Wednesday, August 6, 2008

When I'm Not the Tourist

My audience asks, and I deliver. I think I assumed that since I was reading everything anyone wrote about the Olympics, that everyone else would be, too, and wouldn't want to hear me saying kinda the same things. But I do have a perspective of already having been here for six weeks.

I was walking to lunch yesterday with two friends when a random Asian accosted us in rapid-fire Chinese. "You guys speak Chinese, right?" Lizzie, a British friend I went to Tianjin with, didn't understand anything, and I was too thrown-off to be helpful. The Polish girl from my class answered that we did. "Good," the guy says. "Can I have a picture with you?"

I pause here while we asked him several times what he wanted. Chinese tourists don't consider it a trip unless they've gotten a picture with a real foreigner. Seriously.

Eventually we agree to take a picture with him. I think that this encounter was so strange, and our school so full of Koreans (i.e. everyone in my class but me and this Polish girl) that this guy might not even be Chinese. When I ask what country he's from, though, he was offended enough that I knew he was Chinese.

It's his first time in Beijing, he explained. He lives in the Northeast and is here because his sister, who lives here, found him tickets for the Olympics. "Welcome to Beijing," I called to him as we left.

I was riding the bus a few days ago when I heard several people ask the conductor, "Does this bus go to the subway?" Of course it goes to the subway, I thought to myself. Don't you know which stops are subway entrances? But of course they didn't, because none of them live in Beijing. I was proud of myself that I was able to tell independently of their questions, since anyone who rides the bus frequently (that is, not them) would use their transportation card instead of paying in cash and getting a receipt.

I live in between school and the Bird's Nest (the Olympic stadium), so even though practically no cars are on the road, I still get hit with a huge burst of traffic as we pass it.

The pollution is still horrible. Earlier, I was annoyed that everyone would come to Beijing, see the fantastic weather, and think it was always like that. But now all the Western media talks about is how there still aren't blue skies. I'm rooting for China to get it cleaned up.

Maybe I'm not as excited as this guy, who we saw in Tianjin:

1 comment:

Sheri said...

The "welcome to Beijing" comment was priceless. I am glad to hear that you are not the tourist now. It's been a lot of hard work to get to this point. Congrats!