Maria Holland

Supply and Demand

In Uncategorized on July 1, 2010 at 2:43 am

We’ve put up with our share of crap from the weather in Xiamen this year.  For about five months, if you asked a Xiamenite when the rainy season is, they would respond, without fail, “n月和n+1月” (essentially, this month and next month).  And, from about February to mid-June, it was true.

But the blazing sun and brilliant blue sky have been out these past few days, and it has been glorious.  It’s been hot (35C or 100F) but not as deathly humid as before.  It reminds me of Texas, or (if the wind is blowing) Oklahoma.  Except there are beaches here.

I had my first final today, in newspaper reading.  I was really excited about the class at first but somewhere along the line (between the second and the third teacher) it became newspaper analysis and started to suck.  Glad to be done with it.

I rewarded myself by spending the afternoon at the beach with a book.  A book I’ve already read, granted, but that’s the reality of life in China for me.  I didn’t go in the water, just sat by the large concrete mice (computer, not animal) that are there for some reason.  I had the beach basically to myself, which would have made more sense if it had been during a downpour or a snowstorm or a tsunami instead of an insanely gorgeous day.  But this is one of the perks of Asians’ cultural dislike for dark skin – sometimes understandably mistaken as a downright fear of the sun.

I should admit – one of my purposes in sitting out there was to get a tan.  I feel slightly conflicted about this, because I dislike the importance attached to skin color in societies all over the world.  I guess I think I look better with slightly darker skin (hopefully to cover up those mosquito bite scars) but what I think is more interesting is the connotation that different skin colors carry.

Because of course, skin color is just a convenient proxy for the connotations associated with it.  This is why Americans love bronzed bodies and Asians treasure their porcelain skin.  (See?  Even the words differ; Americans would more commonly say ‘pasty’.)  In societies where many labor under the sun, skin untouched by its rays is a sign of wealth or prestige keeping it from a darker fate.  In societies where many spend their lives indoors, only those with the money and time to exercise, relax, or travel enjoy prolonged exposure to the sun. 

But over time, the connection between skin color and what it signifies becomes so close that the two are seemingly one.  And instead of that skin arising naturally from those circumstances, obtaining that skin color through alternate methods is a way to create the facade of that lifestyle.  So this is why my classmates at Coon Rapids High School were bright orange in the dead of winter, a physical impossibility using natural sunlight.  And this is why my friends who work construction in Jilin wear layers of clothing all summer, to preserve their white skin in spite of the reality of their jobs.

It all seems kind of silly to me; I’m not trying to fool anyone here with my skin color.  I want it to speak the truth – and the truth is that I live 3 minutes walk from a beach.  I want to have enjoyed this luxury by the time I leave, and my tan is just a convenient meter for measuring my progress. 

 

This evening, Carlos invited me to go out with his work friends to play Catan.  We had dinner and [two bowls of] shaved ice and fruit, and then went to their house to play.  Carlos won both games last time we played 6-player, so I warned them not to let him win.  They really believed me, so Carlos got crushed and I won.  I won the second one fair and square, though.  And things are back to how they should be :) 

Catan is such an amazing game, really.  I am continually amazed at how simple it is, how perfectly balanced the rules are, how many times it can be played without ever getting boring.  I want to do research on Catan – what kind of degree program would that be?  Supply and demand, game theory, statistics?  Sounds like economics to me.  Hmmmm. 

We played until 1 a.m. but it didn’t even feel late.  I guess several nights of 2:30 a.m. football matches will do that to you, eh?  There is no football tonight, day one of a two-day break before the quarter finals . . . and its weird.  I haven’t watched every night, but I have generally known who was playing and looked for the results as the games ended.  I haven’t even been a football fan for three weeks, but when Carlos put his head in his hands, groaning “What will I do when it’s over?”, I kind of knew how he was feeling.  True story. 

 

I got home to a few messages on QQ.  Joyce, a.k.a. Worst Friend Ever, is trying to rekindle our friendship; I think she needs to improve her oral English for something.  Allen, a guy I met once at English Corner, is trying to take me to dinner before I leave.  Earlier in the year I would have tried to fit them in, but tonight I was honest and said I was going to be pretty busy until I leave China.  It’s not like I’m dying or anything, but the truth is that I only have a certain number of days left here and, after this long, I have a pretty good idea of how I want to spend them.  I’ve done the fake friend thing here; it has its merits.  But by the law of supply and demand, time with the people I care about has gotten infinitely valuable, and it’s hard to compete with that. 

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