Street of Eternal Happiness

The “Street of Eternal Happiness” is a book set in Shanghai, and written by fellow Minnesotan Rob Schmitz,

This book really spoke to me. I enjoyed it so much I would recommend it to everyone, especially all westerners who are living in Shanghai.

The book includes excellent historical details on China, Shanghai in particular, and the ever-evolving culture. I’ve heard from many people how much Shanghai has changed, and is still changing, but I hadn’t really considered the impact that change has on cultural differences until I read the book.

Rob compared Shanghai to NYC, and how “raw” NYC still was over a hundred years ago.

Between reading the book, and thinking about Rob’s descriptions of Shanghai and its people, and having lived here now for a couple of months, I have found that my attitudes have definitely softened.

The first subway opened in NYC in 1904. The first subway line opened in Shanghai in 1994, and the system grew quickly. Average weekday ridership in NYC was just under 6 million in 2016. Average ridership in Shanghai is 10 million per day. Subway etiquette is still evolving in Shanghai. There is lots of pushing and shoving here, and I try to set a good example, not that anyone is paying any attention to me. I am often the only person who isn’t on their phone.

Shanghai is…”the most populated city of the most populated country on the planet” and I have discovered that patience goes a long way towards harmony with my neighbors.

My favorite part of the book are the stories of people who lived and/or worked on the Street of Eternal Happiness, currently known as Changle Lu. Living in a city with more than 24 million other people means that I will only ever know a very, very small percentage of the population. And, since my knowledge of the language isn’t good, right now I have very little chance of really getting to know my neighbors. Rob got to know several families on the street, and did a great job of sharing their stories.

It was also a good reminder that we all do have a story.

My story right now is in Shanghai, and it is still evolving. Thanks for joining me on this journey!

Week 1 as an expat in China

One week down, and approximately 78 to go. Seriously though, I think I accomplished lots during my first week in Shanghai.

My first challenge was to get over the jetlag. The flight here was my longest ever – 14 hours from Detroit to Shanghai, after a flight from Minneapolis to Detroit. I drank lots of water, got some rest, and still had a bad case of jetlag. Part of my struggle is that it gets dark here earlier in the evening than at home. China doesn’t observe DST. It gets light very early in the morning, which I love, but I also love long summer nights with lots of light, and that doesn’t happen here. Sunset tonight will be 7 pm.

I have really struggled with the heat and humidity. And it rains a lot. I hate sweating. My apartment has an indoor pool, which is kept at a great temperature. I have been in the pool every day since I arrived – in part for exercise, but also because it cools me off to be in the pool.

I have two cats and one dog at home in Minnesota. DH and I discussed bringing one or two of the cats over to Shanghai, and in the ended decided they should stay home. The three animals are really bonded, and I didn’t want to break that up. But I wanted a pet, so we went to a pet adoption event in Shanghai back in April, and met a cat named Rafael. And he is now our cat! We brought him home on my second day, and I am having so much fun getting to know him.

Even though I just arrived, I’ve already planned a trip, because that is who I am and what I like to do. It will be a quick trip next weekend to Tokyo for DH’s birthday.

I started language lessons. Learning Mandarin feels a bit like climbing Mt Everest, but I have a great tutor. Wish me luck. It seems like this will be one of my biggest challenges.

One of my other challenges will be the patience required with the slow internet here. Cue the old dial-up sound from the 1990’s.

I am still in withdrawal from giving up diet Mt Dew. I haven’t spent all day, every day looking for my favorite pop/soda, but I have looked for it.

When you think of China, what animal do you think of? Giant Pandas! I made a quick trip to the Shanghai Zoo this week. I didn’t stay long because of the heat, but I saw two pandas, stopped by the giraffes, and saw a few other animals also. Most of the animals were napping. I want to go back, but I will wait until the weather is cooler.

Wait…not done yet…

I joined a weekly get together at a coffee shop of Shanghai’s American Club. As an introvert, going to events like this are outside of my comfort zone, but I am so glad I did. I will be joining this expat group, and want to volunteer with them also. I met six awesome women and look forward to getting to know them, and the rest of the club, over the coming weeks and months.

I know I will encounter Shang “lows” as well as Shang “highs” while I am here. I am keeping myself entertained laughing at translation errors, and cultural differences/oddities.

Child-sized toilets. They are cute, but would you let a child that small go to the bathroom alone? There really isn’t room for the child and an adult in the stall.

I’ve bought milk in bags in Canada, but they were at least one liter. This is the smallest bag of milk I’ve ever seen.

Most signs in Shanghai are in English, even if the words are awkward and not what we would use in the US.

I hate snakes! I didn’t try the Smiley Fotato Grid. I assume it is potato, but couldn’t really work out what the dish would be.

I’ve learned the number 4 is unlucky in China. But where is 13? There are three other apartments on my floor- numbered 1-3, but I am in apartment #5, instead of 4.