Yoga – A trilogy

My confidence isn’t justified. Prior attempts to get to my yoga class have not ended well. But what I lack in experience I make up for in determination. 

I strap the cheap helmet to my head, the one that was free with the scooter purchase. It is made of only plastic and I’m not at all assured that it would save my life but I also don’t really care. I’m feeling good. I put my airpods in and open my music app, tapping the playlist I made specifically with confidence in mind. I like to throw in a few songs with bad words because they make me feel like a badass, and feeling like a badass gives me the artificial self-confidence that insulates me from past embarrassing moments related to said yoga class. 

I carefully back the scooter out of the garage and turn the key, while Hippo Campus sings upbeat tunes in my ears. I pull out of the driveway, and smirk about how cool I feel. Living in Shanghai. Riding my scooter to yoga class. No big deal. The heat outside is stifling, but the breeze on my face and bare arms is energizing. I sing along to the song, loudly, while strolling Chinese men with cigarettes on their bottom lip watch me as I pass. I smile at them. 

I gave myself plenty of time so I don’t have to feel anxious or ride fast. I’m still getting used to the mechanics of the scooter, accelerate with a flick of the right wrist, brake with a squeeze of the left fingers. I ride along the river, and the sun shines on the water, it is murky and brown but I still think it’s beautiful. 

I make my last turn onto the street of the gym, but when I pull up onto the sidewalk to park my scooter I’m driving in the wrong direction and a security guard shouts at me. He wears a black uniform with a matching black hat, and his thick eyebrows are in a deep furrow. Of course I have no idea what he’s saying, but I realize my mistake and turn around. As I unsnap my helmet and lock the scooter, I feel the disapproving gaze of the security guard, but I don’t make eye contact.

As I climb the four flights of stairs up to class I hear voices in the stairwell. We are all so early that our teacher hasn’t unlocked the door, and women are making small-talk as they sit on the steps or lean against the window sill. A woman with sleek black hair is talking about her daughter who had a class sleepover at the school over the weekend. She plays with a silver chain around her neck as she describes how her daughter was so tired she put herself to bed and woke up the next morning with a fever. 

“I don’t know what they did to those girls at that sleepover but she was really sick!”

I recognize the woman who shares a back fence with me, she’s Italian and bombastic and her eyes shine. She teases the dark-haired woman, 

“What are you suggesting? That the school is responsible for your daughter getting sick?” 

She’s so direct but the dark-haired woman doesn’t seem offended.  Everyone laughs. I laugh. 

A woman with an Australian accent smooths things over by suggesting that maybe her daughter was already getting sick and the sleepover made her a little more vulnerable from being over tired. 

I watch their banter, listen to their accents, bask in their feminine rapport. Even though no one has directly acknowledged me, I feel as though I’m part of the shared moment. One week ago an empty stairwell, with its echoing halls, felt like it could only be a place of loneliness and despair. And here I am, my feet planted on the very same steps where I’d sat before, feeling the hope of belonging. There are still no warm reassurances that friendship and familiarity provide.  But this one success, this chance to glimpse into the shared affection of the women around me, gives me reason to believe I can have those things for myself too. 

Bye Bye Binky

I lay on my left side, my arm awkwardly squished beneath my body, my right arm draped across her chest.  She is on her back, blinking up at the star pattern on her ceiling, made by the glow of her nightlight. I hear her quietly count the stars in Chinese. “Yi, er, san, si …” Her eyelashes rise and fall in her silhouette, and I know she is tired. Earlier this afternoon my attempts to get her to take a nap were unsuccessful.  she cried and cried and I sat on the side of her bed and said to her, “It’s hard to sleep without the binky, isn’t it?” She nodded her head, little tufts of blonde hair sticking to her wet cheeks.

Yesterday morning as we packed our suitcases and gathered our belongings to leave Cambodia we walked with her, binky in hand, to the garbage can. It had been my idea to just “lose” the binky in Cambodia, and come home without it. But Richard didn’t think that was fair, he thought she had a right to be witness to whatever happened to it. We never would have let any of the older kids keep a binky well past three years old. So all week we talked it up. We watched and rewatched a clip from Sesame Street on YouTube, when Elmo gives up his pacifier. “Bye bye binky, binky bye bye! No more binky, Elmo won’t cry” we sang all week, substituting Elmo’s name with Mira’s. 

The three of us; Richard, Amirah and myself, stood in front of the trash can. With the binky in one hand, and the fingers of her other hand wrapped around Richard’s index finger, she looked up at me, her expression mostly blank, but with pleading blue eyes. “You do it” she said as she shoved the binky in my hand. Then, something inside me, the part of my mothering identity associated with infants and babies, extinguished. Fourteen years of diapers and cribs, and now this last relic of a phase of life that has been the bulk of my adulthood snuffed out. It hurt. I gave Richard a helpless glance over the top of her head as I dropped the binky in the bin. I could already see regret in her face. 

On the plane she cried, asking for it. And then asking for a new one when I reminded her what we had done. But that night she fell asleep in the car on the way home from the airport and Richard had effortlessly slipped her into bed, and my dread was replaced with relief.  

Tonight I had not been so lucky. I read her a story and sang her a song just like I always do. I tucked her in and kissed her goodnight and softly closed the door. It was uneventful, I thought it was going to be fine. But less than ten minutes passed before she tearfully crept down the stairs and called for me. I carried her back to bed, asking what was the matter, but she just wrapped her arms around my neck and buried her face in my shoulder. She drew her purple blankie up to her chin again and I sang a few more songs, but as I got up to leave she said “Lay on my bed.” 


She flops over onto her side, her back to me, facing the window. She likes to have the Roman shades up so she can see the brightly lit windows of the apartment buildings along the dark horizon. I look over her shoulder out the window myself, enjoying the view, and then she’s restlessly rolling again, shuffling her body right up against mine. She’s still small enough to fit in that space between my chin and the bend of my waist. None of my babies loved me as hard as she loves me. She strokes my arm with her fingers, before flipping onto her back again. Almost instantly her breath changes and her eyes close and I know she is asleep. I can get up now, I can go eat that last brownie and change the laundry. But I don’t move a muscle.  

Yoga: Take II

After my first embarrassing but ultimately therapeutic yoga session, I was looking forward to going to class again. On time, discreet, and with minimal vulnerability required. But on the day of my next class I received a phone call that a delivery I had scheduled for the afternoon was actually en route, and I would need to be at the house. I was disappointed. A miscommunication like this was frustrating, but also something I’d come to expect. There would be another class, but then that day it was clear my plan to ride a bicycle to yoga was not going to be viable in the torrential rain. I sent a couple messages to the few people I knew from class to see if I could get a ride but after neither worked out, I was defeated and gave up. Good riddance to this week, I thought. Give me a new week, a fresh start. I had Monday class for redemption. 

Richard left for his first business trip that Sunday night and I did some quick GPS work to calculate my morning timeline. At 8:30 I needed to drop off Amirah at preschool. If I showed up a few minutes early I could make the 18 minute drive to the 8:45 yoga class. It could work. 

It didn’t work. 

Somewhere in the rush hour traffic between Amirah’s preschool and the gym, it settled on me that I was going to miss this yoga class too. Helplessness and despair – the accumulated heap of repeated obstacles preventing me from doing this one thing, and many other things caused my throat to get tight and tears to threaten. Not wanting my driver to see me cry, and still hoping that I might get there in time I squared my shoulders and forbid my emotions from overcoming me. I looked at the time on my phone, then out the window at the red tail lights, and back to my phone. It was raining again. As the minutes clicked by I considered telling my driver to just go home, but I didn’t. We arrived only five minutes late so I jumped from the van and jogged toward the building. 

As I climbed the stairs to the studio, the prospect of walking into yoga class late again was too much. Sobs broke free and I stopped in the stairwell. In another place I could cry through a yoga class, with people that were familiar and safe, but not here. Why did it all have to be so hard? Each time I had to try to converse in another languge I felt embarrassed and exposed. Every plan I made was disrupted by an unforseen obstacle.  Why couldn’t I just be a normal person and go to a class without it being a major drama? 

I sat down on the concrete steps and let the sobs echo in the empty corridor. I’d cried a lot of sad, lonely tears. But this was an angry cry, and I let that silent stairwell hear it. I choked and heaved and clenched and released. Fury and rage at God and my own insecurity and bad luck and bad planning and bad communication made my bawling relentless. If God intervenes in my life, then why was he making it so damn hard for me to get to my yoga class?  It went on for twenty minutes before I was fully composed again. I wanted to go home but I had told my friend Suzanne that I could give her a ride. And I felt ashamed of my driver being witness to my failure. The steps felt like the only place I could handle. I messaged Suzanne that I was there waiting for her, and then I continued a less intense, more pathetic whimper for another twenty minutes. Eventually I was composed again, although I’m sure my face exhibited the signs of my meltdown with red, swollen eyes. 

