Summer 2022

With Kevin back in the UK, to attend significant family events, I spent my first summer alone in a foreign country.

At that time the UK was struggling under a heat wave for a couple of days but I can report that Shanghai too had unusual weather patterns. For a record 49 continuous days we had temperatures in excess of 30 degrees and very often they were in the high 30s. Factor in the humidity, and the ‘feels like’ was over 40 for all that time. It was very hot and sticky. Not at all comfortable but on the plus side we did at least have air conditioning, although I tried not to use it too much as an excess of cold in your joints can do damage. (Taiji tip)

The good weather back at home did mean favorable conditions for both weddings. Congratulations to Oliver and Steph, Hanifa and Alastair. I was extremely sad not to have been there with them but their special days went well.

How did I get on? Well, I stayed in Shanghai. Many colleagues took themselves off to Sanya to lie on the beach but I didn’t fancy that by myself. I didn’t go very far at all on my own. Just a solo bike ride to a nearby shopping mall was a big adventure for me. I bought a brilliant bike from one of the departing teachers (thank you Tory) and this has given me great joy (& exercise).

I joined a few bike rides around Shanghai with a group of staff from school. We would set off at 6am, largely to avoid the heat of the day and we’re back by 9am. We cycled along The Bund a couple of times

By the red bridge
Heading towards the red bridge

And even further afield we went to Dutch Town one day, a suburb of Shanghai with a very slight feel of the Netherlands

Well actually just some large clogs
And a windmill

Just these two things! This was nice though because it had been on my bucket list for a while. No need to go back. I’ve done it now.

My favorite stop was the Taiji art installation on The Bund.

The government here is still extremely cautious about covid. While the rest of the world has accepted living with the virus, China still has a zero tolerance policy. Now, though any outbreaks are tackled locally. What we still have in place however, is the mass testing. We have been tested every 2-3 days all through the summer and we have heard that this will extend to the end of Sept. You have to show your green code to get in anywhere, particularly the school campus but even the local corner shop! Testing has become a part of life.

I have had to cope with leaking in the kitchen and a cockroach infestation. Well two cockroaches but that is two more than I really wanted sharing the apartment with me. The complex management came and put down what they called insect killing medicine (which is an oxymoron if ever I heard one)

And a change of address. This one is interesting because old Chinese superstition means that they don’t like the number 4. The word for 4 is very similar to their word for death, so it is an unlucky number. In our building there was no 4th, 14th or even 13th floors (just to hedge their bets with western superstitions too) the government told them that they had to put all those numbers back in. So mid July I went from being in apartment 901 to 801 overnight. What was frustrating was that we were all required to go through police checks all over again because clearly I was a responsible citizen when I was living in 901 but dodgy once I became 801!!!!

Fortunately I have good friends here who let me join in with some of their family trips where we visited local parks and the zoo

Pandas are always a favorite
This is Xiaoma. He is 7

Xiaoma has adopted me as his grandma and calls me Nai Nai. I call him Sun zi which means grandson in mandarin. We had a great time in the summer and he even came over for a sleepover a couple of times. He was very good and read lots of superhero books in mandarin that I checked out from my library. It’s a useful collection to have access to!

We went to the Shanghai beach (which isn’t anything like beaches back home as it was all highly regulated where you could and couldn’t go). But the water was very warm. We invented a game of bucket frisbee!

And I played lots and lots of mahjong. I even started a mahjong group to show other teachers how to play.

There are about 12 of us who are beginners and who play sedately and carefully. We only do basic mahjong with no gambling as the rules for scoring are very complex. I didn’t realize but each city has their own rules and the game is played slightly differently in various parts of the country (just to add another layer of complexity!)

I was doing very well until the point when I found myself playing against our head of HR and he father when I went to e Taiji summer camp. Then the game became fast and furious and quite a different beast!!!! That was a night I won’t forget.

On one trip we visited a museum and I learned more about my (new) namesake Wu ZeTian

This formidable lady was China’s only legitimate female Empress. She lived between 624 and 705 which is the Tang Dynasty. She is described as being strong, charismatic, cunning and vengeful. Like many strong leaders she trampled on others to get to the top including, some say, her own children and husband. It is true though that China benefited from her leadership and effective governance and emerged at that time as a major world power.

I was around to help onboard the new teachers as they began to arrive in the city and that was nice, particularly as I had been a pen pal to one of them. And of course, I practiced my Taiji every day. But more of that in another blog.

For now, we are back at school and that has been another adventure because my colleague in the middle and high school library decided to return to the US at the end of the school year. She was worried that we would spend the bulk of this coming year in lockdown and she wanted her teenage son to have in-person schooling. The school decided not to take up her offer of running the library remotely and instead asked me to help cover. They used the opportunity to do a restructure and I am now Head Librarian. My work load has increased dramatically but we are recruiting and in the meantime I have some help from a new PE teacher (also called Lisa) who is working towards her library qualification and has been freed up a little to help me out. Between us I think we should just about manage… but it’s going to be a busy year!!! With the amount of work I have been bringing home it’s just as well that Kevin isn’t here.

And on the home front Kevin has had his own adventures. He was expecting to move back into our house in July but the tenant refused to go. He said that he didn’t have anywhere to move to! He is a single father with 5 children and while we did feel sorry for him, it’s still our house. After a bit of failed negotiations we have had to go down the legal route and go to court for an eviction notice. It is fortunate that Kevin has been able to stay living with my mother because if that wasn’t an option we would have some huge hotel bills!

We are told that it is very rare for this sort of thing to go to court but I have to say that it has put us off renting out property ever again.

All that and Inigo departed to begin his new job in Ecuador.

Enjoying being with the animals

My libraries are all ready (just about). The new books are cataloged, processed and out on display. We are good to go.