Sunday, September 20, 2009

This Ugly City, This Trap

Ran errands today, since it's my day off and nothing says "weekend" like getting on a subway car so crowded that you can examine your hair in your reflection on the gold teeth of the guy standing next to you. On the plus side, guess who I saw on that same subway car?? A Chinese albino!

Penis-faced albino turtle

Not a Chinese albino turtle, silly! A Chinese albino person! I love albinism, and this guy seemed awesome. Or at least he looked awesome, and he had a cool hairstyle, and I want to be his friend. Also, in case I didn't mention it, he was albino. (!)

Also, on the subway, I saw a guy with a great t-shirt.

(Actually, before I get to that, there was another good one a week or so ago: a woman had a t-shirt that said "The Horse Nuzzled Her Shoulder." I would have asked her where she got it, but it wasn't printed in Helvetica, so it's not really my style.)

But today's shirt said, "It's A Deal: You Practice Your English, I'll Practice My Sex." This was confusing to me, because it was being worn by an older Chinese man, who, by the looks of it, hasn't really been practicing his English or his sex for a while now. I found the shirt on Google, and it looks like it was made by racist Americans who live in Japan but hate it there. I will definitely buy that shirt if I see it somewhere, but obviously I would never wear it in China because that would be offensive. But obviously I would wear it next time I'm in an English-speaking country, because then it would not be offensive, only confusing.

My errands went pretty smoothly, though, except for the fact that everywhere was deliriously crowded. As soon as you leave the school grounds, it's -- WHAM! -- city (shout out to my B'more crew!), and everything's all jammed up. Subways are crowded, as I said, but the streets in some places are even worse. Lots of people selling and buying things, lots of beggars, lots of policemen.

One sort of annoying thing about being white on the streets of Guangzhou is that you're constantly being bombarded by vendors using the "hello" trick to try to get you to buy their stuff. The trick works like this: Step 1. Say "hello!" over and over again.

This trick doesn't work, but it must have worked once, because people keep doing it.

An apple a day keeps the doctor away.

Another way my life in China is exactly the same as my life in America is that no one wants to hand me stuff on the streets. In America, people from Greenpeace never ask me for money, I guess because they think I'm young and poor. So in America I just have started yelling "No!" (or "Arctic Sunrise!") in their face so I can still have the satisfaction of refusing them, even though I don't get the satisfaction of being asked. All I want are free return address labels with pandas and manatees on them. Surely I'm not being unreasonable here.

Anyway, they don't give me flyers or anything when I walk on the street here, either. Last week, Gus reached out to take a restaurant advertisement that someone was passing out on the corner, and the woman pulled it away before he could grab it. They actively do not want Gus and me to read their ad and attend their restaurant.

So, short story long, I was walking around today and a man held a flyer for English lessons in my face while saying, "Miss! Miss!" The front of the flyer says, "English Perfects Your Life!"

And you know what, my life is perfected. And if he learned English (specifically, the difference between miss and mister), his life would be perfected too.

(Hey, you know what's not perfected? That time when a woman in Hong Kong invited a pregnant woman over to her apartment, strangled her with a cord, and then cut the baby out of her womb. Not a great day for babies. Or women.)