Turtles, snakes and giant frogs

The oldest (Anastasia, or “Kiska,” who’s 9) has been enrolled in, and is going to, school. A local Chinese school — five minute walk from our housing complex, and even on the same block! It looks a little dingy, a little Soviet, but you can’t beat the commute and she’ll definitely be learning a lot of Chinese.

We’ll be back in the states in 3-4 years, so we’re not worrying about them losing their English skills. However, if we were to stay longer, we’d probably enroll them in one of the area international schools.

Richard’s working hard — he’s a copy editor at the Shanghai Daily and is learning Chinese. We also think that there’s a bureau chief job waiting for him with the Asia Times as soon as they get their paperwork done and accredit him.

Meanwhile, I’m all set up. We’ve got the high-speed internet, the phones all set, and I’m all done with my jet lag. Now all I need is for my accreditation to come through and I can start working.

Shanghai is huge. We’ve decided not to get cars, so we’re taking taxis everywhere – just like in NYC. Richard rides a bike to work (15 minutes). It’s a ten-speed, and he wears a helmet, so he really stands out on these streets, where everyone rides Communist-era one-speeds with no helmets. The subway’s pretty good, but crowded during rush hour, Rich says. I haven’t been on it yet.

This weekend, I went to a department store where they had live turtles, snakes and giant frogs in the grocery department, alongside the seafood. The frogs were in open containers, and I was surprised they didn’t hop out. They looked kind of fat — maybe they were TOO fat.

We live in a complex of five 40-story buildings surrounding a gated courtyard with a garden, two playgrounds, a pond with goldfish, and a tennis court (and a morning tai chi exercise area). There’s one other American family with kids here — all the rest are Chinese. I spend my afternoons watching my youngest (Basil, 6) play on the playground and listening to language tapes. Then I go try out my Chinese on unsuspecting neighbors. It’s coming along
well. I can pretty much make myself understood and hold basic conversations. Soon we’ll put the youngest in preschool (as soon as we learn how to say it) — school starts later here than in the States, and they don’t have kindergarten here. So they start first grade at age 7 — and he’s only six.