Eileen: A Sleepwalking Haiku
Please tell us a little bit about yourself. Who you are, where you come from, when you moved to Shanghai, etc.
Hello! I'm Eileen. I am a Freelance Artist (wait, isn't that just a fancy way of saying unemployed?) from Boston. I first moved to Taipei roughly for about half a year with my husband (he is originally from Taiwan). I would never have thought we would have yet another adventure and this time in Shanghai. We arrived in Shanghai on a rather cold day - the first of March. We shared a taxi with one of his co-workers to go where they will be working. I was struck back at the infrastructure. I was fascinated by the history of Shanghai (and still am). At first, we were living in a hostel. I’ve met some interesting characters. I know I am repeating myself (my deepest apologies): I went to the computer room for the free wi-fi when an aspiring musician was strumming his guitar to practice singing his songs. I liked his beat. I thought about giving him my email and discuss about writing lyrics for him, but my shyness overshadowed the opportunity. Living in Shanghai, I do feel inspired. I hope to one day meet people here in this concrete jungle and collaborate with them (locals and foreigners alike).
When and why did you decide to start blogging about your experiences?
I’ve realized a blog just so I can reach somebody from the other side of the world, even though most likely I’ll never meet the person face to face. I can die tomorrow, but I left a piece of myself for someone to find. I am sure it sounds vain, but I don’t mean to sound like that. I secretly read thoughts of such fascinating people, and I’m glad they’re willing to share their thoughts to a random stranger. Having said that, I thought I needed a long hiatus from blogging and think of how to become more entertaining, less pretentious. The thing is, if it comes from the heart – maybe that’s good enough. I shouldn't have to do some sort of fireworks show to be more appealing. I don’t know. My husband one night said to me, “How can I find out when you update your blog? I like your writing. I want to read it.” My head ringed like a bell. Wait a minute. Somebody is reading my blog. Someone does enjoy taking a glimpse of my humble area. He just happens to be my husband. I’ll take that.
Do you have any favorite blog entries of yours?
I don't really have any favourites. I can never seem to quite express how I feel. Shanghai entries: Shanghai is vibrant, I live in Shanghai and that's all I have to say about that, My State of Mind in Shanghai. One of my all-time favourite memories and I do realize it's not in Shanghai: Valentine’s Day in 菁桐.
Tell us about the ways your new life in Shanghai differs from that back home. Did you have trouble getting used to the new circumstances? Did you experience culture shock?
I'm fortunate to live in a good neighborhood I normally wouldn't be able to live back home. I have a good view of the concrete jungle. It's amazing. Honestly, I lived in a shitty neighborhood in the south of Boston. Who would've thought I would be here? I admit, I am not used to of the aggressiveness (wait, I thought I was from the south of Boston)? In Taipei, there's order even during rush hour. People stand in the line and let people out before they enter the train. Priority seats are really priority seats. The streetlights are not just for "reference." In Shanghai, not so much.
Do you think you were fully prepared for what awaited you in Shanghai? If you could, would you change some decisions/preparations you made?
I knew Shanghai was going to be different than Taipei but I didn't realize how different - it's like night and day. Having said that, I moved around constantly while I was growing up due to foster homes. I've learned very early on not to really expect anything out of the destination I'm heading. It is what it is. Sometimes you just have to let go and take things with a grain of salt or you will go mad.
Every expat knows that expat life comes with some hilarious anecdotes and funny experiences. Care to share one with us?
I honestly don't really have any. I'm boring. A local once yelled,“法國人!” I turned around and said,“不對。我是美國人.” The guy looked at like a deer in headlights. If only I knew French. C'est la vie.
Which three tips would you like to give future expats before they embark on their new life in Shanghai?
- Wear a mask often if you have asthma and weak lungs like me. I ended up getting Bronchitis due to not always wearing my mask. My husband got an ulcer recently. It wasn't due to bacteria but rather, all due to stress at work. Try to take care of your health while living in Shanghai.
- When you arrive in Shanghai, you may go through the honeymoon stage and when you go beyond the superficial surface, you may get frustrated. Scratch that, you will get frustrated. That's life, right?
- What helped me enjoy my life more is making my studio apartment feel cozy, feel like home. I exercise daily (supposedly endorphins help you to be happier)? I concentrate on what I like to do in Shanghai and try to collaborate them somehow in my daily life.
How is the expat community in Shanghai? Did you have a hard time finding like-minded people or fellow expats?
Honestly? I don't have any expat friends. I am the lone wolf, these days. I have (Taiwanese) friends back in Taiwan, though.
How would you summarize your expat life in Shanghai in a single, catchy sentence?
I am just a foreigner married to another foreigner and we're changing from the inside out while living in Shanghai.