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A Year Without Made in China


(美)萨拉·邦乔妮 Sara Bongiorni

胡宗锋  苦丁(译)

CHAPTER ELEVEN  The China Season

第十一章 中国季(三)

I let the children stay home from school after they wake up with runny noses. They sit in a trance in front of the television for most of the morning, and then I drag them to the drugstore for cold medicine.


A Chinese Christmas is in full display. We entertain ourselves pressing the button on a dancing Frosty the Snowman from China, then spend several minutes looking at labels on the undersides of miniature Christmas trees, candleholders in the form of ceramic houses, and other yuletide fare, all made in China. I think maybe Wes is proving to be a precocious child and teaching himself to read because each time we examine a label together he shakes his head and solemnly announces that it is from China. Then he hands me a metal tin with a candle in it that says Made in Hong Kong on the bottom.

那里展现的是一派中国圣诞的气象。我们先是摁了一个会跳舞的中国霜雪人玩(霜雪人Frosty the Snowman,又译为“结霜的雪人”是一首经典的圣诞歌曲——译者注),然后花了几分钟时间查看微型圣诞树,陶瓷房子形的烛台,还有其他圣诞节东西的标签,都是中国制造。我想维斯或许在证明自己是个智慧超前的孩子,他自学认字了。因为每次我们一起查看标签,他总是摇摇头,严肃地宣布这是中国的。然后他递给我一个有蜡烛的金属盒,底部写着香港制造。

“Another one from China,” Wes sighs.

I bite my tongue.



Wes makes me promise that next year he can buy a miniature Christmas tree with tiny colored ornaments on it. He turns to Sofie with the good news.

“Mama says I can get this when the China season comes,” he tells her, holding up the tree. She looks impressed.



It’s a pleasant way to pass the time with the children, and there is just one alarming moment.

“Oh, no!” I hear Wes exclaim.



I jump and take a few steps down the aisle toward him, thinking maybe he’s cut his hand on something. I look for blood but see none. Wes is holding the box of cold medicine in his hand and peering intently at the writing on the outside of it.


“This scared me because I thought it might be from China,” he says as he hands it to me. I check the box of cold medicine and find a Rhode Island address. Not from China, I assure him.


We leave the store with the cold medicine and a box of American Kleenex. At least for now you can still blow your nose without China.


More notes on a China boycott:

A friend of ours stops her minivan in the street one afternoon and waves me over to the driver’s side window.



“My thirteen-year-old daughter is giving up stuff made in China for you,” she says. “I thought you’d like to know. And that’s on top of Wal-Mart, which she also gave up for you. She adores you.”


I’m not sure what to say. Thank you? That’s nice? Is it nice? Nobody has ever given up Wal-Mart or China for me before, at least not of his or her free will. I’m still trying to figure out what to say when my friend winds up her window and continues down the street.


I order a box of German Christmas toys from a fancy children’s catalog. I am shocked when the box arrives. What shocks me is the size of the box. It’s no larger than a shoebox, although I spent close to $200 for its contents.


My order seemed enormous and decadent when I called the catalog, but as I unpack the box it all looks dinky and unimpressive. These toys are charming, in good taste, and well made, but as I look them over it dawns on me that these same qualities might count against them from the point of view of the children, who like toys that are loud, large, and in questionable taste; in other words, ordinary toys, which means Chinese toys. And, as I mentioned, these toys are so small. The family of four hand-painted dolls from Germany that cost $80 could fit inside a coffee cup. The father doll can’t be more than five inches tall. There is also a set of tiny German doll-house furniture and even tinier German dollhouse accessories, including a toaster and other kitchen utensils that are practically microscopic.


There are other unpleasant surprises in the box. A wooden bathtub boat that the customer-service rep assured me was made in Poland says something else on the outside of its box: Made in China.


It hits me that I’ve spent nearly one third of our holiday budget on this one shoebox worth of toys. I recently suggested to Kevin that we cap our holiday spending at $681 after I read someplace that NPD Group, a retail research firm, predicts the average American family will spend that amount on gifts during the holidays. We are an average enough family in my opinion, although at this point we are not typical, since the typical American family will be spending most of its $681 on Chinese Christmas presents that will thrill their typical American children on the morning of December 25.


It seemed like a sinful amount at the time, but suddenly I’m worried that it will be tough going to keep from busting through the $681 spending cap. After all, the little box had only two things for Wes: the wooden boat from Poland/China, which I’m now going to have to return, and a second wooden boat, made in Germany, powered by rubber bands. In other words, I’ve just burned through close to 30 percent of our Christmas budget and Wes still faces the prospect of next to nothing under the tree, including not a single thing powered by “mote katrol.” Not only that, after looking over my order of German merchandise, I realize that what I really need are large, non-Chinese gifts for the children, which I suspect will be even harder to find than small ones.


There is also the matter of friends and relatives who will be sending us gifts, and presumably hoping that we will send something to them, although I prefer not to think about that now. I’ve got enough on my hands as it is.

I start to feel sorry for myself, so I call my mother, hoping she will feel sorry for me, too.