After class ended, my German friend Astrid was the first to find me on her way out of the building. She pulled me in for a hug, initiating a new round of tears, and then went back to class to find Suzanne and make sure she had received my message. Suzanne came right away, grabbed my hand and pulled me to her side.  

“Oh Jo. What happened.”

“I was late again, I couldn’t bring myself to come in.”

She laughed, despite my sniveling, as we walked out of the gym and over to the van. “Let me play you this message.” She said. She pulled out her phone, opened an app and began to play a voice text from a friend of hers in a different yoga class. Her friend was chastising and rebuking her for being late to yoga, how distracting it was, how Suzanne’s priorities were not in order if she couldn’t be on time, how it disrupted the class, how Suzanne needed to work harder to be EARLY… it went on for three minutes but Suzanne was laughing. 

“Suzanne- that message just makes me really glad I didn’t come into class” I said. And then we both laughed. 

As we pulled up to her house, Suzanne took my hand again and pulled me out of the car with her. As we walked into the house she dropped my hand and I followed her back to the kitchen, she looked around, started and didn’t finish a few sentences, and then pointed me toward a bar stool at the counter. I could see that she was thinking on the fly, “What can I do with this poor, forlorn sister?” (Suzanne loves to call her friends sister, or “sis”.) I sat down and she began to feed me. She served homemade chicken soup out of an Instant Pot and the aroma encompassed me in home and hearth that reached beyond the thousands of miles back to any place that has felt like home to me. She sliced exotic fruits, purple and green and white and showed me how to eat them. She halved an avocado and served it to me “dirty” with seasonings sprinkled on top. All the while she asked questions, consoled, listened and reassured. It was the kind of sacred ministering that my church tries to teach its members to do. 

For better or worse my brand of faith isn’t convinced that God intervenes in the details. In recent years I’ve felt a longing for my divine Mother, a female deity. So I’ll keep the possibilities open, I’ll make space for the chance that God did intervene on my behalf that day. And if She did, it was in the Instant Pot and the sisterhood and the angel on Earth that is my new friend Suzanne. 

Turtle in Briar Patch

Last week I rode a borrowed bicycle with a brand new friend to a yoga class.  Astrid, a German with a thick accent and friendly exuberance, was navigating and missed a turn so we lost our way for a bit.  She remedied her mistake and set us back on course but we had trouble finding the studio as well. Astrid messaged the instructor and she sent down a fellow yogi to guide us to class. By the time we arrived, the session was well under way and I walked carefully through a crowded floor of women in child pose. I bolted toward an empty mat and immediately moved into downward dog with the rest of the class. A moment later the instructor tapped me on the shoulder to inform me that the mat I had taken belonged to the woman she had sent out to show us the way.  My face, already red from the heat and the bike ride and the climb up the stairs, flushed even deeper. She handed me a mat and silently pointed me to an empty spot at the front of the class, where I stared straight into my sweaty, crimson complexion in the mirror directly in front of me. I bent my body into a forward fold, relieved to look away.   

I once read a blog post from Brene Brown where she talked about feeling like a turtle with no shell in a briar patch, and I relate.  China is my briar patch and familiarity was my shell. Three weeks in and I feel so exposed, all the time. I am a firm believer in authenticity and vulnerability and leaning into the awkwardness of making new friends. But if ever I have felt overstimulated, I do now. It’s too much vulnerability, it’s too much awkwardness.  Authenticity be damned, I will conform if it means acceptance.  

As I tried to power through my shame at the front of the yoga class I counted Lululemon yoga pants and realized my attire was dated and out of style. Everyone was flexible, tan and toned. I tried to mentally draw upon my resources of self-acceptance and self-love but that well was dry. 

These days I am not exposed to the warm reassurances that friendship and familiarity provide. The things that made me feel secure a month ago are now gone. Small things I took for granted like the routine of a school pick-up, where I would see faces of people I knew, and they would acknowledge me and I would feel the belonging of community. Daily tasks were not emotionally risky or fraught with opportunities for embarrassment. I had relationships where I knew that I could say something and the person across from me wouldn’t be surprised to hear it. People who know you well have a good sense of what to expect from you. But now I am spending time with people who don’t know me, and as wonderful and kind as they are, don’t have any expectations of what or how I might express my feelings. And since I don’t know them I censor myself and tread lightly. I am in the habit of wanting to manage people’s perceptions of me, and this is an exhausting practice when dealing with new people and new friends. I become paralyzed with fear that I’ll be too much, or share my feelings too freely or express a thought or idea that makes them uncomfortable.  In fact, I have done this and the ensuing silence was a new kind of painful; a quiet space where I project all my insecurities into their lack of a verbalized response. 

