Me and Chairman Mao
  Staring contest.
If any of you come to China, you will discover one thing. You get stared at. A lot. There are, as I believe I have mentioned previously, several possible reasons for this, the primary one being simply that you are not Chinese. How that's weird, I'm still not sure--I mean, there are more than four billion of us--but whatever. Secondary reasons for being started at include being a girl, having blond or red hair, or being very tall. (There are, of course, others, but those are the most obvious.) Anyway, the more of these characteristics you have, the more you will be stared at. So if you are a tall, blond female and don't like being gawked at by pretty much every single person you pass by--not to mention the hundreds of picture requests you are likely to receive--you should probably just go to Europe instead, preferably somewhere in the north like Norway or Sweden where you'll blend right in. Just a thought.

However, I have something--in terms of being stared at--that trumps all of those things. What is it, you might ask? (If you might not ask, too bad--go back to reading your National Enquirer and Danielle Steel books. Or having someone read them to you, which is probably more likely.) Anyway, this mystery trait that gets me so very much attention is simply--drum roll, please--the shaved head. You see, in China a person would most likely have a shaved head for only one of two reasons: one, they are a monk; two, they have just been released from prison. And since I don't have a predilection for wearing loose, brightly colored, flowing clothes, I'm guessing that no one thinks I'm a monk.

It was a bit weird at first, but now that I've gotten used to it, it's actually pretty amusing. It's usually pretty sunny here, so when we go out I'll sometimes put on a pair of clear, oversized "movie star" sunglasses and just watch everyone turn their heads, like I'm Brad Pitt or something. (Wait--why are you laughing?) The last time I was at the Forbidden City, a group of Chinese girls actually came up to me and informed me that I was, in fact, "so cool." Really. It still makes Holly laugh, for some reason.

Last week, I discovered that this does not happen only in Beijing: just as many people stared in Shanghai, despite the fact that it's the most "Westernized" Chinese city. (As a side note, I don't really count Hong Kong as a Chinese city, which would no doubt thrill everyone over at Communist Party HQ. But really, for visa purposes, going to Hong Kong counts as leaving China, and to fly there you have to go to the international terminal.) In fact, so many people were staring at me that some of the people we were with--rather than taking pictures of Shanghai--started taking pictures of the people looking at me while we were wandering around town. (To be fair to them, we were surrounded by malls and department stores at the time, so there weren't a lot of other things to take pictures of.)

Here's one of the funniest pictures. These two dandies had just come out of Starbucks--you can see the green sign above the shorter one's head. As Laura, the person who took the picture observed, it's like I'm invading their turf. (Although as someone who actually lives in Seattle, I'm pretty sure that Starbucks is my turf, so it should be the other way around.) Because really, when you think about it, nothing says "Gang War" more than a guy with a shaved head wearing obnoxious Burberry sunglasses …

You Lookin' At Me?

Subtitles. Sadly, despite a recent binge of movie watching, there is still nothing to report on the subtitle front. This weekend, we watched three movies that are still in theaters--The Incredibles, National Treasure, and Shaun of the Dead--which are usually the ones with the "quality" subtitles, but none of them had any subtitles at all! It was actually a little disappointing. The closest we came was with the new Bridget Jones movie. When we tried to play it, we quickly realized that it had several problems: first, it was dubbed in French; second, the subtitles--while in English--were actually from The Piano. Oops. Or, as the French say, "oopz."

Pictures. I know, I know--always with the pictures. I just uploaded a small selection from Shanghai for your viewing pleasure. As usual, you all have to go look at them right now--what, you'd rather do your work?--because they take forever to upload and, as a result, you should feel very, very guilty if you don't, and then how will you be able to live with your collective selves? That's what I thought. Suckers. Wait--did I just write that down? Crap …

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