Sunday, December 21, 2008

Rock Star Status

Sometimes I wonder if I'm going to need an "orientation" when I get back to the US. Not for "culture shock," but rather, "self-esteem shock." How can I return to being one of the crowd when I have gotten so used to the elevated status I have received in Zhongguo.

No arrogance intended, I assure.

For some waiguoren, the eyes that seem to follow their every move are a bit disconcerting. Clandestine pictures taken with cell phones, or individuals and groups who approach modestly, or sometimes boisterously, to get a quick snap shot of or with the foreigner, may bother some...but not me. I'm as happy to connect with them as they are with me.

A new variation on this theme occurred Friday night. After meeting the McReillys and other friends at the English corner of Renmin University (an English corner is a place for Chinese students, graduates, and basically anyone with interest to engage in English conversation with other individuals, English teachers, and maybe even a passing waiguoren), I found myself literally "elevated."

You see, when you walk through the English corner, small crowds will gather around you to see what topic you are discussing, and either stay and chat or move to a different conversation. As a group gathered around me, a young Chinese man who was obviously one of the English teachers, approached me and asked if I'd help him teach the crowd a few sentences. He handed me a piece of paper that had a few lines from "School of Rock" and escorted me to a chair. Before I knew what hit me, I was standing on the chair, surrounded by around 50 people who were hanging on my every word...well, actually, my pronunciation. They, with beaming faces, repeated my sentences loudly and clearly. I was truly impressed by their spirit and motivation.

At the completion of my "job," I walked away from the crowd to find the rest of the crew. I literally took five steps before I was surrounded, this time safely on terra firma, by another small group. They asked me all types of questions, and gave me advice about places I should visit and foods I should eat during my stay in China. They told me where they were from and gave me their opinions on everything from American politics to why the Old Summer Palace should be rebuilt. They were lively and refreshing, and I found myself wanting to talk and listen more. I was given a ten-minute warning... a five-minute warning... two minutes...(you get the picture).

So when I return to the States, please give me some time for my head to shrink back to its normal size, because now I know how Bruce feels when he finishes Born To Run. Wow!



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