Today…

…sees the rather dull blog entry about my current baby situation. In true Anna style, my child has proven to be obstinate from its abode in utero and failed to get in the right position for birth from the expected 34 weeks.

Finally I return from the quacks today elated that the blighter got into position just in time for the scan today – hurrah! This means the Chinese doctors do not get to cut me open, and with a 67% Cesarean section rate here (it’s safer than natural, and midwifery is almost non existent), it was almost a certainty. So, at 37 weeks and 2 days, the countdown begins.

The question now is “how do I play delivery?”

I am a massive hippy at heart and would ideally like to fire the bugger out at home, on a rug/in the bath/at my husband, but home-birth is illegal in China. Sure, you can engineer it, but you would have to then get to hospital carrying a baby and placenta in a bag to get all the official docs and the ambulance system here is complete bollocks, mainly due to traffic conditions.

As it stands, I think I will try and wait as long as I can before hailing a cab and hotfooting it over to pop the baby out. I’ve already turned down epidural as I am determined to feel this one come out. I am fully up with hypnobirthing, which may surprise you, so with any luck I’ll be able to do it. Of course, I am deluding myself into believing it’ll be out like a bullet, but then with the incentive of a martini at the end of it all, who knows?!

Duibuqi!!!! (Sorry)

I have been bad. I haven’t blogged.

If I am really honest, I just haven’t been able to work up much of a thirst for it over the last few months, what with trying to build a new life, keeping a toddler occupied and baking a bun in the oven.

So, what’s been happening?

I’m nearly there on the second child, it is due in around 4 weeks but measuring quite big so could come early with a bit of luck. First child is doing well, he loves our Ayi and they are out right now giving me the opportunity to write this and sit down. The flat is fine, becoming more homely as I begin to nest in earnest so to speak.

The great news is the sun is out. Shanghai is incredibly rainy in winter and early spring, and given the lack of greenery, it does nothing for the city either practically or aesthetically. It really is enough to give you a slapping of S.A.D if you’re that way inclined.

I have been reading alot of books about China, which has basically woken me up and explained so many things and answered so many questions. This country is amazing, not always for good reason, but I urge you to look into it if you have any kind of appetite. Ok, so I’m not talking about high-brow literature here, some memoir, some fiction, but all based around facts. I’ve stuck to the last 70 years which gives the best insight into your average Chinese, the cities and the culture. Books I have read have been: Red Dust by Ma Jian, Wild Swans by Jung Chang and Life and Death in Shanghai by Nien Chen. To be honest, what makes these books infinitely more interesting is living here and how much they explain things, I don’t know how entertaining they will be to anyone else, but I’d still recommend.

What do they explain? I think I’ll leave that to another post, but given my earlier protestations about lack of manners etc, I have now mellowed. China and the Chinese population is like an abused child, inherently good but having been so badly treated for so long, is trying desperately now to trust itself, its leaders and the world. Of course, this story is still running, there is no conclusion…

My first Ex-pat Party

So, my lovely friend Megan was kid enough to offer to babysit tonight – I shall tell you more about Megan later – anyway we had been invited out to a Casino night, a charity event which was just down the road.

The inviters were the Mr’s Boss and wife, who have been incredibly helpful in offering lots of advice etc since touching down. It was in a street which was incredibly sohoesque, with neon signed bars and girls hanging out of the doors beckoning us in.

In any case I was looking forward to the night out and found my feet quite quickly at the Blackjack table in fact much more so than socialising with the other expats. They feel older, wiser I suppose, and really not that interested in meeting new folk as I’m sure they have to do it all the time given the turnover of folk. This whole forced friendship thing just isn’t me, especially when I feel like I have to do all the running.

Anyway, I won loads on Blackjack, then realised it really wouldn’t be cricket to cash it in when the night was in aid of children with muscular dystrophy. I quickly lost my thirst for gambling and therefore the night. Being 3 months pregnant I lack the enthusiasm that is generally aroused by a free bar…

 

It’s been a while…

…and things have moved on.

We now have an apartment and we’ve been in it for 2 weeks, it feels so much better to know where your (allbeit for 1 year) roots are. We, as of today have an “Ayi”, who will help me with cleaning and childcare, it feels great.

