Sunday, November 22, 2009

I'll take the lady on the second row.

This being my second year in China a lot of the "Whoa" factor in things is kept to a minimum. I have seen the pig and chicken feet in food. The man that is relieving himself on side of the street like it is no big deal, or occasionally a women doing the same. I could keep going but I have to share a "Whoa" moment I had yesterday.
Yesterday I took a much needed trip to Shanghai. It was good to get back to a city that made me feel like I was in America. The way the people live is very different. The Super Brand Mall can easily be compared to, if not better then, 95% of the malls in America. Inside you can find Tommy Hilfiger, H&M, Best Buy, and of course a couple of Starbucks. The ratio of people you see in Shanghai is maybe 70% Chinese 30% Foreigner, so it feels good to be able to see other Americans. Basically, in Shanghai I retire my "Whoa" factor meter for a day and just relax knowing that I will not be needing it. Then it happened.
After going down East. Nanjing Rd. I came to the area called People's Square. It is kind of like Times Square in New York with Central Park right next to it. Myself, Bethany, and Bonny decided to take a nice walk through the park. The park was amazing. It had a nice calm feel to it. I was enjoying the unique feeling of walking in a nice quiet park with massive buildings still surrounding me. Suddenly we came to an area with many older people walking up and down the street. Some were just looking and others were balled up into small groups discussing something. I could tell it was something serious because the groups had a look of deep discussion. Kind of like someone trying to sale something and the others were really interested in knowing more about the product. Also in this area were a couple of hundred pieces of paper. Some were laying on the ground and others were taped to a fence going down that area. There was nothing formal about the papers. They were all hand written and some even had a picture taped to them of a young man or women. For the most part they all looked to have about the same information on it. One thing that did stand out on almost every paper was dates from the early 1980's. So our first assumption that they were job openings was shot down.
Suddenly I turned around and noticed Bonny was talking to a young Chinese couple. I walked back to hear what the conversation was about but it ended before I got there. So I had to ask Bonny what was going on. She explained that this event happens every Saturday in that same area. Grandparents and parents come here to advertise their children and grand-children. Kind of a dating service. We quickly put together that all the dates were early 1980's because all these kids are now at a age where they are suppose to be married. Since they are not married the parents and grand-parents have taken things into their own hands. The groups I were seeing were people trying to draw more interest in their children. Needless to say this event brought my "Whoa" meter out and nearly topped it off. I don't know if it was because I assumed something like this does not still happen or the fact that I was actually seeing it happen. It was amazing to see the seriousness of the conversations going on around me. These were parents with a mission to have their child married. I know these parents love their children but this was something more then wanting to see their kid happy, it was about tradition.
After walking through that area we sat on a bench overlooking what was going on. My first thought was a usual Kevin thought "I hope none of the parents got the wrong idea about me going through there." I could easily see I mom brushing off her group to tell me, the foreigner, about her amazing daughter who really is ready to get married. After I pushed away my funny thoughts I usually have I started to think of the seriousness of tradition in this country. I guess I can relate a little being in the early 30's myself and always hearing from my mom that it is about time for me to get married and give her some grand-babies. However here it was much different. I wondered some about what the young adult being advertised must have felt. I am sure they did not like it at least a little. But tradition always trumps individual feelings here. That's what made this so unique to me. The parents were so professional and the ones listening did not laugh or cut up but were just as serious. It was all about honoring the tradition of those who were before them. They did not do this to be mean to their child they were just trying to help their child honor tradition and maintain their face in society.In a very different way I was seeing love from a parent.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Why am I back?

I wrote this post about 2 months ago. It may be a little old but it is a start.
I have to say it feels real good to be back in china. if you asked me this question about 2 weeks ago when i got off the plane you may have received a different answer. see, I have felt really confident and sure the last few months that I was ready to get away from the comforts I have grown up with and get back to a country that is still a mystery to me. However when I got off the plane and stood in the airport custom lines all that was going through my mind was “what in the world am i doing back here?”
Back to a place where the comfort of traveling to the store and back in your own car does not exist. In it’s place you get to travel by bus for 30 minutes to a hour one way. When you get at the store you can only buy so much because that same bus route you took to get to that store you will take again along with all the bags of groceries in your hand. along with that comes the possibility of having to stand and hold all the stuff you just bought. I will not lie to you, plastic can cut into your hands after holding it for so long.
Why am I back in a place where my bed is about the same as taking 20 pieces of plywood and stacking them on top of each other and putting a little fabric around them to keep the wood together? In this same bed my first night back here i was welcomed back by a tickling on my neck in the middle of the night from the antennas of a roach in bed with me. Look at your middle finger to get an idea of how big this roach was. R.I.P. my little friend.
Why did I come back to a place where you have to point at food you think you recognize on a picture menu just to get a plate of noodles, chicken feet, and a big chicken head looking right at you? or to walk down the street and get hit with a good smell of stinky tofu?
Why did i come back to a place where i have no idea half the time what i am doing because i have no idea what in the world anything says or what people are saying? I promise you, going to another country where you cannot communicate with people brings out the caveman in you. There is a whole lot of grunting, shaking your head, waving your hands around, and rejoicing with more grunting when they discover that you have been trying to tell them for 5 minutes that you wanted fried rice.
I can keep entertaining you with hundreds of “why in the world did i come back to this stories”, but none of these reasons matter one little bit to the one reason why i did come back. I love my neighbor.