I recently made contact with one of the shelters in town via Weibo, China's version of Twitter. I was invited to come along with one of the founders on Saturday, but I had to decline because of work. I sure hope they have a use for me during the week. Life without animals does not suit me. I'm incredibly lonely for them.
Maybe you're wondering about the title of this post. Maybe you think I spelled Hawai'i incorrectly. "Kawaii" is a Japanese term referring to the specific brand of cuteness you find in Asian culture (like our pal Pluto up there, Hello Kitty, or Pikachu). Kawaii culture has a lot of implications for gender roles (especially in Japan and South Korea) as well. The giggling, childlike, shrinking butterfly of a woman is a well known stereotype (of East Asian women) in the West, but Kawaii has had an effect on masculine culture as well. Most of the men my Korean students found handsome (their word) had long, feathered hair and effeminate facial features. The feminizing of both genders (on the conventional binary) is less apparent in China and I'll use that as an excuse to leave the discussion to those with a sociology background.
One thing about Kawaii culture that never fails to surprise me is it's presence in situations that are generally regarded as official or serious. For example, the side of a police out post or van will likely be emblazoned with a cute little officer, his smile tiny compared to his large eyes and larger still head. His legs far too short to be of any help in an emergency. There are some new "Healthy Shandong" billboards along a wall that we pass on the walk home from school that exemplify this.