Tag Archives: Parenting

A mother’s daughter

I often credit my mother for my wandering spirit, my longing to travel, see the world, learn of new places and experience new things.  She moved a lot growing up and she first introduced me to the foreign world and to traveling.  When I was in second and third grade my mom was getting her master’s degree in teaching English as a second language.  With my sister and I, she discussed where we could go as a family for her to teach.  We spoke of the great unknowns places as far apart and distinct as China and Cyprus. We finally landed in Hungary where we spent a year as a family shortly after the fall of the iron curtain.  An experience unlike any other for a nine year old American school girl and only the beginning of my world travels.

I saw Europe with my family at a young age.  I remember meeting my mother’s penpal from (former) East Germany – who she met for the first after over 20 years of snail mail correspondence. I tasted the culture again as an exchange student and tourist between high school and college.  My mom always supported me along the way.  I remember sitting outside Starbucks with her back in 1997 discussing how I wanted to go to Europe as an exchange student.  I remember waiting in the San Fransisco airport for 9 hours after over 30 hours of traveling having not seen my family or friends for an entire year. I called my mother as she was drinking margaritas in Arizona on vacation and told her I was moving from Oregon to Florida on a whim.

I grew up looking up to my mom’s students from all over the world, how they traveled to a foreign land from Asia, the Middle East, South America and Europe to study and learn English in a new culture; yet, provided for us a taste of their own culture.

I remember sitting planning a girls trip with my mom and sister, discussing where to go, where to explore.  I remember zip-lines, rainforests, beaches and white water rafting with my mom and sister through Costa Rico.

I remember the questions, the mothering, the worrying that came when I said I wanted to move to China. But all along, my mom supported me.  I remember her telling me she would come visit me in China, that her and her husband, Matt, were planning on it.  I remember the overwhelmed look of surprise and excitement that came over her face when my sister and I agreed to help fund her trip to China for Christmas this past year.

I went and visited one of my mom’s classes when I was home in July and met some of her Chinese students – now all significantly younger than me  – who all knew because of my mom’s stories that I am her daughter living in China.

My mom supported me along the way and I’m always happy to see her.  When she came to visit me in Corvallis, Oregon for mom’s weekend at OSU, when she would come and see my house in Portland, when I flew home after months or a year of being away, when we took separate flights and met in an airport miles from home to take a trip together, when we explored new countries together, I was always happy to see my mom.  However, never in my life have I been as excited to see my mom as today.

I’ve been talking about it for weeks, months in fact.  I’ve been counting down the days.  I couldn’t sleep last night.  I told my students about it today.  I jumped for joy and spun in circles cheering with excitement in the middle of my office!  I honestly could not contain myself.  Because today, I showed my mom the world.  My mom had been to Corvallis, to Portland, to Beaverton, my mom knows what to expect in the US or in Europe, my mom has traveled and seen the world and our eyes have seen things together for the first time.  But today, my mom came to my world.

My mom and Matt have never been to China, though both have wanted to over the years.  My mom told me the other day, In thinking about all the places in the world I want to go and where I might actually realistically go sometime in my life, China was never on the list.” China was always a dream, but never a reality – because of me, China is a reality.

My mom gets to see where I have been living for the past (almost) 8 months. She gets to walk the streets I walk every day, eat the food I eat, see the faces I see.  She can experience the packed subways, the traffic, the dirty streets, the view from my bedroom, the smells of Shanghai.  She gets to step inside the photographs, the stories, the blogs and take part in my life – a life so different than anything or any place she has known.  She gets to feel, to experience what I feel and experience every day.  What a million words, stories or a thousand pictures could never convey.

My mom is here.  Her and Matt arrived by plane at 2:35pm, I was still at work when they called at 3:05pm to say they made it through security and customs and were off the find the Maglev (the high speed train) to the city.  They had detailed instructions on how to take the train and the subway to get to my subway stations, where I was waiting, hardly containing myself, to greet them – and welcome them to my world.

Welcome home, Mom!  This is my life – this is Shanghai, China.

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Hot, Fat & Crowded

I know I have been posting mostly links to other articles lately (or not posting at all) instead of writing my own long detailed blogs.  But life is busy, not terribly exciting and I find other people’s rambling can at times be quite interesting and entertaining.  So today I will give you some more links to provide insight into my life (and the life of many others) in Shanghai – with my (rather extensive) commentary of course.  (And, yes, I am putting off my desperately needed study of the Chinese language just for your reading pleasure…)

Hot:

I am hearing many complaints over facebook about the weather in Oregon this spring.  Apparently, it is a long cold spring with only a few days so far in 2011 even reaching above 60 degrees Fahrenheit. The excessive rain has caused flood warnings, and there were cooler temperatures than there were in Alaska for Memorial Day weekend. (Link).

