.


Food. Can you really grow organic foods in China? Doubtful. Some farms do their best with what they have, but food here is a concern. I can’t over think it. I choose to buy from a variety of different sources, to vary our diets. (Denial?) Certain grocery chains here have had issues with chicken and other meats being out of date.  Now my ayi has me worried about bird flu and it’s effect on chicken. She told me yesterday that chicken was bad to eat again. (If you aren’t up on your Chinese food scares, the bird flu affects chicken meat and most people did not eat chicken earlier this year. Or pork because of the dead pigs in the river. It’s been a banner year, China.) Apparently, bird flu (H7N9) has returned down south. She’s worried that history will repeat itself and wants to keep my family healthy. I love that about her. As I have been sitting here, wallowing in my “phases” she has brought me tea and checked on me. Twice.  On the flip side- there are so many delicious veggies I had never heard of before and didn’t know I liked. Lotus root? Chinese eggplant? This thing?:

Huge veggie

All deliciously prepared by Yufen. Yesterday she made me a seafood lunch:

Seafood Lunch

She said Chinese people eat the fish head to make them smart. I chose not to, but both dishes were very tasty. The Chinese prepare so many dishes for one meal! Yufen tells me that simple, Western cooking is better. For one family dinner at her home, she might prepare 8 different dishes. Like Thanksgiving, every day.

Starting over. Nobody here knows really me. That’s so hard. Making new friends is hard work. (Isolation.) I’m trying to keep busy, making plans with friends. I’ve met some amazing women and men here (shout out to my guy tais!) and I’m working on my circle. People I can depend on for help, encouragement, support and listening. We’re all in the same boat and looking to love our new home here in Shanghai.

Oh, China. You are an amazing country with beautiful people and so much history. I’m just trying to get to know you better.  I truly want to understand you. Without judgement. Without negativity. From a place of Acceptance. Just the same way I want my new friends to understand me.