..I could totally live in Guangzhou.
The lifestyle here is just my speed. Very New Orleans. Very French influence. Lots of outdoor space, like Shamian Park, where Chinese people do ballroom dancing, tai chi and play mah-jongg. I like that all of the kiddie play areas have adult exercise areas too, so while the chilluns are swinging, the oldsters are swinging on elliptical-style apparati. It's pretty cool how the young and old interact, at least here in South China. A lot of shared public spaces. But a lot more poverty, as you would expect far from the nation's capital.
A major similarity with Beijing, however, is the literalness of the language. As we walk the bambina around the town, we notice that every store is named things like, "Jennifer's Place" and "Wendy's Place" or perhaps "Lily's Place." That's it. No "Kountry Korner Keepsakes" or "Souvenirs, Etc" or anything non-specific like that. It's just, "Sandy's Place." And when you walk by, the women come running out to ooh and aah over the baby, to ask where she is from, where you are from, and to tell you what great stuff they have. And then they always say, "You come back to Wendy's Place. I am Wendy!" No matter what store you go to, you are always apparently speaking to the proprietor herself. I keep waiting for them to finish up with, "I am Wendy! I am running for purveyor of fine Chinese souvenirs, and I approved this message."
They seem to be very pleased when told that the bambina is from this province. And they love that the two other girls from the same orphanage will live in the same town as we do when we get home. Other people look at the Westerners with babies and look away, like it's something they don't quite know how to discuss, either with each other or with us. It's complicated, so I don't necessarily blame them. Now that I've got a little Chinese language under my belt I tend to get a more positive response. Nothing like a smile and a big "Nie Hao!" to an old man to get a smile in return. Old ladies show their friendliness by chastising you for not having a hat on your baby's head in this blustery 70 degree weather and for having skin showing between the sock and the pants leg. I'm not kidding. One woman was stroking the bambina's hair and saying, "such cute hair" in a way that said clearly, "WHY IS IT that I am able to SEE this child's hair?!!! Where is her hat, you insane Americans!? Don't you know babies will freeze in this weather?!" So that's the Chinese idiosyncrasy: a nagging feeling that somehow, somewhere a Chinese baby is very cold...and it's their job to root it out in all its manifestations.
On the American idiosyncrasy side, I would say it is our "outsize" appearance. Our guide said to me today in the grocery store about a couple of us, "You four are the thinnest Americans I've ever met. You are so fit! Every other American here is always so very very big. How do you get so fat over there? Is everyone so wealthy that they can eat every hour of the day?" I thought about what he said, and he is right. The majority of the Americans here to adopt kids are HUGE. Like, enormous. Not just chubby or a little extra bit of cushion, which is no big deal. I mean they are very, very obese. At the hotel breakfast buffet, it is almost revolting, the amount of food that is piled high on the plates, with the Chinese servers just looking on in amazement. One guy said to me today in the hotel, "Man, we can't wait to get out of here; I've only had one good meal in 2 weeks and that was a burger yesterday; I can't stand eating all this chinese food." Nice. How about delving into your kid's culture a little, joe sixpack? How about giving it a try without expecting it to taste like a philly cheesesteak? It's like he came all the way to China and is annoyed that it isn't just like El Paso, Texas. Gimme a break.
Well, that's my rant for today: My baby's head is fine, no she is not cold, you are so sweet to care; we think they are nosy, and we are probably right. On the other hand, when in China, don't frighten the residents by eating twice your weight in bacon and eggs with toast, jelly and orange juice--oh and with a danish, a muffin, two hash browns and sausages--and that's your FIRST trip to the buffet! They think we're gross; and they are probably right.