Life in China: Three Months in

Happy New Year! We’ve officially made it halfway through our assignment in Chengdu. I’ve been derelict in my duties to my blog, but for a couple of good reasons. The first is a super-secret project that I’ve been working on. One of my goals for 2017 was to finish my first book. With the help and support of my husband and mom, I’ve done just that! Now I’m in the editing stage and plan to publish the book by the end of the first quarter this year!

The second reason is also a little project I’ve been working on, but this one is more physical. Our family will be growing by two feet in July of this year! Yep, I’m pregnant with our second child and, as with my first trimester with Baby Girl, I’ve spent the last three months battling the pregnancy sleepies. I’m not sure if it’s the fact that I’m running around after a toddler all day, but I’ve definitely been much more exhausted this time around.

I’ve also been fighting all-day nausea and some pretty serious food aversions. One of my biggest turn-offs has been the smell and taste of Chinese food—which is a pretty difficult thing to avoid when you are living in China. It might be the spices—especially the garlic and onion, which is really unfortunate because I was enjoying the food when we first got here. Thank goodness for Mike’s Pizza!

This was yummy when we first moved to China. Then pregnancy hit…

Thankfully, I’ve finally hit the second trimester, which I like to think of as the “glowing” trimester. My appetite has returned, the nausea is mostly gone and, while I still need my afternoon nap (thankfully Baby Girl is still on two naps a day), I can get through most of the day without taping my eyelids open. My skin even looks better and I’m even sporting a little bump already. It’s funny how much faster your body jumps into pregnancy mode with number two.

Pregnancy Nausea Meme

I have a lot of posts to catch up on before we leave! In addition to just talking about expat life in China, I also have stories to tell about our trips to Beijing, Seoul and Kuala Lumpur. So, stay tuned for those!

For now, let me just say this is the hardest assignment we’ve had so far. The language barrier is a huge challenge and feels very isolating. I’ve made some friends and have a couple of play groups that I take Baby Girl to each week, but simple, daily life activities such as grocery shopping or even communicating with the housekeeper are very difficult. We try our best, but usually resort to shrugs, gestures and nervous laughter.

Sounds…delicious? I think there might be something lost in translation here…

The air quality is a second factor that makes life difficult here. Chengdu is consistently ranked in one of the top five most polluted cities in the world according to our global air quality app. Winter is a particularly bad time for pollution and the city is surrounded by mountains which just traps all the smog in the valley between them. We try to take full advantage of the days that are less polluted and stay in on days when the smog is thick as pea soup.

Beautiful day in Chengdu.

Another challenge—and probably the most frustrating for us—is the interest people take in Baby Girl. Sounds weird, right? In every country we’ve lived with her, we’ve had people come up to us and tell us how cute she is or try to get her to laugh. That’s cool. What is crazy here is, well, how crazy people go when they see her. We’ve had literal mobs surround us when we go out—and I’m not exaggerating. I once went in a shop that was too small for our stroller, so Matt stayed outside with Baby Girl. When I got out, there was such a crowd of people around them that we couldn’t even get to each other. So it’s attention at a level that is just uncomfortable.

And then there are the pictures. Before we came, Matt told stories about how, during his previous trips to China, people would come up and ask to take pictures with him. Ok, so foreigners (especially here in Chengdu which isn’t as international as a city like Beijing) are a bit of a curiosity. However, the way people try to take pictures of Baby Girl is out of control and, frankly, scary to us as her parents.

We appreciate the people who ask if they can take her picture before actually doing so (and we always decline), but others have just come up and shoved their phone in her face or they try to sneak pictures of her when we aren’t looking. We are already very conservative about what we post (and allow to be posted) of her online. To think of dozens upon dozens of strangers sharing pictures of her on WeChat or wherever else is very troubling to us. The mobs and the photos make it very uncomfortable for us to go out and that has definitely made our experience here a lot less pleasant.

kitty pic

As I mentioned before, though, we are halfway there! We have a trip to Japan coming up in a few weeks to look forward to and, by the time we get back, we should be getting ready to move to wherever they are sending us next.

I don’t mean to sound like it’s been all bad here. It certainly hasn’t. I’m thankful we got to come here and have been able to have a completely different life experience than anything we’ve had before. We’ve tried a lot of interesting food, traveled to places we might not have otherwise had the opportunity to visit and have felt the truly humbling experience of living somewhere with very different customs and language. It’s an adventure that will stay with us for the rest of our lives.

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