Things I Learned as a Displaced Southern Mom in Shanghai

Things I Learned as a Displaced Southern Mom in Shanghai.

Things I Learned as a Displaced Southern Mom in Shanghai

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I know it’s been a while since we met–almost a year to the date. I just wanted to let you know I haven’t forgotten the day I boarded that plane in L.A. and flew in the broken seat that refused to recline for 14 hours. Good times! On the positive side, the flight attendants were very accommodating and gave me first class treatment the whole way. Hello little Bailey’s Irish Cream minis!

The most thing I remember was the sheer terror of sitting in the LAX before leaving my family for 3 weeks while I explored another continent. I’m 41 years old and have never left the country before except for a brief Cancun excursion. This felt different, somehow. Maybe it had something to do with the fact that 7,000 miles away from my family and country is pretty far away.Because social media is considered a detrimental influence, all sites are blocked and the internet itself has to be accessed by ethernet and is iffy at best. I felt so cut off from my family and friends those 21 days.

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I learned a lot about you, Shanghai. How many of your people cling to the culture of the old ways, and your young people yearn for all things western. I learned that democracy, whether welcome or unwelcome, is being discussed in your college classrooms as Western literature and thought creeps in along with our music and culture. Since the fresh college graduates represent the face of modern China, I’m interested to see how much their taste of Western influence will take them.

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I learned that there’s something about sleeping 7,000 miles away from your husband that forces an untapped independence in you. I learned that being lost in a country with people who don’t speak your language causes you to slow down and use your primal logic. I learned that bonds that would normally take months to form grow at a more rapid pace when you’re in China for 3 weeks. In particular, one friend I met while drinking a cup of coffee at the L.A.X. before boarding the first plane to Shanghai extended unexpected kindness and comforting friendship over the days to come when difficulties arose. A bond so forged is too strong to fade over the course of a year. Rather, it becomes strengthened.

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I learned that when East meets West, there’s no right or wrong answer. There’s no right or wrong way to do things. Only differences that, when appreciated, increase my understanding of the world and how it’s run, and the people who comprise it.

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It was so nice to meet you Shanghai, and happy anniversary to you.


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Transitions!

picmonkey_image-2 (1)It’s been a while since my last post. January to be exact. I realize I’m supposed to be more on top of it than that, but I do have a few good excuses, the first of which is I SOLD MY BOOK!!!! I have included a prototype of the book cover (it’s still being designed, but this is my vision).

War Eagle Women is (in the process of) being published by SoulMate publishing. I don’t have an exact date yet, but when I do I will post it here. Everything has been totally nuts since I signed the contract and I have been super busy with other writing projects (hello graduate school) and have let my blog sort of simmer on the back burner.

On another note–I’m going to  Shanghai in just a few weeks!!!!

I know. That is a bit random. But since I decided to title this blog “Transitions”…I’m going to cheat a bit and not use any.

Dr. Ann Beebe, who taught me (almost) everything I know about academic writing, might be annoyed by my approach to this sentence because I didn’t use a transition. I still remember getting a paper back from her that said in the margins, “Tina–how can I get you to use transitions?” So whenever I don’t use one…I hear the Voice of Professors Past. Or at least Dr. Beebe’s voice (this is my way of saying “thanks”, just in case I’m not being clear). But right now I am just too excited to use transitions.

When we talk about transitions, it’s interesting because the word has so many different connotations. In writing, transitions help move the topic from point to point without jarring the reader. In life, transitions are sometimes classified under what we call “The Hard Stuff.” For example, divorce, death, dismemberment…these all can be classified as “life transitions.”

Although I am not MOVING to Shanghai, I do have to make certain “transitions” about how I think as a Southern woman…at least for the time period that I will be Southern Woman Tourist in Shanghai.  But I’m getting ahead of myself.

About Shanghai…I’m going to be an exchange student of sorts for 3 weeks! I get to go to a university in Shanghai during the week and do touristy things during the weekend. I am beyond excited, and a little afraid. The Mandatory Trip meeting we had which was meant to reassure us really only reassured me that I was more nervous.

Have I mentioned that I have never traveled outside of the country? Well, except for that one trip to Cancun years ago, which I kind of don’t count (since Mexico is connected and lots of margaritas were involved). This Shanghai trip is sort of this dream that’s becoming a reality and I have not really allowed myself to think about it, except for busywork such as getting my passport and applying for a Visa and all that good stuff. Overall, I’ve been feeling pretty good about the whole thing.

Then…the meeting happened. OY the meeting.

Our instructor who is organizing the whole thing gave us lots of advice meant to make our trip smoother. Everything she said was useful and necessary. However, there was a bit of Southern (or as Dr. Wu would say East/West) cultural shock happening during the meeting. There was a bit of…disconnect…between what she was saying and what I actually heard.

1. She said, “Every day, when you get up, just boil some water…make it a habit. Don’t even think about it: get up, shower, boil water.”(Tina’s translation: the water is nasty and probably contains ebola.)

2. “When you take a taxi, or bus, or train, bring this list of phrases with you so you can communicate in case you get lost.” (My translation: WHEN, not IF I get lost…I’m not feeling too confident seeing as I couldn’t find my car in the parking lot earlier. Note to self: Don’t take a taxi/bus/train. Just stay in the dorm room with the ebola water. Much safer).

3. “You probably won’t be able to use your cell phone…or Facebook…or Twitter…or the internet” (My translation: HOLY CRAP.)

4. “There’s no crime in Shanghai, per se…but keep your purse in front of you because there are some issues with pickpockets, so find a way to keep your passport/money on your person.” (My translation: WHEN I GET ROBBED my plan is ROLL OVER INTO A FETAL POSITION. Or, get a bigger bra (one with a special Passport Pocket) and extra sweat pads). Sick.

I know…I know. I am totally freaking out just a bit. I know this trip is going to be AWESOME and I am going to share all of it with you all. When I get back. After I get back. Because of the internet thing. Everything is going to be fine.

I just have to remember my transitions.