August 4, 2017 by readlisaread
I remember being amazed by this in Beijing last year, but it is perhaps even more pronounced here. At the school, kids from other programs will catch my eye and shyly say hello, adults are openly friendly (or ambivalent), but on the street, in shops, even at tourist hotspots, I attract attention on the level of a rare zoo animal or a D-List American movie star. And the reactions range from curious friendliness to disdainful taking-note. Earlier in the week, I was getting a little exasperated with the notoriety — I was in the supermarket and just wanted to buy some damn fruit, and I felt distinctly “stranger in a strange place”.
Last night, however, I had such a joyous moment that the only thing I regret was not taking a picture with my ultimate fan club. We were near the Guangzhou Tower (across the Pearl River from the Olympic Stadium), and I passed a large group of kids waiting to go on a river cruise. There were in blue camo shorts and shirts, and numbered in the dozens– there were at least 60 of them, ranging in age from 8 to 15, I would say. I stopped for a moment to wait for my group, wending their way through the crowds, and I heard a quiet and giggly little “Hello” at my elbow. I turned and one of the youngsters had braved stepping forward to try their english greeting. I turned and of course smiled when I saw it was a group of kids and said “Hello!”. They erupted into cheers and celebration, and a chorus of “Hello!!”. It was possibly the most joyous moment of the trip so far.
I notice that shy/giggly “Hello…” is a translation for “Hello, I see you are a foreigner, and I’d like to talk to you”. If I turn and reply, invariably I have a friendly conversation. There seems to be a great desire to practice English, and many of the locals will take the opportunity to do so. The other thing that gets attention is a tattoo I have on one bicep of Maple Leaves. In this heat, I am often sleeveless, and it serves as a conversation starter frequently.
Off to Old Guangzhou today….Pictures to follow….
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