Monday, March 8, 2010


The boots that Wuxi women now wear
I should show you a photo of what I am talking about.  It would make things easier.  But I feel uncomfortable asking someone to let me take a photo of their "things".
I have noticed a change in fashion in women's boots.  Last time, I really noticed, which was probably four years ago, Wuxi women were wearing tall boots with high heels.  It looked very uncomfortable for them, and I have clear recollections of women having just bought these boots, looking like they were walking on stilts.
Well, they don't do that now.  Wuxi women, today, are wearing shorter plushy-looking flat soled boots that look comfortable but with loss of grace female movement.
My Sunday Evening trip to the Hui Shan Tesco
I needed to buy some snacks so to the local Tesco I went.  I was an exceedingly small minority, I thought to myself as I wandered the aisles. 
What caused me to think this, was the look of surprise on the faces of these three young men seeing me.  One of them said "hello!" in a manner that might as well have been "hey n****!".  I had to stare right through them, as the expression goes.  I suppose I should have given them the benefit of the doubt, and not taken offence -- they may well have not known how to react to something that certainly was out of the ordinary for them.  Best to pretend I didn't see anything was probably the best policy for I felt very uncomfortable, and unable to rise to the posture of friendliness.
But I continued to think on about the smallness of my minorityness in the store.  "How many people are here?" I asked myself.  I supposed there were at least five hundred people in the place, maybe even a thousand.  But if I was one out of five hundred, I reasoned, that was still a small number -- point two percent.
The Turn Around
Chesterton has this brilliant saying about looking at things 999 times, and then seeing something for the thousandth time and seeing it anew.  I say this as this recollection of something, I should be cool about,  has stuck with me, and now I wish to write about.
I was able to get a seat on the bus Sunday evening.  I saw two empty seats, one behind the other.  I chose the back seat of the two.  A local man took the seat before me.  He sat down, and then looked directly behind to stare at me, the foreigner, as it were. 
This sort of thing happens so often that I am loathe to mention it.  Passing this on to other Expats, I would get a sarcastic "big deal!" reaction.  As well, I have already written about this sort of thing once already in this entry.  And yet the recollection stays with me and I don't know why.  I guess it is because I have been here so long that I do forget how remarkable I can seem to the locals.  And it seems remarkable to me that I can not be aware of it -- being so stuck in my own world that I wonder why I bothered traveling  halfway across the real globe to be in this place.

Bad timing
Every once in a while, a Wuxi person will muster the courage to come and speak to me in English.  The right thing for me to do is of course to engage the person in conversation and take an interest in them.  This can be a problem if I am listening to a podcast and if the timing is all wrong.

Monday about noon, I was waiting for a bus listening to a history podcast (topic: the Middle Ages).  It was raining and the stop was crowded, and I chose to stand off to the side.  A woman quietly asked me something.  I answered her but I probably spoke at a rude volume because I was listening to a podcast.  I then clumsily tried to turn off the player.  She asked me what bus I was waiting for and so I got it into my head that she thought I was lost -- something about me standing alone must have made her feel that, or so I reasoned.  If I had had a little more time, I would have made things all right.  I quickly had it in mind to be polite to the lady.  But then my wife phoned.  That took a few minutes to deal with.  And then my bus came.  And so I had to leave the lady with the feeling that I hadn't done right by her.

Hopefully, I will see her at the bus stop again, and have a proper conversation.

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