What I Did Last Summer
Wednesday, 02 September 2015 Filed in: Snugglepunk | Little A | Dublin | Shanghai | Mr Oh | Travel
And...we're back! We've all returned to Shanghai - Little A has returned to school - I've returned to checking the air quality every hour, retching on the street (the sound of spitting does it to me) and screaming "Don't touch that!" at least five times an hour. Summer is officially over!
When I first arrived here, I heard about the total mass exodus of expats from Shanghai during the summer. If you're foreign, have children and are able to - you leave - for months if you can. It all sounds a bit decadent at first but after I did Summer 2014 in Shanghai, I swore never again. It's 40 degrees, 100% humidity, the pollution sticks to the sweat in your hair, there are still no parks, the schools are closed, everyone is gone. In summer, the Chinese to French person ratio in my neighborhood skyrockets and the sock-less Vespa riders disappear from the roads. So, this year, we left too.
The prospect of two months of clean air made me happy to unprecedented proportions. So much so that I was willing to do that journey again - you know the day-time one that I do on my own with the two boys that lasts 13 hours and then the Heathrow transfer and then another hour long flight? Yeah, that one. Mr Oh looked a bit terrified for me as he waved goodbye to us at the airport. He was following us a month later. No, I didn't feel sorry for him. He had a month of partying, fabulous dinners, lie-ins and lazy weekends to look forward to. I had a month of laundry, and solo-parenting ahead of me, plus that awful journey. In reality, he appeared to do rather little partying and spent his weekends sitting forlornly on the sofa playing his guitar into the middle-distance.
And the journey was fine. Once you accept that you will spent 13 hours being bitten and crawled upon by a 10 month old, wrangling three people into a dirty plane toilet at regular intervals, bribing an almost 3 year old with snacks and endless TV and trying to stifle the sobs of boredom and frustration that are welling up inside you like a tidal wave of volcanic emotion. Once you make your peace with that - it’s totally doable. It also makes you feel like a superhero (only when it's over though, during the actual journey you will feel like a human dishcloth - damp with sweat, fear, breastmilk and the various bodily fluids of your small children).
If anyone would like further information on flying solo with young kids, please see my earlier post here.
We had an amazing two months in Dublin, London and the south of France. Snugglepunk crawled on grass for the first time ever. Little A dug potatoes out of the garden and learned that not all dirt contains nuclear waste. We went for walks, ran over sand dunes, swam in the sea (France), paddled in the sea until our feet got headaches (Ireland), climbed walls, visited castles and playgrounds, ate food that was high-quality and healthy (Percy Pigs are made from real fruit juice) and did all the things that we can't do in China. We saw some friends - not as many as we would have liked but Snugglepunk isn't a fan of the car, much like his brother before him (see previous post on baby car-travel trauma).
I even became a Godmother for the first time (Hiya Baby T!) which was amazing. Our boys don't have a lot of experience in churches (they are, however, incredibly well behaved in Buddhist temples). After Baby T's christening, Little A ran up to me, pointed at the altar and said "I want to go up there and sing Let It Go". I said "Let's go light some candles for your great-grandmothers instead who are, at this moment, turning in their graves". Little A said "Ok, that sounds fun." He lit six candles and promptly blew them all out. I had to hold my hand over his mouth as he started to sing Happy Birthday to the lady statue. I looked over at Little A's own Godmother and sighed...she's got her work cut out for her.
Mr Oh joined us in London and we all spend the next 3 weeks jetting around Europe consuming our body weight in ice-cream and raw meat. We were able to travel back together to China although I noted that Mr Oh brought his book with him on the plane which I thought was hilarious.
So 7 weeks later, here we are. Back again. On return, we spent 7 full days tortured by jet-lag and children who tag-teamed night time waking so that I never got any sleep. Just when I thought they’d fetch a good price on Taobao, they all started sleeping again and I got bronchitis. Ah China bronchitis...it's good to be home.
Footnote: The title photo appears courtesy of the London Massive (i.e. my bro and sister-in-law). It’s not really courtesy of them because I haven’t asked them if I can use it yet. In fact, I only realized they probably took the photo when I noticed that it appeared strangely unwarped - which is unheard of in any panoramic iPhone shot that either me or Mr Oh have attempted. Our panoramas look like a bad dream. The London Massive, however, know how to work their iPhones - this is how we know it was them.
The photo itself was taken at Uisneach, the sacred and mythological centre of Ireland. We spent a morning on this hill looking at bulls and sacrificing our hangovers to the ancient gods of Ireland. (The hangovers were courtesy of my cousin Jude and her new husband Trevor who had the most amazing wedding in a field…as you do).