Made in China

My earliest memories of products Made in China come of those stinky trinkets sold in Dollar Stores, and then, shortly after, the classic cheap black cotton doll shoes, very Chinese, indeed.

Made in China? Means “fake” to me, counterfeit designer bags, manufactured illegally and sold in Brazil by the street vendor around the corner, not to mention those toys containing heavy metals and the poisoned toothpaste, remember?

The expected result is, my whole generation keeps some level of purchase prejudice around any product manufactured in China, a highly profitable business. For the Chinese, of course.

I should have known better when they started a flurry of electronic products made in China — in Taiwan, to be exact, although that distinction no longer makes any sense, and looking it up on Wikipedia will generate more confusion than clarification.

Alan joins the conversation adding his prior experience with the “made in China” concept, remembering the perfect suits and tailored shirts he used to order from Hong Kong as an elegant businessman, something hard to believe after witnessing him for ten whole years in Brazil, reduced to shorts and black t-shirts:

“But, Alan, at that time Hong Kong was not even Chinese, it belonged to the British.”

“What do you mean? Labor has always been Chinese.”

He proceeds, supported by Google, to demonstrate that Chinese quality and creativity dates back thousands of years, showing me the first clock ever created and brilliantly concluding his exposé with the stunning revelation about the terracotta warriors, buried with chrome-plated swords long before chrome-plating was invented here on our side of the planet; not to mention the compass, gunpowder and… Noodles. In addition, the glorious paper, of course, although being an ignoramus I prefer to give this credit to the Egyptians.

“But these are not the same Chinese,” I insist, based on the same premise that affirms the Greeks are no longer the same, neither are the Egyptians, for history’s sake. The Chinese out there at the moment are the result of the whimsical flattening of a people carried on by another of our youth heroes, the famous Mao, are they not?

Anyway, at some point in time, either to save money or to promote growing profits, Apple began to produce their iPads, iPhones and other “i”s (ay ay ay) in China, and, let’s face it, Apple products have always been considered icons of quality in the modern world, right? Despite rumors that all Chinese parts come with a built-in secret chip to hack data, we moved on to consume thousands of products made in China without ever thinking about it, anyone who dares opening a computer case can immediately confirm that. Moreover, just between us, you can’t go around stating that Apple products are second rate; I would not know, since all these years I have managed to avoid being an Apple maniac, but I’m certainly rare, a dinosaur, without no possibility of future survival.

A leap to present time. As you know, I’m on holiday, I shouldn’t even be writing a chronicle, but precisely because of that I took the day off and went to the mall in order to buy a new pair of shoes, since my cool Arezzo flats from Brazil are almost in tatters.

Those huge department stores in American malls are a nightmare to me, which is not what this chronicle is about (although at the end it will prove to be quite Freudian). In short, I hate to go shopping! Nevertheless, the need made me face it, and I entered Dillards with all my resolve, without batting an eye, and went straight to the women’s shoes section — another nightmare, everything ugly beyond description.

In the midst of such bad taste on display, anyway, I managed to find an acceptable pair of simple black sandals (Alan hates my delightful Brazilian flip-flops, says I look like the cleaning lady with them), which I could wear for the rest of this Summer, Autumn being around the corner, oba. I still hate hot weather, no matter the hemisphere I’m in. Then I looked at the bottom of the sole and the two features exposed demanded the mandatory boycott: the sole was made of synthetic (the current euphemism being “man made”) material, and the shoes were made in China.

My mother, whom I miss so badly, taught me two useful things: I should never buy shoes with synthetic soles, because it overheats the feet; and, the size of our (almost Chinese) feet (she being a 33 and I a 34, in Brazil, of course) made it almost impossible to buy shoes in the United States, as I wrote in a previous chronicle. Before I forget, Mom also stated all her life that my hair would never grow; it would not help a bit to stop cutting it (for those who have never seen me: I proudly carry around a long salt and pepper mane).

Alan and I left the store, but in the other huge department stores the ugliness was even worse, so we quickly returned to the first. When I went to the cashier to pay for the sandals, I bumped into a showcase of Calvin Klein shoes, one more beautiful than the other, please note that I don’t even have a shoe mania, I keep no more than two or three pairs in the closet, all black, of course.

When I examined the inside (material and manufacturing information is required by law in the United States), I discovered they were all made in China, and quite expensive, the bottom of the sole looking almost as iconic as the red Louboutins (surprise, surprise, though I do not enjoy it, I know a thing or two about female fetishes).

To make a long story short, because no man in the world will put up with this boring girly prose, I got home with the shoes on my head and went straight to Amazon, to discover not only that all big brand shoes today are made in China, as many are not even leather, but  in fact “man made.” Including the wonderful pair I didn’t have the courage to buy at Dillards. However, lucky for me, they were on sale on Amazon for only 30 bucks, free shipping and all.

I highly recommend it. If they don’t fit, there are always the free returns, and they work beautifully.

Oh, yes, and I forgot to add that my size is 6 in the United States, supernormal, and found everywhere, it’s not even the smallest size, so sorry, Mom. Only Freud can explain.

One last note: nothing is sacred in this crazy world, if you know what I mean. Searching on Amazon, I found a colorful adhesive sole for your fancier than fancy stilletos, et voilà: transform any cheap pair of shoes into legit Louboutins!

As for Alan, after the shoes success story, my husband is so excited he is planning to go even further: he’s travelling to China in order to purchase the wonderful double-glazed bifolding glass walls for our Paris Mountain home, argon and all (not related to the almost homonymous Wilhelm Reich’s sexual gas). For only a tenth of the price.


About the Author
Noga Sklar was born in Tiberias, Israel, in 1952. She grew up in Belo Horizonte and lived for 30 years in Rio de Janeiro, a city she left behind to take refuge in a paradise among the mountains of Petropolis. Noga met her American husband Alan Sklar in 2004, through the American Jewish dating site JDate. This meeting gave new impetus to her life and literary career, inspiring her first novel, “No degrees of separation” (to be published in English in 2016. She now lives in Greenville, SC, US, where she moved with her husband in October 2014.