Mark, Ogdensburg, USA, October 2014
Mark, Ogdensburg, USA, October 2014

When Mark was a few months old, I started sorting out his clothes and giving away the outfits that were already too small. The impossibly tiny newborn-size onesies, the cute pyjamas, the hats no bigger than my fist, the thumb-sized socks… all were in perfect condition. He had worn most of the clothes but babies don’t do much—they eat, sleep and poop. Accidental stains were cleaned almost right away. People say you do loads and loads of laundry with babies—it’s true, but all in all, you clean small messes. A stain here, a leak here, it’s no big deal.

I sorted out Mark’s spring and summer clothes yesterday. Holes in pants, worn-out socks, and mysterious stubborn stains on tees—yep, my precious soap-scented baby turned into a wild dirt-loving kid.

Mark seems to be attracted to anything dirty or messy. If there is one puddle of muddy water in the middle of a perfectly dry sidewalk, he is going to jump in it with obvious delight. He eats with his fingers and happily wipes them on me. He grabs the sole of his shoes, absentmindedly licks his fingers, then runs his hands through my hair.

“Dirty! Zàng!” I warn as we walk past a garbage can, holding Mark’s hand tight because I know he is going to try to open the lid or God knows what.

This is the same kid who picks the tiniest crumb stuck on the carpet and runs around the house shouting “lājī! lājī!” (“garbage” in Chinese).

It’s a miracle Mark didn’t get sick in China.

China is dirty. I’m not saying Chinese people are dirty—that would be a pretty racist and ignorant statement—but the country in general is. Lots of people everywhere with no place to breeze, an overcrowded public transportation system in every city, factories spitting out black smoke, construction sites and garbage everywhere. Actually, considering how populated cities are, I found the country is dealing with waste pretty well. You don’t see garbage cans overflowing like in France, and there is no sewer smell floating in the air like in Thailand.

Chinese are pretty germaphobe. The newest trend is wearing an anti-pollution face mask—Hello Kitty and cameo designs are very popular—and wipes are widely available.

I wish Mark would have embraced this aspect of the culture.

Unfortunately, the first thing he was doing in the subway was to grab the pole—you know, the greasy and dirty metal pole everyone holds and no one cleans ever. Yuck. On the bus, he would run his fingers along the edges of the window—they would come out black. Duh. And when Mark is tired, he just lies on the ground, anywhere, anytime.

Not only that, but people loved to touch Mark. I’m a pretty touchy-feely kind of person myself—I don’t mind hugs, holding hands, that kind of thing. I didn’t mind Feng’s relatives holding Mark but please, stop stroking his cheeks, he isn’t a good-luck charm! And strangers did the same, they kept on “petting” him. Come on!

And we were out a lot, so washing hands wasn’t always easy. Most public bathrooms had a sink, but soap was fairly rare. I used wipes and hand sanitizer a lot.

In the evening, at bath time, if I could have bleached him, I would have.

By comparison, Canada feels very clean. Well, until Mark finds a pile of garbage or a mountain of dirt…

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  1. petite yaye October 16, 2014 at 11:29 am

    Mark adorerait dakar !!! Toi moins….

    1. Zhu October 16, 2014 at 10:34 pm

      😆 Je vois toujours les pays africains comme poussiéreux… c’est une idée à la con ou c’est vrai?

      1. petite yaye October 17, 2014 at 12:06 pm

        en partie… on s’en rend compte en saison des pluies où la pluie “nettoie” toute la poussière, le ciel est beaucoup plus bleu ! c’est surtout dû au sable et à la terre car dans les quartiers “résidentiels” où toutes les rues sont goudronnées, les maisons prennent beaucoup moins la poussière, ou alors c’est parce qu’ils ont de meilleures fenêtres ?! mais c’est vrai que j’ai pris l’habitude de nettoyer le nez de michoco chaque jour.

        1. Zhu October 17, 2014 at 10:53 pm

          Oui, je voyais ça comme de la poussière de sable, pas vraiment de la poussière “sale” 🙂

  2. Martin Penwald October 18, 2014 at 5:42 am

    Let him play on the waste. It will enhance his immune system.

    1. Zhu October 21, 2014 at 3:54 pm

      I tend to agree… just a pain to wash his clothes!

  3. Holly Hollyson October 30, 2014 at 4:19 pm

    Oh dear, yes, that does sound pretty grim!! Little man! This stage will last until teenagehood when suddenly you will be unable to use your own bathroom :p

    1. Zhu October 30, 2014 at 9:53 pm

      😆 I now understand why in the animal kingdom, mothers lick their babies clean!


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