One of my favourite things about being in a new place is all the new sounds and smells. The night time silence outside my window at home has been replaced with the sound of loud voices I don’t understand, dogs barking, fireworks, cars beeping and cats fighting. Everything tells me I am somewhere new. The air smells different and so does the rain. The buildings are different and the people are different. Nobody speaks English. Everyone has black straight hair, they are shorter, their posture is different and their torsos are boxy.
We enter a cafe and ‘Last Christmas’ is playing loudly. Jared and I can’t help laughing out loud. We spot a maglev train. In the street a lady is wearing a sandwich bag on her head. A man rides around on a pink Hello Kitty scooter and another a bright purple push bike. We see buckets of live lobsters on the street, a snake tincture, a shop selling live fish and fish heads, a man carrying two washing machines in his bike trailer and another filled with huge canisters, with his friend sitting on top. It’s difficult to know when to cross a road and there are bikes of every description riding everywhere. A baby is bundled up in fluffy socks and sleepsuits – mine is wearing just shorts. There are people cycling in hard hats rather than cycle helmets and a group of older ladies dance in sync to a radio in the street.
There is so much to soak up and appreciate.
I have to explain to Winston why people are touching his face and hair. Why they are staring at him and why people want a photograph of him. There is a flurry of excitement whenever we pass a crowd of people. They’re not looking at me, they’re looking at my boys. Some even run ahead so they can get a head shot.
Our journey to this strange and beautiful place lasted 17 hours. A seven hour flight, a two hour lay over followed by another seven hour flight. We all managed to get a big chunk of sleep on the second flight, but the first flight was not so smooth.
Rufus was overtired and lots of tears were shed before he finally went to sleep. We had to remove him from the bassinet each time the fasten seat belt sign went on – which we always seemed to time terribly!
Jared and I were a bit naive in thinking that Winston would go wild with the games and films as he doesn’t get to watch much at home – turns out he is not at all interested in any films other than Cars and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. We discovered Chitty Chitty Bang Bang too late in the day and Cars wasn’t available. Games don’t hold his attention for more than 5-10 minutes. It was a constant battle to hold his interest with books, games, films, drawing and food. He dropped off 10 minutes before we landed (typical) and sadly we left his beloved teddy ‘Stuffy Hind Pudding’ (named by him) on the second aeroplane. Major parenting points lost for that one.We land in Shanghai around 4pm local time. We jump into a prebooked taxi that takes us to our Air bnb apartment. The apartment block is 34 storeys high. We get out, pay our driver in RMB and watch a lady drive her moped up the slope and into the lift. Our host ‘Lisa’ arrives on a micro scooter soon after and we all get into the lift. After a quick look around we are left alone to wait for family – they arrive 10 minutes later.
The nine of us go out for a meal and order by pointing to various things on the menu. We get a variety of fish, beef, vegetables and egg. We wait for our food to come. The waitress forgets to bring us one of dishes but none of us are able to explain this to her – we pay for the forgotten dish. The meal for the nine of us costs around £20.
That night jetlag robs us of much needed sleep – the boys aren’t tired and we are. I finally get to have a few hours and I wake up around 10am feeling hot, sticky and grimey. The boys and I have a shower, but I can’t get the angle quite right, so we sit at the bottom and use the foot tap as a make shift shower.
Wandering around Shanghai we feel safe. We are obvious to spot and even more so on the metro – a family with two blonde haired children, and Jared’s brother with his Ghanian wife and their three children. It’s not like London – almost everyone is Chinese and it’s unusual to have more than one child.
Due to media restrictions imposed by the Chinese government, Instagram, WordPress, Twitter, Gmail and Facebook are all blocked…unless you know how to get around it. Something else that is different.
China – we like you. Very much.
Whilst we were away I discovered that I have been nominated for two awards in the MAD blog awards 2015. Can you believe it? My humble blog! Best Craft Blog and Best Pre-School Blog. Whatever reason you come to my little corner of the internet, it would make my day, week, month and year if you would consider nominating me in one or both of these categories. Anyone can vote (blogger or not) – here is the link. Thank you so much for reading! x