Thursday, January 3, 2013

Observations of the Other Side of the World

A friend asked me what my favorite part of China was, and while of course it was getting our girl, I would say that I really loved getting to know (as much as one can in two weeks) the Chinese culture. 
Here is what I observed, but that’s just it….
These are simply my observations.  These are not facts, they are just guesses from what we saw in a short two weeks.  If you are Chinese and reading this and I am completely wrong, feel free to correct me! J
Observation #1: Older people, I would guess, are less depressed.  They are active. 

                                      Always at the parks in the morning, hanging out with each other. 


I wrote an entire post about this, so go read that if you want more details, but I thought it was worth repeating here.  

Observation #2: Chinese people do not like to see kids upset. 

Our girl?  If she was crying, we’d have five Chinese women come over to see what was wrong and to try to fix it for us.  One would rub her face, one would repeat over and over, “Don’t cry….” (Eyann would respond by crying longer and louder.)  One would zip her coat up a little higher. (Eyann would quickly pull it back down.) One would knock on our hotel door to see if she could help.  (She couldn’t.)  One would tell Eyann, when she was crying for her (foster) mama (not me), that I was her mama now and that I loved her very much.  (That just pissed the girl off.) One would give us warm milk.  (Eyann pushed it away.)

All of those things? 

REALLY nice that these women wanted to be helpful…

And I’m glad that they all tried, because Keith and I were feeling pretty helpless in comforting our girl.  Everyone else’s attempts didn’t help Eyann, but they sure helped us to realize that nothing and no one was going to help her feel better about having her world turned upside down (literally) and we were just going to have to be patient and wait it out with her. 

Observation #3: We’d lose weight in China. We did lose weight in China.  My weight hasn’t changed, at all, in about 9 years (except during and after my pregnancies), and I lost five pounds while I was there. 
People walk there.  And ride bikes.  It is really expensive to drive a car.  You have to pay the government more.  And you are banned from driving on certain days, depending on your license plate number. 

People eat better there.  We didn’t eat french fries and cookies all day and four scoops of ice cream every night.   (E’hem…not that I do that at home...)  

We ate lots of rice and vegetables and fresh fruit. 

There were foods served on the street, but it wasn’t elephant ears and french fries covered in mayonnaise or giant hotdogs with chili meat and cheese on top. 

The foods I saw people buying were meats and veggies and boiled eggs.   Sometimes, you’d see  some “fast food” cups of rice….

I realized just how much healthier Chinese people were when I was surprised to be able to point out an overweight Asian girl. 

                Essentially the only overweight person I’d seen in the two weeks that we’d been there…. 
Yep, people on that side of the globe are smaller….. (and not just in their foot size).

Observation #4: You can’t find Benadryl in the Chinese Walmart, but you can find whole streets of vendors selling dried seahorses and starfish and ocean plants for medicinal purposes.  Apparently, you crush it and mix it with water and apply it to your wounds?  Or drink it in tea? 

I loved walking the streets full of vendors.  There were whole streets that resembled a pet aisle.  And whole streets that looked like your local shoe shop.  And another street that was focused on tea products and food. 

Observation #5: Prices are marked, but not necessarily set in China
Before we left, we heard (and read) the locals expect you to haggle with them on prices, but I have Keith for my husband and he’d be completely embarrassed if I even asked for a lower price, and so… was not had in the haggling department….
Except when I went to a department store in a quest for clothes for Eyann. 
I was told the shirt I was to buy was $500 Chinese dollars.  Our guide stepped in and talked to the women for awhile, pointing at me and at the shirt and at Eyann for quite some time while I stood by looking awkward.  It was settled then, that I would pay $67 Chinese dollars.  I did. 
When I returned to the hotel, I laughed when I saw the tag said $167.  I asked the guide about this, and she said many department stores will raise their prices when they see Americans buying their products.  And so….the prices are not set.  Imagine going into Younkers and haggling with the sales person.  Or imagine the sales person jacks up the prices because you look like you have more money.  Imagine going to buy a dog at PetSmart and haggling a few hundred down before agreeing to buy your poodle.  Should I try it next time I’m at the mall?

Observation $6: Chinese people are accommodating to people who don’t speak their language.
So many times, Keith and I would be somewhere or need something, and we’d be trying to communicate with the people there, and have no idea how to tell them in their language.  We’d use lots of hand motions and talk very slow English (like talking slower to someone who doesn’t know English is going to help them to suddenly get it).  And all of the time, they were so patient, and they would really try to figure out what we needed or they would find someone who could.  I appreciated that.  Being in a country with a new little girl who is upset and crying and having no way to communicate what you need to the people who can help was hard.  But I really felt like most of the people there tried to make it as easy as possible on us.  And I was thankful for that.    

We were glad to get home, mostly to see our kids, but we are really glad we were given the chance to see some of Eyann’s home country.  It is good to have observed the culture that raised our girl, and it will be fun to tell her our story of having been a part of it for the very short two weeks that we were there.  Hopefully, some day, we can go back together and learn more….
In the meantime, we’ve at least got bits and pieces we can offer her until she can make observations of her own.  

My next post?  It's going to have to be on the naughty, buggery, funny things that Eyann says and does....because some day, she's going to want to read about them and laugh.