A break through, people. A break through.
This last weekend was a turning point…I think…I hope. It felt like a turning point. I decided to blog about it so I can look back and remember, and so you people don’t think this whole “the Kleins have moved to China” thing is all bad.
This last Saturday I was a zombie.
I woke up in a tent on the soccer field at SSIS to the sound of heavy traffic, kids voices, and giggles. I checked the time. 5:35 a.m.
You have got to be kidding me.
I had been up through out the night, tossing and turning to the noise of the busy Lianyou Road, uncomfortable in the sticky, warm tent with three other teachers I don’t know well. At some ungodly hour before 5:35 the gentle ringing of a melody sounded across the field. A cell phone alarm?
I later found out it was the alarm clock for the many construction workers living on site around the school, building the new pool and P.E. facilities.
Then, I started to hear the warnings of the heavy work trucks backing up and heading out to their respective work areas. The trucks repeat a phrase in Chinese, I don’t know what it says, but it is a friendly warning to get the heck out of the way because a huge truck is backing up. Our trucks beep in the states, these trucks talk to you.
I had spent the night on the field with 160 G7 and G8s for their Team Challenge Camp, an overnight of cool team challenges, BBQ, “campfire”, and socialization (remember how we are working on that).
The kids enjoyed themselves. The students live all over the huge city of Shanghai, you see, so many of them don’t get to see their friends on the weekends or after school, because they may live quite a long way away. They were delighted, and by the morning looked bedraggled from the very little sleep. We all looked bedraggled.
After breakfast, and more challenges, we packed up our things and boarded our respective buses headed for home.
After seeing that the kids in my neighborhood were picked up from the bus drop off point safely, I stopped by the grocery, bought my first chunk of cheese in China ($3.60 for a small brick of parmesan) and walked home. It was a gorgeous day. Clear blue skies, mild, 32 degrees (low 80s) even a slight breeze, I enjoyed the walk.
After I arrived home I freshened up and Magnus and I took a long nap together. He is my snuggle buddy. I love naps with Magnus.
In the early evening, feeling a bit refreshed, we went for a stroll outside. There was a little scooter parked outside our building that had been there for a few days, so I let Nora scoot around while I walked with Magnus, our downstair neighbor Lilly, and her foster son, Todd.
Lilly is our neighbor/angel. The night we moved in to our apartment, three weeks ago, she put her 18 year old son on the job of helping us lug our 9 suitcases up the three flights of stairs while she got on the phone and ordered our dinner to be delivered. Moving into an apartment in China means you have any number of Chinese people coming in and out of your house to set things up, fix things, sign papers, and stand around to watch you sign papers. All of this happens while you are taking care of overly hot, tired children, trying to unpack enough that you can sleep in the beds that night, and all the while prepare for your first day of work the next day…phew! (Have I said thank you enough, mom?) And not only did Lilly order the food and deliver it to our door, but she paid for it as well. Angel.
Anyway, as Lilly and I walked with the kids this last Saturday night, Magnus was a little jealous that he didn’t have something with wheels on which to scoot. He cried. Magnus has cried a lot lately. And once he gets going, it is hard for him to stop, things are emotional. Lilly, being the angel, said, “Well, Magnus, I have a tricycle in my garage, would you like to ride it?”
And so, shortly after, they both were scooting. And they didn’t want to stop scooting.
That evening, Aaron went out and bought the kids a little pizza at a neighborhood Papa Johns and he and I enjoyed some soup dumplings he brought home. We all worked on a puzzle and watched a kid movie on our new DVD player.
Meanwhile, Lilly was working on her next helpful scheme…
Sunday was laid back as well. We played outside for a long time (the wheels!). For the first time since we have moved into the apartment, the kids wanted to go outside and play. Granted it wasn’t as hot as it had been, but they were feel brave! All it took were the wheels! The kids and I went into the other phase of our compound across the street and found our new friends from New Zealand, the Porters, playing out in the street. Their four kids are about the sweetest kids you could come across, and I am so happy to have them in the neighborhood for my kids to play with. They are a fabulous influence. While the kids played (independently!!!) outside, I enjoyed a cup of coffee with the adult Porters (Brendan and Amy).
After quite a while, I peeled the kids away from the Porter kids and reminded them the whole Porter crew was coming over for dinner, so we would see them soon.
That is right, our first guests for dinner! If you know me, you know I love to entertain guests. I love to cook food, drink wine, and chat. To have people over for dinner means that we have the supplies in our apartment needed to meet the needs of people beyond our little family of four. We were very excited to have the six Porters over and as the kids played in the afternoon I picked up the house and prepped some food until it was time for them to arrive.
Nora had gone down stairs to the road at one point on her own. This was the first time this had happened. She said she was going to the little park around the corner. I have been encouraging them to explore our compound for weeks. It is gated, with guards (don’t think it isn’t safe, it is, they just monitor the comings and goings) and the guards know the kids now. There are kids running around everywhere in our compound and I had been looking forward to our kids being brave enough to join them.
Nora soon came back, singing a song and said, “Lilly has invited me to go to the store with her, can I go?”
My heart melted. My neighborhood friends back home know how my kids love to make themselves at home in other people’s front yards, and back home my kids have a street full of people who love them and welcome them, even if they are loud (right Michelle B.?). And here is Lilly. Nora needs people like Lilly in her life. She needs to have connections with the adults around her. God bless this Lilly. I texted her just to check and make sure that Nora hadn’t invited herself along on a trip (which Nora has a way of doing)…and Lilly was happy to take her, and had offered. I invited Lilly and her husband Lars to dinner as well. But as I said, Lilly was working on another helpful plan…
The meal I prepared was nothing special, a salad with various toppings, some simple butter and parmesan pasta and some fruit and (special) New Zealand chocolate for dessert. We realized we need more silverware and a few more serving utensils, but just the act of having people over, and the kids playing with other kids in our apartment made it feel very much like home.
The Porters are amazing. We are lucky to work with them and have them down the street.
As dinner was wrapping up, Lilly called. She had found us a scooter. “Her guy” down the road had a used, electric scooter for 1,000 RMB (about $150). She was on her way to his shop to get it for us, we could pay her back later. Aaron was giddy. No more walking to the store and dragging back hot, tired kids with arm loads of groceries! Helmets are happening this weekend…
The weekend came to an end with happy kids, full bellies, a bit of new independence for everyone, and exciting new prospects for our daily routine. It wasn’t anything spectacular, but it felt a little more friendly, a little more settled, and a lot more like home.
A break through, people. A break through.
Oh, and speaking of home. Want to send us some mail? We might even write you back!
377, Zhu Xin Road,
Building 101, Apt. 302