Friday, October 21, 2011

Jamie, The Tour Guide

The Water Cube.
Michael was here!!!!!!
 I took a tour today and really lucked out. Our group was small; only 7 of us, which made everything more personable and friendly. Or maybe that was all because of Jamie (pronounced gem-MAY). I'll write about what we saw on the tour on other days (when I can include pictures). For now, I'd rather share some of the personal stories Jamie shared that made me stop and think about life in China.

The most amazing tale she told was about her grandmother. She's 82 and Jamie was talking about how hard it is for her to find shoes because -- her feet were bound! Her feet are so small and deformed that she has to look for shoes in the children's department, but the shoes are not high enough to fit her feet since her toes are basically stacked on top of each other. Jamie said that they started to bind her mother's feet, too, when she was very young. That was in 1960! Unbelievable! I think of footbinding as an archaic practice from a distant time; not something that still exists on the hobbled feet of women living today.

But then, there are other cultural norms here that still surprise me. The one child rule, for instance. Jamie is the oldest of three. She credits having siblings for making her more social and outgoing. What's funny, though, is that her parents told her she could do anything she wanted with her life. Her brother and sister were not told the same thing. Since the parents were taxed/fined for them, they say they'd better work hard and pay them back. I think they were kidding.

On the way to the Jade Factory, Jamie talked a lot about the use of jade being limited to emperors. She also said that when a man and woman are going to be married, the man buys the woman jade earrings and rings, but the groom's mother presents her daughter-in-law-to-be with a jade bangle.

Jamie had lots of great facts and stories about China and her life. I enjoyed spending the day with her. I'll share one more interesting fact about Jamie that made me stop and think about ordinary life here that I wouldn't otherwise think about. As we left the jade factory, she showed us pictures of the jade-inlaid design on the back of the 2008 Olympic medals. She knew a lot about these because she volunteered in the Water Cube during the Olympics. Doing what? Laundering towels. I wanted to ask her if she touched Michael Phelp's towel, but I didn't. It was enough that she watched him swim. Lucky Jamie!


  1. "I think they were kidding."

    I'm not so sure.

    I'm soaking up every bit of your China posts, Juliann! Thank you so much for letting me travel vicariously. (Also, since my current WIP is sort of set in China, this is great inspiration!)

  2. Ooh! I'll bet your WIP is going to be good!

    I'm glad you're living vicariously through me until you come see China for yourself.