Monday, October 29, 2007


Sitting here trying to write, I find myself at a loss for words. I have been attempting to describe what life in Shanghai has been like over the last seven months, as well as give a single word conclusion to the sentence “life here in Shanghai has been___”. Well, I can’t seem to finish that sentence. I can say that life here in the “truly big city” has been an adventure, a challenge, a great blessing, and an enormous learning experience. If we were honest, I am sure that in our own private moments, Phil and I have wondered if we made the right decision. Eight months into this adventure though, I can say that we have. (Sorry mom and dad, I know you’re still hoping we will hate it and come home.)

After a few months of living here and getting comfortable, we were really ready to get out and explore all that the city had to offer. Right around that time, summer came and settled quite heavily over Shanghai. Many days were close to 100 degrees with humidity above 90 percent. If you were outside longer than 5 minutes and had to walk (as most city dwellers do), you were ready to take a shower and change your clothes. There were days we would literally change our clothes 3 times! Now that fall is here though, and the oppressive heat has lifted, the city has come back to life for us.

As if experiencing a re- birth of appreciation for this foreign land in which I live, I find myself just as fascinated and stimulated walking the streets now, as I did when I first arrived. With this re-birth though, came the realization that I had quickly, easily, and unknowingly grown weary of Shanghai. Shortly after moving here (some of you may remember my previous post), I decided that I didn’t want to become accustomed to the view from our 56th floor apartment. At night, you can see a myriad of colorfully lit cruise boats below, buildings and lights that stretch for miles, as well as the millions of lights adorning the buildings that so famously span the bund. It is a spectacular sight, but as with most things, we grow less and less impressed with that which becomes part of our daily landscape. Knowing that, I promised myself that I would work hard to avoid growing tired of the view.

It turns out that Shanghai as a city is like that as well. The crowds wear, the people annoy, their habits become less and less “culturally different” and more and more worthy of a good smack upside the head, and things just get tired. Most expats who have been here as long as Phil and I have, share many of these views. And although I understand why (as well as share those opinions many days myself), I have come to see that it is a waste of time, of experience and of life itself.

Like the decision I made to continually stand in awe of the view from my apartment, I have decided to stand in awe of the culture and city I live in. As many things in life, love, marriage, friendship, and commitment- we may grow tired and weary of the very thing we once cherished and worked so hard to nurture, maintain, and grow. If the view from my apartment hasn’t changed- what has? What is it in me that grows’ weary and tired? What is it in me that sees’ a once spectacular sight as commonplace? What is it within me that so easily bores and takes life for granted? I have many theories, but more importantly, is the decision to maintain a sense of awe.

Almost 8 months in, I am grossly aware of the blessings in my life, the sufferings of others and the selfishness within, that despite that knowledge, continues to fuel an apathy in me. I am humbled. Humbled and brought closer to that which Frees, Loves without condition, Hopes without fear, and Heals beyond measure. And so I continue a pursuit to see the country and culture around me with eyes of grace, understanding, appreciation and awe. Awe in the beauty of the people and this place. If I have been brought to Shanghai for this alone, it has been worth it.

Something tells me this is just the beginning.......

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