Before I left, I figured that I would be getting some weird looks from people as a foreigner. Even so, I don’t think I was quite ready for the reception I would get from the good people of Wuxi.
Regardless of age, gender, or ethnicity (there are 56 Chinese minorities outside of the Han), people do double-takes wherever I go in Wuxi. And the kids at the primary school I help out at? They go nuts. If I walk past a group of them, they whisper excitedly, “罗泰岚！, 美国人！“ (My Chinese name; American). I’m told it’s a combination of my dark appearance which apparently looks vaguely Asian (also, my short haircut looks quite similar to that of other Chinese men), and the fact that there are not very many foreigners in Wuxi.
It’s kind of self-inflating, to be honest. But also pretty funny, especially when I pronounce something correctly in Chinese.* Complete and utter shock. It’s great. Anyone in America who feels unappreciated would either feel much better in China or really insecure. As for myself, I’m strangely enjoying the whole thing, though I definitely understand a bit of how exchange students must feel out of place when in America.
*A rare event, to be sure. I asked a worker at the school I work at, in Chinese, how long he’d been studying English, and he answered after some thinking, “Around 10 o’clock”–he thought I was asking when he went to bed.