Friday, March 25, 2016

For Whom the Horns Honk

Terrible play on a classic book title? I know. But accurate? As my Norwegian-turned-Minnesotan ancestors would say, "You Betcha!"

We stand out here. I've gotten so used to it, I forget it now. Sometimes. But I always feel the eyes. It's not impolite to stare. Sometimes I long for a backyard where we could just go outside and play with no one watching, or even better, no awkward conversations that always end with tīng bù dǒng (I don't understand) as they ask question after question.

I don't like attention. I never have. I used to walk around as a young teen with eyes down, arms crossed, and shoulders slumped. Thankfully I learned that wasn't polite or good posture and made efforts to change. I learned to speak in front of large crowds and teach classes and direct musicals. God uses you to do what you never would have done on your own to show the power is from Him sometimes. But still... I like fitting in.

We never will here. It's the college guy that asks to hold your blonde haired baby and have his friend take a picture. You instruct her to smile because what's creepy in the states is so normal here. It's going to the zoo and taking a picture of your daughter in front of the lion only to see five other cameras pop out, pointed not at the animal but at your girl. It's the random grandmas that talk very loudly and very excitedly in your child's face and want to pick her up (often without even asking), that for a while she grabs you and wants to be picked up whenever she sees one coming. It's the word that almost everyone here seems to know in English - "beautiful!" - directed usually towards your child, but recently towards you in a somewhat awkward taxi ride. So I think the driver was just using the little English he knew, as he asked me "how old are you?" and about my family (mostly in Chinese) but then told me twice, in English and Chinese, "you are beautiful." I know it was likely just a cultural thing and his limited English, but I was glad we were almost home.

It's the constant KànKàn (look look!) that you here as you walk almost everywhere. Especially when they see two children and exclaim Liǎng gè háizi! Want even more stares and questions and discussion among themselves? Just babysit your friend's daughter and bring her out to the playground with your own two. Doesn't help that she's almost exactly the same size as Hadassah! :)

I don't resent these things. I know it's normal, when white faces and blonde hair and blue eyes are rare around here, and to see a child with the features even more rare. But it's always such a breath of fresh air when we're back in America and I realize we're not the center of attention anymore. People aren't stopping in stores to stare at us. We blend in. We're anonymous. Wow. You forget how amaing that feels.

So when we were waiting to cross the street and my friend asked, "Do you notice that horns always honk when we're waiting for a light?" I had to pause for a moment to realize it. I thought people just honked their horns a lot here. "I've seen the drivers in the cars. It's because they get so caught up in staring at us that they don't see when their light turns green!" I laughed. It's better to laugh at such things.

We had a wonderful morning out in the sunshine. We speed walked with our double strollers for 30 minutes to get to the botanical garden, and enjoyed great exercise and mom-to-mom conversation. What a blessing!  When we got to the garden, our senses were doubly blessed by the beautiful sites and scents.

 But, even though this place is more secluded then some, the attention started the minute we got in the gate. A middle aged woman who had been posing for a picture among the flowers hurried over to stand behind my friend's stroller with her hand on the bar as she motioned for her friend to take a good picture of her with two blonde headed children.

 We smiled as a Chinese girl seemed to play with my friend's daughter, then laughed a little when we realized it was just her grandma pressing her to get closer so she could take a picture of them together. There are so many times you could choose to get annoyed... It's just better to laugh.

 But still, the beauty stills the soul.

The children loved running along the path while the baby slept in the ERGO. I loved watching the three little tow-heads together, hand in hand. It's so wonderful to see my girl growing up with friends.

 And we enjoyed a picnic. There's just something wonderful about eating outside, especially surrounded by God's creation. Though all of the paths by the water kept us moms busy keeping the 2 year olds from falling into the lake!

But the weird thing? When he got home from work that day, my husband knew the exact spot we'd eaten lunch.

First, the back story and a little bragging on my man. :) He ran in an almost-5K today. His company is located kind of out in the middle of nowhere with a lot of other tech companies. Someone had the great idea to organize a race for those who wanted to participate on a Friday afternoon and not have to be bused downtown. My crazy cool guy placed 1st from those who ran at his company, and 4th overall when you consider the many who participated from various companies. He even WON a bike for his placement. Even more cool? Just last week we were looking at the prices of bikes as we hope to get some soon to go places faster as a family. God knows what we desire and is so good to give unexpected blessings!

He was talking with a coworker about how excited he was about the bike, since we wanted to get some so we could more easily go places like the botanical garden on campus. "Your wife likes that place. She went there today, didn't she?" was the reply. "Well, yeah... But how did you know?" Turns out his co-worker's friend was there as well, took a picture of us having our picnic, posted it to wechat (the popular social media site here), and Ryan's coworker recognized me.

So when Ryan got home and told me the exact spot we had the picnic, I was a little weirded out, because there are tons of little tables all over that place. When he showed me the picture- taken from across the water and mostly of our backs, it was even more strange. But when he finally explained, it made sense. After all, people take pictures of us so often we get strangely used to it. Just another opportunity to laugh. :)

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