I live in China where mask-wearing is common but wearing a mask in England feels different

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Photo by Mika Baumeister on Unsplash

In China, I have a collection of masks.

There’s a fancy plastic mask that came with its own carrying pouch and spare filters, a few N95 masks with built-in air vents, and a thin cloth mask that happens to fold up very nicely but is virtually useless at protecting me from anything.

Life is different in China. Sometimes the air is so visibly toxic that people stay indoors for days on end with air purifiers blasting in every room. If it’s essential for us to leave our apartment, we do so wearing a mask. …


Navigating the “What do you do?” question as a stay-at-home-mom

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Photo by Leo Rivas on Unsplash

A friend of mine once told me that she found it “so annoying” when she saw people with strollers on the train during rush hour. She concluded her rant with a comment along the lines of, “It just makes me think — why on earth are you on the train during rush hour? Where do you need to go so early in the morning?”

The implication seemed to be that since such individuals could not possibly have anywhere important to get to, they had no right to be taking up valuable space on public transport during the designated part of the day when the people with real jobs travel to their places of employment. …


Lessons from my flawed yet devoted father

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Photo by Eric Ward on Unsplash

I met my Father on an Easter Sunday way back in the 80s. The setting was a hospital in central London. My Mother had just given birth.

Back then my Father was a twenty-something-year-old student with big dreams and plenty of side-hustle. My parents had welcomed my sister into the world just over a year before I was born. It’s fair to say they had their hands full.

My Dad was raised in a culture where a Father’s main responsibility is to provide financially for his family. Fathers were often viewed as aloof figures who were uninterested in the business of nurturing their children. …


It was a dream job, but I had no childcare

Two children sitting on a bench looking at a large body of water, the older child’s arm around the younger one
Two children sitting on a bench looking at a large body of water, the older child’s arm around the younger one
Photo by Joshua Clay on Unsplash

It’s difficult to forget the day my two daughters accompanied me to a job interview.

It’s not ideal to have to cart a baby and a toddler along to any professional meeting. In the end, it came down to a choice between taking them to the interview or forfeiting an opportunity to secure a position I had been working towards for years.

One of Beijing’s prestigious magazines was looking for a writer to join their Family department. The job caught my eye because it held the promise of being able to be performed remotely. …


On society’s tendency to thank men for performing basic parenting duties

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Photo by Randy Rooibaatjie on Unsplash

Not too long ago, I attended a baby shower on a Saturday afternoon. The next day the grateful mother-to-be thanked my husband for looking after our children while I was at the event. I paused for a split second to consider the weight of her words.

I believe in expressing gratitude and I’m not above saying thank you. Yet, my friend’s words reminded me that society’s tendency to commend parents for looking after their own children is often reserved for men.

This inegalitarian practice is rooted in the archaic notion that caring for the children is the woman’s job. According to this old school worldview, a man who spends time alone with his children is going and beyond what is required of him. …


Life lessons from the first quarter of 2020

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Photo by Denys Nevozhai on Unsplash

I began this year with a trip back home. I was scheduled to meet my newborn nephew, attend the funeral of my autistic friend who died way too soon, and watch my sister get married.

When I left China in January, I was already pondering life from several different angles.

We were only supposed to be in London for three weeks. Then the COVID-19 pandemic exploded. Our return flights to Beijing were cancelled. And just like that, a three week trip morphed into an indefinite stay.

The theme of my trip to London was the cycle of life.

In light of the recent Coronavirus developments and all it’s messy implications, I’ve been thinking hard about what really matters in life. A world-wide crisis will do that to you. …


P.S. “Where are you from?” is a loaded question

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Photo by chuttersnap on Unsplash

The life of an expat is often viewed as glamorous, stress-free, and full of fun, sun, and cocktails. Although living abroad often does include such elements of fine living, my experience as an expat is a great deal more complex than the above description.

There are many positive aspects to my life in Beijing. The cost of living is significantly cheaper than the last city in which I lived, I have access to career opportunities that are not so readily available in London’s saturated job market, and I have found a fantastic community that has served as a family away from family. This being said, for me, life as an expat has always been challenging.


Not exactly

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Photo by Vidar Nordli-Mathisen on Unsplash

“Well, I don’t like to brag but I’m pretty much fluent. There are a few tricky words that I’ve been struggling with but by next week I’ll have conquered them. Then, I’ll be able to cross ‘master the Chinese language’ off of my to do list.”

— Me

Everyone was speechless as they silently marveled at my incredible language skills. They stared at me in awe as I popped my collar, tipped my hat and moonwalked out of the room. Outside the sun was shining and the sky was a beautiful shade of blue. …


They point to my belly and say baby number 3, but to me, it’s baby number 5

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Photo by Alex Pasarelu on Unsplash

I gave birth to my son in a private Chinese hospital in the depths of Beijing. The room in which I pushed my son out into the world is located one floor above the ultrasound rooms. It was in one of these rooms in the not so distant past that I came face to face with a monitor that revealed the last thing I wanted to hear.

The life I was carrying in my womb had come to an end.

On that day, l walked out of the hospital feeling as if I had unfinished business with that place.

Almost a year to that date, my husband and I were gifted with a new addition to our family.

The birth of this child is a blessing in and of itself; it has also ushered in a profound sense of closure. …


Change starts with me

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Photo by kit sanchez on Unsplash

I would like my children to be fluent in Chinese.

It looks like both my girls will be extroverts. They are outgoing and sociable and they possess a fearlessness that I quite admire. At their young age I can already see how their inability to articulate themselves in the local language impedes them. I see it in the playground when they want to articulate their friendliness but their basic level of Chinese proves to be inadequate.

My husband and I have taken a number of steps to remedy this situation. We chose to enroll our oldest daughter in a weekly dance class at a Chinese dance school. …

About

Pamela Djima

I moved to China in 2011. Expat Mum. Freelance writer. Author of— The “M” Word: A Collection of Stories about Miscarriage & Hope. Contact me at:www.itisreal.net

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