Thursday, November 27, 2008

Uber Capitalists

I thought I lived and worked in a Communist Country yet here is a 45 foot “fake” Christmas tree that is being erected in front of our office in Shanghai Times Square. The US was founded on two polarized ideologies that create an amazing balance: Religiosity and Capitalism. The Christmas tree is the epitome of the symbolic manifestation of both of these paradigms. Yet here it is standing tall and proud in all it’s majestic glory smack dab in the middle of Communist China and in Shanghai’s high rent district. In fact, Christmas decorations in Shanghai started going up the moment the first leaf of autumn hit the ground at the end of October. And it’s not just a tree or wreath here of there, it’s huge over the top gaudy decorations on steroids.

There’s this mall by our apartment that is ridiculous. The whole front of the shopping mall is a Winter Wonderland Gateway with the main stairway entry that is about 40 wide and about 30 steps up painted with dancing reindeer and snowmen. There’s bells, snowflakes and shit hanging all over the place. As I walk through (this is the case in any mall or shopping area now), no one speaks a lick of English but you have George Michael’s “Last Christmas” or Bing Crosby’s “Little Drummer Boy” blasting over the intercom system. Like I said it’s ridiculous.

The Chinese are confused. Many are caught between the two worlds of Egalitarianism and Uber Consumerism so I’ve been spending a lot of time talking to my of my co-workers about this just to get a sense of what they think. Most of them have no idea what all this mean and simple say “well it’s a big Western shopping holiday”. Personally, after living here and seeing how materialistic and how obsessed everyone is with money, I think the Communist Party should stop kidding themselves and just embrace Capitalism. In fact there's a joke that the Shanghainese say about themselves and it goes: "a man is considered a pervert if he loves women over money". If the Party just accepts the people's wishes at least there would be some Intellectual honestly in all this misunderstood decadence.

Gen En Kuai Le [Happy Thanksgiving]

I wrote this last year when we had our first Thanksgiving abroad. It still applys....

Dear Family and Friends:

This year Christina & I have found ourselves in the unique position of observing the Thanksgiving Holiday in Shanghai China. Celebrating a tradition that is uniquely American in a country that has no real ‘connection” to the Western holiday season has given us a new appreciation for the spirit of this holiday. Right after Halloween, advertising switches gears from ghosts and goblins to images of fall cornucopias, football and gap holiday ads. The air is clean and crisp and The malls are filled with white holiday lights and the spicy scent of cinnamon and holly. The air is electric with the anticipation of the holiday season.

Today, while the air is brisk it is not so clean nor is it crisp. In lieu of scents of the holiday season, the aroma of freshly fired dumplings and diesel fuel waft through the streets and alleyways. Conversations about where you are going to celebrate the long weekend and with whom are going to watch football games with are replaced with “are you working this weekend” and did “Real Madrid win last night?”. There is however one saving grace. Other Americans. Other Americans working along side of us going through the same thing. Nostalgic for all that defines this time of year. Family and friends. A simple gesture like asking us what we are doing today for lunch and where can we get a decent Turkey sandwich in this town becomes a beautiful sound. Not that a turkey lunch or dinner defines the holiday but rather the Turkey meal becomes a manifestation of all that links you back home. A sight and taste that links you back to family, friends and familiar surroundings.

This year we both have a greater appreciation for all that we have and all that we’ve done. We are both very Thankful for all of you: Family & friends new and old. Living abroad has given us the opportunity to be grateful for all the wonderful and beautiful people in our lives that are so far away but always close to our hearts. It has also given us the opportunity to be grateful to be citizens of a brave and beautiful country. The freedoms and wealth that we have are sometimes forgotten when we are not constantly reminded by those that have less. China has been a catalyst reminding us of our fortunate lives.

We miss you all and love you all….Happy Thanksgiving

With Love,

Vic & Christina