Monday, August 30, 2010

Cultural Moments, Everyday Edition

Just for fun tonight, I thought I'd post a few of the cultural "moments" that we frequently experience. Several of these are things that happen regularly, often, practically on an everyday basis, so much so that we've gotten used to them and hardly notice them anymore. But in the interest of you, dear reader, who may have no idea what it might be like to live here, I present this brief list for your enjoyment. Hope you get a chuckle or two!

* When we go out on our bikes (all five of us on two bikes), the most frequent comment I hear is wa, hai you yi ge! (One more!) This is because most of them see John ride by first, with Christin on his back and Chloe in the bike seat, and then I ride by with Clara Anne on my bike seat, and so that's the comment I hear. Second in the running: san ge! (Three!) or, san bao tai! (Triplets!) They all think that we MUST have triplets since here you're only allowed one birth, so of COURSE the girls must be triplets, never mind their difference in height and maturity!

* Another frequent comment we get is wondering about the authenticity of the girls' blonde hair. Zhen de ma? they say as they finger the fine, soft, golden locks. I assure them, yes, it's real hair!

* I am no longer surprised to see a child peeing in public, anywhere. A puddle on the sidewalk or even in the restaurant on a day when there is no rain is immediately suspect. No stomping through puddles here, for obvious reasons!

* Cigarette smoking is everywhere. Rare is the place that forbids it. It's not uncommon to see people riding their bikes and smoking at the same time. Also, my least favorite...stepping into an elevator where someone is smoking. Blah!

* Fruits and vegetables are still relatively cheap. My helper and I were talking the other day about how the prices have increased dramatically in the almost seven years that we've lived here, but still...watermelon for 12 cents a pound? And that's expensive? You've got to be kidding me! Cucumbers for 30 cents a pound? Apples for 20 cents a pound? I'll take it!

* Because the food here is usually stirfried in oil, the oil aisle in the supermarket is extremely comprehensive. And because oil is such a key ingredient, it is only for sale in these HUGE bottles (I think they're about 2 gallons). I have never seen so many choices of different types of oil anywhere else! Peanut oil is the preferred favorite but there's also a dizzying array of others.

* I just noticed this again this weekend. The cultural mentality here is NOT to buy in bulk. In America, we LOVE to buy in bulk. It's usually cheaper, you can shop less often, etc etc. But here, bulk is not cheaper or as convenient. Why? Because not very many people have cars to get everything home! If you have to ride the bus or walk or take your bike, you cannot be loaded down with huge packages of everything. We have found again and again that the 2 liter bottle of juice, for example, is actually just a bit more expensive than buying 2 one-liter bottles of juice. Crazy, but true.

* Living in a city of 6 million people (that number includes the outlying areas) is sometimes a challenge to my people-density tolerance. On Sunday we rode our bikes to a flower and pet market. The streets were packed. We could only inch forward on our bikes, bit by bit, and the girls found themselves touched and petted almost as much as the adorable baby puppies for sale up and down the street! But, it hardly bothered me. I didn't even notice until as we were almost leaving, "Wow, to someone else at this moment, they would feel really crowded in. I can hardly move my bike forward!" Though I'll always truly appreciate wide open spaces, I am getting used to the fact that there are just a ton of people that all live really close to me. Personal space is almost non-existent, and no one expects it since they are also used to having a ton of people that all live really close to them. It's interesting.

* The sky is its own cultural moment. Yes, in the past, the weather/pollution/smog has been an issue that has taken some getting used to. The sky is not blue where we live, it is usually white with smog. If the sky happens to be blue for a particular moment of a particular day, we look up with thankfulness and appreciation. But most of the time, the sky is white. My girls only know the meaning of the "sky blue" crayon because of being in America this spring, where we commented every day on the beautiful sky. If you are in a place where you can appreciate the beauty of nature, don't take it for granted! Natural beauty is a precious gift of God!

Hope you enjoyed this vicarious trip through some cultural moments that we face everyday!


Brandon and April said...

These are all so funny, Rachel! And a wonderful reminder for me! One of the shocking moments for me as far as smoking is concerned was when we toured a local gym and they allowed smoking in the exercise room. yeeeeek!
I always compared the oil aisle in FuMart to the cereal aisles in America. So much variety and it takes up just about as much space!
Fun post!

Carolyn said...

I enjoyed reading your cultural moments. It is interesting because I have found many cultural moments moving from Southern California to Kentucky. You do not have to move to a different country to experience those cultural moments though that is more true in the states than in other countries, I suspect.
Now God has brought some people from Nepal/Bhutan into our city that we step into their culture on a weekly basis.

Sometimes it is awkward and sometimes it is awe-inspiring, just as you have mentioned.