Now I am not a big Bill Murray fan, but I am beginning to understand his plight in the 1998 movie Groundhog Day. Each morning when the alarm goes off at 5:30 AM it seems like I am stuck in a peculiar China time continuum. I often wake up in a daze and I am frequently a little shocked to not be in my bed at home in Pleasant Hill with Lady at my feet. Living in China feels either like a pleasant dream or a nightmare. Either way my life is still in dream mode.
Some days I get excited to explore the city and learn the language. Other days my brain is fried and I cannot think in Chinese any more. I go to Carrefour (our supermarket across the street) and the same annoying Dido song is playing in the clothing section, “My Favorite Things” is playing at the entrance, and a wacky French rap song is playing on the bottom floor. Sometimes, it is charming to hear these familiar tunes, but other days I want to scream “WAKE UP” just to see what happens.
Since I feel this strange dichotomy, it makes me wonder just how Jameson feels about our new life here. There are days when I think he appreciates all of the exciting adventures we have had here in Shanghai. Then, there are other days when he just wants enough freedom to run around outside like he did in our backyard. There is no place equivalent to a backyard in Shanghai unless you are blessed enough to live in a house. Whether it is just the terrible twos, or the stress of living in a foreign country, Jameson’s frustration is showing.
Life in a foreign country is equipped with both blessings and curses. I know what a blessing it is to have an opportunity to teach my son a foreign language at this time of his life. Toddlers have the unique ability to learn up to 10 new words a day. Jameson is learning words in two languages, and although I am told that I have a very good accent, his accent is much better than mine is.
I also know what a curse it feels like for Jameson to constantly get so much attention. He grows weary of strangers talking to him, taking his picture, touching him while some even try to pick him up. Jameson has therefore developed a defense mechanism of yelling back at the locals. Now this sounds really bad, but because the locals tend to talk very loudly, I think he is just trying to match their volume level. To remedy these situations, I do a few things. I try to avoid tourist traps, and if we must visit crowded locations and people surround Jameson (sometimes a large crowd forms) I encourage him to be cordial (he says “heehow) then I move him away. When we visited Yu Yuan a few weekends ago Jameson became the tourist attraction that he dislikes so much. But once we were inside, he enjoyed running around wearing his "Monkey".
Just getting to the 500 year-old Yu Yuan takes patience... but inside it is an oasis of peace
At least it was peaceful until we arrived... we disturbed the "Hall of observing in quietness".... oops
Sometimes Jameson enjoys the Chinese Paparazzi and other times he wants to hide.
Holding still for a family photo is not always possible for a 22-month old
There are days when I forget if our family has lived in Shanghai for three months or three days. But, not having a keyboard to play in our apartment has made our stay here feel even longer than it is. Jim and I decided to visit a local musical instrument district on Saturday as I was scheduled to play/sing with AGIF on both Saturday and Sunday and I needed to practice. Once I had the keyboard in our apartment, it felt much more like home. We also went back on Sunday so that Jim could purchase a Gretch hollow body guitar and an amp. Now we have a small studio and can do what we love when we want!
I enjoyed playing with the AGIF worship band last weekend. The group of musicians is very talented and they aim for excellence in their musicality and authenticity in their worship. I hope they ask me to play again as it brings so much joy to my life and I have been praying for a creative outlet to serve and use my gifts since we arrived here three months ago.
Because Jameson and I still only have a 30-day exit/entry Visa, we must leave the country by next Thursday. The cheapest option that my Shanghai-Veteran friend Carol found was to fly to Shenzen (a border town). Next, we will take a bus to Hong Kong, wait in line, get our visas stamped. Then, we will turn around, get back on the bus and the plane, and fly home. I know this sounds crazy with a little guy, but I am flying with Melissa and her kids who need to do the same thing. We’ve decided that we will make this “air-trip” as fun as possible. Since Jim does not need to leave the country for another month (he has a 60-day exit/entry visa) we plan to visit Ouk in Korea next month.
Although our lives in California are on pause, our lives in Shanghai continue to play on here. Just like Bill Murray set out to learn a great piece of music in Groundhog Day, I plan to make the most of our time by completing a musical project. Now that I have several instruments, that goal is within my grasp.