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Father's Day

Harbin, China

The guide books for culture shock all say to observe your holidays from your country.
Somehow this is suppose to allow you to feel better and integrate the 2 cultures. I dunno.
This is our 3rd Father's day in China. By the time we go home, next January we will have had 3 of every thing in China. I think we should skip all the holidays, but observe anniversaries and birthdays. Holidays are not the same over here. The expectation for the holiday is the same, but the execution of the events are disappointing. And it is not like in USA, we had big holidays with all the bells and whistles either. But over here it seems like a big reminder that we are not at home.
I think as a family living abroad, we try to make this our home. Who wants to grow up feeling like they live out of a suitcase in a temporary home? Yuck. We decorated our place, the suitcases are unpacked. Even last summer when we were in Dalian, we unpacked and threw up some posters on the wall even though we were just there 6 weeks. I think it is really important to make where we live feel homey. When we come inside, we can close the door, speak English and feel like it doesn't matter that on the otherside of the door is a completely foriegn country.
Then a holiday comes, and suddenly you are very aware that this is not home. What do Americans do for Fathers Day? All week I have answered this question in my classes- the gift- a tie, the food-BBQ, a lovely day spent at the lake or pool, man stuff.
So I tried to take my daughter shopping for the tie. No luck. There are no displays for Fathers Day, no cards. A tie? Not in the RT Mart. I was in Walmart last week, none there either. A tie, now that is a luxury item. Yep, they are all made in China. I'm quite sure of that. Are they for sale here, sure if you know where to go. They are in high end shops, businessmen wear ties. Business men don't shop at the market or Wally world. I imagine they do shop these places, but the average shopper at these places does not buy a tie. Maybe they sell them at the tourist shops in other cities. The city has a Russian influence so the touristy stuff is Russian. Nesting dolls, furs, vodka, Russian chocolate, watches, and binoculars. A few weeks ago in the teeny booper mall we bought a spider tie that is for a teenie booper chic to wear. We would have given it to Chris for Fathers day, but it truly was not long enough for him. Did I think I should go pay American prices for a tie that Chris doesn't really need, when we are trying to save for the adoption? No. He got a glass mug instead.
Then the meal, mmm do I miss BBQ! No way possible to pull of that here. I've been to a Chinese BBQ, it's good. But not the same. If we were to go outside with a little grill, we'd have a crowd around so fast. Everybody would be standing around watching. It would be a nightmare. So we went to KFC. Nothings wrong with KFC, it's just fast food. If we were in America and went out to eat for Father's Day, it wouldn't be fast food. Even if we did go to fast food for Fathers Day in America, I'd bet it'd be Taco Bell cause the KFC in Bellingham shut down.
So the activity...we went to KFC and the traffic was rough going down the market street and horns were honking us to get out of the way every few steps. There is no sidewalk, so everytime a car comes you press up to a vender stand. It's ackward because we don't need anything, but then the sellers are trying to touch the blonde ponytail or offer the little princess something. So that starts the whining. After all the honking, we make it to the mail drag, which is under construction. Everyone is confused by the construction, so it takes the craziness of the Chinese drivers to a new level. So crossing the road with a child is very intense. We finally arrive, and then the stress of ordering. I want to just order in Chinese or using the picture menu but the eager cashiers want to practice their English. So it is a long drawn out thing. So we eat. The big bucket, much cheaper here than in USA, that's a bonus.
Then back out to traffic. Chris decided that the closest thing to fishing was buying a fish. So we walked to the plant/fish shop. It's not like Pet Smart at all. A couple converted their 1st floor apt to this shop. They have quite a collection of things. Some would not be for sale in the States. They used to have a 2 1/2 ft croc or gavial, but I guess they sold it. What was amazing was that their bed is on a loft that is really just inches above the croc. They have lots of turtles and strange fish. I think some are for eating and others are for pets. We just got some Mollies and an algea eater. You have to bargain, and I thought she said 3 fish for 2yuan but when we paid it was the opposite. But the lady is interesting and just adores our daughter and since she has a house of critters, our daughter tolerates the adoration.
We got home and the survival rate for our fish was a rocking 20%. In fact one of our previous fish went belly up upon meeting his new friends. Princess said,"the new fish swim sideways"
Not the dream day. But if we were in America, I'm sure it wouldn't have been perfect either. Last year we said, next year will have a new somebody to celebrate with...this year we are saying it with more conviction.

permalink written by  carseat tourist on June 21, 2009 from Harbin, China
from the travel blog: Life in Harbin as an American English Teacher
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