Sunday, July 18, 2010

Let's talk about spitting.

I interrupt the long line of posts about our fabulous two weeks at the camp to talk about something more controversial.  Let's talk about spitting.
People in our part of China spit.  A lot.  We noticed that in Beijing there is less spitting.  But more nose picking. (These observations are based on a completely non-scientific method of my personal observations).
There is a strong belief here that phlegm is unhealthy and needs to get out of the body.  So people hack and spit up their phlegm.  Men and women of every age.  We wake up to the sound of people spitting.  People spit when they are on bikes.  When they are walking.  When they are smoking.  On bus floors.  On the train.  They also blow their noses through their fingers onto the ground.
Do I hate it?  Honestly, yes.  It's dirty.  There is active TB in China that can be spread by spit.  Spitting is gross to me.  The only spitters that I know of in the US are baseball players and farmers.
However, did I come to China to teach people that spitting is gross?  Not at all.  So whose problem is it?  Actually, aside from being a serious health issue, the problem is mine.  I have to choose to ignore, to not hear, to not react.  It gets easier with time, but it can still be a struggle for me.
There is a different cultural issue that I have no problem opposing.  I have no problem with telling people that they can not take pictures of our daughter.  Yes, I know that I put pictures of her on the blog.  But that is with permission.

When we first came to China in 2007, we were surprised to be stopped by people asking to take her picture.  We said yes to the girls and no to the boys.  We weren't really sure why they wanted the pictures.  Since then we have learned that it's not an uncommon thing to take pictures of complete strangers.  Especially foreigners.  Now that we live in a less touristy place, the picture issue is less common.  But last week on a bus, a boy took a picture of Elisabeth without permission.  At the train station, a girl trained her camera on her.  As our daughter turned away, we told the girl that she didn't want her picture taken.  She kept trying and we kept telling her no.  She finally stopped and then her father picked up the camera and tried to take a picture.  This really enraged me.  We do believe that our daughter has the right to say no to pictures.

One final cultural thing-a kind of neutral issue for me.  Babies here rarely wear diapers.  It's something that crosses socio-economic lines.  They usually wear split pants.  You often see babies in this position.

This mother is holding her baby in the position to urinate.  You can see the puddle.  We see this all the time.  A mother even held her baby like this on the train to let it urinate on the floor of the train.  It's apparently not considered unclean as the two men and boy in the picture walked right through the urine afterwards and so did the mother.  
Surprisingly, this doesn't bother me all that much.  Maybe because it is baby peepee.  I am not sure it's all that worse than the western tendency to be so afraid that our children will be psychologically damaged by toilet training at an early age.  Is it less gross than three or four year olds in diapers?  I'm not sure.


Pam Terrell said...

Interesting. I have evolving thoughts on spitting. I have always hated spitting too. I think it's uncouth and disgusting. However, when I started running my husband told me I would start spitting. I said, "No way." But it's true. When you run you have to spit. I have no idea why, but saliva builds up and you can't swallow it down. Since I have never spit in my life I am a terrible spitter. It usually just hangs off of my chin or blows right back in my face. THAT'S really gross. I'm also told that eventually I will have to blow "snot rockets" as well (one of the other gross things you refer to). I haven't yet sunk that low.

jjnscat49 said...

I'm with you on the spitting. It's gross and hard to take. But the baby pee pee, not so bad...

Brian and Eva said...

with a 2 year old who is partly potty trained, I have been helping contribute to the puddles of baby peepee around town at times...