Reality Show


One of our friends was discussing how he thinks our family’s life would be prime material for a reality TV show here in China.


After I stopped ROFLing, I thought about it.

My sister was just here and I saw our world through her lens, for a fleeting moment.

Such a show could be useful for both Chinese folks to understand a family such as ours a bit more, and also for our friends on the other side of the world to capture more about our strange yet beautiful existence here.


Imagine, a log of exactly just how many times each day somebody asks me how old I am.
The hiss of “Si ge hai zi” (Four children) in our wake every day as we go home from school.

And they might capture footage of the middle aged lady who stepped out into the bike lane last week right in front of me and we crashed.
My first real accident in nearly 5 years.

She felt much better after submitting herself to some radiation ($30), and even more so after I paid for some overpriced quackery ($45) prescribed in lieu of tylenol by the spine doctor sitting at a table in the bone hospital who briefly looked at her waist and touched her back for a second.

Maybe the reality show host would ask me if I was tempted to give her a fake number (I was), and I would feel really guilty for even thinking that thought.


My recent favorite was some guy I’d never seen before, selling bunnies in the alley yelling out at me as I pedaled by one day:
“Hey, this bunny has some blood on its mouth. What do you think it is?”

As I smiled my usual nonjudgmental but internally confused smile at him before I could stammer a reply, he turned to his friend and said, “She’s a doctor, she knows about stuff like that.”

I could only LOL as I kept going.

Then there are the mundane things like trying not to gag every time I pass the raw chicken feet, black pickled mysteries and wiggling silkworms in the market.


Trying to cross a busy road with the kids after school when nobody ever stops for pedestrians.


Buying freshly ground hand cranked beef.


Getting my son’s sandal strap fixed for 3 RMB (45 cents) while I squat on a tiny stool on the sidewalk, watching the shoemaker crank an ancient shoe-sewing machine thingy.

Taking the bus as a family because six of us can’t fit into one taxi and nearly all day is a bad taxi time these days.



Random strangers yelling “Hellooooo?” as they pass in the street.

Our kids expert at ignoring and evading the dozens of people stroking their light hair and skin and telling them they look like a foreign doll and oh how pretty you are.

And the guards at the gate who smile, peer into my grocery bags to see how incredibly much food we buy and know every last piece of our business better than we do ourselves.


But even with all that, I am not sure the reality show could capture the essence of why we continue doing this.

Phones calls from women I mentor, asking me to meet them so they can share their burdens.

A deep conversation during rush hour on the subway with a colleague, where a random comment leads to unexpected enlightenment for both of us.

Shared meals, an arm linked through mine to make sure a car doesn’t hit me as we cross the street, smiles and tearful moments blending together.


The slow establishment of trust in a society where trust is often evasive.


7 responses »

  1. Once again, thank you for such a wonderful look at your life right now. You all are blessings! air hugs!!!!! Love you!

  2. I don`t know about a reality show but you def have a book! I am a witness, you truly do captre the moments as best you can without the reader being there!

  3. Awesome! I think you are reality show material, especially since you don’t mind random strangers in your home! Love the cultural vignettes, which both make me eager to go to China and help prepare me for the challenges we will find there. Happy birthday to you too! Hope it’s a fun and beautiful day!

  4. I miss you and I enjoyed seeing each one of these pictures and love listening to your interpretations. I am blessed by you all and am grateful we were able to get to know you pre-China :). Love, Linda and Barry

  5. I spent the first half of this post saying the words “overpriced quackery” over and over, laughing out loud. And then, you brought me to tears. Thank you for sharing so much of yourself. Thank you for knowing exactly what this is like for all of us.

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