Wednesday, March 16, 2005

My Inner Andy Rooney

Well, I was told by my traveling compatriot that my post yesterday was a bit "grumpy" and that I was perhaps a little hard on Eastern medicine which has been shown to be effective in many cases. I agree; it works in certain cases. I am in no way denigrating Eastern medicine. I am denigrating bad medicine. I found out today that the guy in our group who had 6 days of diarrhea was given (I couldn't make this up!) "meat juice" as a medication. He wisely decided against taking it. He was also diagnosed with "tonsillitis" but has not had tonsils since he was about 4 years old. So, with a little help from our friends back home, we are taking the bambina off all meds ASAP. We'll be home soon and everything can wait till then. We're already Typhoid Marys, so why rush to change it, right?

In the meantime, I am still grumpy. China and I are in that difficult stage of our relationship where we know each other really well, still love each other, but have ceased to find all of each other's idiosyncrasies purely charming; we now find them to be equal parts charming and intensely irritating. We find ourselves looking around the room at the other potential suitors, certain that this one or that one wouldn't do that thing we hate, or that somehow we'd be much better suited with someone else who would understand us better and make us like ourselves more ("I bet Russian adoptions don't make you take stupid medicines!" or "Man, if it wasn't for this place I could be having an awesome time at a Guatemalan adoption!"). As with all long-term relationships, which China and I are, I just need to honor my inner grump, ride out the storm, stop fooling myself that any other country would be any better in similar or even different ways, and know that we will be in love again as soon as we get some distance and perspective. Again, like all great relationships, there are some things--like meat juice--on which we will never agree and will perhaps heatedly argue about till the day we each shuffle off this mortal coil. But it doesn't mean I've stopped loving China; doesn't mean I don't want to come back. It just means that I reserve the right to lovingly find it so irritating I want to scream, and to wish it would get its act together on something that seems so obvious to the rest of the planet.

On that note, and in the continuing vein of grumpiness, we had a truly communist indoctrination moment on the way to the babies' health exams for their Chinese passports. It was in a courtyard outside a school, where 5 men at a table were "judging" each class of little children (like 4 years old), who were all dressed up in uniforms and doing kiddie military precision movements. You know, sort of like a cross between Band Camp and the Hitler Youth. CREEPY. Above it all a soundtrack in mono (as opposed to stereo, for the youngsters reading the Haggis) with music and what sounded like exhortations played out over the loudspeakers. I took some photos surreptitiously because it was such a totalitarian kiddie creepfest. Our handler didn't seem fazed by it in the least, but all the Americans were wigging out because it was like a scene from Schindler's List. I clutched my little sleepy baby and just could not wait to get her out of there. It was one of those things that just leaves you feeling like something really wrong just happened but nobody involved in it is noticing. The hairs on the back of my neck were straight up; I can't explain why it was so disturbing, because I don't think any of us needs words to know why.

In another quick note that I will explain more fully when I am home, CNN Asia goes black during certain segments that discuss Taiwan. I will hear the intro, "Dr so and such is here to discuss the situation with the cross-straits relationship; Dr So and Such, tell us"...FADE TO BLACK...{3 minutes later}...BACK TO PERFECT RECEPTION..."Well, thank you Dr. So and Such for that excellent commentary.... And now to sports where Manchester United scored another one to win a berth in the premier...blah blah..." The first couple of times it happened I was, as grumps usually do, getting ready to call down to reception to tell them that the TV was defective. Until we noticed the pattern and decided not to call attention to it. While the TV was black, however, I took the opportunity to enjoy the China Daily, which is the govt-run English language newspaper, where I learned that most Taiwanese are delighted and satisfied that China just passed the recent law regarding secession. They even have quotes from the man in the street saying that it is a good and great thing for peace. Who knew?!! In terms of news from the US, before we get all cocky however, I do need to say that the main news topic about us is usually shootings. If there is a shooting anywhere in the states, I assure you it is reported in the news here. Why indeed would you want to go there and be like them? You get shot AT CHURCH in America! Better to stay safely here where strange looking "stars" don't molest children with cancer. And if any poor Chinese person watches HBO Asia, they will have a truly skewed view of American culture. There are movies showing on the channel that I have never heard of and that star people like Pia Zadora, The Guy From Boston Public, The Woman from According to Jim, and the kids that DIDN'T make it onto Saved By The Bell Series 5. And all of them are either having sex or getting murdered. In every single movie. The guy who had 6 days of diarrhea said he watched all day and night (cause what else can you do?!), and didn't see anything but slasher flicks with no-name actors. We're so proud! At least the US is exporting *something,* right?

Well, I'd better get some sleep. I don't want to risk hitting the next level of grumpiness, which is crankiness, and which then leads to misanthropy. I need to lose the grump and get my contentment going so that China and I can kiss and make up before we part; as long as it hasn't had any meat juice, that is.

1 comment:

Miko said...

Wow...WAY creepy about the schoolyard children.

A couple of months ago I visited the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem. On exhibit there they have a reconstructed 19th century house from rural China. It was lived in until the 1980s, so the house is presented furnished as it was in the 80s, with a mix of very old Chinese furniture, handed down through the family, and other recent dishware, bikes, clothing, etc.

The house was absolutely lovely, and most of the time you could tell visitors were thinking 'hey, I could live here!' But then there was one truly chilling moment when the audio tour called attention to a speaker mounted high in the corner of the dining room. This speaker was a 'gift' from the government and was required in every household. It was always on; the residents could not turn it down or turn it off. And throughout the day, those living in the house would have to listen to periodic broadcasts of patriotic martial music, propaganda, and 'exhortations' (great word) from the Glorious Leader. That was a moment of real cultural dissonance -- imagine dealing with that? In modern times? In your house?

I mean, I get fed up with our guv'mint regularly, but at least I can listen to Air America. I'm glad to hear the statesiders you were with were weirded out to see this. Maybe they'll bring back newfound appreciation for our freedom of speech, maybe they'll use it more, and maybe it'll be contagious.