I wrote this for my personal blog, and decided to share it here:
Last week I went to dinner with another American friend. We went to a more off-the-beaten path location in our city to pr and walk, and we ate dinner at a hole-in-the-wall restaurant. Some girls at the table across from us whispered and pointed, and when we looked up and made eye contact, they let out shrieking giggles and hid their faces as their eyes darted back to ours.
Being a "waiguoren" (foreigner), and the interactions created by my alien appearance, are daily experiences. On a good day, they are humorous (if a bit awkward), and on a bad day they make you want to shrink into your own skin. Being labeled isn't something anyone enjoys, and being labeled with something as non-specific as a term which merely points out that you don't belong here is definitely hard sometimes. After all, Leslie and I are fond of reminding people, we are human beings, not aliens or circus performers.
It's weird to say, but being in a location where most people have never seen someone who isn't Ch1nese has definitely made me identify somewhat (on a much more minor scale) with the celebrity experience. Don't get me wrong, we aren't celebrities. We haven't done anything to merit attention. We also don't get preferential treatment in most situations (although there have been some situations where I have). In most of my friendships, I have to earn trust and respect as I would with any friend. I'm grateful for friendships that have bridged cultural gaps and are authentic. I am also grateful that Father uses the draw of my white skin to allow me to form truth-filled friendships that move beyond curiosity. So, for now, it's a humbling opportunity to remember why I'm here, surrender irritations, and take the opportunities to reach out to friendly people.
And let's face it, opportunities to meet elderly men who haven't met an American since they killed them in the war....or working your white skin to meet a local pop star, are great experiences. :-)
Occasionally I break out my big sunglasses and a hat. It doesn't work, but it makes me feel invisible, which as an observant introvert, I need sometimes....
Do I blend in?