Jul 5, 2012

zai jian, mama.

Last weekend mom and I headed to Shanghai for a last day of sightseeing and hanging out together. 

at the Hangzhou train station

We rode the subway from the train station to the hostel and then headed to the Yu Gardens for some shopping, wandering, and dinnering.

mom fit right in

The Yu Gardens were beautiful.

And dinner was from a food court.

Sunday morning we went to People's Park and witnessed the "marriage market" which is really just a corner where grandparents and match-making companies seek to fit people according to their stats. I enjoyed this as a great culture lesson for my mom (and myself).

The papers look like this: "Shanghai female. 163 cm tall. 1983. 3000rmb a month salary. No house ownership. Looking for a male born between 1975-1983. Over 165cm tall. Must have a house. (phone number)."

Some have a picture. Most don't. Looks don't really matter. What matters is your salary, height, and if you own a house. In Chi.na, it is common practice that a son must own an apartment and/or a car before parents agree to allow their daughter to marry the man. This has broken up Chin.ese friends I have. And most people are shocked when I tell them that my sister is single and rents an apartment in LA and my parents are proud of her - that she is not scrambling to find a man with a house. Once, a Chi.nese female friend who is in a serious relationship with an American male friend explained to me that her mom is concerned the guy doesn't have an apartment. He is 26 years old and has lived in Ch.ina for years. My response was, "He has a US passport, what more does she want?"

Anyways, we got to watch the marriage market in motion in Shanghai on a sunny, Sunday morning.

Grandparents walk around with notebooks and write down the stats of the papers that catch their eye.

The dude on the right is signing up. Having a paper hanging with a matchmaker costs 50rmb for 3 months (about 8 bucks). A great deal!

After about an hour of wandering around, mom wondered how interested parties contact the people who don't sign up with a matchmaker and instead tape their add to an umbrella and leave it there for the day. "I don't know," I said, "But we can ask." I gazed around for a few minutes sizing up the crowd. I was nervous to approach an elderly person because old people are usually less patient with a foreigner's crappy Chin.ese and many only converse in dialects.

Finally, I caught the eye of a man who looked interested in me and my mom and I went for it, "Excuse me, may I ask you, if someone wants to contact someone on the paper, how to they do it?" His eyes lit up! His fingers formed a telephone and he held them to his ear, he exclaimed in Chine.se, "You call them!" then said in English, "I love you!"

"You just call and say, hi, let's meet?" I asked. "Yes!" he cried out. At this point, a small crowd of grandma's and grandpa's had formed around us. The man amazingly understood me and the crowd had a feeling of intrigue but not invasion, so I stayed in the circle and enjoyed the chat with the man. He went into a speech about how after Mao Zi Dong and the opening of Chi.na, marriage has become "complicated". He said, "If you have money, and I don't have money, we can't marry. And if you don't have a hosue for your som, he can't marry." Reaffirming things I have witnessed elsewhere amongst my friends and students.

He kept mentioning Mao, which made me uncomfortable for good reason. Poor mom did not understand and would smile and nod at the man, I told her not to act like she agreed with anything. This is a skill I have learned over time - take in what a person is telling you as to allow them to feel comfortable and justified, but don't make them think you agree with what they are saying - because 99% of the time, I don't.

But what the dude said was a step further than what I have ever been told about Chine.se marriage. He said that things were more, "simple," in the days of Mao's rule when C.hina actually looked like a Comm. country. Now, people are more complex, more complicated, there are standards that don't exist in a socialist world. And marriage is a set of rules that you match with for good life standing, not a contract between people who happen to love each other.

He then asked me why I don't find a Chi.nese boyfriend. I replied in my standard answer, "I'm too tall," and the crowd groaned their disagreement. "No, we like you!" he said. "I want to return to America," I said, and the crowd's groan changed an octave and they all agreed with me then that perhaps a native bf is not for me. :)

The crowd got bigger and I decided to get the party moving in order not to become a circus act. I wished the elderly love searchers a hearty, "Good luck," and it was returned with a dozen tea-stained grins. The man continued on with us for a short time before disappearing into the crowd where he is looking for marriage for his son.

So, on mom's last morning in Chi.na she recieved a real-life culture lesson. You can't learn this junk from books, I tell you that much.

signing up for a chance at a chick

mom loves shanghai!
We walked a mile to the Bund area and took some pics before returning to the hostel for lunch and some rest before mom's evening flight. 

th Bund! 

on the subway to the airport...   :(

I was so, so sad to see mom go. But mostly happy that the trip happened! I had already decided to stay here for the summer when she decided to visit so it was an extra visit we did not intend for! Great. 

And like the wind, our ten days were over. It felt weird returning home alone. I liked having my mama with me 24/7. 

Thanks for visiting, mama. :) Come again! 

walk slow. xoxo.


Monica said...

Sounds like a great visit! I am excited to visit that market, I recently read about it.

Mom said...

I had such a wonderful time in China! I am so glad I mustered up the courage to fly alone half way across the world.