Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Back to reality…

While we are living in Shanghai, we have realized it's important for us to have short "getaway" vacations.  Living and working in China is easier than expected in some ways and more challenging in others.  Our brains and bodies needed "down" time, and that's hard to accomplish when actually in China.  Sigh.
The Good
1.    Some services are VERY inexpensive.  Having a massage, facial or any other spa treatment is a fraction of what it is in the US.  An hour foot massage is less than $20.  Most salons and spas offer memberships, and will then offer additional discounts on services.
2.    Having an Ayi is a luxury I could not afford in the US.  An Ayi is a helper, house-cleaner, nanny, whatever you need.  Translated it means "Auntie", and some families have full-time, part-time or whatever you need.  I have an Ayi that comes in 3 mornings and cleans, and costs about $20 a day.  I will not have to clean a bathroom the whole time I am here.  Awesome.
3.    Grocery stores offer same day delivery at no charge.  I can go to the CityShop market, pick-out all my items, pay for them and be on my way.  They will deliver to my home at whatever time I request.  IKEA also delivers same day here at no charge.  You can pick-out a bed in the morning, and it will be delivered to your home that afternoon.
4.    Emily & Katie are able to go to an international private school.  The education they get is not really better, but maybe more well-rounded than at home.  In the US, they learn more specific math and language arts.  Maybe that is because they have to learn skills that are "test-able".  Here they learn a wider variety of things.  Music, art and sports are a bigger part of their week than in the US, and they have better access to equipment.  They may actually be behind their US peers in writing skills. But being here, they meet and work with kids from other countries.  I have to believe the exposure to so many different cultures, as well to China is a plus.

The Bad
1.   Immediately upon landing in Shanghai from the Philippines, we encountered rudeness.  I know that some people are not taught manners as children, but adults constantly cutting in line gets old really fast.  And this happens everywhere:  airport lines, mall, bathrooms, ice cream shops, etc. Most people don't say anything, and so of course, I always do.
2.   All expat parents are aware of the daily air quality.  We have Aps on our phones that inform us if the air is healthy, unhealthy, poor, etc.  Good air is 50 or less PM2.5 - this refers to the particle count in the air.  Today's count is 123 PM2.5 and is listed as Unhealthy to Sensitive Groups.  The air is rarely listed at 50 or less.  I think this is like "smog alerts" were when I was a kid growing up in Los Angeles.  We would have stage I, stage II and stage III alerts.  If there was a stage IV alert, we were not allowed outside for recess or lunch.
3.   Shopping is inconvenient.  I cannot get everything I need in one spot - there is no Shanghai version of a Target store.

Bird Flu
So far, it seems the current strain of bird flu is only transferred from bird-to-human contact.  So for the time being, we are not eating chicken, and all eggs have to be fully cooked, not raw.  The kids' school has stopped serving all chicken and egg products for the time being.  There is a lot of information circulating around the expat community, and it's hard to tell what is real and not. I spoke to several other parents who were in Hong Kong during SARS and the previous bird flu outbreak.  The consensus is first,  take all the same precautions you would take during regular flu season, but with more diligence.  Keep our hands and faces washed, and avoid being in crowds of people coughing.  Second, wash all fruits and vegetables really well, and best to buy imported meats and seafood.
Lastly, don't panic.  The people that have all gotten sick were exposed directly, and had weakened immune systems and were either very old or very young.

So all we can do is try to take the best care of ourselves as possible while we're here.

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