Teaching in Wenzhou / Travel: China

Curtain Call

The trick is to act like you belong.

If you sustain the charade long enough, then people stop watching you. They realize that your mannerisms are just like anybody else’s, grow bored with you, and go back to the business they dropped the minute you stepped into sight and took your seat (if, for example, the scene takes place in a noodle shop somewhere along Bai Li Road on a rainy afternoon in the last days of August).

If you are there (the city, not the noodle shop) for a very limited amount of time, say, seven or fourteen days, hell, a month even, you don’t mind being the object of so much attention. You fully expect, welcome and even enjoy it. You go out of your way to interact with the locals with whom you cross paths, stuffing as much “cultural experience” as you can in that short period. The stumbling conversations are incessantly entertaining to you, a multi-part adventure you can’t wait to tell people back home about.

However, if you are in a place long-term, it all gets old really fast. Understanding that, even if your stay is for a whole year, you are still in status a visitor, you nevertheless can’t help it if on some days you just want to blend in, be part of the general population going about its’ daily boring business. For you have daily boring business to attend to now, just like them, and would like to stop becoming a crowd-worthy spectacle everywhere you go.

You can’t blame them, of course. Physically, you blend in about as well as a camel on a ski slope. And there is no sign on your forehead that says “I’ve been here two months already, and will be here for another ten, so I advise that you pace out your fascination energy.”

That time of relief will come, despair not dear traveler. In time, your bearing will change. You’ll stop subconsciously giving off the “I’m new here.” vibe everywhere you go. You’ll stop acting like you belong, and actually start to be of the place that you are in.

Unfortunately, that’s going to be around the time that your departure date looms near. Such are the ironies of life. Chances are that you’ll also start to develop a sentimental attachment to the place too, one you have not had before. You’ll wax nostalgic before you’ve left.

Don’t fall for it. You’re just longing for a time when you used to be something special in a town that hadn’t seen the likes of you in a long time, if ever. Going out and about, taking care of your daily boring business as you have been doing for the past year, you’ve gone and made them bored with you.

So, for now, be okay with being watched. Bask in the attention. Learn to be at ease in the spotlight. Appreciate constantly being an event as an opportunity to practice being in the moment, to practice presence. While you’re at it, do something about your raggedy-ass wardrobe, will ya? Like it or not, you’re the uncompensated ambassador for an entire race of people. Everything about your person reflects back on an entire “dark continent”.

It’s a show, and you’re the star!

6 thoughts on “Curtain Call

  1. LMAO at “a camel on a ski slop” .. about the most comical mental image summoned up in my head in a while! On another note, I hope you find some comfort in know that I would not pick a better representative of our flock that you 🙂

  2. Pingback: SD Vol 4: Curtain Call | Diaspora

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