Friday, June 21, 2013

For your eyes only

Yesterday I went to get a long overdue pedicure at a place where I have a membership, and therefore get an okay discount (I mainly go there for massages). I have a choice of taking a taxi for 36RMB (~$6USD) or taking the Metro train for 4RMB (~70¢), each way. If I'm by myself (and therefore do not have whining children with me complaining about taking the subway which can be crowded and noisy), I always take the train.

Empty train car - one time event!
I prefer the train to be honest. It takes about the same amount of time, sometimes less if it's rush hour and the streets are clogged above ground. It gives me solitude, which sounds funny considering I'm generally pushed up against another three or four travelers. It makes me feel confident in a way that only mastering public transportation in a foreign country can. I know I'm in a minuscule minority, but I also find it peaceful... The never ending rhythm of arriving and departing trains reminds me of the waves on the ocean. 

I generally pop in my earphones and listen to music and completely zone out, always amazed when my muscle memory seems to get me to my destination without my brain weighing in, even when it involves three trains with two interchanges. I did the same commute last week with a captivating book shoved in my face (Ghostwritten by David Mitchell, so good), and I was quite surprised to find myself at the ticket barrier of my home station... with no memory at all of the three-train ride! 

Yesterday, however, my reverie was disrupted by the silent crowd on the train who were staring so hard at me I feared they might bore holes through my body. Since I look around and see a mass of people who all have similar characteristics, I forget that when they look back at me they don't see a familiar pattern of body type and hair/eye color.

Most of the time I choose to ignore it. Sometimes I become quite self-conscious, thinking there is broccoli in my teeth or my skirt is riding up or I've accidentally smeared black permanent marker all over my right eyebrow. Again. And then sometimes, like today, I'm filled with the overwhelming urge to do something absolutely crazy to really give them something to stare at. 

Earlier this week my virtual friend (and Michael's real life friend from high school) Gerb posted a video which has given me some awesome ideas for the next time I feel overwhelmed by the stares. If I make the news, I'll let you know.


P.S. I recognize every single filming location in that video... it's like a love letter to Los Angeles. Feeling a little homesick! (Email subscribers please click through to the site to see the video.)


  1. I love it Heather! If I was there with you you can bet we would have busted out some crazy dance moves for their staring pleasure.

    By the way, I have listened to/watched that song at least ten times a day since I first saw it and it never gets old.

  2. Oh Gerb, that would be amazing! I think my favorite thing about the video (and what is making me homesick) is that the people walking past either completely ignore the dancers after the most cursory of glances or else they become engaged, with a smile, pulling out their phones to photograph or take video, or they join in on the dancing. In L.A. a random person dancing on the streets is such a common occurrence that it barely draws attention, while here in China a person who looks different draws a crowd of people to stare in silence. You have to work REALLY hard to stand out in LA-LA land! :)

  3. I'm so glad I saw this!! I've seen less than 10 white people in the last 3 mos. Every single time I leave the house I'll hear "Mzungu!"(white person). Sometimes it is endearing other times it's degrading. I get stared at on the daily! Even the guard at the house I've lived in this whole time still stares at me ha. I've never admitted this before but I always have this temptation to dance. I'm probably the worst dancer of the Caucasian race but something inside just wants to break free and dance. Thanks for posting this and inspiring me. I don't know if I'll ever bust a move (in public) but I will try to add more brave to my life :)

  4. Loved this!! Thanks so much for sharing. I'm going to share it with the girls. We all need a little more brave :)


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