As we relaxed into savasana I took some deep breaths and closed my eyes. I’ve always done yoga just for these last few minutes- a transcendent moment beyond the surface feelings. Tears welled up behind my eyelids and I let them. I lifted my lids to let the tears fall and they did, they poured down over my cheeks. For a brief moment I wondered if my instructor was watching me, I was sure she was, and then I let the thought go and went back into my feelings. With each breath I let myself gently re-live a painful moment from the day, and then the week and the salty rivers continued down under my ears and onto my neck. My chin quivered and my chest heaved. I did what I’ve been taught in many hours of meditation and focused on my breath. Eventually my heart rate slowed and the intensity of the feeling ebbed and I blinked again. 

I can reason my way through these difficult days of feeling raw and tender. I can reassure myself that I’ve made friends in the past and I’ll make friends again. I can intellectually comprehend that I won’t always feel this way. But logic and reason can’t reach the place from which my yoga tears flow. Logic and reason can’t be my turtle shell. Only time and familiarity can protect me again from the prickles of everything that is new and scary.

Moments from Week 2

Our first two weeks are such a blur. It was such a strange combination of feeling exhausted, busy and bored from minute to minute, day to day. Looking back I feel like I was living outside my body, literally just going through motions. Wake up. Eat. Take a shower. The word that kept coming to my mind was un-tethered. I can’t speak for everyone else but there was sort of this surreal vibe that we were all just kind of floating around, disconnected from any real routine, relationship or structure. Although school starting brought with it a whole new set of feelings, it at least snapped us all out of this bizarre reality.

One of the tasks we had to do to get our resident permit was a medical exam. It was in another part of the city that was far away, it was in the afternoon and we had to be fasting. In the beginning it went really smoothly. In fact, because our medical exam back in NYC that we did for our visa was so thorough, all we had to do was a blood draw. We still had to change out of our clothes and wear white bathrobes, which was interesting. Imagine walking into a locker remove, removing your “up clothing” as the staff member instructed us, and then walking down hallways with other foreigners, all of you in white bathrobes. But it was quick and done. The real problems came when they gave Richard two envelopes to address so that the forms could be mailed after being certified. We walked to a separate building and Richard addressed the envelopes. But when he presented them at the counter he was told he needed to address the envelopes in Chinese. This was a problem because Richard didn’t have the address in Chinese and he certainly couldn’t write it himself even if he did. While he got that sorted out I stared longingly into a vending machine that didn’t take cash and I didn’t have my WeChat pay set up yet on my phone. It was 3:00 in the afternoon and I hadn’t eaten or had anything to drink all day. I seriously considered asking someone in the room to buy me a snack and I would pay them back with cash, but was too scared. Needless to say, as soon as we left we had our driver drop us off in a small shop to buy chips and drinks.
We had (still have) minimal toys and entertainment. Fortunately Amirah packed her Paw Patrol pups in her backpack, and they have been her loyal companions through the hard days. She takes them to bed, to the bath and has little chats with them like this one.

After we moved here Richard and I joked (but sort of seriously) about not going to church for awhile. But by the time Sunday rolled around we were all desperate for something that felt familiar or social or out of the house. Church here is so different than Boise and NYC and London, but it has been really great for making friends. We meet in rented space in a conference center, and it’s strange and impersonal and feels more like going to college classes. I got an assignment in the primary (with the kids) and the woman who leads the music is so fantastic I nearly cried through the whole hour my first week in.

Our neighborhood has a pool, which we went to almost daily the first two weeks. Because we have zero pool toys or equipment we’ve had to be creative about how to have fun while swimming, but it’s made for some good memories and fun afternoons.

I felt so much anticipation and excitement leading up to our move here. But honestly, because of the jet lag and the heat and the culture shock and not having our belongings, the excitement went away pretty quickly. Maybe my perspective will change but right now I don’t look back on our first days here with any fondness or sentimentality. It was just a sort of cold and bleak shock to my system and I’m so glad it’s over! The way I see it, it can only get better from here.

My New Normal

When we moved to London my greatest worry was the question “Is this how it’s done here?” That thought lay beneath the surface of all my interactions and behaviors.  Small things like greeting someone, or giving a tip, carried the weight of my fear that I was getting it wrong. Of course my fear wasn’t without cause, each culture does have its own unspoken protocols that generally we take for granted. In the states we greet with a handshake, or maybe a hug.  In the London a greeting often included a kiss on the cheek. 

