Unexpectedly, because of the Shanghai Lockdown, I Like Me Better

As Shanghai faces its biggest COVID surge in two years, day to day life during this period was horrible. Here is my personal experience during the Shanghai lockdown.

With the announcement of COVID-19 causing a tumult in the world, everything came to a screeching halt. The idea of a lockdown initially captivated many, most people were forced to spend more time with their families instead of working. However, I have a very personal experience when it comes to a lockdown.

Like many other expats, I found myself stuck in Shanghai, away from my family and experiencing a life I had never known before.  And through the uncertainty , I missed simple moments, like when I once enjoyed walking outside, feeling the sun, riding a bike.  But I also started cooking again, because of course I couldn’t receive takeout delivered like before, restaurants were closed. I communicated more with my friends and my mom via phone and social media. I learned how to save money and live by myself in a way that I was actually content being alone.  I would like to share some interesting facts from my experiences during the Shanghai lockdown.

Shanghai Lockdown: My Experiences

When the government of Shanghai started to find more cases, they decided to divide the city into two sections: Pudong (the new part of the city) and Puxi (the old part where I lived).

I could access food supplies from grocery stores, via the help of many kind Chinese neighbors who helped me with purchases because my usual places, western restaurants, and some Chinese places which I enjoyed, were not open.  The apartment complex staff remained by the front doors, to ensure that delivery was dropped off by the entrance, and residents didn’t leave the building. 

At first, I thought it would be just a couple of days. However, the Shanghai lockdown now has lasted for its second month. I managed to teach my kindergarten class via my laptop and of course the internet. After a couple of days, the situation worsened, and I began to understand that we wouldn’t be able to leave our home for much longer than a few days. 

At first, I enjoyed the regular foods and beverages I had in my house, which I had scheduled to last me for several days. Later, I then had to do an online grocery store shopping through group buys created by various residents. WeChat is widely used in China, and you can join many groups. Although I was not cooking while I lived in Shanghai because ordering from restaurants is truly much cheaper and much more convenient, I had to start cooking during the Shanghai lockdown, because the funny thing about the grocery story is, just about everything is uncooked.

I started missing my family badly. If I had locked myself in the house with my family, I would have felt better. Unfortunately, the Chinese borders have been tightly controlled since around February 2020, so I’ve been unable to cross, to go home and visit my family, and be able to return easily back to my job and my apartment. I would love to hug my mom soon.

Initially I came to China because I wanted to travel Asia, and working in China, living in China, was going to be my homebase.  But I stayed in China because I really didn’t have a plan for the future and I was really waiting for the borders to open. I’m still here because I need a criminal history for an adoption process that I’ve started, but with the government offices being closed in Shanghai, it’s just not possible at the moment.

Being cordoned to my apartment building during the Shanghai lockdown honestly isn’t that hard for me, I really don’t mind it, but not having my family nearby makes it hard. There have been times when I have been sad about not hugging my mom , holding her hand, kissing her face, seeing her smile, in person.

But, the free time during the Shanghai lockdown has made me reflect. I’ve been thinking about going to live near my mom. I’ve been contemplating leaving China and relocating closer to my mom, but of course, remaining an expat due to the cost of living, somewhere like South America. But without the criminal history in hand I can’t consider that, the adoption packet would be delayed if I continued to pursue the documents outside of China, and I don’t know how long the delay would be.

 During this Shanghai lockdown I have enjoyed a lower cost of living, cooking meals at home rather than ordering out, working fewer hours, and having a better quality of life than I’ve ever had before. I used to speak to my mom once a day or every few days, but now it’s  every 12 hours. And the fun part is I’ve called her and at times taken her advice to cook certain recipes.

Inadvertently I’ve saved money during the Shanghai lockdown with cooking and even watched cooking programs, but also recently found a delightful fictional cooking show, Julia.   Covid-19 has caused me to learn so many things during the lockdown. I wrote an ebook, an expat guidebook, and I designed the cover on Canva with the knowledge I gained from a course I took on Coursera. I’ve also appreciated the value of family, living with fewer things, and being comfortable with myself.

When I was in the middle of this Shanghai lockdown, I realized that I could actually save a lot of money if I planned to cook my favorite dishes at home. I realized that I could’ve been saving money if I had done it before. It’s fortuitous since I realized how much money I waste whenever I go out to eat. I get groceries once a week, and since I am living alone, I don’t have to buy much. When I prepare my food and try something new each time, the feeling I get is really one of excitement and amazement.

Shanghai Lockdown
Photo by Taryn Elliott: on Pexels

I am more mentally healthy than I have been before in China. Everyday, I think, I dance, I sing, I daydream, I write. I have a routine and it’s really easy to manage everything without worries as I am working from home. But what was, the most important lesson that I learned during the lockdown was the importance of loving oneself. I have created a plan for my future, a firm one, like where I plan to live, how I plan to raise a child, the development of an online business and growth of my podcast.  

During the Shanghai lockdown I have tried to learn the new skills as I had enough time, like SEO, and had the time to do plenty of research into various topics which would help expats, which I write about in almost daily blogs. I’ve enjoyed watching foreign films and TV shows and reading self-help and autobiographical books during my free time. Though at times it hasn’t been easy living alone, I’ve enjoyed this new quieter, calmer, more introspective side of my life.

Being a better me was never what I thought would happen during my journey in China, especially during this time of the Shanghai lockdown. During so many hectic years of my life, I was too busy to realize what love and passion meant for me. While I was missing my family, especially my mom, I explored how to live by myself and how to become a better self.

After years of living in China, first in Beijing, then in Shanghai I’ve decided it’s time for a change. And it the time in lockdown to sit quietly with my thoughts, look out my window, miss my mom, and dream about a new life, a better life, that has led to this decision. I’ve loved my time here. There’s something about China that isn’t home, probably I knew would never be from the moment I landed. Maybe it’s the pollution, which caused me to suffer through sinus issues in Beijing, or maybe it’s the extremely high cost of living in Shanghai, or that I never fit in, because of skin color language difficulties. Or maybe it’s a reason I hadn’t thought of, hadn’t known, or maybe I never wanted to fit in here, whatever the reason, I’m ready for a change.

And I’ve chosen to move to Colombia to make a new life, a new home. Not only is it cheaper to live there, but I’ll also be able to appreciate more. Maybe I’ll cry when I hear the language of Spanish, which were my first words in my Afrolatino home. Or maybe I’ll order two plates of platano frito (sweet fried plantains) , and enjoy the slow dissolution in my mouth , as I sit at a restaurant table with my eyes closed after each bite. Or perhaps I’ll hear the ancestral sounds from the land of African forefathers in latin melodies played on the street and I’ll sway. Or I’ll nod to every dark body that passes me in the market, and grins a sweet smile while holding their mother’s hand. Have I romanticized moved to Colombia, I’m sure it sounds that way. But this is how I imagine I will experience South America, so allow me to dream my thoughts into words for you. Farewell, Shanghai.

Listen to an interview I did by clicking here. I talk about living in China and moving to Colombia.

Check out the blog for handy information and a guide to moving abroad and buy the ebook , with a great checklist when moving to another country !

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