Shanghai Miss Lists

November 25th, 2009. China

Nik left for work on Monday morning at the normal time, and my single goal for the day was to pack. I slowly gathered my stuff on the bed while mentally picturing how it was all going to fit in my luggage. This time, everything HAD to fit. I wasn’t leaving on a short trip, I was leaving for good.

While I emptied my drawers, my mind wandered. Friday had been my last day at work, and Sunday had been my last full day with Nik, but those days didn’t really seem final. As I hugged everyone goodbye, I felt like I would see them next week. It was no big deal. Then when I was all alone in our apartment deciding what to take and what to leave, I realized it was final. I would probably never live in Shanghai again. It is possible that I may never even visit Shanghai again. Even if I do, the city will not be the one it is today. Most of my friends will have moved on. The buildings I walk past every day will probably be razed and replaced. The restaurants we frequent will be long closed to make way for something else. The bikes we love will eventually cease to exist in the fast paced world of motorbikes and automobiles. Shanghai will never be Shanghai as we know it, and that is when the anxiety of moving away from Asia hit me.

The good thing is that our reason for living in Shanghai in 2009 is precisely because it will be something completely different in a year’s time. China is growing so fast and recklessly that buildings are falling down as quickly as they are put up. Roads are being ripped apart to add more infrastructure as soon as the pavement is dry. Schools are too small as soon as they are built. Apartments are full before they open. Shanghai is simply growing at an outrageous rate, and it hasn’t found it’s identity as an international city yet, and that’s okay.

To ease my mind and put off packing as long as possible, I started this “Shanghai Miss List” on Monday and continued adding to it until I landed in Chicago on Tuesday evening (Wednesday morning China Time). It is a literal brain-dump of everything I’ve thought about missing or not missing that makes my 2009 Shanghai unique. They are in no particular order, but I know that I will miss exploring the city with Nik the most. On any given weekend we would be out and about walking or riding through the streets. Neither of us ever backed out of seeing or doing something new, and I know that it is Shanghai’s mysterious nature that pulled us away from the comfort of our apartment. I hope that we will have the desire to explore as much in the next place we live, but the allure of Shanghai will be hard to top.

Things I will miss
1. Exploring the city with Nik
2. My Students
3. My Friends
4. Watching people watch me with curiosity
5. Chatting with my bus ladies (a.k.a. other teachers)
6. Feeling that I will never see the entire city
7. Opportunities to see China
8. Surrounding myself with people unlike me
9. Empty coffee shops
10. The markets
11. Street sweepers using hand-made brooms
12. Sweet Potato vendors
13. Chinese Amusement Parks
14. Cheap (price) everything
15. Biking with the boys
16. The reckless abandon of the Shanghainese
17. Nik’s excitement at every turn to see something else demolished
18. Weird snacks
19. Not understanding conversations
20. The sound of bicycle bells
21. Steamer dinners for 2
22. Chinese dumplings
23. Group dinners
24. 8 kuai dvd’s
25. Locals arguing
26. Asian faces that appear to have made it through so much
27. Grocery shopping at Tesco
28. Hearing at least 2 if not 5 different languages spoken every day

Things I won’t miss
1. Incredibly Slow Internet
2. Being locally illiterate
3. Constantly worrying about being ripped off
4. The distance between me and my family
5. The 1-hour commute in the morning
6. The 1+ hour commute in the evening
7. Waking up at 5:30am
8. Falling asleep at 9:30pm
9. Donald’s
10. Nik’s long hours
11. The pollution
12. Street Smells
13. Shanghai summer heat & humidity
14. Seeing beautiful old neighborhoods being demolished
15. Cheap (quality) everything
16. The reckless abandon of the Shanghainese taxi drivers
17. Constant construction
18. Spitting and littering
19. The sound of screeching breaks
20. $5 mediocre coffee
21. Living in a high rise hotel room
22. Not having a full kitchen
23. Never feeling like a “local”
24. The stereotypical “expat” community
25. Really bad “western” food
26. Waiting in “line” in China
27. The abundance of mediocre food
28. Power outlets that spark


I have a similar miss list and I’m not even gone.

Crazy isn’t it? We are also putting together a love/hate list knowing full well that we will miss China far more then we ever missed the states. The things we won’t miss pale by comparison to what one leaves behind. We miss the states and our friends, but China has gotten its fingers (claws) into us and we know that we will miss it once we have moved back. At least you got to see some of the raw beauty that is China, more then the standard tour, or visiting family member, will ever see. And as much as people back home will marvel and talk about how brave you were to live in a communist country (we believe this will happen just from our last few winters home), you’ll be able to talk about how China isn’t what’s on the news, how different it is, and how amazingly friendly and outgoing it’s people are.

We are at 28 days left and counting, we are expecting a hard landing once we come back to the states…

Leave a Comment