I got by alright in the U.K, social behaviors for example were slightly different but not dramatically different. Here in Shanghai though, that worry has become less specific and more of a general sentiment that everything is different. Something like giving a high five, in the U.S. (and elsewhere) is just understood to mean what it means. (I don’t even know how to describe what it means because it’s just so natural.) Is a high-five even a thing in China?

This means that it has become the default for me to assume that things are done in ways I don’t understand, rather than that most things are the same with some exceptions. It’s no longer an articulate thought, it’s a pervasive feeling. At the school orientation on Monday, which is an American school with a cafeteria, I found myself wondering if I was getting my lunch the “right” way. Do I get a tray, and put the food on the tray and pay at the end of the line just like I would do at a cafeteria in the U.S? 

This disorienting feeling of doubt has crept into the smallest of tasks. I was clipping my fingernails the other day and feeling like even THAT was different.  My brain tried to conjure up a physiological explanation for why my fingernails would be different in China. 

It finally occurred to me that, to state the obvious, this is culture shock. It has become my new normal and I’m trying to just lean in and have a sense of humor about it.  The other day I did some Google searching about culture shock (maybe I should have read the books KPMG gave us, but now they are packed away in our shipment which is still hostage in NYC). I’m sure it’ll be a topic that resurfaces for me on this blog, but I did find these helpful, and very validating, info-graphics on this website.

SAS Orientation Day

On Monday the kids had orientation at their new school – Shanghai American School. SAS is an American school because they use an American curriculum and much of the staff is from the U.S, but it is an international school in the sense that it is not a school run by the local Chinese government, and its faculty and students come from 45 different countries.

We left Amirah with a babysitter and arrived at the school first thing in the morning. Right off the bat school staff recognized us, we are the only family with four kids attending, covering all three divisions. (Elementary, middle and high school.) The admissions administrator we had been working with through the whole application process identified each of the kids by name, which I think went a long way to help them feel at ease. (They were all really nervous.) We split up and Mim and Si got to meet their teachers, Cam and Eli did some activities and math and language assessments while Richard and I covered the logistics of lunch cards and transportation, and then we all had lunch.

Wednesday is the first day of school. A bus will pick up the kids (along with a group of other kids in our neighborhood) at 7:05am. It’s about a 30-40 minute bus ride to school. When the day is done the bus brings them back home. Once sports and clubs and after school activities begin there will be later bus options.

I’ll be honest, I’m not a private school person. It was never what I imagined for my kids. But it’s the only option in Shanghai, and I do feel really grateful for the resources my kids will have and the experiences and opportunties they will get. I just wish all kids could have this chance.

In spite of all the wonderful things that await my kids at their new school, nothing can erase the scary and overwhelming parts of starting over. I know they are each feeling apprehension and sadness about it and I feel that myself on their behalf.

Forever and always I will sing the praises of teachers, and already after the orientation yesterday I know my kids are in good hands.

Ordering a pizza

Last week Heather, a new friend from church who also lives in our neighborhood, stopped by to see how I was adjusting and see if she could help. She let me complain about slow internet and she offered suggestions about where and how to get food. She told me that there is a Papa Johns not too far away, and they have BOGO pizza on Monday nights, and they deliver AND they speak English. She said she utilized this resource frequently in her first few weeks. I was pretty excited to have that option come Monday night.

So Monday night rolled around and I called the number she gave me. The first two times I dialed, the call didn’t go through, finally on the third try I got a recorded message, I pushed the designated number for ordering and was connected to a live person, who did speak English. Unfortunately I could not understand him, and I’m also not familiar with our address yet. Memorizing our address here has tripped me up a bit because translating Chinese addresses into English and then communicating them back to a native Chinese speaker is complicated.

After saying “I’m sorry, what was that?” and “Could you say that again?” an uncomfortable number of times, I handed the phone to Richard because he has our address memorized already. He likewise repeated himself and asked for clarification multiple times but was unable to effectively communicate with the pizza guy and that was that.

Feeling totally incompetent and discouraged I messaged Heather and asked her what address she uses (she lives around the corner) and she generously offered to take care of it for us tonight. She ordered our pizza and had her daughter bring it over when it was delivered.

I am so grateful to be surrounded by helpful people. In nearly every circumstance we’ve needed help, we have had someone there to step in and have our needs met. I really can’t adequately express what a relief this has been and what a difference it has made for us to accomplish everything we need to build our life here.

