Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Lifestyles of the Rich and Probably Corrupt

The Sofitel Boao offered interesting people watching for the less than 48 hours we were there. For people to afford to fly to Hainan and then put up entire families or groups at this five-star hotel, we imagined most of them could be corrupt officials.

Many were nouveaux riche northerners as a number of the women still insisted on wearing sweaters, wool dresses and boots even though the temperature was 25 degrees outside. One wonders if they knew they were in a warm climate zone. Meanwhile, the men got into the tropical swing of things, many wearing bad Hawaii-like shirts, or even with matching shorts. The only thing they were missing was a pineapple-flavored drink in their hands.

While we ate dinner at Symposium, the Chinese restaurant, a woman and her daughter made a late entrance to a group dinner, the little girl wearing the kiddie-version of Belle's yellow ballgown in Disney's Beauty and the Beast. It was complete with ruffled layers, puffed sleeves and came down to her ankles. She even wore the dress to breakfast the next day and to the pool.

At the next table with the same group dinner was a boy around 12 years old, who stood up and with his chopsticks, picked up food and shoved it in his mouth, even reaching over despite having a lazy susan on the table. Grabbing the food without any regard to the other people at the table, he stuffed his face, both parents not bothering to discipline him. More evidence of spoiled brats?

After dinner we wandered around the property and as we approached an outdoor barbecue venue that was reserved for a seminar group, a severely inebriated man had to be held up by two buddies, and it wasn't even 10pm yet. Did he get too eager with the toasts?

When we finished our walk and returned to the elevator which is across from the entrance to the spa, a hotel staff person told us to watch out, as there were paper towels covering something on the floor which was probably vomit from the same guy. Does the hotel have to deal with drunk guests on a regular basis?

On our second day there, we decided to go to the hot springs in the afternoon. The hotel has 37 hot springs, each with their own particular scents or herbal remedies that are supposed to help with blood circulation, or anemia, promote better skin or relaxation. Most seemed to be geared towards the elderly...

In any case, we settled into one that had an uninterrupted view of the ocean. Then a family -- or should I say two families -- started invading our space, including three generations, grandma, son and his young son. As we sat admiring the view, the kid points to us and says loudly, "Laowai! (foreigner!)"

The father said, "Yes, look. He is different from you. His nose is so big!"

In hindsight we should have responded with something like, "We understood what you said!" or "Your nose is just as big!" and stared back at them. But we were so annoyed that our interest in the sea view had totally dissipated and we soon got up and left.

This is not to say this was the only time Chinese people have pointed and remarked about foreigners' physical appearance; however it seemed this father was promoting racism at an early age.

His remark also reveals how the Chinese prefer to live in a homogeneous society. However, today we live in a world where cultures and races are more blended than ever before. If the Chinese cannot see that we're all one and the same, how can there be a "harmonious society"?

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