But we have had quite the opposite in China.  The spring was shorter than normal, the rain was minimal and the heat is coming on strong.  Despite the last week or two being relatively cool (relative to the 90-97 degree weather in the beginning of May), yesterday and today are in the 80’s and this summer is said to be a scorcher.  Plus – Shanghai has had the longest dry period it’s faced in the past 138 years!

“Rain, rain go away” was a common phrase when I was in Portland, but here I am delighted when I feel a drop or two of acid rain as I know it clears some of the muck from the skies.  Read about Shanghai’s lack of rain here: Link and notice the quote, “It is predicted that the city will face unusually high temperatures over the coming summer months, according to the report.”  Great… because I wasn’t already fearing the hot, muggy TYPICAL Shanghai summer.  Now, I get to experience the unusually hot Shanghai summer.

Not only will the summer temperatures be “unusually high” but so will the need for air conditioners.  Air conditioners that the city doesn’t have the capacity to generate electricity for, partially because of the effects the drought has had on hydro-power generation.  According to the Shanghai Municipal Electric Power Company, Shanghai could face shortages of up to 1.1 Gigawatts of electricity.  That is (by the way) almost 4% of the expected peak electricity demand for our little city of 23 million.  What do electricity shortages mean for the fine residents of Shanghai?  Well, most likely turning off air conditioners during those unusually hot summer days and department stores and factories my be suspending operations during peak times over the summer.  Shanghai’s situation though is said to be better than neighboring provinces who face even greater shortages.  Links: Preparing for Summer Power Shortages, Grid forecasts.

Fat:

It is old news that China has surpassed Japan and is now the second largest economy in the world following the United States; and it is speculated China will in the coming years be a threat to the United States’ first position as economic superpower.  What may not be as commonly known, however, is the other area in which China is taking on America.  Obesity.  China has gone from a famine stricken third world country to having one of the highest obesity rates among children in the world.  In the past decade, obesity rates in Chinese children have increased by 24.4 percent.  WOW!  (Link)

Quite frankly, this doesn’t surprise me.  I had wondered about this myself.  Not only have I noticed an increase in my waistline – but I see the way these people eat.  Grease and sugar are abundant in almost everything available and Shanghai is (in my opinion) snack food heaven.  (The snack food section, candies, chips, crackers, cookies, nuts, dried fruit, etc., of my grocery store takes up probably a fourth of space allocated for food.) Not only are the infiltration of soft drinks and fast food restaurants padding the waistlines of children.  But they are constantly being fed – and they are not (as the article points out) constantly active.

At my school we have fat kids, and a lot of chubby kids.  A couple are cute & chubby – when they are 3-5 they can get away with being cute & chubby – others are just plain disgustingly fat.  And these are higher income families – not the low social economic status families the article talks about as having the highest obesity rates.  But I observe all the parents and grandparents at my school running into the classroom during the break to shove food down the throats of their children.  Kids always have snacks in class and getting them to put away their cookies, candy, ice creams, sugary soft drinks and chips at the end of the break is nearly impossible.  The grandmothers will stay in the classroom after the bell has rung holding a bottle for their grandbabies to take that last long swig of a drink, or shove the last bit of food into their kids mouth. It is as if they may starve to death in the next 40 minutes of class if they aren’t adequately fed as much as humanly possible during the break.

I have seen it on subways, grandmothers literally shoving food into 3 year old’s mouths.  Snack food. The child will close his mouth, shake his head and turn away, but grandma can always get a little more in there.

These foods – they must be healthy, right?  I don’t know, take a look at the nutritional facts.  Oh WAIT… in China, while there are nutritional facts listed on many products, they DO NOT list sugar.  They aren’t required to list it and they just don’t.  I struggled for the longest time trying to figure out how much sugar was in stuff – then I realized I can’t, because it isn’t listed.  Buy a bottle of Coke – it will tell you calories, sodium, protein and fat but there is no mention of sugar.  On ANYTHING.  My box of corn flakes which has the nutritional facts listed in 20 languages – does not list sugar.  Although, it is the second ingredient after corn.

Speaking of food…  Food scandals are daily news here.  I saw an article about cucumbers making people sick on BBC and I rolled my eyes, then I was surprised to read it wasn’t in China but in Germany.  The milk – we all heard about it years ago – and we are still hearing about it today.  Chemicals, melamine in milk, pigs fed supplements to increase their lean body weight which also happen to cause cancer, grocery stores changing the expiration dates on food to keep it on the shelf longer, watermelons randomly exploding in the fields because they are juiced up with some many growth hormones. (Link) Now, I chuckle as I read this latest bit of news: Restaurants Face Official Test of Food Additives.  I think the first sentence of the article sums up the irony quite nicely, “SHANGHAI Food and Drug Administration said today that it will carry out a citywide campaign to ban local restaurants from using prohibited additives…

Banning prohibited additives.  What an unusual and unique concept… you know, that might just work.  Who are we kidding??

