Sunday, September 25, 2011

Visiting China...and Being the Minority

I am sitting on Meng's grandma's bed next to the kitchen table.
Teeny-tiny apartment but she likes it that way because it's just her.
There's a small kitchen with a minuscule fridge, stove and large sink.
A frosted glass panel separates the kitchen from the couch, which
seats 3 comfortably. Across from the couch is a breakfast table,
behind it a wardrobe and next to it a wall-mounted HDTV. Queen size
bed, (orange) nightstand, and several plants on the windowsill plant
stands throughout. We're on the 14th floor. There's no screen on the
window (no mosquitos up here!) so you can put your face out in the
(slightly smoggy) night air. It's nice.

Emma is sleeping next to me. She's had a rough couple of days. She did
really well on the plane over. She slept a little, ate a little, and
when she got restless we did laps around the the aisles. There were
plenty of people up and walking around, and probably 4 other
Chinese/American couples with small children, but they were all Asian
moms/American dads. Nice people none the less. Emma made lots of
friends her own size and bigger, and several people came to say
farewell when we got off the plane. She was on a first-name basis with
the flight attendants, one of which actually snuck her a banana during
our flight. We made our transfer in Beijing where Emma charmed her way
to the boarding gate. On Chinese flights they have clever little
infant seat belts. It's basically the same as a larger seatbelt, only
no seat. There's just a small loop attached that slips over an adult
seatbelt, so the infant sits on your lap. Emma wasn't the biggest fan,
but once she got a bottle she fell asleep and stayed that way until we
had reached the house. At one point in the baggage area, an entire
Chinese tourist group stopped and tried to gently wake her up.

This is how it is everywhere we go now. Everyone stops to say hello to
her. People are more relaxed about strangers talking to children, and
I haven't felt uncomfortable about it yet. They say that her eyes are
beautiful, etc. She drinks in the attention. A couple people even took
her picture today. I don't know how I feel about that, but there
really isn't a way to stop it, and it was just a couple of girls with
pink cell phones. Hardly predators. Still, it might be lucrative to
learn how to say in Chinese, "No pictures, please!" People stop and
stare at us, which is awkward. Some are simply unashamed to stop and
stare at us when we walk by. I'm learning subtle differences between
the kinds of staring. When people stop to stare at Emma, they talk to
her and say how cute she is, and well, generally pay more attention to
her. When people stare at me they look a little confused, often do a
double take at Meng, and usually have their mouth open. A car actually
stopped to look at me today. That was weird. I don't mind so much when
women stare. I just smile back, but I haven't really figured out what
to do when men stare. Sometimes I ignore them, sometimes I stare them
down, and sometimes staring them down doesn't work. I think the whole
baby thing throws them off, especially yesterday when I was running
around in 2 1/2 inch heels. Oh well.

Meng's family is great. His grandma really likes me, and I think I
earned some major brownie points by twice today making sure she had
someone to cross the street with. We just finished an amazingly (huge)
dinner of (the most ginormous) dumplings stuffed with chicken and some
kind of unidentifiable but inoffensive vegetable. There were also
small crabs, fresh (as in, swimming around hours ago) shrimp, fresh
(also that fresh) small white fish, clam and cucumber salad
(different, but good! I've re-discovered clams as something yummy),
stir-fried celery, carrots and boiled peanuts, and finally a raw
shellfish dish that I politely tried and determined that while I was
perfectly capable of eating it, I would much rather eat other things
at the table.

We took a long walk today through one of the largest parks in China.
We visited several statues, including an open book that is half the
size of a football field (we walked on it!), and a statue that
apparently caused a lot of stir when it was put up because
traditionally you are only supposed to put it in front of the
Emperor's palace... Arrogant much, Dalian? The oceanside was there,

More to come...

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