. Growing up in America I was always in the majority and am not used to feeling what its like to be the minority. Here in China I am the minority in every context of the word. I do not look, speak, act, dress, or think like a local Chinese person. There is no where I can hide but the confines of my room. I have began to freestyle walk through the city and cnce I leave Shiquanjie (the shopping and westerners street next to campus) the stares increase tenfold. This is not to say that these stares are unwelcoming or cruel though some are certainly glares, but more they are stares of curiosity. I imagine its what a strange animal at the zoo feels like. Sometimes I feel trapped by these stares. The uneasiness increases as I'm always caught off guard and not sure how to act. Usually however I smile, wave, utter Ni Hao and reciprocated quite fondly. As soon as this happens a small amount of the uneasiness sinks down. While I will never get used to the stares, I will also never tire of the smiles.
It is also truly amazing how interesting I seem to be to people walking by! As I sit in the park just staring off into the distance, people come by sit down, stare, try to talk to me or take pictures. Usually they ask to be in the picture with me, but sometimes I just catch people snapping from afar. I don't have much room to talk through because I do the same to them. There is a slight difference though I think, I like to capture people do everyday things; I find a kind of beauty in this type of photography. But I am pretty sure they are taking a picture of me like they are taking a picture of a new animal at the zoo, because it something they haven't seen before. At the park on Monday I was writing postcards and the entire time I had an old Chinese man standing over my shoulder watching me write English. He was so intrigued by my form of writing! I tried to talk to him but he was talking in Suzhou dialect, which is very quick and kind of slurred so I understood very little
. Today I was standing on the top of a pagoda just sightseeing in a man tapped me on the shoulder and asked if he could have a picture with me. I said sure and he wrapped his arm around my shoulder and had his wife snap the photo. I am curious to know how many Chinese families have me in their photo album!
As I mentioned earlier, today I climbed to the top of a pagoda. It was peaceful at the top. I felt so content to be away from the craziness that is my life down below. Any moment of peace out in nature is a blessing here. It is also the moment that I realized that Suzhou is quite a large city. We really haven't been out of the 3 miles surrounding the school. I have much to learn and to explore! Getting out of the limited area around the school lends to such a different feeling. Suzhou is known as one of the heavens on earth and I haven't really experienced this side of Suzhou. Today I was able to get a different truer feel of the city. You have to walk with the locals to truly understand the heart of a city.
As Jessica and I walked around the top of the pagoda we first met a man from a province a little north of Suzhou we talked to him from awhile (all in Chinese) about Suzhou and the surrounding area, about what we were doing in Suzhou and various other topics. Afterwards we continued to walk around and met Wang Laoshi (Teacher Wang)
. He was a seventy-four year old man, (we quickly replied zhen de (really?) in turn he took off his hat to show us his gray hair) who walked up these stairs to the top of the pagoda to enjoy the view. We learned that he taught medicine, grow up in Suzhou, but moved to Shanghai, we talked up sunrises, and sunsets, boyfriends, school and life. It was such an incredible feeling to have met this man and to be talking and understanding him in Chinese. It took awhile because he had a very thick accent, but Wang Laoshi took his time to make sure we understood him. It is these kinds of experiences that are so special. I cannot imagine going to a country and not speaking the language. I enjoy so much being able to talk to the local people. I feel like this my time here is enriched by these experiences. I have met so many random people throughout my time here. So many people are willing to talk and put the effort forth to understand us. It is quite inspiring and it nudges me out of my shell to get to know more people. I am so grateful to have this opportunity to meet and converse with people in their native language.
Today for the first time Suzhou is starting to feel a little like home.
As I learn to live in this foreign country I am constantly surprised, shocked, and left in wonder by the things I see and experience. This is not a negative comment, because more often than not I am in left in awe. The people are so friendly, so willing to meet you with a smile, to accept you. I am left to wonder what I did to deserve this warm welcome. I wonder if it is only because I am white, or if this is a greeting people here give to everyone. I have been trying to spend more of my time learning what it means to live in Suzhou; exploring the streets, seeing things that aren't on the main road, sitting in the park and watching. Sometimes it takes shutting your mouth to see a place as it really is. You have to find a place that isn't filled with tourists, laowai (foreigners), but see the place as the locals see it. This has been one of the hardest things to do, because sitting and walking through the local areas means making yourself vulnerable. I am left with a small sense of uneasiness and uncertainty