Acts of racism. Acts of global peace.
You know, the usual life in Chi.na for foreigners. ;)
Yesterday was a gloomy, rainy winter day (a pre-lude to the next few months...waaaa) and I decided that I was not going to ride my bike an hour to my night class. So I called up my friend Mike who takes the school bus to the other campus and joined him at the school bus stop.
There were may other people waiting to board the 2 busses heading toward our campus. A large group of Middle Eastern foreign students, some Chin.ese teachers, and Chin.ese students. And then redheaded me and my African American friend from Rhode Island. An eclectic bunch (as usual).
When the busses arrived, we started the process of asking the bus drivers where they were going to make sure we got on the right bus (of course, there's no rhyme or reason, because this is Ch.ina - we just have to ask.)
We found our bus and started to board when the bus driver physically stopped me from boarding the bus. Like, stood on the steps and blocked me.
I broke out my adrenaline Chin.ese - "Excuse me, what are you doing, I'm just trying to go to class?"
him: "Chin.ese people board first."
him: "When the time comes, if there are seats left, you foreigners can board. New policy. Not enough seats."
At this point, the crowd of foreign students dressed in turbans and kaftans had huddled around me and I became the reluctant spokesperson for the crowd since I seemed to have the best Chi.nese (or at least was the only person willing to take the guy on).
me: "We have never been denied the bus before, why would you do this? We are only trying to be good students and go to class."
him: waved his hand at me like he was waving me off and walked into the bus.
Eventually, we found another bus that let us on, and we got to ride to class. But I learned my lesson, I will be taking the public bus from now on when I don't want to ride my bike in the rain or cold weather.
What is sad is that I was not even shocked by the experience. I have been in Chi.na so long that I am used to the ignorance and rudeness of common people. I go to the 3rd best school - Ivy league status, and I was not allowed to board the bus due to not being from this country. Can you imagine an Ivy leangue school in the US keeping the foreign students off the bus until all the Americans had seats? It would be all over the news. Here, commonplace behavior with no one to complain to or report to.
I just hope that all these experiences add up to Chin.ese expertise and I can share these stories in a classroom one day. Then it will all be "worth it."
We made it to the campus and I met my friends for our weekly Wednesday dinner. I love this time so much. We made it to class with minutes to spare (and full bellies in tow) and sat in our usual seats by the N Korean. (I don't think I've told you about him before).
background: One of the N Koreans is in our class. We sit by him on purpose always in the same order - NK, Dan, Hannah, me. It is Dan's job to befriend the NK and then give us updates. He puts his arm around him and we offer him mints/gum - which he always stashes in his pockets.
Things we know about the NK - his name (Bai Dan Hao), he is married and has a 2 year old daughter, he is an engineer, he likes poetry and hates people who get drunk.
We have had a plan to follow him to see where he goes after class, but little did we know that he follows us! We always park our bikes behind the building and he knew where we park, what color our bikes are, and that we always go together. Sneaky, sneaky dude.
Well, since I was riding the bus yesterday, my friend Mike and I went to the bus stop and looked around for our NK friend. Nowhere to be found. When the bus pulled up he came out of his hiding place behind the advertisement board. Poor guy, always alone because he can't interact with us.
We rode the bus hom and then when it dropped us off at our campus, we still had a ways to walk (campus is big). The three of us, redheaded me, black, football player Mike, and little tiny N Korean walked down the road together. Ha. Isn't that a funny mental picture?
It was raining and Mike had forgotten his umbrella. I switched into speaking Chi.nese so that the NK could understand us (not sure on his English levels - though probably good).
I held out my umbrella over Mike's head so we were sharing and the NK'ian did the same. And we walked like that for about 100meters. The three of us under 2 umbrellas. Me laughing, and Mike telling the NK'ian to hang out with us more because we, "are cool Americans, not imperialist aggressors."
Alas, I knew our moment of world peace must come to an end. We rounded the corner to our dorm and our little friend told us he had to go and scampered off quickly in the direction of our dorm. I am sure he could get in trouble if he was seen interacting with us.
But it was such a precious moment while it lasted.
All in all a good Wednesday. A little racism, a little world peace.
As my mom says, "it all evens out in the wash."
walk slow. xoxo.