The best thing about hot pot restaurants are the bars of sauces, oils and ingredients where you can create your own special sauce.  My favorite is the big bowl of white powder labeled monosodium glutamate.  Yum, yum!

Crowded:

I live in a country with over 1.3 billion people.

I live in a city with over 23 million people.

I live in a district (that in 2002) had 600,000 people and was said to be one of the most densely populated districts in the world.

I live in an apartment complex with around 15 buildings.

I live in a 31 story building with around 125 apartments.

Every day I ride on one of the busiest subway system in the world that carries well over a billion passengers per year.

Do I really need to tell you that it is crowded here?


Links

An interesting article from BBC News reporter Rebecca Marston on how the rich in China are spending money, you should definitely read it.  (Link: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-13284481)

As the article states, “As a wine lover it is a horror story…”

Another interesting article (that based on the comments had a bit of controversy surrounding it) was done by Korean-American Wesley Yang in the New York Magazine.  It is a long one, but if you have the time to read it – it is very interesting, whether or not you agree with his viewpoints.  (Link: http://nymag.com/news/features/asian-americans-2011-5/)  I found it interesting because it spoke to some of the things I have been discussing in my day to day life here in China with others I know.

One being the tiger moms (or tiger parents, tiger grandparents) who push their children so-so hard in their studies and education.  I think this is a topic I could devote an entire blog post too when I have more time to get into it.  The other topic being Asian men when it comes to dating. As a western woman in China, I doubt I will ever be approached by an Asian man.  An (Asian) friend said another western girl she knows mentioned the same thing, in over a year in China, Chinese men never approached her.  Chinese guys don’t talk to me. They aren’t as outgoing and direct as Western guys, they don’t speak their mind and go for what they want which this article states affects both careers and their dating life.

And a quick picture:

Capitalism & Communism in (not-so) perfect harmony


Oh, dear China!

Yesterday, while waiting for a subway to go to Ikea, I witness a small child (maybe 1 or 2 years old) misbehaving by running away from his parents towards the train tracks.  After pulling him back a couple times and yelling at him, when the child started to run off again – the father kicked him.  Awesome parenting.

Hong Kong’s awesome parenting was summed up quite nicely in this picture (then again, she may not be from Hong Kong).  But this lovely animal was roaming around by some parked tour busses – this lady, with small child in tow – walked right up to it, getting about 6 inches from its face, to get a closer look.  Brilliant.

Please approach large wild animals with child

While I’ve known for sometime about the traditional substitute for diapers in China (crotch-less pants or clothes – allowing kids to be free to relieve themselves at anytime) and I have seen them worn, I never experienced them quite like I did today.  (They are becoming far less used in the major metropolitan areas of China such as Shanghai and are being replaced by diapers.)  I noticed this particular boy (and I’m sure this one was a boy) because he was sitting with his legs spread in his stroller, and as his mother helped to make sure he was situated properly, he peed on the sidewalk in front of a major grocery store.

Today, my first attempt at purchasing fruit in a grocery store failed.  I didn’t have bar codes on my fruit.  What happened to scales at the cash register or a little sticker with a number to punch in?  Come on, the stinkin’ oranges were INDIVIDUALLY wrapped in cellophane, but still no dice.  I wasn’t about to get out of line, find my way back to the produce section and figure out how to barcode my fruit when I was already worried about carrying home the amount of stuff I purchased.  A simple sigh & “bu yao” (don’t want) kept my fruit at the counter and me sipping on Emergen-C for my vitamins.

In other news, the holiday is approaching!  Chinese New Year (based on the lunar calendar) falls on February 3rd this year and we will be entering the year of the Rabbit.  For the occasion, I get 11 (unpaid) days off work! Of course, most people I know will be journeying home to be with their families for this time.  But I plan on making the most of my free time in Shanghai by exploring the city, becoming more familiar with my surrounding and perhaps finally ridding myself of this cold that has been trying its best to get me down for over a week now.  My work week this week originally consisted of Mon/Wed/Thurs/Fri working 4pm-9pm with Tuesday off and then the break for the holidays starting on Saturday.  If this were to remain the case, I would have observed 1.5 weeks of classes then I would have 1.5 weeks off and come back on February 9th and thrown into teaching my very first class after vacation.  However, most of the Kid Castle schools DO have class this Saturday and there is teacher who will be absent, so I was called today and asked if I would like to teach 3 classes that day.  I guess it’s time to sink or swim!


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