I’m flying home in one week. That means my two years in China are nearly up, and so you all must be chomping at the bit to know what my highs and lows are, top-ten style. Well, okay. Here, then, a dual list: things I will miss and things I will not. (This may become a short series, but I’ll stick with ten for tonight.)
Things I Will Not Miss
1. Grandmas constantly scolding and chastising me for my parenting decisions, from warmth of clothing to choice of snacks to leniency in allowing my child to do things on his own
2. Going into a clothing store and realizing that I am the completely wrong size, shape, dimension, and height for every item (including shoes) Continue reading
For going on two years now, I’ve gotten my hair cut at a fancy place across the street. It used to be called Hair 1981, but they updated the name recently to the more modern Hair, and in a sign of supreme styling self-confidence here in Asia, put up signage translated into Korean. It’s staffed by 6 or 8 young men at a time, all from small villages out in the hills of Zhejiang Province, all of whom compete with each other to have the biggest, cutest hair in the place. When not shampooing or styling the well-maintained locks of their discerning customers, they sit in the chairs and work the blow dryers on themselves with a vigor and attention to detail unknown in other sectors of the Chinese economy. Each resembles a different sort of lovely, rare bird of the K-Pop Amazon, their piles of hair dyed orange or light orange and tufting beautifully every which way. It’s really something to inspire confidence in a flat-haired American like myself. Continue reading
It snowed today, for twelve hours straight. Miraculously, it stuck to the ground. This is an occasion. We stayed in most of the day, making turkey soup and doing every project under the sun to fight the boredom. In the late afternoon, we took a family walk. Not one foot outside our apartment building, I tripped over a 1-foot-tall snowman in the walkway. Then I looked up just in time to dodge the sharp twirling points of an oncoming umbrella: there were crowds out to celebrate the white stuff, and everyone brought their many-purpose umbrella. [In China, umbrellas are used equally for sun, rain and snow.] Lakeside, more miniature snowmen awaited: one on every bench, to be precise. They were exquisitely crafted, some of them trios: mom, dad, baby. The perfect family of three. They looked remarkably like each other: in this country, there is never, ever just one of anything. Continue reading
The Hangzhou Pelting Zoo
It’s wet, it’s dirty, it smells like sulphur — but hey, it’s snow! And it’s here, along with all the joy and drama one might expect in these frantic weeks before the Spring Festival holidy. And perhaps nobody’s feeling that anxiety more than Owen’s beloved lions at the Hangzhou zoo. This was a top story on the Baidu (China’s equivalent of Google) news site today:
On January 5, 2013, at the Zhejiang Provincial Museum’s lion mountain pen—-A group of sightseers, upon seeing the African lions, immediately began packing snowballs. The lions, sensing danger, hurried behind the scant protection they could find. The female lion ran under a wooden board, while the male lion took cover behind a tree trunk, keeping both eyes firmly locked on the group of tourists. Continue reading
The most-clicked picture of 2012.
Worldwide time-wasters in 2012
The end is near! Judging from all the slap-dash lists-o’-links suddenly posted all over the internet, it’s that time of year — when news sites try to squeeze a little more traffic by re-posting a bunch of tired old content and calling it a year-end retrospective. (Here’s just one egregious example.) Well, here in the 中国, we don’t like to be outdone (and copying others tends to pay off). So here it is, what none of you have been waiting for: Welcome to the 中国’s
Best Least-Bad of 2012. Continue reading
For the turkey:
Research prices at the online specialty grocery stores in Shanghai. Decide they are pretty spendy. Take a chance and make the 40-minute cab-ride trek out to 麦德龙 (a European-Chinese joint-venture restaurant-supply supermarket), where rumor has it they sell turkeys. Find the freezer manager and ask, “Do you have turkeys?” He will respond, “We do. How big?” Tell him, boldly: “The biggest one you have.” His eyes will widen. “That will cost you more than 100 RMB [$15].” Stand firm. “That’s okay. Let me see your biggest turkey.” And he will haul it out of the deep freeze and present it. It’s big enough to feed a crowd; it’ll do. Continue reading
Once a week, Owen wakes up and gets really close to my face, grinning wildly. I say, “Good morning!” and he says, “Tofu. Tofu! TOFU!” And I know it’s a tofu day. We get our faces on (this involves coffee for me and a diaper change for him) and head down the nearest alley. We walk under the clotheslines, strung from crumbling walls, heavy with the thick winter wear of people who live in unheated spaces.
Maybe it is washing day, in which case the shared washing machine is out in the alleyway, lid-less and spinning the neighborhood’s underwear together. Groups of people work together to sort recycling (boxes stacked flat, ten feet high, and placed on the back of a motorbike, then carted slowly and precariously off for the refund). Men step out of doorways to spit their morning toothpaste into the storm drains. Kids play with halves of toys: a car with two wheels, a yo-yo with one side. They stare and yell “Hello!” and we wave back. Continue reading
Photo credit UPS
Christmas is coming. We bought (spoiler alert!) a certain breakable gift for a certain set of grandparents, and I went to the Post Office to send it. The end. Just kidding! The Post Office won’t ship breakables outside China (even if you beg), so I went to UPS.
The taxi driver was silent for the first five minutes of our 40-minute journey. I was a little disappointed: if I’m going to be in the car for that long, I’d like to have a chat (especially since the pollution is so thick lately that there is literally nothing to see out the window). Lucky for me, he started up a conversation that lasted the entire ride. It went thusly: