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Teach Your Children Well by Justin Mitchell

The "BoHo" apartment complex in which C and I cohabit is cutting edge by Shenzhen standards. Cosmopolitan, even, with its parking garage, fake mini-Venetian "canals," swanky outdoor pool, badminton and hoops courts and (inexplicably, as I believe the odds are high that he never lived or slept here) a three-times lifesize bronze bust of Albert Einstein complete with a short Chinese language bio and "E=MC2" inscription greeting occupants and visitors at the south entrance.

Our fellow BoHo-ites are mostly Chinese yuppies with kids, some singles, Hong Kong retirees and a plethora of grandparents -- some of whom look as though they just got off the 38-hour bus or train from the hinterlands of Henan province, one of China's poorest and remotest areas. Think Beverly Hillbillies and you're in the general vicinity.

It's a mini-village of China's upper middle class, urbane sophisticates who presumably mix only the finest Sprite with their 39 yuan (US$5) bottle of Great Wall red. Which is why it's not uncommon to see parents and grandparents alike encouraging their toddlers to relieve themselves from either end in the lush shrubbery or on the polished faux marble walkways within our gated community, often as the bored 17-year-old security guards look impassively on. The fact that there's also a public toilet about a 20 second walk away and adjacent to the badminton court/yoga studio, is of course, irrelevant.

Photo courtesy of Cindy at

Cindy coments "This is what the kids wear in china. when they need to pee/shit, they just squat anywhere and everywhere! Trust me, anywhere and everywhere! *faints*"

Griping to the management does nothing but there is a public Internet message board on which anonymous residents such as "Little Devil in Building 5" (that's C) can post on various concerns, like rude security guards, "black taxi" (gypsy cabs) prices and the ones to avoid ("I curse license no. 845 for 7 generations for cheating me on a ride to Shekou and urge fellow residents to do likewise") and lately about pet owners who don't clean up after their shitting Shar Peis. Nothing about children, however.

I urged C to weigh in with a new post. Something like "Control your dogs, what about your children?" She agreed, but was unsure about the subject title. "It isn't good to compare children with dogs in China," she said. "I might be, how do you say it, 'flamed?'"

"So ... I guess 'rug rats' is out of the question, too," I replied. "Not that I've seen a lot of rugs here ..."

She thought about it a little more and then decided to take the plunge. It's where I also got a lesson in Chinese writing styles versus my more heavy blunt instrument approach.

My imagined version: "Hey, Henan hillbillies! You're so frigging proud of your 5,000 years of "civilization" -- now how about discovering a basic concept like public hygene, buying some diapers and toilet training your 'Little Emperors' and 'Empresses!'"

Her's took a circuitous, polite, near poetic and only slightly arch approach that employed a couple of traditonal sayings ("I have crossed more bridges than roads you have walked" and "I have eaten more salt than rice") with a scolding and demand for action, sanitary BoHo courtyard conditions.

Toilet training first.  Small steps, long journeys, many bridges and lots of salt until then.

From: Original         Author: Justin Mitchell         Time: 3/5/2010 3:49:26 PM

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