I stood waiting for the crosswalk to change from the sedentary red man to the walking green man as cars and motorcycles rushed by almost colliding into each other. I felt someone staring at me, but what else is new. Here, in China, being white is a rarity. Curious as to who in particular decided to ignore social norms and continue staring, I turned my head to my left. Innocent looking enough, a Chinese girl of about 16 looked at me and smiled. I smiled back and turned back to looking at the traffic. Not more than a few seconds later, my shoulder was tapped and my ipod headphone dislogdged from my ear.
Rando Chinese Girl: Ni Hao! Wo jiao bing pop duck long! Ni de shenme mingzi?
Me: uh. Ni hao. Wo jiao lizzie.
Rando Chinese Girl: ching shing chong tong long sing me a song ti ti me la puo.
Me: Duibuchi... Wo shi Meigou ren. I DON'T SPEAK CHINESE... SORRY!
Rando Chinese Girl: Bing lingaling ting a wing ping ping!
Basically, you see how the conversation was going. We crossed the street together, me annoyed that yellow by coldplay was on my ipod and I was actually having some pensive alone time on my walk home before her little shoulder tap... She, unaware of facial expressions and tone of voice... just keeps chattering away. After we crossed the street, we were at the bridge I have to take to get home. Incidentally, the bridge also leads to her kungfu class... or maybe to her home as well and she just enjoys sporting the outfit? In short, I pretended that I didn't have to cross the bridge, hid under it listening to my ipod like a little troll until she crossed and walked a comfortable distance ahead. I sat their under the bridge unable to get her teeth, which were unusually painted with gold sparkle nail polish (not all of them , just enough of them to have the view of them permantley embossed in the wrinkles of your brain) out of my mind.
This is one of many encounters I have had as a celebrity the past two weeks.
No, it is not my attractive and sexy physique that grabs me all this attention, or my breath taking green eyes, it is the fact that I am white and look as though I speak English.
Chinese people are obsessed with learning English. Which in a way, kind of pisses me off. Not that they want to learn English, anyone can learn whatever they damn well please... but just that they feel so comfortable harassing random people to practice learning their english. It doesn't matter the kind of person you are, if you are a serial killer hiding out in Kunming, or an innocent young girl traveling the world for 8 months to find herself... if you are white, you have something they want, and they aren't afraid to ask for it.
My Chinese teacher always talks about how shy Chinese people are... from my experience in China, this is not true. Anyone will approach you, say their name, and ask for your email so you and they can get together sometime soon to practice their English. It's as if the thought never occured to them that you don't usually hang out with strangers in forgien countries and that you actually are part of a time intensive program and have other things to do.
My frustration with my current location was further extrapolated earlier today when I sat around with six Chinese girls introudcing ourselves and talking about our lives. I got annoyed when one of the girls pulled out an Ipad. No, I am not a grouch teacher who hates electronics... but the fact she had an Ipad kinda weirded me out... I just got annoyed that I was devoting time to these students who were already at the best high school, and clearly economically well off... Weren't there other people who I should or could be helping?
God, I thought to myself, if I wanted to work with overpriveleged rich kids all day who only were worried about where they were going to college, I should have stayed in La Canada.... and then it dawned on me... these kids aren't so different from those I went to high school with. They admitted to liking the government as long as those in power were funding their interests, they complained of too much homework, and were very worried about their futures.It was at this point, I came to realize my own personal growth, not even three months gone abroad. My priorities in life have drastically changed from the ones I obtained a year ago. The programs I was willing to use as a pretty accesory to my college apps, the belief that I was somehow DESERVING over many others to attend prestiguous universities, my biggest worry in life for my own personal future, but not for the future of the world, both ideologically and physically.
I truly cannot blame or dislike anyone in particular for the annoyance I have felt towards many Chinese people so far. For example, I cannot even hate the head of the forgien langauage department who refused to acknowledge me as a living and breathing human being with a name when I stood shoulder to shoulder with a boy going to harvard. Yes, sexism among other forms of discrimation are alive and well in China. Truly, all I can seek to do is study the institutions and history of them that has made china's constituents who they are today.
When examining these institutions, and even the people that compose them and support them, I cannot judge with a pitying or arrogant mindset. Projecting my own institutions or beliefs to be of better values, makes my line of thinking dehumanzing and oppressive. I cannot even really feel pity for the people whom I feel have been mislead, I can only wish to understand their situations better and try to learn the path of life they walk. To gain this understanding, I must build relationships with those I am around... A task I find extrodinary, considering I do not agree and am generally annoyed by those I would be able to learn from the most. This is one of many challenges I must pinnacle.
Little did I know when I left the green hills and warm eyes of those who inhibit Ecuador, that I would end up missing them this much. Despite the bug bites, the work, the sweat, the horrid stomach/intestinals issues, I do very much long to be back on the other side of the Equator with the people I came to know and love.
Its funny, I thought I'd just be homesick for LA and all those whom I love there... But I also find myself incredibly homesick from my other home away from home, Ecuador.
Until next time....