Friday, March 26, 2010

Get a load of this!

I wish I could say that I wasn't shocked at all the things I have experienced after living in China for the past six months, but I usually am.  I am still mortified at the constant nose picking, hawking of spit and other fluids on the sidewalk and out car windows and expending of bodily gases without abandon.

I am also still befuddled about some of the traditions and customs of this unique and interesting land, but I typically chalk them up to learning something new about the place where I'm living and try to appreciate their perspective. 

However, last night, a friend told me something that stunned and disturbed me: If you are infertile in China, no matter if it's due to a female or male issue, the husband is almost expected to divorce you.  That's right - expected!  It is an incredible embarrassment to the family (meaning the parents of the couple and beyond) and is considered to be a "bad fate" for the women who can't bear a child.  So, it's always the woman's "fault."  I realize that there are many things about this country that are still several decades behind, but this bit of info really burned me at my core.

In fact, I was told that if you can't have a baby (and there is still the one child per family rule in most of China, so it makes this all the more interesting), people will talk about you and you will likely be shunned from your family.  That is, unless you are "lucky" enough to find a widowed or divorced man who already has children that you can be a mother to.

I will put a caveat on this info, my friend comes from a fairly small town in Southern China, so perhaps this isn't the case everywhere, but she knew of it happening in Shanghai, too.

I realize that infertility can be an incredibly big stress on a relationship, and have heard of stories of people breaking up over it, but I would guess that those are exceptional cases and not the rule.  And, I have never heard of a woman actually being ostracized from society for her lack of producing offspring or being a mom  in the Western world.

As I was listening to my Chinese friend enlighten me, I started wondering if there is a way I could help these women.  I am going to seriously think about that.  There has to be a way to show them that they are valuable and not useless.  Can you imagine the depression rates for these poor gals?  Really ticks me off!

You may consider me an old maid, China, but Nick is more than happy to have me, and I bet most Chinese men would kill to have a wife like me (except for my lack of cooking skills).  OK, so maybe I'm not the catch I thought I was...

Monday, March 22, 2010

A great week with my dad

Sorry for the lack of writing, but I was back in the States for a few weeks and my dad has been here for the last week.  It was awesome having him here and sharing what we know about Shanghai with him.  He was a fantastic traveler, and we saw several sights around town that Nick and I hadn't visited yet.  He mastered chopsticks in one meal, towered over the Chinese as we walked all over Shanghai and Beijing, and go to experience our version of China, which is sometimes hard to fully appreciate through the written word or photographs.

At the Martyr's Memorial in a Park in Shanghai

This movie at the Shanghai Science and Technology Museum surely brings in the crowds.

The third tallest tower in the world - the Oriental Pearl Tower.  I'm scared of heights, yet I went up anyway.

At 268 feet they have plexiglass that you can walk on.  I couldn't do it (I was grabbing the walls with my fingernails), so these are dad's feet.

We went to Hangzhou for a day.  In addition to be a town with a lot of manufacturing, they have a huge lake and lovely hillside temples.  It was nice to get out of the city of 18 million and instead go to a smaller town of 6 million.  Hangzhou is also a sister city to Indianapolis.

Being a true Hoosier, I couldn't resist taking a photo of the basketball goal on the Lingyin temple grounds.

Then, on to Beijing and true China.  Sure Shanghai is China, but if it weren't for the great number of Chinese people and a different language, you could easily feel like you were in New York instead.  Beijing, however, is traditional and true China, and feels like it from the minute you hit the airport.  We first headed to Tianamen Square and the Forbidden City. 

Nothing like a picture with Mao over your shoulder.

A cute sidestreet near the Hutongs (single story residences that are disappearing with development).

And now, for the experience of a lifetime -- the Great Wall.  I've been wanting to climb it since at least college, if not longer.  Best part of the trip to Beijing, possibly best part of any experience so far in China.  And, my camera wasn't on "sepia" mode, there was a terrible duststorm that turned the sky yellow and covered everything with a layer of dirt.

Rules for riding the cable car up to the Great Wall.  See #2.

It was quite chilly, but the winds were really fierce.  Had to buy hats from a vendor on the way up.  I bargained hard and got them for less than $3 each!

The jump for joy on the Great Wall.  Look at the air under those feet!

We climbed all the way up to the top of the tower at the top of the photo.  It was as far as they'd let you go.

A bonus - I got to ride a Mongolian camel!

Then, back to Beijing and the Bird's Nest from the 2008 Olympics.

The Summer Palace

Dancing with the locals at the Temple of Heaven park.