Say cheese // Errata.
One of the weirder things about being in China is that you become photo-worthy simply by being a foreigner. And yes, that means just what you think it means: at some point, two or more Chinese people--someone needs to take the picture, after all--will come up to you and want to have their photo taken with you. Which, granted, is pretty funny the first few times it happens, in a surreal sort of way--so, this is what Brad Pitt feels like!--but it gets old pretty quickly. Especially since, as I said, this involves "two or more" people, the "or more" being the tricky part. You may, for example, be approached by seven or eight--"or more!"--people, and you can be pretty sure that they're not looking for a group photo. No, they will each want their picture taken with you individually. It's sort of like being Santa Claus, except without any of the cool side benefits, like free cookies, flying reindeer, and a one day work-year.
Thankfully, this doesn’t happen everywhere. Your average Beijinger--BJer, natch--is pretty used to seeing foreigners, so while they might stare, they don't require any sort of photo documentation as proof of your existence. No, it's the out-of-town people from foreigner-free towns who want the photographs, which means that you are likely to be approached for a picture at any of the big tourist spots--the Summer Palace, the Forbidden City, the Great Wall--because they're filled with Chinese tourists as well as your standard out-of-country tourists. And it doesn't happen all the time or to every foreigner, although if you are a girl with blond hair or just a girl with any colored hair, you are more likely to experience the joys of being photographed with people you have never seen before and will never see again.
I also get asked from time to time, mostly, I think, because people with shaved heads are not exactly common here. It happened to me two times at the Forbidden City, one time with a group of girls who told me that I was "so cool." Really, I just couldn't argue with that, so I agreed. It also happened once at the Summer Palace, although in that instance I just walked away because the people didn't even speak English--they just waved a camera in front of my face and tried to stand next to me. The nerve.
Anyway, the big question is what they do with these photos. Take them back to their friends and say things like "See the white skin--Americans are all albinos" or "Look at the funny foreign devil--he has no hair!" or "Yes, this is the girl I met at the Great Wall and slept with." I'm guessing the last is most likely …
Local Dub III. I think this should maybe just be a regular feature? We watched Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow last Sunday. Toward the end, Sky Captain (Jude Law) tells Polly (Gwyneth Paltrow), "Nice shot, Polly!" The translation? "Fuck good a point!" No, I'm not lying--how could I even think of that? The thing is, for the entire movie Polly was translated as "Fuck good." I'm not sure if the Chinese translator had some sort of personal knowledge about Gwyneth that hasn't hit the headlines yet or what--perhaps he met her at the Great Wall?--but it made for some pretty funny reading. Oh, and the movie was good, too.
Pictures. I also just posted some pictures of Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City, so everyone go look at those right now. If you knew how long they took to upload with our crappy Internet connection, you wouldn't be arguing with me. There's not too many--only eighteen--but it should give you an idea of what the place is like. My absolute favorite, however, is below. I'm sure you can figure out why.
That Won't Be Hard