Tuesday, December 30, 2003

It's a Family Affair
The Chinese Lunar New Year - also known here as Spring Festival - is approaching and it mean a week off beginning Jan. 22. Unlike my first week-long Chinese holiday, National Day in October, I plan to spend it close to home and not hundreds of miles away in the scarlet talons of a wealthy, sex-starved divorcee control freak. (See: Cherry Oh Baby, Oct. 7-9). But I will be spending part of it in a Chinese home. I just don't know which one yet.
The Shenzhen government has come up with an "Adopt a Barbarian for Spring Festival" program wherein lonely expates are matched with Chinese host families for two day homestays during the holiday.
To enroll I first tried called two numbers that were listed in the Shenzhen Daily, however no one who answered spoke English. This also might explain why the deadline for expats to apply has already been extended twice. But a co-worker took pity on me, made the call, and was faxed a form in English for me to fill out that asked for ID info and my hobbies.
I listed "reading, traveling, music" - and just for the hell of it - "16th century Estonian cross-dressing."
The paper ran a story recently saying that an initial batch of host families had been approved, including one obviously priviliged fellow who said his family will take their foreigner on a private fishing cruise and a "village chieftain" outside of Shenzhen who said he will also invite relatives from other provinces to welcome the lucky expat with lion and dragon dances.
Both sound promising but I have yet to be notified about my match and as time passes I'm beginning to feel a little like those Save the Children ads you see in the U.S.
"Little Justin, 51, dreams of a better life but it's not easy when he barely has enough for the lukewarm, watery beer and pirated CDs he needs simply to survive. His communist taskmasters pay him slave wages for finger breaking work hunched over a keyboard - often for mind-numbing minutes at a time. A learning disability makes it impossible for Justin to make even his basic needs known to billions in the country where he toils. Can you help? A modest fishing cruise or adoring villagers worshipping his arrival with exotic native dances are just two ways you can begin to let Justin realize his simple dream..."
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