During a farewell dinner at a Zhengzhou hotel with my teaching colleagues, I noticed several American couples walking by with Chinese children. It turned out that the kids had just been picked up by their new adoptive parents.
I met couples from Georgia, Kentucky, Colorado and Iowa. The ones who adopted healthy children had waited as long as eight years to bring them home. Those who adopted special-needs kids had much shorter waits, sometimes only one year.
The families have to spend several weeks in China completing paperwork before returning to the U.S. They used the same adoption agency, which is why they all ended up at the same hotel.
I recognized one of the children from Swallow’s Nest, a local foster home for special-needs orphans where I’ve been volunteering. He and another little Chinese boy were adopted by Matt and Jenny Kauffman from Marshalltown, Iowa.
Bin-Bin, the child from Swallow’s Nest, will be known as Christopher in the U.S. He was already wearing an Iowa State University T-shirt. “You’re never too young to be a Cyclones fan,’’ Matt said.
At a Zhengzhou mall the other day, I passed a display for a white Mercedes-Benz E400L Hybrid. The sticker price was 779,000 yuan, or about $125,000.
The suggested retail price for the U.S. version is $56,700, less than half the cost in China.
Though the cost of living in China is much lower than it is in the U.S., foreign cars are much more expensive here. Most cost at least twice as much, and some go for triple the price.
How come? The main culprits are high import taxes and hefty profit margins.
But why are Chinese drivers willing to pay such a premium price? Foreign cars are a big status symbol in China, signifying money and success. There aren’t that many ways to show off your wealth here, so driving a fancy foreign car is a clear sign that that you’re living the good life.
Street sweepers are as common a site on China’s roads as cars, scooters and bicycles.
You can’t walk more than a few blocks without seeing somebody (usually elderly) in an orange vest pushing piles of dirt and debris with a long-handled straw broom. The Chinese are notorious litterers, so there’s never any shortage of garbage to sweep up.