100’s of My New Best Friends
A phenomenon all over China, starting at the first garden we visited in Tongli and continuing right up to the Summer Palace in Beijing on our last day in China, people everywhere came up to me and asked to have their pictures taken with me. Our first guide told me I didn’t have to do it, and that it was impolite for them to ask, but the first to ask was a little girl, maybe 10 years old and cute. This started a flood.
People everywhere came running up the round eye to have their picture taken. Grandparents brought their grandkids, husbands their wives, parents their children, sisters their brothers, girls their girlfriends and boyfriends. More than 100 people took my picture at all the important sites in China. One of the guides told me that it is prestigious to have a picture with your “friend” the foreigner in your photo-album. So if I ever show up on China’s equivalent of Facebook there will be hundred of folks out there who will claim: “See, I went to [fill in the blank] with her and we posed together! Just look at who’s my friend!”
The best of the photo-taking was in Xi’an when a group of muslim old ladies like ourselves who had travelled from Urumqi sat down at the table with us and shared our lunch-time. We had no common language, but we had age and the idea of traveling for adventure in common. They had come more than 1000 miles by bus to visit Xi’an. And they were joyous, talkative. They were colorful, lively and interesting – not anyone’s stereotype of Muslim women. We even took one or two of them for our scrapbooks. Our guide told us they like to send such pictures home to their children.