Monday, October 6, 2008

Living without the omnipresent China

With the recent furore over China's dubious milk products, Yours Truly (who is very bored and about to do the "Cocker Spaniel" act) pondered on the mystery of human cheese, soya cheese (she is truly cheesy), and now she has read "A Year without 'Made in China': One Family's True Life Adventure in the Global Economy" by Sara Bongiorni.
She, husband Kevin, son Wes, and daughter Sofie, embarked on a year-long crazy adventure of literally, trying to continue American consumerism while boycotting Chinese products and Walmart (her great hate for destroying family-run shops, landscape with their empty storefronts, and squeezing vendors) in 2005.
I would say it was a beautiful ideal, but an ideal it is. It is certainly not infallible, when Sara had to cajole her sister-in-law to circumvate her rebellious husband's demand of a play pool for the kids by giving him one China-made on his birthday. Often even when the product does not come from China, the box it came in was from China. And does one consider "Made in Hongkong" as "Made in China"? These were some of the many "trying" issues they encountered while crippled for gift ideas, resorted to a Mexican pinata, a tiny German doll and Taiwanese swords etc.
Apparently gifts, even though China-made, are acceptable, even very appreciated by the family. In fact the biggest obstacles often happen on the toy front. The children even subconsicously "monkey see, monkey do" copied their mother, by picking up toys in the shop and frown while saying "China". The irony was not lost on Kevin, when Sara's narration of her toy-starved children's antics at the mall to her friend, who cried and gathered up all the abandoned toys left in an empty hurricane shelter, and gifted them to her kids.
"Well, that's just great," he says. "We've become a charity for deprived children".
Like Sara concluded herself at the end of the year long adventure: "But is a lifelong China boycott what I really want? I am not at all certain that it is. On the one hand, it's been satisfying to learn firsthand that China really hasn't taken over the planet, or our lives, at least no entirely, although sometimes it looked that way, especially in the toy and electronics aisles and at the shoe store. Of course, we're not out of the woods yet. I have a feeling China is just getting started when it comes to world domination.
On the other hand, we have a broken blender, a stuck kitchen drawer and a television that's fading fast, all problems that seem to demand Chinese solutions, We are still boiling water for coffee in the mornings because we don't have a coffeemaker, and if we don't give up the boycott then maybe we never will. Lots of little things in life come from China: birthday candles, squirt guns, light swords. These are small, inconsequential things that cannot properly be described as important, but I'm not sure I'd like to live my entire life without them..."

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