It's Warming on Me

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{EDITED TO ADD: I kinda retract this statement. Shanghai and I are, I guess, locked in a pretty tumultuous and dramatic relationship, and she's kinda in the doghouse. So. There are times when I feel like, hey, maybe this place is alright, maybe we can make a happy home here. Notably, these days usually line up pretty nicely with days when I get my groceries delivered to my front door 18 hours after I order them, and I think, how can I ever give this up! Because, in reality, life here is in many ways much easier than life in Jakarta. However, Jakarta has something on me that Shanghai does not.  A softness exists there, a gentle tenderness, you can feel it even in the way the air warms without scorching, and the people smile and mean it, and everything is no problem, la. But it's hardness here, lines and edges, toughness and struggle. And I just really want to stay soft.}


I didn’t fall in love with Shanghai the last time we lived here. I was 25 when we moved, green to Asia, hotheaded, and rigid in my North American turn of mind. The spitting grated at me; the scrum of people where I expected a line; the tone of speaking that to my ear sounds agressive; the traffic, the cold, the damp, the rain; the follies of working in a local company did my head in. 


I was too shocked by the turn my life had taken. I never expected I’d live in Asia. I felt dwarfed by the skyscrapers and too conspicuous in wide, dusty boulevards, but forgotten in a crowd. 


All those years ago, I did’ have the coping mechanisms that I have now. I didn’t have perspective, I didn’t have support, or an awareness that different isn’t bad. I didn’t have the curiosity to move my mind into understanding cultural motivations for strange behaviour. 


I didn’t have the skills that are honed and chiseled out of the granite of ten plus years living oceans away from home.


I don’t yet love Shanghai in the way that I love Jakarta. I don’t yet feel that tightness close to tears when I watch the shadows moving across our living room walls. I’m not watching, as I was there, my children run around wild and naked in the late afternoon sun, sure that these are the golden years; these are the remembrances cast in amber that I’ll retrieve when I’m old and rocking on my porch. I’m not there yet.


But I’m starting to see the charms. The ease of life here is compelling. I can buy diapers from my office chair and they’re delivered to my door 18 hours later. The subway, while crowded, takes me everywhere. I can walk around the city, despite the heat, and be charmed by old buildings, middle aged men with round bellies exposed in the summer heat, a chicken in a doorway. I can stroll through the dappled light under a plane tree (which, doesn’t hold a candle to the dappled light under a frangipani tree, I’ll have you note.) The kids can run and play outdoors in a way they never could in Jakarta. My friend network is slowly expanding beyond, like, one person. I can realise, while already out in the city, that I’m cashless and my bank card is at home, but it doesn’t matter, because I can pay for a taxi with my phone, and the lady at the bodega accepts WeChat wallet. 


So, I’m getting there. Indonesia has my heart. But Shanghai, like an arranged marriage, is warming on me.