A Pinch of Mellow Fruitfulness. Expat Life for Dummies, Part 2.

This bit is dedicated to those who love summer dreaming, take off to an actual or fantasy journey, and, through the looking glass, like to explore/challenge/get lost over one’s mindset toward the occasional perplexity of an unknown environment. And to those who also get annoyed by the trivia of relocating, let that be from one continent/country/city to another or just moving to another part of town.

Artist’s Palate: Ryan Gander’s mizutaki

Quick update on Ringo/Humphree/Bug Bunny: this punk is hollow, of course, the real one’s dodging the streets in his new garment! His skeleton seems to be stuck on this leaf and no way I’m gonna touch it. Ah, I couldn’t be more urban.

Anywoo, ready? Onto humans now. It has literally rained every day since I got back on 1st August. It is, while I’m writing this. With the sub-tropical air humidity reaching 90 % and power-saving light bulbs rescuing my eyesight and the electricity bills (uhumm, compensating for the overuse of the A/C), I’m staring out of my window and in the dimness I sense autumn slowly crawling into town. But it’s nothing else than my usual dramatismo and a momentary melancholia, since I know September’s gonna hit with some serious heat-beat soon. So then, why not, school hasn’t started yet and Bund beach is up and running, I am to enjoy the penultimate moments of the warm season. Keats’ bounteous fecundity shall wait.

Nevertheless, aren’t we familiar with the feeling when, in the height of summer, we lean against some bearable lightness, you know, bright sunshine, cicadas, chiringitos and all. At the same time, though, you hardly wait for your friends to land back por fin, the library to operate in normal hours and the local film club to awake from the (mad) dog days siesta so that life can finally return to its more accustomed routine.

Before I left for Europe, I’d become aware that China, to me, would never be the same again. Sure it is not. I’d spent almost a year here during which I accumulated a bit of inside experience. Then, having had the chance to get away this June and look back at my Shanghainese life from a distance, actually gave some of my doubts a rest. (Small dawnings, you know, like, errr, blush, imagine a string of emoticons, plizzz, i.e. realizing how great friends I have both here and back, still finding the stamina to play tag with a magical language and the fact that I want to believe that, to a certain extent, I do fit in the environment. No, not the B word – see previous Expat entry).

While I was away and knew I’d have to start looking for a place to live and I’d been fantasizing about the area in the city I’d choose, what kind of kitchen I’d want and how this second term of expateering should feel like, this time in a more familiar, Shanghai. I’d been firm about a few prerequisites: deffo has to be less of a foreigner supercompound this time, to be walking distance from my college, to be quiet and clean and a nearby gym would be nice, too. Dale, boluda.

As you know I did manage to find and move into a new flat, which I found in 8 days after getting back from my holidays. (Ever so grateful to Timi and Ivan for letting me invade their adobe while out hunting). So, now that I’m in, comes the running around to get some indispensables; insect repellent, power strips and lamps. (Maybe some candles, a carpet and new sunglasses, ooh and, just only one I promise, a lovely skirt and matching sandals I spotted in a shop window the other day.)

Ikea (and Taobao and my favourite therapy boutique shops) have got embraced big time.

 My window

The truth of the matter is, the place is nice and tranquil. Has a kind of low-key, romantic farmhouse feeling to it. Right in the middle of town. And ambition is the enemy of success, so I’ll shut up and stop whining over the fact that I have no kitchen. There is one, actually, but so dark and old and filthy that I’d never volunteer to enter. “In dizz senze, yeu are teu Americenn, my darlinn” – said Carole the other day “we French peepeul don’t cairre ebout deurtee woteurs, moold eur dempnezz. Pffff.”

So, let’s embrace the ones to my liking, then. What I do have is a small and quiet garden at the back. My neighbour gives me coffee grounds every evening that I can keep in my room to take away the old smells. We often sit outside on the terrace (candles, rain, crickets, Humphree’s ghost lurking behind) and talk for hours with Anna, my Chinese neighbour, who lets me into some wonderful nuances of the local mentalese.

School starts in two weeks. Slowly, everyone’s coming back from holidays. Finally, I can ask somebody to come over and quality check my new adobe and clock Sir Mildew, who’s been stealthily camping along my bedroom walls. My schedule will be finalized in September. Vienna Café and Gemutlichkeit are off the corner. Carolina’s also back from Vietnam by next weekend. We’ll have gone full circle. Looking forward to the bugless seasons, to the dry enough weather so there’ll be will and the sweet bliss absence of sweat to put some wig on and prance around taking silly pictures, the hot chocolate and ginger bread at Baker and Spice.

Humphree hollow or not, though, I have decided to move out in October.

Un bisous, people. Stay put. Occasionally.

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