I had a great "last" Suzhou wknd, with one of the best parts probably being catching up with my friend Rocky (alias the Hunan boy). Rocky and I have known each other for 2 years now. He used to be a personal trainer at the gym where I went, and we quickly became friends. When we got to know each other, my Chinese was quite terrible, but I didn’t care, I kept talking to Rocky, and him, not being able to say much more than “hi and bye” in English, was happy to listen to my bad pronunciation.
I’m really happy I persisted because over the years we have become good friends. When I went to Hunan’s capital Changsha last spring, Rocky’s family (who lives in Shuangxi, some hours outside of Changsha) invited me to their home and I had a wonderful time with them at the countryside.
I left Suzhou for Shanghai 3 months ago, however, so Rocky and I have not seen each other for a while. So, when I came to Suzhou for my “last wknd” I decided it was time to catch up. And he agreed.
It was great to see him, and he looked happy to see me too. One of the first questions he asked was:
-You La, how much do you weight now?
(some things never change, huh?)
Saturday came with wonderful weather so we decided to go for a bike ride at Jinji Hu (Literally translates to: “The lake of the Golden Chicken”). We rode for a bit before a guard told us that we were not allowed to ride our own bikes at the lake area (“only the rented ones!”) and decided to walk.
Now, it’s one thing being on a bike and riding through throngs of people without as much as paying attention to them. But when you walk, people really see you, hear you, and vice versa. And I soon noticed that Rocky and I walking together along that lake, was quite a novelty to some of the people around us.
I’m used to being stared at in Suzhou when I walk somewhere with my boyfriend (after all, we are “the monkeys” -and when people stare it is mainly at him because he's considered to be so "perfect" in the eyes of Chinese people), but this was completely different. This was not the usual, curious staring; this was real, raw, staring! When we walked by some people they went completely quiet, obviously listening into what we were talking about while glaring at us suspiciously. And it’s not as if we were holding hands or anything. Just walking next to each other and chatting in Chinese. Maybe the fact that he is taller than me caused some of the attention? After all, I’m supposed to be one of the tallest flagpoles in Suzhou. I guess some people must have thought we were dating.
During the early days of this blog I wrote a post commenting on the fact that you don’t often see a Western girl with a Chinese guy, meanwhile the combination of a Western guy and a Chinese girl is very common. It was a kind of immature post, and it caused a storm of comments (and emails from guys telling me everything from “get lost, you know nothing!” to asking me if I’d like to go out with them and try for myself). Since I wrote that post a lot of things have changed, and I now know some western girls dating Chinese men. After being stared at while out with Rocky for a walk, however, I wonder how they learn to deal with being a novelty while in public.