It’s been a trial settling in, and I have learned some hard truths about living in a different culture, please do remember this is coming from an uptight, overtly British background.

The majority of the bad  Chinese behaviour is all perfectly explainable if you realise that there really is no such thing as manners here, and it’s all about looking cool no matter what (they call it ‘saving face’).

So basically pushing in, spitting, shouting at people (and them shouting back), lying to say you’ve done something when you haven’t, burping, being horrible to people is de rigeur.
You can’t ask for help because they think you’re an imbecile, so you have to directly say “get me some water”.
It’s dog eat dog.
Charity really isn’t done here, the Chinese believe you can always find things to do.

But what keeps me going is learning to work with it, and having a win day, when I don’t feel bad for saying “NO” in the face of an old woman pushing in the supermarket counter, or managing to buy something from a street vendor and laughing in his face at the original cost quoted. It does however become completely undermined when you see a 6 year old curling a turd onto the pavement.

There are kind of nice bizarre things though (well apart from when it affects you), they all go to Ikea for a day out and lounge all over the displays feeding their kids etc. They also think it’s an excellent dating location. They LOVE pyjamas and do also love to wear them out, with high heels etc.
They LOVE kids (sometimes a bit to the detriment of you trying to get anywhere), which means you can go to any restaurant with em, they get free stuff etc. I don’t like them touching and taking photos though.
They have catered so well to westerners that the majority of folk (who don’t have kids) live the life of a spoiled royal.
It’s cheap to hire people so you can do fuck all if you want, and to be honest, there’s alot of folk looking for work.
There are extremely poor people who have found the most amazing ways to try and make a living, the cardboard collectors drive around in on their trikes ringing bells of different tones to encourage you to give your cardboard to them, I saw one the other day who had found himself a siren, good man.

I’m warming to it, I don’t really know why. I think it’s a question of not letting it beat me.

Hen Hao!

Oi oi! Ni Hao!

Pick whichever you prefer, although you’re only likely to enjoy the Oi Oi if you’re from Portsmouth.

Well, it’s been a rather dull couple of days, I’ve seen a few flats, some nice, some gopping, nothing to literally write home about.

I thought I’d take some time to talk about the food. Other than family and friends it’s pretty much the centre of my universe. I too long to be a cool food blogger, amateur masterchef with real creativity and pizazz with effortless knowledge of the cool places to eat. What I am is (usually) quite a good eater, not very discerning, but will have a go at most things. Until now.

I know it’s been done, knocking Asian food, Dog in a Basket etc etc. and in my defence I am suffering with extreme daily nausea at the moment. It’s has been a real struggle adjusting to the Chinese food and cooking methods. I don’t just mean Chinese cuisine, but also the other types of cuisine cooked in Shanghai.

I am disappointed in myself really that I haven’t tried anything new yet, but my few experiences so far of Hunan Chicken and the hotel’s room service Nasi Goreng have pretty much put me off. Having said that, beleaguered working pappa was offered some deep-fried ducks heads int he office the other day, and in my hungrier moments analysing this dish, I do think “mmmm…I bet it’s like gnawing off crispy duck skin”. I would probably stop short of sucking out the brains though.

I’ve seen the street vendors selling their wares, and the prude in me is winning with the whole hygiene over experience debate, in my defence again this was just after witnessing my first Chinese child curling a rather large poo onto the pavement.

There is time though, and I’m sure my confidence will grow.

I will not, however, be buying my meat from the local Carrfour.

Brighton in Shanghai

Hurrah, a day of nice surprises. Well, one surprise, and it will teach me to ignore the Rough Guide and Lonely Plant as of course it was clearly illustrated in both.

To cut a long story short, in my desperation to find people of like mind with knowledge of Shanghai I joined a site called Shanghai Mamma’s. Sounds twee, but is actually a brilliant source of information and comforting ears through their forums. Anyway, I was assigned a buddy and today we travelled to meet her at her job in a cafe in an area called Taikang Lu.

Taikang Lu sits on the bottom of the former French Concession (which I think is the only foreign concession remaining in its original state) which is known to be quite fashionable. I will expand upon this another time.

