My loving Husband has suggested, that for the sake of the family at home who remember the infamous knee injury incident at the lake – where some older brothers and cousins were supposed to start with “everything is OK, but….” – I should let you know that this all ends well.
Let me just premise with the fact that we did get cell phones by about the third day we were here, and did have many discussions as we were walking around the city about what to do if you got lost or separated from your family.
The rules we laid out were simple enough. 1. call a parent 2. look for a hotel or apartment complex with a guard at the front (they usually speak a little english). 3. Don’t keep wandering around 4. call a taxi and give them the card of your home address (we gave each kid a taxi card for the hotel and the equivalent of $30 US as emergency money to be used in this kind of situation.)
Here is a little more background so you don’t think I am completely crazy.
My daughter decided right away that she wanted to join the Rugby team at school. The practice from 3 to 5:15 and the late bus leaves school at 5:30. Just like back in the US, the late bus here does not give the same door to door service as the regular bus. But we know some kids who live in the same complex as us and their son in on the boys rugby team. So we told my daughter to make sure she gets off with our neighbor and walks home with him. This worked perfectly for a whole week.
Yesterday, after she was on the bus, my daughter texted me to tell me that our neighbor got out early from Rugby practice and took an earlier bus. She told the bus monitor where she lived, then sat back and waited the 30 minutes it takes to get to the usual bus stop. I told her to call me when she got close so I could walk out and meet her since she would be alone, which she did. I started walking, expecting it to be maybe four or five blocks away -similar to the US. About a mile into my walk I got a call from my daughter that the bus had dropped her in a place she had never seen before and she thought maybe she could find her way, but she was nervous. I told her to look for street signs. This can be challenging because they are not at every street corner, and when they are there sometimes they mean “go this way to get to this street” not “this is X street”.
But she did find a street name that I also found and we started walking, hoping we were walking toward each other. I asked her to look around for land marks so I could tell if I was getting close. She told me about things like little grocery shops or hair dressing salons (which both seem to be more plentiful than rabbits in a field on every street in Shanghai) so this was no help. I love my daughter dearly but she is a daydreamer and doesn’t pay too much attention to what is around her. We are working on this.
The sun rises early here, about 4am, and sets around 6pm. It’s really dark by 6:30. But it is a city with lots of lights and, I think due at least in part to the daytime heat, things really come alive around 6pm. The streets are full of food vendors selling fruit, prepared food, just about anything you can imagine.
So now it is dark and crowded.
Luckily Hubby was home. First my daughter called him and told him where she was. He jumped on the computer and found her location on a map. Then he called me and found my location on a map and told me which way to walk to get to my daughter. I called my daughter and told her we were, in fact, on the same street and we should walk toward each other. But when I suggested this she got flustered and said she wasn’t sure which way the road went (sometimes roads change names along the way, just like in the US). She told me she felt she was in a safe place and would wait for me.
I walked through vendor crowded streets, over a canal lit with color changing LED light cables, past several apartment complexes, past a bus and metro station, along side an outdoor tai kwon do class for children being held in a small plaza. Past about thirty hair salons and small grocery stores.
Walking the city streets, especially crossing the streets, while talking on a cell phone means taking your life in your hands. So we decided she should be on the phone with her dad to make sure she is ok. That is how I found out there is no call waiting here. This meant I could not call her or my husband. I tried calling and texting my son who was home with my husband but he did not answer. Later he told me the battery had died on his phone.
Finally, after about three miles I saw her standing on the opposite street corner. I tried calling her on the phone but she was still on with my husband. I tried yelling to her but she did not hear me over the car and crowd noise. I had to stand there and wait for the light to change. It was the longest minute of my life.
Finally I got across to her and gave her a BIG hug!
On the way home we looked for better landmarks, paid attention to street names, and held hands. She said she wasn’t scared because she knew we would find her. But I dread the day Hubby isn’t home to pull out the map.
Today we got her a taxi card with our home address on it in English and Chinese and will get her a good wallet to keep it in. We are programming the taxi company phone number into the kids phones. At dinner we had another discussion about what to do if you are lost.
Monday I will call the school transportation office to see why they dropped her off in a new place and so very far from home.