Maureen gets Shanghai’ed

Maureen always was a whimsical one. Stay tuned for her Chinese follies and fortunes as she negotiates a city of 17 million people, writes for an English Newspaper, suffers from desperate dairy withdrawals and attempts to find the cheapest shoes West of the International Dateline. Follow along here.

“I just realized that I left, you, dear readers, in a bit of a lurch. What happened to Maureen? you may ask. Did she ever make it home? Did she actually pull a Jack Bauer, go dark and take that anchor job in Tehran? (I wish…sort of…)

Yes, I’m no longer Shanghai’ed, but in my apartment in Seattle typing these words in my usual style: over cereal and coffee and with minimal clothing. That’s my way and it’s good to be back. As Jake and others told me it would, Seattle does seem a bit slower and smaller after the bustling ignormity of Shanghai. In some ways, this is what I’ve always loved about Seattle, but in a certain sense, I grew to like Shanghai’s buzz and know for a fact that I left just as I was really starting to appreciate it. Sure there was intolerable heat, duel-bouts of food poisoning, pushy locals and phlegm-aplenty–but if you looked hard enough, you could see a bit of soul and a glimpse of people just trying to live, despite the most rampant (and rapid) industrialization the world has ever seen. Despite it’s well-deserved negative reputation, Shanghai does have dignity.

I came to realize that China and I are actually going through similar transitions. We’re both ambitious fast movers, shocking everyone with our outrageous ability to adapt and produce, but we are also continually caught between two worlds–old and new, east and west. I’m transitioning to join the world’s most prosperous work force and China is transitioning to take it’s share as one of the world’s most prosperous economies. We are both casting off old guides to assume roles anew. Sure I could take this metaphor further, but perhaps I use it merely for myself, in order to understand how I came to Shanghai. How, knowing little about Shanghai or China (but assuming this would be the best place for journalism…ha!), I landed cockily in Pudong Airport, unready for the many shocks I would receive in the coming months. The whole process was humbling and it made me realize: I’ve wasted so much time trying position myself for perfection and if I merely relax (and let China take over), things come in their own time.

Then, perhaps, there are the people that helped me navigate that strange world and made me realize one’s networks needn’t stop for international borders or datelines. They know who they are (and if not, you’ll get a decidedly unChinese thank you note in the post soon). I’m making plans to visit Australia, the UK and Denmark in the near future. Thank you.”

By Maureen Trantham

Maureen is currently the communication manager for Partnership for Learning, a state-wide education reform nonprofit. She began her career as an international journalist and has worked at newspapers in both Thailand and China. She has traveled to over 20 countries and graduated from the University of Washington with dueling degrees in journalism and the comparative history of ideas. Never quite content at doing just one thing, Maureen has worked in communications for Starbucks Coffee, Owen Media (a Seattle-based technology agency) and the University of Washington Department of Media Relations. While working in such diverse environments, she gradually found that education policy and youth trends were what she loved to write about most.

At Partnership for Learning, Maureen serves as the organization’s voice, be it writing about education to her heart’s content on the Hall Monitor Blog, developing web strategies for education reform or drawing on her diverse print design background to create brochures and reports for parents, teachers and legislators.