Monday, December 20, 2004

If I Had A Dime For Everytime This Happened . . .

I spent a fun day in Hiroshima today, shopping and exploring the sidestreets around the Hondori (outside shopping mall.) Several times I caught people staring at me -- it wouldn't be a normal day in Japan if I didn't get stared at. At one point, I looked down to see a tiny Japanese boy looking up at me. The minute I caught his eye, he started walking backwards slowly, with a terrified look on his face. That happens all the time.

It reminded me of a trip I took earlier this year. I was in Beijing, China in May and almost got mobbed several times. My first night I actually kind of ran back to my hotel (from Tienanmen Square) because I started to get afraid of the crowd gathering around me -- they were lining up about 20 deep to get their pictures taken with me. There was absolutely nothing to fear; I just wasn't used to such a thing. The Japanese are curious but not aggressive. The Chinese were starting to push and pull a little. While touring one day, about 40 Chinese people swarmed me, causing my tour guide to yell, "Be careful! She is not a panda!" I guess meaning that pandas are popular and people usually want their pictures taken with them. I loved that expression.

Just for clarification -- it's my understanding that people who live in Beijing are getting used to having foreigners around; the people lining up to get their pictures taken with me are visitors from the Chinese countryside. Outside of Mao's mausoleum, two men wanted pictures with me but they had no camera. I took one with my camera and asked my interpreter to check if they wanted me to send them copies. My interpreter talked this over with them, and then they waived goodbye and walked off. She then explained that they didn't need copies; they just wanted to know that I had a picture with them so they could go back to their villages and talk about it. She said they would be considered worldly and respectable for having had a picture taken with a foreigner.

I've had fun and crazy experiences traveling all over the world. I'll try to remember more for future posts.

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