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Baby girl on the warm platform, originally uploaded by espeedy123.

What’s more interesting than all the temples and points of interest? The way people around us behave. The people-watching here is fantastic, especially the kids.

The baby in this photo is Yuyu. Her grandparents fixed us lunch on a day trip to a town north of Xian called Chen Lu. The guide brings the couple vegetables and pays them to prepare food for tourists. Their house had just two rooms, the kitchen and the bedroom/living room. The baby is sitting on a raised platform in the living area that’s heated from underneath by the exhaust from the kitchen stove. The hot air passes through a vent underneath the platform before escaping outside, and on top of this platform is where the family sleeps at night. This town is very rural.

You can’t see this in the photo, but the baby is wearing a pair of pants that’s split along the bottom seam. I first saw this in the Beijing train station and now see it on small children everywhere. It’s so babies can squat and pee without taking off their pants. No diapers here! I wondered how this would work, and then while waiting for lunch, the baby (18 mos. old) indicated to the granddad that she needed to go, and so he held her up over a bowl on the floor in front of us, her pants split apart, and she peed right there.

We also saw this happen on the sidewalk a few days ago in Chengdu. We discussed the baby pee phenomenon with a married American couple teaching English in China. They one-upped us with a story about having a baby pee on the floor in the middle of their long distance passenger train compartment. Today on the street we saw one unfortunate little boy perched in a funny seated position in his mom’s lap, pants split apart, totally exposing his hoo hoo.

The teachers said that there’s a trend here, especially in the cities, toward using disposable diapers. It sounds much better until one thinks about the extra trash that will be created by the babies of a billion-plus population.

In China this ability to squat that begins with babies lasts throughout life. We often see people sitting on their heels on the sidewalk like a baseball catcher. Last night we went to a light show performance and the seats were about 6 inches off the ground, really more of a squat-perch than a seat. I remember a yoga instructor in Chicago who’d visited ashrams in India telling stories about Eastern babies preserving their ability to touch their rears to the ground, and about how Westerners lose that ability when we start sitting in chairs.

I am among those who have trouble squatting like that, which has not served me well in the typical Chinese bathroom. But that’s another post altogether.

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