Saturday, March 23, 2013

Peeing in the bushes and eating M&Ms (or "how to piss off a Chinese granny")

Last time we were in China, Annie and I were walking down the street when we saw a little boy squat down in the middle of the sidewalk, drop a turd, then run back to his mom, grab her hand, and go merrily on his way.

Yeah. It sure makes you see the "dog poop" on the sidewalk in a whole new light.

This time around, we've seen little kids using their split pants to pee into garbage cans and planters, and even into the decorative fountains in the mall (and let's not even get started on the man who was pooping on the highway median in Beijing). We've also noticed lots and lots of very obese preschoolers, and of course, kids who were bundled so much they has red faces and hair drenched in sweat.

We would never do those things, because we know better, right?

According to the Chinese people I've talked to, we're doing plenty wrong:

1) Our kids aren't dressed warmly enough. Even if they have three or four layers on. I think this is primarily because our layers are less bulky than theirs. And if you have an inch of ankle showing, the grannies go ballistic. We finally discovered that if we pull their ankle socks up to their knees, no ankle shows, and we get significantly fewer dirty looks. But we still do plenty wrong.

2) We let them suck their thumbs. On the way back from the orphanage, we were at the train station, and my mom ran to the bathroom while our guide was trying to change our tickets. Any woman with two babies in China is a sight to behold, but a tall, blonde, American woman with two little bitty Chinese babies is akin to seeing a B-list celebrity, and pretty soon a crowd of a least a dozen people had gathered around me, smiling and waving. But one of the grannies came up to Rose, popped her thumb out of her mouth, and shook her finger at me. It doesn't matter that the kids had had a long day. It doesn't matter that Eli had been uprooted from the only life he'd known only two days earlier. It doesn't matter that Rose has had the most stressful week of her entire life. It doesn't matter that both kids will eventually get braces. No thumbs in the mouth. Ever.

3) I let Rose's head slump down when she sleeps in the stroller. We brought our old, grungy stroller to China. It doesn't recline. We've been doing lots of sightseeing, and consequently Rose has been doing lots of sleeping in her stroller. Her head usually droops down, and I'll swipe it up a couple of times because it looks awful, but eventually I give up. Rose is, after all, the fifth of six children. She knows how to make do. And sleep is sleep, slumped head or not. I'm used to being the only adult around five or six kids, but around here, the ratio is reversed. It's very common to see one child surrounded by a posse of adults, all attending to his or her needs (like taking them to pee over a garbage can).

4) I was so happy to see Eli's hearty appetite when we got him. When we adopted Rose, it was apparent that she only knew how to eat from a bottle, so it was fun to feed Eli all kinds of new foods, and we really had fun introducing him to ice cream cones at McDonalds. I bought a cone for each kid and we sat down in the middle of the restaurant and laughed and laughed as they sucked them down. Sure, people stared, but remember, we're used to attracting stares here.

Well, we went shopping with Ann today (adopters know what this means, for everyone else, Ann is a guide who helps you get wholesale prices on all sorts of stuff. I think I'm carrying home my weight in pearls and jade). After three hours of taxi rides and crowded elevators and tight little shops, we came to the last store on our list. Eli and Rose had been troupers, but they were getting cranky, so I pulled out the M&Ms I'd stashed in my bag for just such a moment. After watching Eli attack the candy with relish, Ann turned to me and said, "You know, here in China, we don't feed our babies sweet foods. Or salty foods." I laughed and said, "Well, it's a good thing these guys are Americans," but the pleaser in me was groaning that I'd done another thing wrong.

We're enjoying ourselves in China, but it will be nice to get back to a place where I know the rules and where I will have my own culture's moral superiority on my side.

Sent from my iPad

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