A day in the life of a single mother expat living and working in Shanghai.
When I first arrived in Shanghai, I wrote a general idea about what I thought it was like to live in Shanghai. That was a long time ago, a different place, and very different circumstances.
Now, I live in a lovely apartment in a far out suburb called, “Songjiang.” /sOng-jahn/ When my friends from downtown come to visit, they say, “Wow! You’re out in the country!” I live in a complex with about 50, eighteen-story, buildings. It’s not like any “countryside” in America, I know. But it is a lot more comfortable and family-orientated than downtown. It’s also a lot quieter.
I love Songjiang. We have Thames Town, which is an adorable little village modeled after England. They are most noted for having the biggest and best bookstore ever. If I do nothing else, I love going there. Also, we have hot springs, farms with fruit and vegetable picking, Sheshan Mountain, an Amusement park named “Happy Valley,” a water park, and many other reasons to not have to leave the area. Most often, we go to the mall where my center is. They have great restaurants, and the best 3D IMAX movie theater in all of Shanghai. This would be on my Mondays and Tuesdays off.
Usually, one of those days we spend with our friends, the Clarks, who I talk about all the time. They are a family of six from New Zealand. We used to go to their house every other week, then every week, and now we go there, and they come here. It’s an hour trip by subway, but we have a great time together and we always eat a lovely dinner. Yesterday, I prepared all of these toppings, and we made French bread pizzas. Everyone made two. They loved it.
Sometimes we have things to do, like find a post office, go to the police station, get paper work done and things like that. That will take all day. I hate using my free days for this stuff. And sometimes we go downtown and hangout for the day near where I used to work. There’s a Toys R Us, and a great book store. We eat at Pizza Hut (NOTHING like in America), and it’s usually a good day out. The girls work hard helping me do things and assisting me when I tutor, so they make money and save it for these days.
Also, on these days, I get to cook. Today, we played a bit of a “Chopped” challenge. Nothing too crazy, but I had sliced mushrooms, a chunk of mozzarella cheese, a few rings of pineapple, and I wanted to use them. We all worked together and made three dishes. We made Sweet and Sour shrimp with pineapple. We made cheesy scalloped potatoes with bacon. And we made broccoli, mushrooms and bacon. (because I had a lot of bacon).They loved doing all of the prep work. Rumi is getting good with a knife. I had Raine washing the vegetables, grating cheese and slicing things with the egg slicer. They were also in charge of cooking (with me there). I think when they are involved they are even happier to eat it.
Also, on non-work days, we do more school work than on work days. They have books we use, but I also make a lot of supplies. We also like to watch documentaries. We have school all year around. But we don’t have it every day. There is no set schedule.
On work days, I usually get up early –which means around 9. I will check the news. Read some things, and on some days, my groceries will arrive. I order groceries on line and they are usually delivered around 10 am. Rumi usually wakes up next. Sometimes we do school work then. I take a shower and get ready, and the nanny comes around 12:15. We use wechat (which is China’s version of facebook or twitter) to communicate. I write, she hits the translation button, and then she answers, I hit the translation button.
Then I leave around 12:30 and walk to work. It’s only about 1.5 K to work, but it’s my only “me time” so I take about 30 minutes to walk it. I listen to podcasts on the way (usually about history or economics). When I get to work, I have two free hours, so I prepare my classes, and then I eat. Then I have two classes, an hour break, and three more classes. I come home around 9:30, and the nanny will usually have food on the table for me. My girls are wide awake, so while I am eating, one will play with my iPad, while I do school work with the other, and then they switch.
On Saturday evenings after work, and Sunday mornings before work, I tutor a group of 6 year-olds for a bit of extra money, and on Sunday evenings the nanny walks the girls to my work, and I take them out to dinner. Then the whole schedule starts over again. So that’s what it’s like. No car, weird work schedule, single mom home-schooling.