You can not get over jet lag until your kids get over jet lag. Our daughter Meredith woke us up at 4am the first morning, then 3:30am the next morning.
This required drastic action. We knew she was tired so we forced her to nap in the middle of the day. It took us nearly an hour and a half to coax her into a nap. We let her sleep for two hours and then woke her. It worked. Afterwards she stayed awake until nine tonight.
This morning Meredith didn’t come into our room until 5am. This is a little victory. Of course, the sun rises here before 5am. Which she pointed out, informing us (loudly) that it was morning.
Adjusting to the new time zone has limited our explorations these first days. But traveling with children has already yielded some fascinating experiences.
First of all, as Westerners, we stick out quite a bit. So far, unless we’re in the tourist areas, we never see any other Westerners. Even in the tourist areas we rarely see other Westerners, and almost never children. People stare at us and our kids especially. Every time we acknowledge the looks, we often get smiles. (I got some looks, too, yesterday morning as I was riding to and from Century Park for my run, dressed as I was in running shirt, shorts and shoes, and being the lone Westerner on the train at 6am.)
Second, the Chinese people we’ve met out and about have been very friendly. Yesterday at Lu Xun park, we sat in a pavilion at the north end of the park looking out at the beautiful small lake and were surrounded by eight or nine, mostly older, Chinese people. They were curious about our kids.
With my limited Mandarin I figured out they wanted to know where we came from and whether Meredith (with her very short hair) was a boy. (When informed about his, Meredith was not happy). They were forgiving of my fumbled attempts at speaking Mandarin, but we managed to have a nice conversation about being jet-lagged, how the kids were tired, that we were from the U.S. and the fact that my wife is a professor. To top it off the kids were given a fan to fan themselves with. (It was in the mid-90’s and very humid.) Just before we left the park, tried to give the fan back to the woman who gave it to Henry, but she refused. The fan has a picture of Hongkou Stadium here in the neighborhood, which is about two blocks from our hotel. It’s where the Shanghai Shenhua soccer team plays.
Later that day, while we were in a Metro station, I was trying to put more money on my STC (Shanghai Transportation Card). Even with the English language menu, I had some difficulty figuring out how to do it. I put in a 20 yuan note and it rejected it and I couldn’t figure out why. A Chinese man standing next to me informed me in English that I hadn’t put enough in the machine, that I needed to put in a 50 or 100 Yuan note (about $8 or $16). He stood nearby and helped me navigate through the menus, then left when I was done and had thanked him.
We went to the Pudong neighborhood to look at the Oriental Pearl Tower. The kids really wanted to see what they call “the Glowing Ball” because at night from our windows we see it all lit up. We would have gone in and up to the observation decks, but it was so smoggy that the view would have been horrible.
On the Metro ride back, the train was very crowded and a young woman gave up her seat for Meredith. Then the woman next to Meredith gave up her seat for me so I could sit next to my daughter. Turns out the second woman spoke English and had lived in Michigan for a year while working in the automotive industry. So we had a nice little chat until we changed trains at the People’s Square.
It’s due to our kids being with us that we have experienced these small kindnesses. I’m sure we would not have these kinds of interactions with the Chinese if it was just my wife and I being here. It even makes up for the fact that we forgot to pack the umbrella stroller, requiring my wife and I to carry Meredith around whenever she’s tired.