The expat family in its natural habitat: I suppose this will be our Christmas card.
Have we ever seen this woman before? Nope. And did she just come up, start touching our kid’s face and try to make her smile? Of course!
This is routine whenever we take L out for walks. A friendly stranger or two (or ten) will often stop to try and make her smile, and that often involves touching. Younger people like the girl in these photos tend to be gentler than middle-aged and older women, at least in our experience. We have some neighbourhood committee ladies who talk so loud when they’re trying to get a reaction out of L that they make her scared; they pretty much yell in her face, but not intentionally — that’s just how they talk all day long. Those kinds of folks also tend to play a little rougher with the way the pinch legs and touch cheeks.
Obviously we don’t let the general public manhandle our daughter, but since it’s so expected that any friendly person can play with a stranger’s baby, and since “foreign dolls” (洋娃娃) are such an attraction, we try to be as accommodating as we can while still protecting L. As you can see, she likes it sometimes.
I’ve only had to directly physically block someone’s hand once, when a woman who honestly looked like a KTV prostitute tried to stick her finger in L’s mouth on the Beijing subway. People don’t understand when you bat their fingers away, but there’s no way I’m letting random people stick there fingers in our daughter’s mouth, regardless of whether or not they’re dressed like a xiǎojiě (小姐)! Same goes for anyone who seems like they might be too rough. I use as much finesse and tact as I can, of course (we indirectly block people all the time), but obviously we’re willing to cause offense if we have to to protect our daughter. Those kinds of situations are very rare, however, and most people are great, wanting to coo over a baby like people do anywhere… just maybe a little more so.
Other stuff about having a foreign baby in China:
Yesterday we had a school trip to a local museum, the Shi Family Mansion (Shijia Dayuan), which was a preserved old style home like you might see in kung-fu movies. A couple families brought their kids. Oscar and Toby (blond, glasses) have lived in Tianjin for about two years, and I think they’re handling their pseudo-celebrity status rather well:
Poor guy on the left… wonder what he’s thinking.
It can actually be pretty tough for kids when they have to deal with this kind of attention, but these two have come through the woods and are in the process of working this to their advantage. I almost died laughing when a bus load of uniformed school kids, led by a guy in an army uniform, came marching past us and these two suddenly jumped into the middle of it and started dancing around. The museum wasn’t bad, but I think that was the high point for me.
We have a ton of photos that I just haven’t had time to upload yet. We’re busy getting the apartment up to shape (sealing the windows, putting in U-bends so the sewer gas doesn’t flow up the kitchen and bathroom pipes and wake us up… again, etc.) I’ll try to get them up this week so you can see the neighbourhood. April is a really beautiful month in Tianjin.