Expat Magazine

It Takes a Small Village to Raise a Child in a Big City

By Mint Mocha Musings @nicoledwebb

Raising a child in Hong Kong

It’s four days out from the big C (the “big C” being our imminent move to Central China). 

As you’d expect, I’m rushing around like the undoubtedly mad woman that I am, ticking off a ‘to do’ list longer than the Great Wall of China.

Admittedly a lot of it involves ‘maintenance’ – all in preparation for a potential lack of hairdressers able to colour blonde hair or my inability to track down a decent manicurist. (First world problems of course!)  

Then there are the trips to my local GP to stock up on medication for those unexpected illnesses and of course buying more panadol, deodorant and toothpaste than you can poke a proverbial stick at. (My husband keeps reminding me, we are not actually going to prison, but I’m choosing to go with the Girl Scout motto that is, “Be Prepared!”)

Hong Kong highrises  Mint Mocha Musings

So when I’m not out buying in bulk, I’m staring into space (which mostly involves looking at a somewhat spectacular view of Hong Kong’s strapping skyscrapers, rolling mountains and sparkling seas) wrapped in a million memories, mourning this chapter that’s coming to a close.

It’s always a weird feeling between moves. Stuck in limbo…not quite part of your old life, and yet not belonging in your future life. 

I will soon be staring out at a giant Wild Goose Pagoda. (Yes I can feel your sympathetic but slightly amused smirk from here.)

My husband has already arrived in Xi’an. He’s been there for over a week and barely surfaced for air!

Meantime, I sit here, desperate for him to throw me a bone, on life in the ancient capital.

Amongst his own madness that is running a new hotel he knows little about, he’s thankfully thrown me a few morsels, mostly some grainy photos showcasing the surprisingly buzzing tourist area (including giant Pagoda) where we will make our home; informed me of the smoke-free hotel car (not always a given) with its English speaking driver; and illustrated the wide, leafy streets and his relief at the displays of English signage. Oh and the space. Coming from a place where space is like a prized cow at a fairground, I’ve gotta say, this is quite exciting. 

And let’s not forget the pictures of Starbucks across the road! Priorities!!

Still, I’m anxiously twiddling my thumbs, wondering what to expect, really expect! My heart pounds nervously as I scour Facebook pages on life in China, naturally Xi’an in particular. (Yes, encouragingly there are Facebook groups, even if Facebook is banned in China.)

Naturally in between all of this I am frantically farewelling my butt off. (I can wish.)

In between stocking piling supplies and gazing longingly at Hong Kong, I’m squeezing in afternoon teas at posh hotels, dinners at iconic city spots and foot massages in true oriental style, all with a bevy of warm and witty women I like to call ‘my village.’

Having arrived in the Fragrant Harbour four years ago, well and truly preggars, I missed out on the compulsory Hong Kong induction, that largely involves wild days on Junks and long nights in Lan Kwai Fong, where jelly shots rule the streets and you don’t emerge until daylight beckons.

I’ll admit, a part of me (clearly a much younger version of me) was ever so slightly disappointed… but I’ve managed to make up for it in other ways. (Ever tried Jelly shots at home!)

Amongst the sleepless nights and coffee-fuelled days spent in a haze, as a first-time mother in a foreign country, believe it or not, I’ve managed to get Ava to the ripe old age of 3.5 without having her choke on chicken’s feet or poke herself in the eye with a chopstick. Winning!

Kids Living in Hong Kong

Now as I go about my daily life, stopping to say goodbye to the people who’ve punctuated our lives, the phrase ‘It takes a small village to raise a child’ echoes in my mind. 

We might just be tiny specks in a bustling, fast and furious city of seven million people, but raising a child hasn’t been done alone.

From our good friends on the block, to my invaluable helper (nanny) who has helped us on far too many levels to count from day dot; to Ava’s little pre-school downstairs where the teachers have treated us like family and are without hesitation throwing my girl a farewell party; to the local dry cleaners who’ve been giving Ava a lollipop every single visit, since well, well before she had teeth!

It’s these regular faces that make our world go round. 

There’s also the W hotel’s warm and generous staff, who’ve constantly showered Ava with love, attention and unexpected gifts of kindness; the Starbucks staff who make my much-required Mint Mocha before I’ve even hit the counter and the ladies who’ve been scoping out a seat for us in the crowded coffee shop, since Ava was barely a week old….. there were the ladies in the clothes shop opposite who entertained Ava (or perhaps it was the other way around) while I took a brief sanity break, inhaling my coffee at high speed.

Life in a big city

There’s the concierge staff downstairs in our apartment block who high-five Ava every single morning on the way out (even if she is going through the “don’t look at me, don’t talk to me” grumpy toddler phase); the security guards at the gate who make sure she gets across the road safely with a smile; to the ladies in the supermarket who’ve chatted to her enthusiastically in Cantonese every Saturday morning since the beginning when she’d toddle in with daddy, usually, unintentionally sending the fruit and veges rolling down the isle.

The myriad of friendly Filipino helpers who wave and call out to Ava wherever we go in our ‘hood. (I’m constantly surprised at the number of people my blondie actually knows.) 

This has been our small village, well and truly alive amongst the madness of Asia’s World City… and for that, I’m forever grateful.

I can only hope we will encounter some of the kindness this village has shown us, in Xi’an, China….where another city of 8-million awaits.

Do you have a village in an unexpected place, that gets you through your daily life? Tell me! 

Children in Hong Komg | Mint Mocha Musings

Psssst… If you want to keep up to date with the latest from China, and you haven’t already, make sure you subscribe to the blog. Click here..

Back to Featured Articles on Logo Paperblog