We are two weeks into our visit to this amazing country.
We’ve seen all kinds of amazing historical wonders.
We stood on the Great Wall.
We visited the Forbidden City and the Terracotta Warriors.
We learned about the great poet Dufu and wandered ancient streets.
And most of the time we’ve done it with a crowd of cameras behind us.
We are the show.
A Black, English-Speaking Family with two very cute ( if I may say so myself) kids under the age of 10 can draw quite a crowd in China. It can be a bit off-putting at times. Especially at first when we had no idea why they were staring.
But soon enough there were gestures showing us that they liked our skin, that they were enthralled withthe boys’ hair, that they were interested in our difference.
Some ask to pose for pictures. Sometimes we say “yes,” but we’ve also taught the boys how to say “no thanks” in Mandarin. It’s important to us that they feel in control of their image and that they don’t feel they have to stand and smile and pose with everyone who asks.
Occasionally we’ve had to be forceful in our “no” but most of the time people are accomodating, walk away and move on. The only people that truly bother me are the sneaky ones. People have gone so far as to set up elaborate settings so that they can take a picture of the kids without our permission. In some cases a couple will have one person pose in front of us or in our path and then wait until we walk into the frame or look up to snap the photo.
If we catch them doing it, Ish and I are not above doing it right back. We’ve alarmed a few people that way but without the language we have no choice.
This isn’t a one-sided issue. We’re tourists in this town and we too have a camera in hand. I try to remember how it feels to be the unwanted subject on the side of a lens when we’re taking pictures as well. And there have also been times when the photo-taking has worked in our favour.
Ish had just finished asking our guide Laura about the rules around asking some nuns in monk robes we saw walking in the Forbidden City for pictures, when one of them walked over and asked if they could take a picture with us!
But there are also days when we just don’t feel like it. The kids are on edge, we’re tired and posing for photos isn’t what we want to do.
At the end of one particularly tough day, we had an idea. Why not give people something to really look at.
We pulled on the outfits and posed
And we laughed right along with them.
Some things are funny in any language.