December 28th marked the end of our official first year in Shanghai. What a difference a year makes! Last year at this time, we were still figuring out the neighborhood and worrying about starting new schools. This year, we arrived back in China anxious to see our friends and get back to our routine. Shanghai still isn’t easy, of course. I dreaded the necessary return to my hunting and gathering ways when I stared into our empty refrigerator, but this is nothing compared to last year when I wasn’t even entirely sure where I might find groceries at all. Our epic trips to IKEA to outfit an entire house are a thing of the past as well, although I am sure I will soon be back to my once weekly trips to get just one more thing. I have made a truce with the crazy Shanghai townhouse. Maybe. It did feel like home to walk in the door this time even if I did scowl at the kitchen just a little bit.
The kids and I survived the plane ride with no unplanned diversions to Beijing. Mark met us at the airport and we took the Maglev home. We knew we were really back when a large group of Chinese construction workers surrounded us at the subway station. They admired the kids and talked loudly about us in Mandarin as they walked us out to the taxi stand. A random woman pulled Lucas’ suitcase and he was deep in conversation with her about how old he was and whether Ava was his older or younger sister. I, however, had apparently forgotten everything I have learned this past year because Chinese just washed over me as people tried to ask me questions. I could only smile and nod as they told me how lovely my children were to look at. So many blond people all in one place! And such big eyes!
Once Ava and I got in the taxi she settled back in her seat with a big smile on her face. “I’m glad to be back,” she told me. “I have missed people telling me I am beautiful.” Sorry, China. We’re here for year two and we expect you to show your appreciation!