Tonight marks three weeks since our arrival in Guangzhou and it’s time to let you know how we’re all adjusting. So, here’s the truth…
Marc and I are settling in well and really enjoy being in Guangzhou. I think we’ll miss the city itself quite a bit when it’s time to leave. The major frustration for us is how challenging it is to access the Internet and stay connected. Everything we use and access is blocked – Google (which includes my email since it’s a Gmail account), Facebook, WordPress, international news sites (this one is a given) and the list just keeps going. This is a constant daily struggle. We are currently alternating between three different virtual private networks (VPNs) with the highest speed possible for our apartment and are in the process of considering a fourth one that is Chinese. Not surprising, there’s no problems with going on any Chinese sites. Hours have been lost waiting for a VPN to connect and a multitude of frustrating moments have occurred where the connection drops right in the middle of writing or entering something. My last blog entry took two hours to upload all the photos and post. Now you all know that what you read is brought to you with sweat and tears, at least there’s no blood.
Another frustration for me personally is my inability to communicate at times. The other day I thought I was ordering shredded chicken on rice. Turns out I ordered chicken wings on rice. I can tell you that eating something you had not expected or wanted is quite an unsatisfying meal. I even have the advantage of a descent Cantonese vocabulary! Good thing we just started twice weekly Mandarin lessons.
Other than occasionally not understanding what I’m ordering, I’ve been quite happy with the food here. Just outside our apartment we have a rice shop, a dumpling shop, a couple of noodle shops and a couple of breakfast counters. And if you expand that radius by a block, there’s a phenomenal Chicago style pizza place and a Hong Kong style restaurant where the kids can have delicious baked spaghetti.
Now let’s talk about the children. Their reactions have been really unexpected. The least easygoing child that cries to go home on vacation is the one that seems to be the least affected with the transition. The one who has always been our easy-going child that has no problem with travelling has been the one who’s been crying to go home.
Isabella has been travelling since she was three months old. We’ve always been able to take her happily anywhere. But yet she was the one who cried the night before we left, asking if we had to go and sobbed herself to sleep when we told her yes. For the first two weeks, her behaviour was incredibly difficult which is quite unlike her. She seemed like she was happy here in Guangzhou as confirmed by her every time we asked. After a particularly horrible exchange, she finally admitted that she was mad and sad but couldn’t tell us why. I forced her to write down why she was mad and sad and what she could do to help herself feel better. After much aggravation, here is the insightful information she gave Marc and I.
So it turns out that our daughter who apparently always feels bright on the inside hadn’t felt that way for two weeks. That was really hard to hear. I am happy to report that in the past week Isabella’s emotional health has been improving. I’m so proud of the way she has been working through her feelings and using the strategies that she came up with to help herself. She says that most days she feels sunny on the inside now. I’m relieved to hear this but that hasn’t stopped me from keeping a vigilant eye on her.
Dominic is a child that has always enjoyed independent play so not having friends hasn’t really impacted him. Also all his sources of comfort – his family and his blanket (of course!) have remained constant. His world really has changed very little except for having to eat a little more Chinese food!
The benefit of not having their friends around is that our children have become closer. This was one of my hopes for this year so it’s been really amazing watching it unfold.
So as you can all tell, the truth is that we are all doing well now after a bumpy period of transition. We have started to expand our adventures outside of our immediate neighbourhood and are looking forward to our first international trip in two weeks time.