One thing that really surprised me about living in China is all the attention that I got just for being a foreigner. I couldn’t walk down the street without someone shouting “HELLO!” in their loudest and best English. I’d shop in Wu-Mei, the neighborhood grocery store, and people would stop to look in my cart to get a glimpse of what Americans buy. While eating at any restaurant, the diners at the table next to me would stare at my chopstick skills the whole meal. What can I say? I am a walking, talking circus act! :]
This superstar mentality for foreigners in China may fade away in the next few decades since China is becoming more and more open. But until then, it causes random people to want to take photos with me, like I’m Angelina Jolie. If I happened to have my camera with me when someone asked me to pose for a picture, I’d usually snap one too. I know there are several 100 that I don’t have a copy of though. I imagine I am sitting on the mantle in a picture frame of many Chinese people’s homes, and during Chinese New Year the family sits around and talks about that one time they met that crazy, curly-haired American girl.
Here are a few of my favorite photos with strangers.
Many people would often ask me to hold their babies. This should be a cute and cuddly time. However, Chinese babies wear split pants. Never heard of split pants? Well, instead of diapers, the babies wear pants with a hole in the back, so they can use the facilities whenever they have the need. Supposedly, they are trained to go when their mom whistles, whether that be over a trash can, a sewer drain, straight up on the bus, or most rarely, over an actual toilet. So back to the photo and me holding that cute, cuddly little baby. In the photo below I am enjoying holding that little bao bao, but I am also a bit worried that someone is going to start whistling.
I was so excited to go to the Great Wall in Beijing. I wasn’t expecting to get stopped every few minutes for photo ops though.
Xianjiang is the most western region of China. It borders Russia, Mongolia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India. It is more like one of the “stan” countries than part of China. So the people there look very different than the Han Chinese people. They often go to other parts of China to sell special foods or crafts. When on a trip in Nanjing, my friend and I bought some street food off of a really nice man from Xinjiang. He asked if we could take a picture together. I told him sure. He said he didn’t have a camera, so my camera would do. Why did he want the picture when he would never see it again? I don’t know, but I’m glad I got a photo with such an interesting guy. Would you have guessed that he is Chinese?
And sometimes it’s whole groups of people who want a picture. A few weeks after arriving in China, the vice president of our school took the foreign teachers to a restaurant downtown. Before a shift at a restaurant in China, you’ll often see the manager gather all the employees and give them a pep talk. A photo with the foreigners was the pep talk that day.
It’s strange being back in America. People don’t chase me down on the street to try and talk to me. People don’t secretly take photos of me on their cell phones during class. People aren’t throwing their babies at me to kiss like I’m a politician. The strange thing is….I kinda miss it all. Life is weird.
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