Have I mentioned that I am a complainer? Maybe you have noticed my occasional need to vent? Yes? I am sure that it has become apparent that I cannot let the opportunity to whine pass me by. I am not naturally a glass half full kind of person. You can guess what this means for people who are lucky enough to be around me when I hit a little pothole in my China experience. Fun, fun, fun!
I have been in a dip for a week or so and this, unfortunately, coincided with my parents visiting for a few days from the United States. They had been touring around China for a week and a half and had only a few days in Shanghai. Initially, I had been confused about their trip to China. When my mother called to tell me they were planning to visit, it seemed that they were only going to be in the country for three or four days—barely long enough to recover from the plane ride and begin to adjust to the time difference. They wanted to see the kids’ schools and our neighborhood and spend some quality time with the grandkids. This seemed like an unusual to do list for my mother. She is known to sightsee from dawn until well after the sun has set and I couldn’t believe that she would spend her time in Shanghai sitting around our house. Things became more clear when their departure date got closer. My mother started talking about their China trip long before they were to arrive. Weren’t they coming on the 26th? Why was she packing and talking about their flight details? It turned out that my parents weren’t merely coming for a Shanghai visit. They were booked on a China tour complete with river cruise. They were scheduled to see the Great Wall and the terracotta warriors. They had events planned for every day and every evening. By the time they arrived in Shanghai, they would have seen more of China than we had seen in our five months living here. No wonder they were content to fill the last few days with cafeteria lunches and classroom visits.
Since my parents were only staying for a few days, we decided they would stay with us rather than in a hotel. This would give them the opportunity to spend more time with the kids. Apparently, it also gave me more time to vent, whine, and complain. My mother tried very hard to look at the positive but I was in no mood for that. Our conversations went something like this:
Mom: I like the roof deck.
Me: I hate it.
Mom: This kitchen is nice.
Me: I hate it.
Mom: The neighborhood is pretty.
Me: I hate it.
I am sure this got old, but still my parents tried to enjoy the experience. I worked hard to keep a constant frown on my face. When I could also furrow my brow and turn up my nose I worked that in as well.
Soon after they arrived, my dad got a terrible cold with a fever and the chills. He spent the remainder of the trip in bed trying to recover. Mom and I went to the Pearl Market to bargain for some souvenirs. Thrown in there was a visit to the pediatrician for Ava, a major work snafu for Mark, and more of me grinding my teeth. Doesn’t that sound like a wonderful time? Ok, the market part was fun, but the rest of those things were less than enjoyable. Mom got to visit my local Carrefour and take a few photos of the turtles and eels ready to be taken home for dinner, but we stayed close to home for the rest of their Shanghai time.
And I complained and complained and complained about everything. I am fairly certain that my parents left thinking that the kids were fine but I had some real adjustment problems. Any of the ease I had been feeling about living in Shanghai was gone when my parents were here. I wanted to be a good hostess and to show them the great things about our new life here but, honestly, I couldn’t remember what any of those things were. All I could remember was how frustrating every little thing was, how much time I spent on things that at home took no time at all, and how no one would ever really understand any of this. Even when things went well, I still acted like it was the end of the world. Who wants to visit the Ericksons in Shanghai now? You’ve all got an open invitation to visit The Complainer!