Wednesday, October 1, 2014

It Is Always Rainy in Shanghai

We arrived in Shanghai at night, the best time to view the city skyline. Hot and steamy, the lights bounced off of the ceiling in the sky with the intensity of the sun at dusk.

The sky has been grey ever since. It has rained every day since we arrived. Encouraging acquaintances say that the rain is not usual.  This is not encouraging, it is in fact easier to face normal than abnormal. My pant legs and shoes are soaked each day on the walk to school. Pants are unbearable when the rain stops and the heat and humidity increase.

We had our new Consulate contacts over for sun downers shortly after our stuff arrived. The Berry Box was a hit, our balcony was perfect, everything was lovely except for the sky. Sundowners in Shanghai are now to be called greydowners.

Chinese women do nothing for my self-esteem.  Their hair is lovely straight, black, and shiny. Figures and posture are perfect. My hair is a mess. Gone are the good hair days of the semi-arid environment. Tall, awkward, frizzy haired, glasses sliding down my nose from the constant oil slick caused by heat and humidity, and I have emotionally returned to middle school.

Trying to get internet installed after any move is a challenge, now try doing it in a language that you don’t understand.
Good at charades I was able to explain the issue to the three people brought in resolve the problem. Mandarin is difficult, super-hard, to be exact. Shanghainese is flat, without tones, which is handy, but speakers sound like they are always angry and shouting. Especially when frustrated over a faulty internet connection, but even when selling shoes.

The written language is no easier. I had the mistaken assumption coming to Shanghai that English would be everywhere and if not English, then pinion. Yeah, that is not the case. Some taxi drivers avoid Westerners, others get angry and dump us on random street corners when we can't respond in Mandarin. When the pickles froze in the fridge I thought to simply turn up the temperature, but wait... it is all in Chinese. Which dial is for the freezer, which is the fridge? Which way is hot and which is cold? Damn characters everywhere!

In a bizarre twist, I am the shortest American woman in town. My whole world is upside down. But I found the Carrefour and bought a pair of wellies and a new phone. Mastered a couple of braids for daily wear. Learned basic mandarin for taxi drivers. Dropped the kids at school and hoped for the best.

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