Sunday, March 13, 2005

The Fat Americans Strike Again

Today was to be a trip to the Buddhist temple in Guangzhou to have the girls blessed by a monk, which was a wonderful idea, and which we were thrilled to have happen. It was a really nice quick ceremony, led by a monk in traditional buddhist monk garb---and a Nike woolen cap. East Meets West, baby!!

After the ceremony was a tour of the grounds, which include one area of the temple filled with little bookmark-looking cards all along the wall with photos of deceased ancestors. I was struck by how similar it was to the yahrzeit wall in Jewish synagogues. So that was a neat trip.

Next thing you know, people on the bus want to go shopping at the jade market. So off we go to the jade market, at which one family decides they are going to have scrolls written for every single member of their family at home. So what was to be a 20 minute stopoff for people to haggle and buy jade became an hour and a half waiting for this one family to get their d*mn presents. Don't mind us! We're just a bus full of people with babies who have not yet been fed; but please! Take your time and make sure you get Aunt Ethel her d*mn calligraphy scroll here because god forbid you buy one on your own time near the hotel for 50 cents more. Grrrrr!

So apparently, while in the jade market, a couple of families decide that they really want Starbucks and McDonalds, and so now the half-hour trip to a temple is looking like a 3 1/2 hour trip to get cheeseburgers and overpriced lattes. Simultaneously, my daughter is *this close* to completely losing it. She has missed her nap; she has not eaten; she is still not feeling super great; she is sweating like a fat kid; and the other babies are starting that one-by-one descent into inconsolable wailing that can only mean one thing: she is next if someone doesn't get the d*mn bus back to the d*mn hotel in the next 5 minutes. So 4 of the 8 families ask the guide if we could skip the McDonalds and Starbucks and just head out; the other four brought their other kids with them, and god forbid they make their 12 year old forgo a quarter pounder with cheese at 11:30am. So the 4 fast food families won out, the rest of us seethed, my daughter lost it LARGE, and one poor new dad with raging diarrhea just whimpered, praying for a return to the hotel ASAP. He said he only got on the bus because he thought he'd last even an hour max at his baby's buddhist blessing.

I cannot tell you how livid I was. Don't these people get it? We're not here to make sure we get cheap jade; we're here to adopt and bond with our kids and to experience the culture from which our children have come. But they put such pressure on the guide to show them a good time, and to get them some western food because they are "so sick" of Chinese food, that he felt like he had to relent to their wishes. By the time we got back to the hotel, it had been 4 hours since my daughter had eaten, and I couldn't figure out if I was more mad at the Fastfoodistas, or at myself for not planning better. So--lesson learned: ALWAYS bring more than you need, even if you think you are just running out for 30 minutes; it could turn into a 4 hour bus ride into h*ll; and the kind of tourists who have the stones to tell a Chinese person that they are "so sick" of his country's food, will ALWAYS outplay, outwit and outlast a guy on the bus with diarrhea...


SquareSlant said...

I am much nastier than you. If I those people had forced me to McDonalds against my will – I would make sure I was right beside them with my “screaming” daughter while they enjoyed their meal. I would have also dropped lines like – “I’m glad your son is enjoying McDonalds – my daughter is not.” Whatever happened I would not leave their sides – they would get to see what their selfish wrought.

misterfed said...

See, this is exactly why parents exchange knowing glances when non-parents make fun of us for equipping for the most minor outing as if we were Admiral Perry trying to reach the pole. You never KNOW when the kiddo will get ravenously and unconsolably hungry. You never KNOW when they will have 6 blow-out diapers in a row and exhaust your meager supply.

I sympathize with the waiting, but I don't feel that I can throw the first stone at anyone on wanting to eat at McDonalds. On our first trip to Korea to pick up our son, we were terrified, exhausted, and culture-shocked, and with the exception of a couple of meals, wound up eating nearly every meal in an ersatz Southwestern restaurant in the lobby of the Seoul Hilton. This was Southwestern as imagined by a French-trained Japanese chef cooking in Korea, so that was exotic enough. (We did much better when we went back for our daughter and actually enjoyed several local places authentic enough to lack English on the menu).