Today is the 6th anniversary of the day I first set foot in China.  Those six years have been a lifetime for me.

Here is the tattoo I got done a couple of weeks ago.  It's kind of maze-like but if you look closely, you'll see in the middle of the design, there is a snake winding itself around my arm.  And if you look even more closely, you'll see that the snake's head is broken.  This comes from a passage in Genesis where God tells Eve that her seed with crush the serpent's head (meaning Jesus will conquer Satan).  The design encircles my left elbow.  The tattoo quality isn't the greatest, and I'll have to get it touched up sometime, but I like the pattern, and I think it fits well with the tribal/circles-and-triangles theme of my left arm.
Tina also got her third tattoo on the same day.  It's a little "Z" on her ankle in honor of our little Z.  I personally think ankle tattoos are very sexy and I applaud Tina's bravery for choosing to go under the needle for a third time (she really really dislikes the pain of tattoos).
I don't really have the small town blues- it just sounded cool for the post title.  Actually what I wanted to talk about are the frequency of tattoos in my new area of residence.  When I lived inside Xiamen city limits, I spotted tattoos every once in a while but not too often.  However, now that I live outside the city in a smaller, commercial/industrial suburb, I'm surprised how often I see tattoos.

There is a large population of youngsters in their late-teens/early-20s who work in the local factories/warehouses/supermarkets/clothes shops/etc.  For reasons that I don't completely understand, I see them sporting tattoos in great numbers.  For the guys, if you see a group walking around in sleeveless shirts/no shirts, at least one of them will be inked.  For the girls, colorful ankle and shoulder tattoos are also common.  There is a large number of hookers and massage girls in our area, and more often than not, it's girls heading to work in the early evening all heavily made-up that are tattooed.  I imagine that people might suspect the same thing of my wife if they didn't see her pushing a baby stroller or walking around with me.

I'm not looking down my nose at my neighbors- if anything some might look down on me, since I'm inked up like a prison convict.  I just wonder where the inspiration to get tattooed comes from out here, where the Western influence is less prevalent than in the city.  Chinese traditional thinking regarding tattoos parallels the Japanese attitude: that tattoos are primarily the domain of social unsavories, like crooks and hookers.  You'll find a more open mind in China's cosmopolitan areas, but this isn't once of them.  Yet I can't help but draw comparison to the American inner city and country regions, where you'll find lots of tattoos at the liquor store and local Wal-Mart, and not so many in wealthy suburbs and business districts. 

Again, I don't want to sound judgmental, and it would be very hypocritical if I was, but perhaps there is a correlation between the desire to get tattooed and being a member society's lower classes.  Since people seek to distinguish themselves by any means necessary, and since people in lower classes have less means to do so, tattoos are a convenient and available way to show one's "distinctiveness."  I say that sarcastically of course since the prevalence of tattoos has essentially watered down its effectiveness as a badge of individuality.   I've stated in other posts that the reasons Chinese people often tattooed usually differs from those in the West, but the fact remains: businesspeople, bankers, educators, lawyers, and other people whose identities are largely tied to their white-collar careers rarely get tattooed, regardless of country.  Those with less people to impress and less face to lose are more likely to get inked.  Whatever the reasons are, I'm glad they're becoming more common with everyday folk, since the social stigma is about twenty years past its expiration date.
LLC's administrator Crystal asked me to write a guest post for her blog about Chinese women and tattoos.  You can read the post here.

Here are some photos from my mother's visit.  Yeah, yeah, I know she's a hot mom, everyone keeps reminding me.  Sheesh.
Well it's been six months since this blog went into hibernation, but we're back in business now.  Here's a quick summary of what's been happening lately.

-Nolan turned one year old on July 24th.  We had a big party with several neighbors and friends, and it was especially cool since my mother came from the USA for a visit.  It was the first time that she had seen Nolan and Tina in person, and we had a blast while she was here.  My father passed away last year so he never got to see his grandson face to face, but I'm glad that my mother was able to make the trip.

-Tina celebrated her 30th birthday on August 2nd.  I arranged a little surprise party with some of her friends, which was something she had never had before.  For a lot of Chinese people, turning 30 is the equivalent of becoming middle-aged, so Tina was lamenting the grinding gears of time a bit.  But since she already has the husband, the baby, and the house which are all required of Chinese girls by the time they turn 30, she wasn't feeling too bad.  Plus she still looks like a dream, and people always tell her that she's got to be in her mid-20s.  By the way, she's a year and a half older than me, and you know what they say about hot, horny older womenGiggity!

-Life is slow and quiet at our new home, but it's nice.  It's a few kilometers outside of the city, which means that everything is much cheaper but it's kinda boring, with small town people, small town manners, small town life.  I'm the only foreigner around so I'm a bit of a local celebrity (which we have been able to use to our advantage in creating a small English school at our home during the summer) but I spent three years in Jiangxi province before I came to Xiamen so I'm used to the Chinese countryside.  There are a lot of things that I wish were different, but I appreciate what I have.

-Tina and I got tattooed together last week.  She got a little "Z" on her ankle for Nolan, whose middle name is "Z" (I know, cool huh?).  I got a large design filling up the empty space on my left elbow region.  It took two sessions for a total of six hours.  It was not fun at all.  I've decided that in the future, I'm going to get tattooed once a year, and with this new tattoo out of the way, I don't really have any desire to get anything new, so I think I'll just devote my tattoo energy to improving the ones I already have (and some need a lot of touching up).  I'll post the photos of Tina's and my tattoos once they've healed.

-I've been doing lots of research on cathedrals, particularly the Gothic style of architecture.  I've always loved cathedrals, but now I'm taking a serious look at the design, the styles, the symbolism, and it's utterly fascinating.  There is a commanding grandeur in this structures that I find lacking in Chinese construction, and the more I learn, the more I yearn to explore them in real life.  I'm even reading The Hunchback of Notre-Dame right now.

So that's the deal for now.  I'll be heading back to work in a couple of weeks, and it's been great having the whole summer to spend at home with the family, particularly Nolan as he navigating these formative days.  I feel bad for a lot of parents, particularly fathers, whose jobs take them away from home for so long.  It's nice to have personal space sometimes, but I wouldn't want to miss first steps or first words for anything.  The Bible says that children are a gift from God, and it's true.