As the driver dropped me off, I couldn’t help but think he’d got it wrong and he was sending me off up a back alley to my doom. What I faced was this:

Apparently it’s an old living area which was scheduled for demolition, but some artists and investors rescued it. It’s basically full of galleries, restaurants, bars and boutiques selling all sorts of miscellany.

It made me feel quite at home and really quite positive about finding other gems and not feeling so shell shocked about moving to what has seemed like Coruscant (Star Wars reference) at times. We bought a tin wind up frog which mini man thinks is better than raisins, and despite the fact we failed to meet up with my buddy, went home with a spring in our step.

Tomorrow we brave the estate agents, wish us luck.

Good Evening

I say evening, well, it is actually the evening here despite my body telling me otherwise. Frankly, I’d already written off jetlag as something you’d get over in a few days; a take it on the chin and muscle on through kind of thing. So it has punched me repeatedly in the face for a week to teach me a lesson. And what a week it has been.

We moved to Shanghai, China from London, UK, last Tuesday. Three of us.

One of us is very small and hasn’t got a clue what’s going on, other than “it’s dark and everyone is sleeping and why is my belly rumbling, WOW a Dinosaur…”

The remaining two (one of which is me, I’ll try not to lapse into third person too often, I promise, I’m not roylaty – yet), are myself and my chap. He will be working, I will be child raising and sampling what I hope will be the delights of China with my smattering of Mandarin.

Since Tuesday we really have broken ourselves in gently. It has run as follows:

Tuesday

Arrived with far too much baggage for driver and VW car. Travelled in convoy with driver and said VW following our cab to our temporary flat.

Collapsed in heap and slept.

Wednesday

Walked around people’s park, wondered where the rest of it was. Wondered if I would ever walk on grass again.

Slept.

Thursday

Went to the local Carrefour supermarket. This began ok, we found the correct travel plugs, got into minor trouble with concession cashier for nearly walking off without paying in the correct place for magazines. Went to grocery section, tried really hard to battle against the rising nausea to buy things, sadly the nausea just built as we went from aisle to aisle of incredibly strong smelling goods. Found western goods section, stayed for a bit, threw some pizzas in the trolley, deep breath, move on. Sadly the final area was the fresh produce, and it is fresh. Tanks of fish, big fish, crammed into small tanks, some slowly dying; next to this the meat and dried fish section. We didn’t buy any meat.

Went home, didn’t really eat much.

Friday

Went to western supermarket (more western than the Carrefour), found chocolate and cried with relief.

Saturday

Went out for dinner early to miss anyone trying to have a cool night out, sadly so did lots of other people. The reason for our caution proved us right by disagreeing with our plans for the night. We left quickly.

Sunday

Found Marks and Spencer’s, Gap, H&M and walked home, knowing that  had found somewhere I wouldn’t feel clumsy and stupid.

Monday

Wished luck to working party as he headed off for his first day. Decided to find some grass to let the mini man have a run around. Found some in the form of Jing’An Park, and he did run. Well, sort of. The thing is that he’s a little western baby and the general public being a children loving lot find him especially interesting. The make this known to him constantly. It’s ok, but ti’s hard to tell him off for biting you when 60 pairs of eyes are watching you.

Tuesday

And here we are.

Today has been an experience. For everyone that wants to stay for longer than 3 months in China, you have to have a medical. This is handled West of the main downtown area, in a district called Hongquiao. It’s almost feels like a burb as there are huge compounds of villa style houses and wide streets with trees and bushes.

I digress, anyway, there’s a small wait as we go in, and then we’re sent to strip off. Sadly, I’m not exactly the build of an Asian lady so the robe is inadequate to say the least, and my only protection is a pair of old pants. Luckily I am wheeling the chimp boy in his pram so hide my bulk behind him.

From here on in though it was quick, efficient and almost enjoyable to experience. We had everything from weight, height, eyes & blood pressure measured to an EKG, full organ ultrasound, X-rays, blood tests and something that required being squished around by a doctor.

It took less than an hour.

We get the results next week, but to my amusement Working pappa was told by a curt female Dr “YOU HAVE FATTY LIVER!” Apparently all westerners turn up with this, boozers that we are…

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