The sun is setting on my final day in Shanghai. I have been here exactly 6 months tomorrow; the day that we leave. Thinking about my time here I can only smile. I feel so privileged to have had the opportunity to live here. When I left Australia in July I was verging on the edge of anxiety overload. I couldn't sleep, I felt as though and I know that I was not functioning well at work. I was pretty certain I would never teach again. I was done. I needed a change and thought that I would reinvent myself here. As I walked the streets of Shanghai I learned, purely by observing people living out their lives, that I had no idea what hardship was. I was put back into my western box. I have had the privilege of not working for 6 full months and for this I am so thankful to my husband. He has allowed me to take this time, forgoing many luxuries so that I could regroup, dabble in some blogging, switch off and regenerate my mind.
I have no friends here. I don’t speak to anyone during the day. I simply don’t know how. The apartment we lived in was quiet and there was no TV. I have spent way too much time playing ridiculous games on my iPad. I can masterfully waste an entire day. It is art form. I have enjoyed watching a family of stray kittens grow and another family join them on the roof below to take up residence and share the food and water we put out for them each afternoon. It has been very simple living here yet at the same time very challenging.
China is a place of complete contrasts. Very rich living right next door to the very poor. Individually lovely but as a community, self-serving, greedy and unfriendly. Stunning buildings littering the skyline next to some so old and dirty it is unimaginable how people can live in such conditions. Such sadness and oppression written into the fibre of the faces of the older generation and the less wealthy, yet so joyful when they are dancing and singing in the many parks around Shanghai. Ingrained pride for their nation but not proud enough to keep the streets, air and waterways clean. Or to care for their natural environment and animals. A country filled with fascinating history that they are not interested in preserving particularly well because they see the future as the only thing to look towards. A nation of workers that spend 12 hours a day at work but in fact only do about 3 hours of productive activity. Looking good for the boss is all that matters. Saving face, always saving face.
I've been spat on, snotted on, had to jump vomit and other bodily excretions on the street, worked out which puddles on the sidewalks are water and which ones ore from a leaking sewage pipe and been hit by a scooter on the street. I am good at pointing, making the Chinese believe I understand them, ignoring being stared at and shaming people into putting their equipment away at the gym. I am now particularly skilled at storming my way through crowds of people with my elbows out and giving an extra little nudge to those that are glued to their phones blocking the way as they barely put one foot in front of the other. I never apologise to those I bump into. There is no point you just don’t do that here. I am a little more hard-nosed than I was. Don’t ever utter the word entitlement to me because you will be met with fury. We are not entitled to anything we are simply and graciously privileged to be born in and live in the countries that we do.
I have reinvented myself but not in the way that I thought I would. I can now sleep a full night. I am excited to start work at my new school next week. I have energy. My mind is for the most part peaceful (apart from the times when I am in a creative spurt). My reinvention has simply been a realisation of what is important.
Thank you for reading my blogs. I am always amazed and humbled that people actually take the time out of their days to read my stories. I hope that you have enjoyed them as much as I have enjoyed writing them. Sharing a little part of me with you and the world has been enlightening and I am thankful.
So here I am at an ending but also at a beginning. A better person and a different person and a person so very thankful for my privileged life.