Tag Archives: china

My every day walk of shame

23 May

Every morning I wake up and turn off my alarm 10 minutes before it rings. I go through my routine of waking up my son, preparing myself then proceed to the kitchen to rummage through the cupboards for “breakfast”.

After breakfast, we run out to try and call the elevator…praying fervently that it will be empty going down all 27 floors.

Not gonna happen.

We walk outside and immediately all eyes turn to us. I feel like I am walking with a poop stain on my butt…no ….no it’s the morning after and I just got caught….being an expat!!! My scary walk of shame. Not even sure why I am ashamed. Is it because of my short, curly hair when everyone else has long, straight , black hair? Or maybe it’s the absence of my almond-shaped eyes, thick lips and large rump.

No, I think it’s because of my smooth, silky chocolate skin. It makes their jaws drop, their eyes twitch and their fingers point as they laugh uncontrollably.

Yes, this has been my every day walk of shame for over 3 years. I think it’s time I get on home. 

My Musings on ‘Made in China’, (Richard’s .02 cents’ worth) by Richard Jackson

12 Jul

photoI was surprised this morning by a student’s simple SMS question: “What does ‘Made in China’ mean to you?” It’s an intriguing question, and one that I have surprisingly not given much thought to, during my seven years in China.

So, I wrote the following, and posted on the Chinese Twitter-like service I use.

My earliest associations are in fact with the label ‘Made in Hong Kong’, during the years I spent growing up in various countries. At least to this (then) western child, I guess the label was synonymous with cheap, colorful, and ‘plasticky’ -albeit irresistible – toys. Although a Chinese toy (or any plastic toy, regardless of its origin) had not a snowball’s chance in hell of surviving even a week’s worth of ‘wear and tear’ back then, they were cool enough, and we kids simply couldn’t get enough of ’em!

Fast-forward, 40+ years. Nowadays, unquestionably, many western consumers are wary of ‘Made in China’ labels. Several years ago, I visited my sister in Greece. I brought with me a suitcase full of clothes, toys, and food treats for her two small children. The clothes were greatly appreciated, but she gave the food treats and toys the ‘hairy eyeball’. As a mother, she had zero trust in them, because of the (then) seemingly never-ending negative publicity over food and toy scandals (baby milk, lead painted toys, toothpaste, poisoned pet treats, rat meat-sold-as-beef, etc.)

Nothing could possibly have had a more damaging effect on global consumers considering buying ‘made in China’ products, than ghastly wall-to-wall coverage of dead and/or sickened babies and family pets.

The global economy trundles on. To its immense credit, China has emerged as one of the two most powerful countries in the world. In spite of its countless charms and natural beauty, China is where it is today because it is the factory to the world. In strictly financial terms, it performs this task extremely well, and new fortunes are made everyday. At times, it even seems that millionaires are almost as numerous as the products being produced, at least here in Hangzhou!

Nevertheless, the negative impact of those, and subsequent, food and other scandals reverberates still, and has had a spillover effect into other sectors of the economy, such as electronics. Although always disturbing, reports of sweatshop conditions in developing countries are nothing new. But the Foxconn/Apple scandal received *a lot* of very bad publicity, and certainly did ‘Made in China’ no favors.

Such examples, along with rampant ‘shanzai’, copyright infringement, intellectual property theft, etc. continue to paint a poor picture of ‘Made in China’ in the minds of countless people, both abroad and in China. (Of course, occurrences like these are the stuff of dreams for flag-waving western politicians, who love to criticize ‘made in China’ in order to get votes.)

Sadly, there remains a significant ‘credibility gap’. Given the choice, many global consumers would much prefer *not* to ‘buy Chinese’. The point is, in many cases,  there *is* no choice. ‘Made in China’ is here to stay. A quick search of ‘Made in China’ on Amazon reveals titles like “(Poorly) Made in China” and a book written by a woman who tried to go an entire year without purchasing anything made or produced in China. (Evidently, an impossible task).

It may seem that I am overly critical of China. I do not mean to give that impression. I love your country, and certainly ‘buy Chinese’ on a daily basis. Rather, the blame for any problems with ‘Made in China’ can be just as equally laid at the feet of greedy western companies who look the other way in order to maximize profits, as it can be at the feet of local manufacturers and producers who cut corners and exploit workers, and are solely motivated by short-term profits. Both should be much, much more concerned with their long-term reputations and integrity.

The entire world really sat up and took notice of the sheer brilliance, world-class innovation, and quality of which China is obviously capable during the Beijing Olympics. How unfortunate, that the lovely afterglow of that beautiful moment has since faded. By all indications, however, China’s pragmatic new president is boldly taking the country in a new and promising direction,  which may ultimately prove as breathtakingly constructive in scope as that of Deng Xiaoping’s. That Xi Jinping has clearly made targeting corruption a major focus is a very encouraging development indeed. If he fully and successfully delivers on this promise, the ‘Made in China’ label will surely and soon earn the respect and confidence of global consumers, like my own dear sister, a middle-aged American mother in Greece.

