In my four year tenure in this country I’ve seen it all. I’ve been laughed at, pointed at, talked about, I’ve had my leg hair stroked by strangers, I get gawked at for being able to use chopsticks on an almost daily basis and my mere presence in a place will be commented upon. This is not because I have any tumorous growths on my skin or because I’m horribly ugly, that’s just a coincidence. No, the reason I am the subject of such unwanted attention is because I am foreign.
Here are a couple of pictures I took when travelling with friends a couple of years back.
We were sat outside the Xining train station in Qinghai, waiting for a connecting train. Whilst there we attracted a crowd of curious observers.
Yes, that man is actually stroking my friend’s leg hair!
At first it’s easy to humour questions like “Wow! You can use chopsticks?”
I often retort with something along the lines of “well, I wouldn’t be such a portly chap if I hadn’t learned how to use them.” But after a bad day, and having heard the same question a googol of times, I just want to turn around and say “Look, I’ve been here for four sodding years. It’s really not that hard to pick food up with a pair of sticks.”
I try not to snap because I realise it’s just an attempt on their part to converse with me, but it can get a little condescending, and there’s only so many straws you can put on this camel’s back before it breaks.
One time I was in a little corner store picking up a drink and this man comes along with his little daughter, she can’t have been any older than three, and she comes waddling in to the shop as toddlers tend to. Her dad stood outside the store, saw I was in it, and said something along the lines of “Careful, see how different he looks? That’s because he kidnaps little children like you for fun.”
Firstly, that is not a very nice thing to say about me. At least ask for my permission first before you use me as a tool to enforce a life long fear of white folk into your child. Secondly, how did he find out? I thought I’d been so careful…
No, but seriously, the “us and them” vibe can really be a drag sometimes. The constant feeling that you are different and that you don’t fit in gets to be a bit of a downer. At the end of the day, whether you’re brown, yellow, white, polka-dot or any other colour, we’re all people! Right?