#55 Jane O’Shea – Bringing elements of a sustainable lifestyle to China
Jane comes from a very large family and she has four children of her own, two in Minneapolis and two here in Shanghai. She is passionate about horses and farming, gardening, traveling and cooking as well as learning languages and writing. Jane has been in Shanghai for 6 years and today she’s going to share her journey and give us some tips and tricks on how to bring elements of a sustainable lifestyle here to China.
Here, your girlfriends and your community play such a stronger role in your life than they do back home.
How she got to China
Jane and her Australian husband, Peter, were living outside of Melbourne in a place called Avonsleigh in the Dandenong Ranges. They were farming sustainably in one of the most beautiful places on earth and raising their two youngest sons. The only piece of the puzzle missing was that her two oldest kids were back living in Minnesota and it seemed they had no plans to return to Australia. So, when Peter’s company offered him a position in Shanghai, Jane reluctantly agreed, on one condition: that they would move back to Minnesota when their China assignment was over. Now, six years later, she’s preparing for repatriation back home.
An early riser, Jane is up at 6 AM or so, to help her sons Liam, 13, and Kieran, 10, get off to school. Most days she races off to Mandarin University for an hour or two. If she doesn’t not have a class, she’ll run or cycle, and do yoga or Pilates. Later in the day, there is the usual Mom stuff, getting kids to tutors, sports and scouts, and lots of errands, grocery shopping, and so on. She shares that, “Really, Life in China day-to-day is the same as life anywhere else for a Mom-we spend most of our time managing the house and taking care of the kids. Some of us have husbands who travel the majority of the time, including weekends, and we are the ones who keep the ship afloat and everybody happy.”
She sold her dairy cow, chickens and ewes to follow Peter to China, giving up a lifestyle that she truly loved. It was heartbreaking to leave their little 14 acre Paradise in the mountains, but in the long run, it was harder still to be separated from her two oldest kids. Jane and Peter are both farmers at heart (he was raised on a 3,000 acre cattle and sheep farm) so moving to the big metropolis of Shanghai was a huge lifestyle change. We never intended to return to the U.S., but had never really considered that their oldest two might choose to go back to the U.S. so now they find themselves heading back.
Jane has passed HSK three (which is impressive!). The HSK is a widely-recognized Mandarin proficiency test. She chose to dive straight into Mandarin and has continually studied throughout her 6 years. In Jane’s view, an understanding of Mandarin and the ability to read characters makes life in China so much richer and studying at university has provided access to an international community that she otherwise wouldn’t have been able to integrate into.
Additionally, she has written a book, The Moo Memoirs. The three years she lived on the farm in Australia she chronicled her journey through journal entries. After moving to Shanghai, Jane complied those entries into her book. The Moo Memoirs takes the reader on a that journey through the eyes of Jane’s beloved cow.
Outside of all it takes to keep the family happy and healthy (no small feat anywhere) exercise for Jane is crucial to staying balanced, as well as challenging herself mentally with her Mandarin and college classes. Time with girlfriends is the thing that keeps her the most sane and laughing when the going gets tough here.
Bringing elements of sustainability to China
- Composting – it was hard for Jane to get used to throwing everything out so she built (and fenced off) a compost heap in her yard. This really helps her feeling closer to the earth and that she’s not wasting. With the compost she pots food: herbs and green vegetables for her family.
- Cheese making – She’s obsessed! A cheese maker in Shanghai supplies Jane with un-homogenized milk and come cheese cultures and equipment. The rest she brings from home each summer to make sure she has enough stock to last. She shares that there are LOTS of things you can do with the homogenized and pasteurized milk that’s readily accessible to us in China if you’re willing to fiddle around and learn different methods.
Jane’s Tips & Tricks
Brings from home
Cheese cultures, flavored coffee and gluten-free baking mix (Pamela’s is her fav!)
Wish she had known before moving to China
That she didn’t have to decide on a house during her look-see visit. She would have asked the company to put them up in a serviced apartment for a while, until they got the lay of the land.
Embrace China, embrace Asia, and all they have to offer! Travel and travel some more! Coming here has been an amazing experience, and Jane is so grateful to have had. The adventure has made her life so much richer.