Last week I was invited to a Thanksgiving party and decided to go since I thought it would be good to have some human interaction. What could go wrong?
I got picked in front of my apartment. The lady couldn’t find a taxi but finally found a way to get us to this party. We walked up up the flight of stairs and there were two open doors leading to a large room. The room was packed full off children and their parents. And then it hit me. This isn’t dinner with some friends or a small little party. She invited me to this party so she could show me off at her money making training school. I felt extremely uncomfortable, I didn’t want go in the room full of people, I wanted to just cry. I met this lady once and I wasn’t get paid. So I left.
As I dramatically walked down the stairs she said “its just a kids party!” Yes, it was a kids party and I’m the entertainment. Instead of being paid to be Elsa and sing Let it Go I’m the unpaid foreign monkey.
Before all this she compared me to a pretty Barbie and asked how it felt to have men attracted to me. So before all this crap happened I was feeling pretty crappy. I finally had some human contact and she was just talking about my physical appearance. And now the reason she contacted me as “friend” was to show me off. To her I am not a human being but just a pretty foreign Barbie. All the children and parents at her training school would be so impressed that she knew this foreign object! Wow!
Plus, why would I put my self in this situation of extreme staring when I get stared at, pointed at, and laughed at on a daily basis. I would rather get stared at while enjoying a Big Mac. (One time while I doing this a lady stared at me opened mouth and tripped going downstair the stairs. I laughed. I view it as karma.) ( I still find it hilarious.)
I am not exaggerating. Children have screamed and pointed at me as I am walking down the road as if I have three heads. Mothers point to me to show their children “the foreigner” like I am an animal in a cage. There was an adult women at Walmart who screamed and grabbed her boyfriend just to point at me. When I eat my noodles people just watch. (Yes, I can use chopsticks! And I am damn good at it too.) There’s the mocking “Hello”s. (With Adele’s new song and living in China I never want to hear the word “Hello” ever again… but that’s another post.) I ignore the “Hello”s wherever I go. This one is my personal favorite: People eat outside on the sidewalk. As I walk by like a normal person someone will yell “HELLO!!!” at me. I ignore them like I always do and then the whole table of more than five will just laugh loudly.
I prefer going out at night as I get less stares and feel somewhat like a human. I go to the Walmart rather than the Chinese grocery store so I can have a more relaxing experience.
I have had “paid foreign monkey” opportunities. I taught two 45 minute classes at a “far away” school. I asked for no pictures or videos as its distracting to me and the students. I wanted to focus on teaching. I’m a teacher not a celebrity. But they didn’t give a shit. All they wanted was pictures to show that a “foreigner monkey taught here.” I grinned and bared it as my request was flat out denied.
In the first weeks of a Chuzhou a new friend from a language app visited me. He told me what all the people were saying as they pointed and stared. They thought I was Russian. I guess they found me “pretty” and pretty people are Russian. (which is hilarious since I have no Russian in me whatsoever) (and by Chinese standards my size 12 jeans are fat). A waitress thought I was Russian and thought that people from Russia speak English and I wouldn’t be surprised if other people in Chuzhou thought this too. I also had a lady show me a picture of an “ugly” foreigner and reassured me that the previous teacher and me are attractive. So I guess I am attractive in China even though I have a big nose and big feet. (I have been told directly my nose and feet are big.)
I think I could handle all the pointing and staring if I had some type of support. If I had a local bar I would could bitch to another foreigner or the bartender. We would laugh as I drank delicious cider and then talk about Adele’s new album and the Lakers. But that’s not an option in Chuzhou. If my school was even somewhat supportive I could handle it better too but they are “too busy” to bother with me. I’m trying to deal with it in completely isolation and it just makes me feel even more isolated and alone. My support system is across the Pacific with a 15 hour time zone difference. While they are great and wonderful its just not the same.
The justification for this behavior is “they are just curious.” I get it. But when its your daily life is annoying. If I was here for a weeks I could do it. I would be back in NYC where you can yell, “IT’S SHOWTIME!” or “JESUS IS SENDING YOU TO HELL” and no one would bat an eye. Plus, the people know its rude. When I felt feisty I have stared back and they stop looking. As one random person on the internet says,
… they have no compunction whatsoever at starring at you all day so it’s not a matter of them knowing whether it’s rude, it’s a matter of them just not *caring* whether its rude – after all you’re just a laowai.”
And that’s what it’s like living in Chuzhou. You are just a “laowai.” I am just a laowai. A foreigner. Not a person. Not a human. Just an object. An object to be stared and gawked at. And I am special object since I am considered a pretty object.
I haven’t had this problem in the big cities I have visited. If I do go to a tourist area I’ll get the “OH MY GOD! IT’S AN ALIEN” looks so I pretty much avoid tourist areas like the plague. When I went to a village of a 180 no one stared at me. It’s in this “small city” where I have this “stare at the foreigner and point at the foreingner and laugh at the foreigner” problem.
I’m all about understanding different cultures but it doesn’t make it any easier personally. Maybe if Chuzhou had other redeeming qualities I would stay. But for the next place I call home I’d like to buy toilet paper in peace. Though there might be some detours along the way…
Yes, one day this will all by funny and I’ll tell my grandchildren about when I was young and I lived in China but for now I just want a friend or at least to be able eat my popcorn chicken in peace. Plus, I have a secret dream of when I see Chinese tourists in a place other than China I am going to stare and yell “FOREIGNER!” at them. It will be fun.