Sunday, April 15, 2007

Journal Entries

Our first week in Shanghai was an overwhelming one. Fresh off the plane and battling jet lag, we faced some interesting challenges. Phil was dealing with a lot of chaos at work, expectations from people who could not comprehend the immense challenges of an overseas move, and a nasty bought with the flu. We expected to move into our new home the day after we arrived in Shanghai and take the weekend to move in and get acclimated, but the following morning greeted us with a change of plans. For various reasons, we found out we would not move into our home until the following Monday at the earliest, so we switched gears and took the weekend to focus on getting over jet lag, as well as figuring some things out in the city. The next week brought about some positive movement. We moved into our house, navigated our way through some local stores to purchase household necessities, and Phil started his first official day at the office. On Wednesday of the first week, we got to meet with our relocation representative for one last time. It helped us refresh our knowledge of the city and she also helped me do some shopping. Let me tell you, this was very helpful. One, I had extra hands to help me carry things, but two; we had a driver and vehicle with which to transport the new purchases. Shopping in Shanghai is no small feat. If you do not have a car or driver, simple day to day activities, become very challenging. Even having a car and driver can be challenging in this city with insane traffic jams and few parking spaces. A simple task like going to the grocery store for a few items can take half of the day to accomplish. Here is an idea of the time some “average” activities can take here in Shanghai.

- Picking up a loaf of bread: average round trip time is 1 hour 40 minutes
- Heading to you favorite bookstore for a cappuccino and a 30 minute read: 3 hours
- Going to Carrefour for a serious grocery shopping experience: 3 hours 30 minutes
- Having a driver: priceless

Thursday and Friday of our first week, we had our cultural training. Our trainer was an interesting man. He was originally from Mexico, but had lived in multiple countries, spoke 5 different languages, had a degree in marine biology, and worked in television. He has been living in China for the last 10 years, plans on making China his home, and most importantly, knows what it is like to be an expatriate in this foreign land. Of the many useful and interesting information he shared with us, one of the more amusing and true was an acronym known as T.I.C.

“T.I.C.” stands for “This Is China”. This sense of amusement, bewilderment, outright frustration, and indignation known lovingly as T.I.C., is an inevitable part of life when living in China. As an example, Phil and I were waiting for an elevator one day. We were the only 2 people waiting in this lobby for the elevator when someone walked up, got on the very elevator we were clearly and patiently waiting for, and instead of holding the doors open, she started to push the door close button before we could get on. It’s in that moment that “This Is China” echoes through your mind. Or, there is the ever common experience when you are standing 6 inches from an object in a store, deciding whether you should purchase it, and someone amazingly fits between you and that very object and decides they will purchase it in your honor (well, not really). Again, you think, “This Is China”. Then, there is the call you receive that someone is coming right now to deliver an item you really need, and they show up 4 hours later. I could go on and on and perhaps I will write a future blog with T.I.C moments as a theme, but for now I will stop a possibly endless rant.

All of this to say, China is full of surprises and challenges. Phil and I have faced many of these challenges since we have arrived. I will say though, that we wouldn’t trade this experience for anything. It has been stretching and amazing and we have only been here for 5 weeks. I know the future will hold challenges, but these first few months of an overseas move are full of so many new challenges. One of the biggest things I have learned is to keep a sense of humor and learn to move at the pace of your new country of residence. Sometimes this is easier said than done.

1 comment:

Will said...

TIC - very amusing, and in so much it has inspired me to adapt TIM into my life. Tim (This is Majesty) will help explain away the strange happenings at work, like when my bosses' wife calls and asks me to go buy her a new cell phone, or when three of us pile in my car to drive to the other partner's house and unload his snowblower... good times, only explained as TIM.

Thanks for the update Kinneys! I'm looking forward to some good pics being posted soon...