One of the habits I have picked up over the past year of being a housewife is reading a weekend paper on Saturdays and Sundays. By the time I am usually up, the paper gets delivered to the door and all I have to do is to make myself a hot cup of earl gray tea (full cream milk, mad cats mug), sit down and realise that the weekend is just about to begin.
I start with the thin glossy Canvas magazine (apparently, Qantas airlines award for the best newspaper mag), which is about everything and nothing. It has brain teasers (I am ashamed to admit, I like them), botox specials around town (also, very ashamed to be looking at them), and about 40-odd pages of articles on various topics. Occasionally, it is politics, often it is going green, every now and then there are “intellectual” celebrities and arty interviews.
The notorious Shoe Of The Week section always features some high-end fashion pair at a thousand dollars or so. There was a huge debate recently, with people writing angry letters to the editor, mentioning recession and quoting rocketing grocery prices. Back off, - the editor responded, - art is art, and there is no price tag on it. Price tag or not, they could be picking prettier shoes more often.
Anyway, the start of last weekend was marked with an article about China. I know that everything is about China these days, and the further we go, the more humongous it becomes, yet that one caught my attention. The one-child policy is having a hiccup, and things are getting more and more out of control. Kids are lottery whether it is one of six of them, yet the risk is higher if you only get one chance of making your point in this world. So the parents - the middle of the road Chinese citizens - are placing their bets on the one and only precious thing they have - their child. Mothers carry their child’s backpack around; couples forgo lunch so their child can have plentiful snacks or new Nikes.
Of course there is a price tag. For the pleasure of being the only child and not having to share anything, the child gets the obligation to support the parents when they are old. In order to provide good support, you have to do well at school. And what is the best way to get good marks? That’s right, study more. So this is exactly what they do - they study. Often a kid comes home from school in the afternoon, has a bite to eat, and goes straight to doing his homework - in some cases, they do it till the bedtime. Everyday. They. Study. For. Like. Ten. Hours. A Day. At one top Beijing kindergarten, students must know pi to 100 digits by the age of 3.
Mad, mad Chinese! Of course, when you study for ten hours a day from 1988 till 2001, you’d have exorbitant expectations about your future, your job and your pay check. But alas - there is the reality check. Not only is China not providing enough job opportunities, it is also that everybody is just as good. Tough competition for a very limited number of applicants. So they might find it hard to adapt to blue-collar jobs and less nicer lifestyle than their parents have been setting them on to.
Which just repeats my views on participating at all those crazy shows like Fear Factor and Survivor. It is OK to do it if you win - but boy, it sucks to lose. So it is OK for a parent to give everything up for a child, as long as the child pays you back. But all those years of sacrifice for possibly nothing - God forbid.
PS - I am going away for the month of August, I have already recorded a new voice mail message and learn the guidebook by heart. Europe, Europe, there I come! I haven’t been before, so, just as those Chinese kids, I have very high expectations :) Please wait for me, as I shall be back. Podcasts on eugenia.co.nz in September, a gorgeous black-and-white photo session with me barely clad and much more to come. Buen viaje, ciao and au revoir, mon cher amis.