Friday, June 10, 2016

China Thoughts...

It is now 4 pm, four days post arrival back in the states from China.  And I am still exhausted as I sit here nursing a massive cup of strong coffee (see how coffee has changed me here).  A few minutes ago, I had an overwhelming urge to take a second nap (since I have been awake since 4 am) so I yelled downstairs to Cole (who is waging his own battle with our enemy, jet lag) and said, “I can’t make it!” and Cole yelled back up, “Yes, you can!  You have to.  Drink some caffeine.”  So I did.  And here I am.  Barely.

Since I am struggling to hang on, I thought I could do something useful, like tell you about my China trip, which was probably the most unique trip I have ever taken in my life.  And since my mind thinks in lists, I will list some observations for you:

1.  My son, Luke, and his sweet wife, Jessica, live in a very faraway land. 
When Luke moved to China in February, I kind of forgot that it was so far away.  Actually, since I had never been there, I was unprepared for the ‘farness”.  After nearly 21 hours of flying and then an hour in a taxicab, we made it to Wuhan a little worse for wear, but safely and happily.

 We were on an airplane a very long time.  

But, they are absolutely worth it!

The views are amazing!

And the city is beautiful!

2.  Speaking of taxicabs…what’s the deal with traffic in China?  The lines on the road are merely suggestions and all the vehicles—ESPECIALLY the taxis—seem to think they are racing.  Indy 500 Chinese style?  When Brent and I took a taxi to one of the universities in town, our driver decided that he wanted to win the race, so, even though everyone else was stopped at a red light, our taxicab man pulled in the skinny space just between the road and the curb and floored it, coming so close to another car that it’s mirror flipped in when we passed.  To say our taxi rides were harrowing would be an extreme understatement.  Because safety in China is nonexistent.  I hope I don’t get arrested for saying that.

Our taxi driver drove through a flood and then made us get out when he couldn't go further.

3.  Speaking of safetyOkay.  Now I would agree that Americans WAY overdo the safety thing, but no one seems to take precautions in China.  We saw little old men—and toddlers--riding bicycles on the same street as the racecars.  No helmets.  We also saw men fixing power lines in the middle of those streets seemingly unfazed by the whizzing traffic. At least they had a HANDMADE bamboo ladder…their steps might crumple beneath them, but at least they wouldn’t get shocked to death.  And you know those areas in the bus and subway that say “No Stand Zone”?  I guess those are just a joke.

4.  Squatty Potty Protocol:  My visit to China was my first exposure to squatty potties.  Will someone please tell me the rules???  So, when I squat, do I face the door or the wall?  I need something to hold onto when I am fully down so I don’t fall over.  Where is the handle for that?  When you leave a clear deposit, are you supposed to flush?  Or just leave it running down the little ramp thing?  Can you put toilet paper in the squatty potty?  Or do I throw that in the trash?  Do all Chinese people have thighs of steel? because mine were cramping by the time I was done with my business.  And why, oh, why do they stink so much?  By the way, overalls are a bad choice.

5.  Since we are on the subject anyway, what’s the deal with split pants?  One day as we were riding the VERY CROWDED subway, I saw some amber-colored liquid rolling beneath my feet.  When I looked up, I saw a grandmother holding her Chinese grandson away from her lap as the above-mentioned liquid streamed from an open place in his pants.  And when we were sitting on some steps outside a shopping mall, a father held his son above a garbage can.  I stopped looking at that point, but I think something solid emerged from the open-bottomed pants and plop, plopped in the trash.  So, this is a real thing.  Chinese parents put their very young babies and toddlers in split pants and train them to go on command apparently.  It seems both inconvenient and freeing all at the same time.  No more sharing diaper duty with the spouse. 

6.  Eggs in a bag are a bad idea.  We went grocery shopping a few times and noticed that the stores in China sold lots of eggs—different kinds of eggs—and some of them, they sold in a bag.  Have you ever held an egg?  They are very breakable and when they bump together in a bag, they make a mess.  We chose the ones sold in a cardboard tray.  Another observation:  You know how when you buy a chicken in America, it is all bunched up like it is trying to protect itself or something?  Yeah, well chickens in China were all stretched out and laying on ice—like they were really chill (see what I did there?) and not stressed out. 

I didn't buy eggs in a bag here, but I bought beautiful veggies.

7.  Ordering food in China is hard when you only know English.  Which is why I got to know the friendly noodle man by our hotel and pointed at the same picture on his menu every day.  He was very patient with me because he knew I kept trying to figure out the character for pig so I could order pork fried rice.

I have no idea what this sign says, but I kept pointing to different lines by the fried rice picture and I mostly liked what I got.

Luke, however, knows how to read Chinese and could order whatever he wanted.

8.  There is pollution in China—lots of it which must be why it is okay for even sweet and gentle-looking girls to hack a loogie in public.

Watermelon seed spitting is okay too.

9.  There are lots of people.  When you take the bus or the subway in China and you are packed like sardines with absolutely no inch of space to move or breathe or use your split pants, and then you stop at the next juncture and think, “At least no one else will get on because it is plum full”.  And then 40 more people slide into the sweaty spaces between peoples’ underarms and knees and chins and arches, and you stop breathing because your chest is squeezed and all available oxygen is being used. 

10.  Staring at very large westerners is okay.  And apparently taking pictures of them and posting these pictures on the internet with arrows drawn in from their heads to yours is okay too.  Putting bare-bottomed babies on your unclothed knees and taking their photo seems acceptable and sometimes your leg is a little wetter afterwards.  Chinese gasping and laughing after your son announces that he is nearly two meters tall is par for the course as is looking at his size 15 feet for the entire subway ride.  Chinese people are small; Haverkamp people are not.

... especially when they look like the Beatles,

or work out in exercise parks,

Or spin on weird plate things,

Or show a goofy smile by East Lake
11.  Sometimes they get the translations wrong.  Case in point:

Paris maybe?

12.  They inject their dogs with anti-growth serum so they stay small.  I guess that’s better than starving them so they don’t poop.  Either way, when you live in a small apartment in a city of 11 million, it probably makes sense to reduce your pet to fun-size.  None of the dogs I saw looked happy about this, though, and they all had very short legs.  Also, I guess they don’t want to spend a lot of money on vet bills--other than the serum, of course.  See below:

This cat was wearing a yarn splint, 

but the horses seem very normal. Yee haw!

He must have taken non-anti-growth serum because he was bigger than Brent!

13.  We are blessed beyond measure...Here's our proof:

14.  We will miss it!  Bye bye China!  See you next time!