In this vast, increasingly impersonal global economy, sits China. It is, by far, the largest country in the world. But what, exactly, is a country? It is a combination of millions of individuals. Each with a name, a face, a personality, unique skills, abilities, ideas, and dreams. In a way, somehow, perhaps the label ‘Made in China’, (evoking as it does for many in the west a mental image of millions of faceless workers churning out products around-the-clock in crowded factories) does a disservice to the people behind those products.

In its amorphous emphasis on the collective, it may be that ‘Made in China’ overlooks and undervalues the contribution of the individual  to overall success. In his poem, ‘Epilogue’, the American poet Robert Lowell commented on the individual’s heartfelt wish to be acknowledged for having, simply, been:

We are poor passing facts,
warned by that to give
each figure in the photograph
his living name.

If I were to be given the impossible task of marketing ‘Made in China’, I would re-examine the nature of consumers’ ‘personal’ connection to the products they use. Go beyond simple blind loyalty to any given brand. Forge a direct, personal, and emotional connection to the people who work so hard, yet are neither seen nor known in the global marketplace.

Maybe, just maybe, it is time for a different kind of label.

‘Assembled by (insert your name here), in Hangzhou, China. With Pride’.

Is it time for the great migration?

26 Nov

So many people have given up their US citizenships this year in search of a better financial-based life. Although I did not give up my precious citizenship, I too migrated to another country in search of financial and professional reprieve. I moved to China a little over a year ago and although Although I signed another 3-year contract back in March, my husband and I are planning to migrate back to the States…with a significant enhancement in my life of course. My honey Jaison, my little man Ethan and a new baby!

For a time I feared the process may be a difficult one and wondered if we were up to applying and paying a bunch of fees or even going through the hassle of finding an uncorrupted lawyer. Well, I strongly believe it will be worth it all just to get home. Since the journey is just taking root in our minds, it is only a seedling we hope will blossom into reality within this year. Let the journey begin…

OK, I wrote most of the above passage before the wedding. Now, we are full-fledged into application mode. Found out I could send the application straight to Guangzhou, which may help shorten our process. So the journey continues. Now real worries though, if it takes some time, we will just put that time to use in saving and planning what exactly we want to do when we get to the states.

First comes marriage…then comes the carriage

26 Nov

I have a bun in the oven!!!!! Yay!! I know it seems so soon after the wedding to so many people, but life happens. Jaison and I wanted this part of our life to happen sooner rather than later! I am no spring chicken you know!!! Anyway, we are 4 months (16 weeks) along as of November 27th! It hasn’t been without its ups and downs, but I recently started really loving the idea of being pregnant again…this time with a willing and happy partner in tow and a big brother-to-be who pretends he is going to torture the baby if it’s a girl but share his toys and life lessons if it’s a boy!

 

MORNING SICKNESS

Well on the exact day I turned 5 weeks, I got hit with morning sickness. It came so violently, that I literally ripped the sink off! Thank God my son was standing next to me (as he and his dad are super over protective of me since I got preggers). He called out to his dad and together they held my hair back and rubbed my back until my 5 long minutes of sickness had subsided. Through the next month and a half, this would be the ritual. The fatigue hit around the same time. I could barely stand up after having 9 hours of sound sleep. This one is a strange one. Through those times, even though I had the boys there to help, I could only long for my little sister Nehemie (check out her single on Amazon and iTunes: Nehemie and the Billy Rich Project).

(SIDE NOTE): You see, when I was expecting my number 1, Ethan, she would lie next to me on my bed and during the hundred times I had to try to get up to go to the bathroom, if I couldn’t make it there, she would carry me. She was literally my strength in those times. The memories of how she took care of me will have to do. I plan, Lord willing to be there for her the best I can when she is experiencing that part of her life.

COMPLICATIONS

During my first pregnancy, I was so scared, I didn’t pay attention to the process. This time around, I am reading more and matching what I am reading with what I am experiencing. There is still a lot that I am  learning about being pregnant. A week and a half ago, I experienced 3 days of piercing sinus pressure headaches. It got so bad that my husband panicked and took me to the hospital. When we got there, many tests were run, blood was taken and so on. I had also been experiencing periodic cramping on the lower right side of my belly. When we mentioned this to the doctors, they became very alarmed. At some point they told my husband they thought I had developed appendicitis and that they would have to terminate the pregnancy to operate. Through all of this he remained calm on the surface. It wasn’t until the 5th and most senior doctor examined me that he put the fears to rest. He then prescribed me 1 week sick leave from work to rest.

WHAT I LEARNED

While on sick leave, both my husband and I read up a lot on pregnancy symptoms. I learned that the congestion will most likely last until two weeks after i give birth, periodic cramping do occur, but if they are not frequent there should be no worries. I also learned about a lot of other icky, disturbing symptoms…some of which I am experiencing now. But my mind has been at ease. Most importantly, I am learning how to love being pregnant, being pampered by a husband who loves me and a son who adores me. I am learning that I am a strong woman who is willing to endure just about anything to have a healthy baby!

Until next time!!!