Happy Thanksgiving! In solidarity with my countrymen, I ate the steamed pumpkin dumplings and the pumpkin congee (rice porridge) for breakfast. I also spent the morning at Starbucks and the afternoon breaking with tradition and shopping. I’ve reversed my decision never to marry and I am searching for a Chinese man. With this many Prada, Gucci, and Louis Vuitton stores in one city, I think I can find someone who can actually afford me.
…..And back to our regularly programming of a tourist’s life in Xi’an.
While I mentioned earlier, there are a great number of factories in Xi’an. Agriculture is an equally important industry. They farm wheat, corn, persimmons (whatever those are) and pomegranates. I happen to love pomegranates so when my guide presented me with a slice, I hesitated at first because she cut it in four squares like an orange. She reassured me this was the way to go and I opened wide and gnawed away until she commented that I’m not supposed to eat the seeds. Who knew? I mean I’m fairly certain I’ve had pomegranate seeds for $10 a carton in NYC but I’m clearly not an expert and typically stick to juice. I’ve now devoured two pomegranates and their seeds in the last 24 hours. Hagan Daz can shove it.
I adored my guide “Phoebe” who spent the day with me in Xi’an. Before I visited China, I had a notion that Chinese women were the equivalent to “China dolls” –very pretty, made up and subservient at least that is the reason I thought so many Caucasian men preferred Asian beauties to Irish/German ones. So far, I found the opposite to be true. I am not saying Phoebe isn’t pretty because she certainly is but she dressed like a lululemon or gap version of me and stressed her independence at work and home. Most of the women don’t even wear make up!
When I told Phoebe about my vision of Chinese women, she thought that represented more her grandparents generation. Phoebe and her husband met at tourism school and work at the same company. They married at age 26 and have a five-year-old daughter who is in kindergarten. The both work full time and Phoebe’s parents seem to do most of the cooking and babysitting. I laughed when I asked Phoebe if she cooks and she giggled before responding that her husband does most of the cooking. Later she revealed, her mother is an awful cook too and her father is the man in the kitchen.
It is widely reported that Chinese women who date or marry foreigners are frowned upon but Chinese men who marry foreigners are superstars. In this very male dominated society, I am rooting for the Chinese women. Phoebe said there is a genuine shortage of Chinese women due to the government imposed one child rule on the Han people, the ethnic majority in China, in the 1980s. She and her husband are both products of this ban and therefore wish to have only one child (although she is wavering maybe). Phoebe made it clear that she and her husband will need to provide for her parents, his parents and his grandparents and that being an only child is often challenging but at least now everyone is available to help her and spoil her daughter.
On a side note, everyone loves a good wedding. Phoebe’s wedding took place at a restaurant for lunch with 100 of her closest family and friends and no wedding rings are exchanged. This is what normally takes place in China. Can you imagine the savings? Start calculating. Unless the dress is $100k, couples are saving a whole lot of money, which leaves me to believe that is why they are sporting Chanel and LV bags. The average wage in Xi’an is about $6,000-$8,000 a month. That is about $750-$2,000 USD and I can’t fathom that salary warrants the number of shopping stores in this city.
The Chinese, however, do put a great deal of emphasis on dressing well. Even in the countryside, people present themselves in a suitable manner. I look like a schlepper compared to these people. Their clothing definitely does not equate to economic status. From what I have seen, even the less fortunate children and families in China maintain good hygiene and dress. I expected rags to some extent in the villages but even the street kids wear intact clothing.
That’s probably why sales people seemed revolted at my outfit while shopping today. Dressed like I was going hiking, these sales people either wanted nothing to do with me or they stood over my shoulder and made me so uncomfortable I couldn’t even browse. Needless to say, once I discovered the entire floor dedicated to cashmere with the average price listed over $1,000USD, I headed to the food court. I worked out all the stores were celebrating Thanksgiving by giving 30-50 percent off merchandise. I only figured this out after I ended up at the Gap to buy a pair of jeans. Get this…my jeans at the Gap in the States cost $50-$70. This Chinese pair (probably made in China) cost $83 BUT ding ding ding…Thanksgiving sale price of….$60 and back to where I started.
The Chinese are consumers. It’s hard to imagine this country ever slowing down. I want to take a non-scientific survey and see if Apple or Samsung are winning the cell phone war. It’s impossible to walk more than 10 feet without seeing a Samsung or Apple carrier or independent store. Even though Google, Twitter and Facebook are blocked (thank you Judith for the assist), there are some 500 million Chinese online. making China the largest Internet market in the world. While I thought the Chinese were prohibited from “communicating” per se, I was wrong. They may be restricted but they are finding ways around that daily. Until recently, you couldn’t even practice religion (Communism prohibits worship) but now people practice Buddhism openly. Public life is changing rapidly here. It’s like the song from the movie Hairspray, “You can’t stop the beat.” I think the rest of the world better watch out, the Chinese are a powerful force.
Check out the video of my morning in the park:
The parks may be small but they are clean and open and locals are always exercising or playing games. This morning some older men caught me spying on their “whipping game” (I really hope this video plays or you will think I found myself in a chapter of Twenty Shades of Gray).
Intrigued mostly by the cracking sound, I watched them for several minutes before they insisted I take a try. I took hold of the leash made a few hula hoop moves along with some strong-arm action and attempted to whip the moving oversized thimble. My moves garnered many laughs until one man stopped me and tried to give me a proper lesson: Less twerking more figure eight motion. Nothing ventured nothing gained. I’m just hoping I’m not sore tomorrow.
Taking the high-speed train to Pingyao tomorrow. May the train be smoke free, the bathroom clean and my seatmate a single, handsome, rich 40-year-old something.