Colombian Estefania, her "Made in China" daughter, and their rescued pets

Having lived in Shanghai for ten years, Estefania from Colombia is a brave single mother, with a "Made in China" daughter who is seven years old.

Holin's words:

Estefania uploaded some dog adoption info on Shanghai Daily’s website, that's how I got her contact info. She told me she was Colombian and had been here for ten years. Wow! We set a time to meet for an interview.

Just a couple of days later, on a sunny weekend afternoon, we met at a restaurant. Wearing a pair of sunglasses, the slim Colombian told me she was still shy and asked if we could skip the video part.

To my surprise, she frankly told me she was a single mother with a seven-year-old daughter while answering the first question, still wearing her sunglasses.

As an animal lover and volunteer, she always joins in with events that promote animal welfare and adoption if she has free time. Besides three dogs and three cats that she rescued and now raises at home, she has another four kittens and one dog that she is supporting until she can find new owners — new forever homes.

After the first part of interview, I suggested we try film the video. "If you think it’s not okay, we can remove it,” I told her. And she did it, wearing her sunglasses.

Joan Zheng / SHINE

Wearing a pair of sunglasses, Estefania takes part in our interview at Pudong's Kerry Center.     

Name: Estefania Ussa Herrera

Nationality: Colombian

Job: Supply Chain Regional Manager in a Spanish Department Store

Years in Shanghai: 10

Holin: Can you share an impressive story relating to Shanghai?

Estefania: My impressive story about Shanghai is to survive in Shanghai! Because you are not Chinese; you are not talking their language; I become a mother in Shanghai, so I think it was a big challenge for me.

I worked for a French retailer in Colombia, and they proposed me to come to the Shanghai office. It was very difficult for me in the first year here. I was adjusting to Shanghai and China, to a new job, to a new life.

I got pregnant two years later. I made the decision to have my baby alone. So when I decided to have a baby, I change my job and I decided to stay in China for a while more.

Holin: You are so brave. It's tough to be a single mother here, right?

Estefania: Yeah, it is hard. Every time people will say, “Are you crazy? How you do this?” But I just faced my fears. I have my baby. Now she is almost seven years old.

Holin: Congratulations! 

Estefania: She can speak Chinese, English, and Spanish — very smart girl. Sometimes she can help me with Chinese, since I don’t speak Chinese.

For me it is not hard. I’m very proud of making this decision. I’m very happy to have my daughter. And I think she saved my life. I made my decision to stay in China because of her.

In the end, I think Shanghai is a place where you can make your dreams come true. It is difficult, but you can do it. In other countries, you don't have the same possibilities compared to Shanghai. Generally China will offer you whatever you want, and you need to find it.

Ti Gong

Estefania with her daughter Paulina

Holin: What do you usually do in weekends or in your leisure time in Shanghai?

Estefania: I have different groups of friends, for example, one weekend, I spent time in animal events; another weekend, I spent time with people who are also parents, and we join in some family activities.

And as a single person, I spend time enjoying the Shanghai nightlife.

Holin: Actually I’m curious about your hobbies. You love animals, right? I know that you do some jobs for an animal rescue organization?

Estefania: It is not a rescue organization; it is a group or a platform where we can share our cases, for example, I found a dog, a cat or I need some advice on how to rescue or protect animals, and of course, we help with adoptions for stray animals. One of my friends, a Spanish lady, is in charge of this group. Right now, we have more than 300 members around Shanghai, and other cities.

Do you know Yulin Dog Meat Festival [an annual celebration held in Yulin, Guangxi, China, during the summer solstice]? Festival goers will brutally kill dogs and cats and eat them. It is something happening in China, some people kill dogs and cats and eat them, and we think it is the time to stop this situation. We fight for animal respect, and still you can keep your habits but not as barbaric. I know it is hard to stop, since there are several topics involved, we just try to educate people not to attempt and commit atrocities with animals and environment, stop cruelty and protect them. We are humans in the circle of life but not killers. It is just education programs that we try to do around.

Holin: Which area in Shanghai do you like best?

Estefania: I like the former French concession area, because it is a warm place to stay during the day and night. It is full of the restaurants I like.

Of course I love Pudong, because I live here. Here, the Kerry Center is not too noisy while the former French concession is too noisy. When I have family, I prefer Pudong, around Century Park or Jinqiao area.

Holin: To be more specific, which road do you like best in Shanghai and why?

Estefania: I think my favorite is Fuxing Road. You can trip around, and there are lots of trees. When you are going, probably in spring or autumn, you will see the whole road is green or yellow. It is very nice and it is a combination of Chinese style with foreign style, like European style, it is very interesting.

I like Fumin Road, part of Changle Road from Shaanxi Road South to Fuxing Road, and all this area is nice. Some streets are full of restaurants, and others are full of bars, night clubs or nice shops.

Holin: Then what do you absolutely love about Shanghai?

Estefania: I think I like Shanghai because I can get everything. With a smart phone and good apps you can do all that you want. The city moves fast and all becomes easier once you try it. Every day is something new. The city is very convenient for busy people to have a life!

I don't know people living in other cities, but I think Shanghai people are very warm, and are willing to be close with foreigners. I don't know whether they are Shanghainese or not, but I think the Chinese people in Shanghai are very nice, I love it.

Holin: And what do you hate about Shanghai? Do you have any suggestions to change it or make it better?

Estefania: The one thing I don't understand is that we cannot go to many parks with dogs. For me, pets are part of my family. I have three dogs and I cannot go into some places with my dogs. If it is a closed park like Century Park, you cannot enter with dogs. Maybe we can change it in the future.

Another element is the traffic problem, and I think it is a long-distance problem. When it is rainy, the city collapses: taxis disappear, you don’t have taxis, nobody wants to stop, and the subway gets crazy. I think it is a problem, you know in Shanghai it is raining a lot. I think the city is not well-prepared to face the rain.

And the weather... we cannot change it. But now it is getting better and better. When I came to Shanghai the first time in 2007, you could never see the blue sky. I think after the Expo 2010, Shanghai became a very beautiful city. They made a lot of changes. Taxis changed. The old taxis went out and the subway became better. Now you can see the blue sky.

Joan Zheng / SHINE

At the end of the interview, Estefania finally takes off her sunglasses, and puts them on her head.

Holin: Compared to your country, any shortages in Shanghai? 

Estefania: I think I cannot find specific food from my country in Shanghai, but that is hard to change. I can find some similar ingredients to prepare our food but I cannot find everything. But I accepted the challenge to live here, and now I like Chinese food.

Holin: Do you have some impressive memory during your life up until now?

Estefania: A lot. First I had my daughter here; I developed my professional career; I know Chinese Culture and met a lot of friends from different countries. There are a lot of memories.

The most impressive thing, maybe not a memory, is that my daughter was born here. She was made in China and I am very proud of it.

And another impressive memory related to this city is the Expo, it was my third year here and I was pregnant. I will remember forever that year in Shanghai, 2010.

In addition, there are no seasons in Colombia. Living in a city which has winter, summer, spring and fall is very interesting, different and nice.

So Shanghai for me is an impressive city with a fast pace. When I came here, Jinmao Tower was the tallest building in the Lujiazui area. Ten years later, there are two more, even taller buildings. I also love Nanpu Bridge — it's impressive to me.

What does Estefania want to say to her future self? Have a look! Estefania is sending a message to her future self to watch ten years from now!

Filmed by Holin Wang and Joan Zheng. Edited by Zhong Youyang. Special thanks to Andy Boreham.

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