Street Smarts


As I was walking to get coffee this morning I realized I may finally be on my way to perfecting the art of sticking out. It’s probably obvious that I do not “blend” here in China. As I am fairly certain I never will, I’m concentrating instead on finding ways to become comfortable being stared at. I know this will be an ongoing process, one that I likely will not have mastered even when our year is up. Until I get used to the stares and adept at ignoring them, I’m working on my own way of dealing with it.

This “art of sticking out” so far consists of:

1. Walking Fast. If you look like you know where you’re going and time is an issue for this mission (coffee, probably), you are less likely to be approached by hecklers trying to sell you a fake LV bag or Rolex.

2. Listen to MP3 Player. This is actually partly for the illusion that you are in your own little world and partly to blend a little, as many others are tuned in.

3. Stare Back. This is a toughie. The stares here are long, focused and unapologetic. My latest tactic is (only when the stare has passed the initial “what is that thing” look I get) to stare back. I don’t think I’m being any ruder than they are and maybe (probably not) they won’t stare so hard next time. Sometimes, my gaze breaks theirs and I’ve won, but just as often they simply keep staring.

4. Wear Sunglasses. See #2

5. Wear Hair Up. Any day that I don’t feel up to the stares is definitely a day to put my hair back. You’d think I was wearing a huge fruit bedecked Carmen Miranda hat for all the startled looks my head gets.

6. Try Not to Trip or Drop Anything. Man, it’s embarrassing to be such a klutz when you know people are looking at you.

New Subject Alert

Have I mentioned yet that this is a damn cool city? I don’t think I have and it’s about time it’s been said. This place is exciting, metropolitan, loud, crazy, smelly, weird, bright, scary, tasty, hip, and many other adjectives. I stop every now and then and look around me and it’s unreal how very different it is. It’s like being on the very edge of life.


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