Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Where Do Babies Come From, Anyway?

One great aspect of living in this particular Asian culture is that most service-oriented industries are very inexpensive because of the huge labor pool. There are so many people that want jobs that they will work for very little money. So getting your hair cut at one of the nicer places in our city will set you back a whopping $2. Or at my local ladies' salon, a foot massage and facial costs about $2.50. As you might suspect, it didn't take me long to take advantage of this situation and so I have become a faithful customer at the salon. I have a membership card, so I go every Monday afternoon to practice my language, build relationships with the ladies who work there, and enjoy a relaxing 2 hours away from home. It's a really great opportunity for me; I have probably learned more language in that context than with my tutor, just because the women there speak very colloquially, at their normal speed (fast!), and about topics that are of interest to women--cooking, children, school, other home-related stuff.

So yesterday I was lying on the massage table with one lady ("Dee") at my head, giving me a facial, and another one ("Joan") at my feet, giving me a foot massage. (Yes, I know, it sounds very decadent . . . just in case you thought we were really suffering over here!) I had brought some recent pictures with me, including some of Chloe when she was first born. Dee and Joan had already seen the pictures and we had chatted about them, and then the manager lady stopped by my table, saw the pictures and asked to look through them. As she did, she came to one where newly-born Chloe was getting her first bath at the hospital. She started to ask some questions, speaking very quickly. I couldn't catch all of it, but as she was asking Dee and Joan were responding just as quickly, with somewhat raised, excited voices. The puzzled look on the manager's face was replaced with a look of amazement, and she was gesturing and then pulling up her shirt a bit to examine her own belly button. I started to get the idea that . . . no, it couldn't be!

After the manager returned to work in another part of the building, Dee, laughing hard but quietly, explained to me that my suspicions were correct--this 34-year old manager woman thought that babies were born out the mother's belly button! She honestly had no idea! When my two ladies corrected her, albeit with some slight ridicule, she was truly flabbergasted. At one point Dee had said to her, "But a baby's head is this big!" (gesturing with her fingers) How could that come through the belly button? Plus, men also have belly buttons!" The manager said she had always thought this was how it worked . . . and I guess no one corrected her. Students study this topic in high school but apparently, as Dee said, she skipped that class! Either that or the teacher skipped that chapter, which sometimes happens in this culture where no one wants to be embarrassed.

We all had a good chuckle about it and it certainly made for some interesting conversation! It's amazing the things you can learn when ladies are sitting around talking!

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