I may write (mostly) about the silly and the inane, but sometimes life abroad get complicated. I go throughout periods of being so happy about my new life in China. It’s disorienting and enthralling (except for the poison water). But then, at other times, the distance from home really hits and I get so sad thinking about things I won’t get to experience until I’m back in New England – apple picking, fall leaves on Cross Campus, ice skating in Bryant Park. At moments like that, I really start feeling lost. I’ve yet to find a favorite cafe, a favorite nail salon, although I’m trying to embrace that here everyone gets gel manicures (UV rays be damned), a yoga studio, a favorite street for late night walks. Life abroad can be awfully lonely. I still haven’t regained a sense of normalcy since coming to Shanghai. And maybe that’s a lot to expect just two weeks after moving halfway across the world.
Being in Shanghai is making me redefine so many of my relationships with people. I ache for those few hours in the morning and in the evening when I can talk to friends and dread the radio silence between 12pm and 7pm each day. I’m scared of that day that I wake up and my phone won’t be filled with messages from people I know. Once the initial shock of being abroad passes and people stop asking me how the move went, I don’t know who’ll continue making the effort to keep in touch. I’ve gotten some wonderful emails, texts, Skype calls from people I didn’t expect to remember that I’ve left for Shanghai. But I also have a wonderful safety net of friends who continue to ask me how I am. I cling to their words, because they remind me of home (where ever that may be) Last Saturday, I was at work (because it’s China and I am working six days a week, vacations be damned) and Ankita was up until 2am. Talking to her during the day felt so painful in a way, it really underscored how far away I am from the people that matter to me.
I don’t know how long I’ll be staying in Shanghai. I told some people (mostly people I wanted to see again) that I would be staying for just half a year. I always knew it’d have to be longer, so if you’re reading this now, I’m sorry, I lied. While yes, I can technically leave tomorrow if I want to, a part of me feels like I can live in this city for a really long time. I’m scared that by the time I come back, people will stop wearing skinny jeans, or cronuts will no longer be a thing. I’m scared that the more I feel at home in Shanghai, the less I will feel at home back in the US.
Caitlin Neyer says
I stumbled upon your blog a month or two ago when I was considering relocating to Shanghai for work. I ended up deciding to make the move halfway across the world and now I’m in the exciting (and little bit scary) process of figuring out my place in a city of 24 million+ people where I don’t know anyone! I’ve found some comfort in feeling that in some ways Shanghai is much like NYC – other than I can’t read anything or understand anyone 🙂 Anyways, I thought I would reach out and see if you’d like to meet up for coffee or a drink? I’m currently looking for an apartment in Jing’an but staying in a hotel in Changning. I hope contacting you through your blog isn’t too creepy! Sorry!
Hope to talk to you soon,
Sorry for the late reply! I have been having one of those crazy Shanghai weeks that involve a 7-day workweek. I’m happy to reach out to a fellow expat (I know this is a terrifying, but exciting move!). My wechat is marialty so you can add me and we can grab a drink or some coffee