Having said all that, being so completely dependent on other people is such a challenge for me. I want to be assertive, I want to navigate my own way and learn how to do things for myself and my family. But there are some things I really just can’t do.

I can’t even order a pizza on my own. It’s both frustrating and humbling.

Jet Lag

I’ve done a fair amount of traveling, including international flights, but I never experienced jet lag like I did when we flew to and from Shanghai in February. Particularly on the return trip. Once we were back in NYC it took me a full 12 days to really feel like myself again. I had brain fog, lack of appetite and utter exhaustion. It made me feel so crappy that I did a lot of internet searching about why it happens and how to prevent it. I didn’t learn any particularly helpful things, but in talking to people here who have flown back and forth to the states multiple times, the general sense is that you just have to live with it.

This last week has been rough, it was one thing to deal with jet lag on my own, but this time trying to cope with five kids on weird sleep schedules made it even more exhausting. Amirah especially struggled to get into a new sleep pattern. On Monday, our second day here, she was so over-tired that I had to literally wrestle her to sleep. She was flailing and crying and trying to crawl away from me. It was so sad. For days she would come up to me and collapse in my lap and say “I’m so tired.” (Which I think also meant “I’m so confused, disoriented, homesick, sad and worried.”)

Each night when I would go to bed I would sort of do the math and set a goal. If I crashed out at 7:30, I would work out that to get a solid eight hours I would need to sleep until 3:30 in the morning. You know how usually when you wake up during the middle of the night or early hours of the morning you hope and pray that the clock will tell you that you can go back to sleep? With jet lag it was the total opposite. I knew that if I woke up there was a good chance it was because my body thought that night was over, so I would check the clock, hoping and praying I’d hit my target goal.

Please be morning… please be morning… please be morning…

But it would say 11:55 and I would feel defeated, knowing that it was going to be really difficult to go back to sleep, knowing that it was the middle of the night and I needed to be sleeping, knowing that tomorrow would be another day of fatigue. It was such a surreal feeling, it almost made me smile. Not meeting my #sleepgoals was such a disappointment.

Some other strange things I experienced this week- at 5:00am I’d been awake for two hours, and it was 5:00pm for my body, so I sat down and ate a full dinner of leftover curry.

One morning at 4:30am when I got out of bed Simon told me he’d been up since 2:00am. That night he was so tired he put himself to bed without even telling anyone.

The teenagers adjusted the best because lying in bed like gudetama at all hours of the day is completely natural.

The First Full Day

Our first night/morning was rough. We all fell asleep fine but woke up at various points during the night. Mim and Amirah were up around 1:00am, we sent them back to bed and Mim eventually fell asleep but Amirah didn’t so I brought her into our bed and she tossed and turned until around 4:00am but by then the rest of us were wide awake. The boys all reported similar experiences of sleeping well for a few hours, lying in bed awake for awhile, falling back to sleep for a bit and then being awake for the day before 5:00am.

So we had no trouble getting ready for church in time. KPMG provides a driver for us, I’ve never been told directly why this is the case but I imagine it is related to the complex process of becoming licenced in China, car insurance and scarcity of vehicle permits for the city. I’ve observed and heard that it is the standard for expat families to have a driver. We met our driver in February when Richard and I came to Shanghai, because he was the driver for the family that came before us. His name is Yu Jian and he is wonderfully helpful and kind. He picked us up for church and brought us home again when it was finished.

Church takes place in rented space because the church is not allowed to have it’s own buildings here in China. It is different, it feels more college campus and less church-y, but otherwise it’s just like every other LDS church meeting we’ve attended.

A few of us took afternoon naps and then we went to have dinner with new friends Natalie, Paul and their sweet girls. Amirah made fast friends with Remy and I’m so excited for their future together. Natalie and Paul cooked a meal that hit. the. spot. for us and then we walked down to the river to see a little bit of Lujiazui. They live in a high rise apartment building, on the 30th floor, with spectacular views.

The building in the front is Natalie and Paul’s apartment building, behind it looms the Shanghai Tower. Amirah has become obsessed with the Shanghai Tower, and because it’s so tall (the second tallest building in the world) you can spot it from all around the city – which Amirah loves to do.
Dusk is my favorite time of day in Shanghai too.

With the exception of Eli falling asleep on the mini-trampoline in the Judd’s apartment, we endured through the first day of jet lag, and lived a day in Shanghai.