I am in a coffee shop as I write this post. Music plays in the background, though I wasn’t paying much attention until I heard an orchestral, Asian inspired version of “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” followed up by the Christmas classic “Away in a Manger”. Ha! Love it!
China and the U.S. are two pretty different places. Then again, not. Globalization has woven its web across continents and so, on a superficial level, it is so easy to see overlap from place to place, country to country. Music, clothing, cars, computers, shopping malls… they are all the same. But places still manage to maintain their unique flavors and I am a casual observer intrigued by the ways traditional knowledge and values meld with a new global culture. In Chengdu you can practically see change happening before your eyes. Chengdu has left me with many impressions, though I recognize that they are viewed through the spectacles (or at least I wish – I recently learned that I really need glasses!) of a young(ish) American woman. So here are a couple of these first impressions. Things always reveal themselves differently the second time around, so I hope to have the chance to gather another look at Chengdu one day soon.
So…I didn’t think I would bring this up in my blog, but I can’t keep it in any longer! There is a spitting phenomena in Chengdu that I need to tell you about! By spit, I am talking full on phlegm filled expectorations! Sidewalks, bathrooms, the floors in the hospital – anywhere will do! I have never seen anything like it and to me, with the biases that I carry, I have to say that this seems totally unsanitary. Then again, is this any less sanitary than carrying around a crinkled up snot rag? I spend my time pondering such things. So if you ever visit Chengdu be prepared to dodge a couple rogue loogies or even the occasional snot rocket. The humidity, smog, cigarettes smoking, and greasy food makes Chengdu the perfect breeding ground for this overabundance of phlegm, but after a couple conversations with locals I learned that all this spitting is common throughout most of China. So I offer up this question – what ever happened to the spittoon? Interestingly, I visited 2 museums while in Chengdu that featured a collection of spittoons, which of course stirred my curiosity. I was compelled to do some research and this is what I have learned. China and spittoons go way back. For instance, golden spittoons were displayed for the Emperor at ceremonies during the Qing Dynasty. Then, when China became a communist state in the late 1940’s spittoons became prevalent in most public places as well as in the home. This was an initiative in public health, as spitting on the floor was a common practice. Sadly, these spittoons became a source of international ridicule, and so most were withdrawn in the 80’s and people are back to spitting just about anywhere. I, for one, vote to reinstate the public spittoons! If one needs to spit, why not have a proper receptacle?
On being a gentleman in Chengdu
One time I asked David to carry my purse for me. He looked at me with the “hairy eyeball”, as my mother would say, and so I never really thought to ask him again. To give him some well deserved credit, (love you Dave!) I do have this black bag that is pretty gender neutral that he will carry from time to time, but only if we are out on a day trip and I am lugging communal belongings in said bag. I get it. From his perspective it might feel emasculating to carry around a lady bag. Well, things are different in Chengdu. I had to giggle to myself the first time I saw a twenty-something year old man carrying his lady friend’s over-sized sparkly pink and gold purse. But I also have to admit that what went through my mind was this-(followed by a deep, longing sigh) “gosh, he must really love her.” Snap out of it Andrea! You don’t even want an over-sized sparkly pink and gold purse! When I asked my translator about all of this she seemed surprised to learn that most American men (or at least not the ones I hang with in Portland, OR) don’t go around carrying their ladies handbags. She told me that this is the norm in Chengdu and a lady may become quite upset if her man refuses this task (Note:this is just information I gathered from one person, one perspective). Very interesting. So one day, as I was walking though a crowded shopping area I saw a guy surrounded by a few woman and he was carrying not one, not two, but three über girly purses along with numerous shopping bags!! I had to wonder if he was brought along for this sole purpose. I am kicking myself a little for not snapping a photo, but I can never bring myself to take pictures of people I don’t know for my own personal enjoyment. Good thing I took a mental picture, viewed through my blurry American eyes.
p.s. I want you all to know that David has taken to carrying a murse in Taipei. Adorable!
On another note, I am currently gathering some of my thoughts and photos about this whole Chinese Medicine adventure I had in Chengdu. I can’t wait to share them with you! Check out these photos- visiting the doctor in Chengdu is an interesting experience.