Saturday, June 22, 2013

My China Pinterest-Embracing the Broken

I realize it's been a bit since I've blogged. I'm scaling things back a bit so that I can somehow locate my sanity. This might take awhile. And for the time being, I'm utterly consumed with preventing back-of-the-knee sweat.

I do though have a brief installment for my China Pinterest series.

In order to get things repaired here, it requires calling a friend who has a cousin, who has a friend who owns a hammer. The arrangements are made and the person shows up to fix whatever you need. Regardless of what you need fixed, they come carrying wire cutters and a hammer. When you show them that your refrigerator seal is torn and needs repairing, they tell you they can't help. You stare at them and wait. They then get on the phone with another cousin's sister's friend and say they can help week. This little charade happens for most things needing repair. Because of this lovely little phenomenom, there are things that just remain unfixed, but My China Pinterest has given me a much needed attitude adjustment about the whole thing.

Our toilet seat broke about 2 years ago. After carrying the broken seat on multiple buses and asking cousins to fix it, this what remains. We have decided to embrace the broken. We now refer to this toilet as a vintage model. Seats are a modern construct that we refuse to buy into. We are looking for pure antiquity and unfettered commitment to simplicity.

Our refrigerator seal has been dangling from the door for 6 months. We have replaced it with a can of Italian sauce. This brings both a zest and an honesty to our kitchen area. This can that holds our door closed conveys to our guests that we are not pretentious people. Honesty in decoration reflects our family's desire for holistic living.

Our neighbors are rebuilding their apartment and left this ornament lying in the street. Orange mold and I made our way back to our apartment. Spreading orange mold spores throughout our living room and lungs is approved when you call it "refurbishing." It's not dumpster diving, it's rescuing a piece that is screaming for life remade. I can hear it whispering gratitude as I lay my head on the pillow or I could be having mold induced night terrors.

This cabinet bit has been repaired no short of a dozen times.  One afternoon, rage creativity won and I tore appropriately removed the cabinet in order to give our kitchen a more airy feel. Bringing the outside in. Without having to open a cabinet every time you need a bowl, it allows your mind the freedom to think about things. Things such as why are there burn holes on our plastic plates? Or, why is that woman dancing in her pajamas outside my window? Either way, embrace the freedom you feel by forgoing cabinets altogether. It's like entering into a more attractive "Burn your bra," type of protest. 

True, unadulterated freedom.

Friends, there is an undeniable theme to this post. Freedom. Breaking from societal expectations and embracing the broken. Do it. You will not be disappointed.

Monday, June 10, 2013

How Retirement Broadly Affects Culture

Retirement. For many Americans, retirement dreams are filled with golf, grandkids, and freedom. It is a season in life to look forward to.  I realize that this isn't the reality for some Americans, but I would say that for most, retirement doesn't include gripping fear and uncertainty. 

The retirement pension system is both newly formed and markedly dysfunctional. The systems guarding the money for these retirees has made it difficult, if not impossible for people to get their money. Whether through corruption or faulty investments, the systems set in place are going bankrupt. Most of these systems have only been put in the place the last 10-15 years. That brings the country to a huge gap of retirement-aged people who haven't paid into the system for long enough to get anything back. 

The one-child policy has the balanced typed heavily towards the aging generation. 
Without this becoming an economics post, let's hit the bottom line: daily I see older people scrounging in trash cans to recycle anything sellable. Plastic bottles, cardboard boxes, plastic ties, glass bottles. All of these get thrown into a rice bag and carted around the streets. 

This woman is a friend who works in our apartment complex. They were cleaning the pathway when she decided to collect shoes deposited in a nearby trash can and power wash them. She will probably sew them together and either sell or wear them.  

For most retirees, they depend solely on the money given to them by their children. That mere factor plays into how they parent their children from birth on. There needs to be a debt system in place so that when the child gets married and finds a job, they will feel indebted to their parents and support them until their parents have deceased. There is an expectation that each adult child would contribute significantly to the parent's daily income. This is also why events like the Sichuan earthquake in 2008 are so wholly devastating. It is horrid enough to lose a child, but it is pain upon pain to realize that you now have no financial safety net. From that tragic day onwards, hundreds of families had to start talking about how they were going to eat without a way of making money.

Awhile back, the legislature passed a law that would allow Chinese parents to sue their children if they were feeling neglected. If the children weren't visiting "often," then the parents could take them to court. 

This is not a problem that will be solved quickly. It's complicated and political.  This single economic issue has a lasting effect on so many areas of culture here that it's hard to separate the issues. If there was some type of safety net for the elderly, I wonder what effect it would have on the younger generation? How would that affect urbanization or marriage?

Saturday, June 01, 2013

Children's Day 2013-At least my kids wore clothing this time

Well friends, here it is. The Children's Day performance. My dear children have been practicing for hours over the last 3 weeks for this little shindig. Performances are a rite of passage here. Like killing your first lion or using bikini wax. 

These things are always a blast and give me lots of blogging material. Such as this and this.  This is the class with the littles. These kids are all around 3, and spent most of this performance jumping up and down in a bathing suit, waving loofa sponges.

This was one of my favorites because in the middle of the dance, there was a costume change. You see, the dance started off with all these girls in a t-shirt and their underwear. As they woke up, they were to put on shorts and shoes. Well, if you look closely, several of the girls' pants were too big and hovering around their waist, as if they were at a Tupac concert. One girl forgot her pants altogether and did the entire dance in her underwear only. 

Then we were up. We did Amazing Grace in English and Chinese. I introduced the family and they wanted us to strike a pose and make a noise. So, we did. This was a fun blessing to get to share with everyone. There were several hundred people there, so there was a bit of an intimidation factor for the kids. I will say that I was super proud of them. I'll post the video in a few days.

Then my girl took stage. She had told me that only girls were in the front because the boys, "Were just not good at all. I mean, at all."

When this girl gets on stage, she becomes a different child. She commanded people's attention. As a side note, when we had rehersals a few hours earlier, a random group of 20 Africans walked in. As if receiving a memo, all kinds of people asked me who they were and if they were family. Yes. Yes they did.

The whole dance was a Navy theme and they did a fantastic job. The music shifted part of the way through when Michael Jackson did a Beat It routine.  Makaria had been showing me all the Michael Jackson moves all week. It involved rhythmic pelvic thrusting and inappropriate hand placement. But I will say that this kid nailed it. Then the Navy finished up their part of the routine. All Navy's should have Michael Jackson impersonators. Maybe there wouldn't be so much war that way.

Riskiest routine of the night involved riding bikes on stage. I had flashes of children being blinded by the smoke machine and plummeting to a bloody fall on these things. 

And there were sheep. 

And Western China dances. 

Then my little dude came out with his class. He is hard to spot and spent a significant portion of his routine popping bubbles with his buddy next to him. It was also a graduation performance for those entering 1st grade next year. I am one of those parents. I'm not talking about it.

But man, was my little dude cute or what. Oh my. 

The announcer and Michael Jackson with Makaria. 

It was a fantastic Children's Day! I am so proud of my crew. 

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