Friday, July 14, 2006
A Rice Daddy in Shanghai
photo: courtyard off the main street, Shanghai
I am in Shanghai this week, my first trip ever to the motherland. It's a mix of the slightly unfamiliar, and the oddly very familiar. Listening to the locals speak in the Shanghai accent of my mother's family, smelling (and tasting!) the street foods, brings back good memories, this in a place I've never set foot in before.
Being a Chinese-American dad in Shanghai is similarly joyous yet strange. When I talk to my local colleages here, mostly younger men than me, married and thinking about starting a family, the question of kids comes up -or more to the point, the question of kid. China has a policy of one child per family in these urban areas. I could not imagine knowing that my first kid would be my only kid, especially that we were not the one to make that decision. From afar, I've admired China's boldness in controlling its booming population this way, but to meet my peers here is to put a human face to a policy theory.
The best part of being a Chinese-American dad new to Shanghai has to be seeing so many beautiful chinese kids. So many bright beautiful faces, that look something like my own kids. Even though we live in the diversity of the Silicon Valley, I never before have seen so many asian cutie pies in one place. I want to reach out and pinch every cheek. I want to tell each parent, in my craptastic chinese, "At house, I have daughter, much like this one." [see, this is my translation of what my chinese must sound like]
The worst part of being a Chinese-American dad new to Shanghai is that all the homeless street kids are chinese, too. To see a boy who looks exactly like my son, asleep on the concrete steps of a pedestrian bridge, to see his empty begging bowl, and to know that I am powerless against this, this breaks my heart.