Lost in Translation

I had an interaction today that reminded me how living in a foreign country is not always easy.

My son needed new gym shorts, so off I went to the school uniform shop. A simple enough task, right? Ha, why would I think that? Silly me!
Walking into the uniform shop, I greeted the lady behind the counter. Our conversation went something like this:
I said, “Hi! I need a pair of extra-large gym shorts please”.
To the reply of, “Gym…? What do you mean gym?”
“You know, gym…umm…like to work out…umm…exercise…?”.
Blank look in response. I walked over to some sample gym uniforms hanging on a rack and pointed to a pair of gym pants.
“Like these but short”.
To which she repeated her question, “What do you mean gym?” In an effort to understand what I was trying to say, she went to her computer and begin a search. I have no idea what her search word was, but the result yielded a picture of jeans.
“You mean this?”, She asked while pointing to said picture of jeans. At this point, I’m sure she thought I was utterly crazy coming to a uniform shop looking for jeans.
“No, gym…er…umm…P.E.?” Ding, ding, ding! I could see her eyes widen as realization set in.
Off she went to find the shorts. When she came back, she was holding two pairs of gym pants.
“No, I need shorts. You know, short, not long.” I explained while pointing to my knees.
Off she went again. Returning empty-handed she said, “we don’t have any men’s extra-large. Our largest size is children’s 16”.
“Well, according to your chart right here,” I began while pointing to their sizing chart posted on the wall, “my son would be a men’s extra large (While he is very tall, Chinese sizes tend to run suuuuper small). If you don’t carry anything bigger than a 16, what is he supposed to wear for gym? I mean P.E.”
Again, blank look. She tap, tap, tapped at her computer, looked up and said, “maybe he could wear shorts for P.E.”
“Yes!” I replied, more than a bit exasperated. “Do you have size extra large?”, I asked thinking we were going around in some sort of vicious circle.
“Yes, we do.”, She replied with certainty. With that, she turned around to the fully stocked shelf behind her and pulled down two pairs of size extra-large gym shorts.

I left having completed my task but giggled and muttered under my breath, “what the heck just happened?”.

I wish I could say I was surprised by this interaction but things like this happen on a daily basis. Some days I wonder if I really do make any sense at all.

Here are a few more examples of things that just get lost in translation:

Hey, who are you calling a loser?
Well this is a nice shirt for Disneyland
Shanghai good-looking corporate image planning. Nice!
I can’t make this stuff up!
“waring danger”

All in all, this is just another part of our adventure living abroad. I am thankful for frustrating yet ridiculously funny things like this that happen. I hope I made you smile through my story. Sometimes it’s the ridiculousness that makes life entertaining and keeps you giggling your way through this crazy thing called life.

Finding the EXTRA in the Ordinary

Sometimes something happens that is extraordinary. You may have experienced it a hundred times before, but this time it is different.

Last week it snowed in Shanghai. Some people referred to it as a blizzard. Schools across the city had a snow day on Friday. In reality, snowfall totals were about one inch. Back home in Michigan, we would hardly bat an eye to such a small amount of snow. However, here in Shanghai, one inch of snow is enough to shut down an unequipped city.IMG_7629

Now back in Michigan we are used to a few snow days per year. Schools actually add a week to their calendar to allow for such days. But a snow day here? Unheard of. A bad air day, perhaps, but never a snow day.

You can imagine the palpable excitement amongst the children when they woke up on Friday to find that not only did they have the day off of school, but upon looking out their windows discovered there was actually snow blanketing the ground. The neighborhood was buzzing with excitement and snowmen were popping up everywhere. This excitement was not limited to the children. Gardeners walked around in awe admiring the snowmen and trying to figure out how to clear snow from the roads. Some of the children in our neighborhood had never seen snow. In fact, some of the workers had never seen snow either. People stopped in their cars to take pictures of trees, and snow-covered rooftops. Watching others enjoy something for the first time brought new excitement and joy to me as well. I found a sense of newness in something I had experienced many times before at home.


Along these lines, I was reminded that since we are living abroad, away from our every day, things become new again. You are afforded a fresh perspective on life. It is such a blessing. Many times we fall into a routine knowing what to expect out of people, out of the weather, out of our errands, etc. It is such a huge opportunity to see things anew again and to get excited over the ordinary.IMG_7660

There is an old saying: “the devil’s in the details”. I beg to differ. I say God is in the details. When you look at life through fresh eyes, you experience new richness and detail you may have only walked past before. I took two long walks during our snowfall. Walks I had taken many times before. However, things look different when covered in a blanket of snow. A quiet hush falls upon the earth allowing you to walk and just be still. A bridge I have passed dozens of times before caused me to stop and take it its graceful lines and architectural detail. It looked beautiful dusted with snow. A small green bush with red berries dazzled in the sunlight because it was coated with a layer of ice. God is in the details. I am thankful for the snow. Because it was such an extraordinary occurrence here, I took the time to slow down and see His artistic hand upon the ordinary things I pass every day.

The snowstorm also reminded me to never give up hope. Sometimes we need the confidence of a child to remind us how to have hope, and that sometimes finding answers to your prayers may come when looking at the outcome from a different perspective. My 11-year-old, Jack said to me on Wednesday night, “tomorrow will be a snow day”. To which I responded, “it’s highly unlikely, don’t get your hopes up”. The next morning we woke up and school had not been canceled although it was snowing outside. While I thought Jack would be completely forlorn, he happily looked out the window and said, “see, I told you it would be a snow day”. Well, he was right! It was snowing, so it was technically a “snow day”. The next day school was actually canceled due to the snow. Jack simply said, “see, I told you we would have a snow day”. Wow! What an example of child-like faith, and always looking at things with a positive perspective. I know it sounds simple, but it was a powerful reminder to me to always have hope no matter how unlikely the outcome may be.IMG_7568

Every day things happen that are ordinary. My question to you is how do you take those things and make them EXTRAordinary? Take time. Slow down. See things from a fresh perspective. Find beauty in the details. Most importantly, never lose your child-like faith, and always hope for the best. One last thing, if you have snow where you are, put on your snow boots, get out there, and build the best darn snowman you have ever built before!