2.5 million people

Image 5Ever wonder how two country kids can end up living in a city of millions and thrive?

It’s true, Hubby and I both grew up in small towns and at least for myself the thought of living in a city of millions was unimaginable.  But yesterday, we laughed again how living in a large city in this culture at times can be so like living in a small town.

Little Man and I were walking back from the market.  We have learned to ignore the stares as I pull him in the wagon (Thanks to another expat friend who gave us their wagon that had been shipped over from the States.  Gotta love hand-me-downs!)  I was hauling my load up the small hill to the back gate of campus when a middle-aged man stepped in to help.  Rare!  We often get watched but don’t get helped.

I turned to thank him and a conversation began.

It started like most conversations….”So this is your son?”  We chatted about us having four kids; he has one.  I told him how long we lived in China and he told me he grew up in this city.  He asked about Little Man’s leg and the conversation turned a bit more personal.

“Oh, yeah we all know your family.  Your husband is a teacher and we see your children.  We know you live on the 2nd floor in building 5, but we do have questions?

At first this could feel creepy…..but really it speaks to the communal nature of this culture.  It might be a big city, but our little apartment complex filled with neighbors in high risers – they know each other and they want to know and understand me.

“Did your son have an accident which made him lose his leg?  It looks like you love your Chinese children the same as your birth children, but that can’t be true.  Is it?  We watch you come and go….where do you work?  Would you adopt a child from here?  What is this thing you are pulling your son in?  This is my first time seeing a wagon.  You are different!”

I answered his questions as we walked through campus, knowing he would report all my answers to his wife, a teacher along side my husband.  She is sure to tell the other neighbors.  It is like living in a fishbowl.  Maybe if I hadn’t grown up in a small town that would bother me.  Believe it or not, I welcome the curiosity of my neighbors.

As they ask questions our hope is that they see something different about our family and they will be intrigued by who makes us different.


worst hair cut ever…just smile and nod.

I love living overseas.  Different culture, food, friends, travel, language….okay maybe the learning language bit is a stretch, but usually I love living cross-culturally.

Until I need a haircut.

When I walk to the door of a salon I can see the looks of excitement or horror (depending on how the stylist feels about his first time cutting a blonde head).  Yes, here usually the person who shampoos is a woman and the person cutting is a male.  I go in armed with a photo and my best practiced hair cut phrases but I must admit they do me no good.  I have lived in Asia for a total of five years….and yet have I had a good haircut.

I had high hopes this week.  Two months ago I was sure I had the worst bowl cut ever so how could it be any worse? sigh!

With little dude in tow, I tried a new place a few blocks from campus.  Maybe my bad cuts came from always going to the cheap places on campus?  It was a theory.  What my theory did not take into account….my coping mechanism when it comes to my lack of language skills.

I smile and nod.

It seriously is the worst habit that I have ever ever ever picked up.

I showed the dude the perfect cut I had printed from Pinterest and said, “short in the back leave the front alone.”  That is where it gets fuzzy.  The shampoo girls were quickly falling in love with my charming son and I was momentarily distracted as I realized that he was scoring fist-fulls of candy.

That is when it happened.

I smiled and nodded.

The next thing I knew a chick was bringing out little rods.  I started to sweat and rethink everything I had said from the time I had entered the salon.  Those sure look like perm rods to me.  Nah….couldn’t be.  I didn’t say anything that sounds like “I want a perm.”  Wait!  What is the word for perm?

“This will make your hair fat in the back.”  I smiled but told myself not to nod as the stylist was pointing to the picture I had brought in.

“Oh, no,” I replied.  “My hair isn’t exactly like hers.  I just want it cut like hers.  You know short in the back and longer in the front.  Can you cut it short in the back?  I want it cut.”

Maybe the more I say “cut” the more they would understand.

“I don’t think she understands.”  I hear one of the shampoo girls say to the stylist as she gives my son even more candy.  “No, no she understands.  Her hair is so flat she needs this.”

I guess my thin limp hair is understood in all cultures and everyone wants to try to help me out.  Did I mention that I was sweating by now and I had lost the smile along with the nod?  I have had perms in the 90’s and I do not want to go back to those days!  Kinky and big in my book isn’t better than straight and limp.

“Ahhh, my son is with me I need to have this done quick.  I don’t think I have time for your plan.  Could you just cut it short in the back?”

I walked out with straight hair….but it is not short in the back.

Little Man gave it a pat and asked, “What happened?”  Even my three year old knows that the bowl cut was better.

The next time you see me – bad hair and all – please show me some grace.  I love living overseas but it isn’t easy on my hair.  You can comment on it, but I am sure I will only smile and nod.  Oh wait, I am trying to break that habit.