Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Cultural Conundrum #11: The "Bottom" Line

A couple of months ago I created a post about children here, mainly highlighting their cuteness. There's much more to them than meets the eye.

...but(t) sometimes it meets the eye. (I'm going to have a hard time not overusing puns in this post -- please "bare" with me)

Most children here have a convenient slit in the back of their pants. Based on the number of children I've seen here, I would guess that four out of five children have it. It might be different in other cities. They don't get much older than this guy.

I've been told that only the wealthy families buy diapers for their children (though many of them still have the slit while wearing diapers).

You can probably guess how it functions. In an earlier post you'll remember that Chinese people use "squatty potties" instead of a "sitting" Western-style toilet. So when children need to go, they just squat and do their business -- anywhere.

This obviously raises a lot of questions, and unfortunately I haven't done enough research to answer them all. But I'll tell you what I know (and have seen).

One day I happened to have my camera in my backpack when I saw the child pictured above. He was playing about two feet outside the entrance to his parents' shop. He was holding a toy gun. It made for a great photo.

As I started to get my camera out of my backpack, the boy squatted, pointed his toy gun straight above him, and "went" (I was seeing this all from the back). For a split second I considered taking a photo because it was so funny with the toy gun and all. But I couldn't bring myself to do it. It's just not the same as those embarrassing potty training photos (or videos) that our parents took of us when we were little. This was a bit too "exposed" if you know what I mean (but still a hilarious image in my mind).

Just as the child finished, the father came out screaming. I didn't stay to watch him clean it up.

Sometimes the parents don't clean it up, especially if it's on a street or sidewalk. Just blame it on the dog.

One time I saw a little girl walking with her friend in the middle of the street. Suddenly she stopped, did her business, and kept on walking. They are so nonchalant about it --  even if there are people all around them.

I've been told that the risk diminishes if the children are being held or if they are sitting (on a lap, in a taxi, in a chair, etc.) because they instinctively do the squatting position when they need to go. Still, I don't think I would be the first one to let that boy with the gun sit on my lap. And I'm not sure what happens when they are really small and can't squat.

This still begs the question:  What about walking around in buildings?

In all of the buildings I've been in, I've only seen parents hold their children. But I imagine they are free to walk around in the house. Perhaps carpeting isn't common? I haven't been in many houses here.

This is called a cultural conundrum for a reason. It still baffles me, and I have a lot of questions. My Chinese vocabulary just isn't good enough to ask them yet.

Stay tuned for a sad story about this little guy. Don't worry. He's OK now.

No comments:

Post a Comment