I have never really found anything peculiar about my being black until the day I stepped into the streets of Fuzhou City, the capital of Fujian Province in the People’s Republic of China. This street comprised only the Chinese and the presence of more than one black person was enough to divert visitors’ attention from the stone buildings and photographs to get a closer glimpse at the aliens in their midst.
I hardly graced those highly revered grounds for two minutes before a mob, comprising men, women, young and old rushed to my side with their cameras, asking if they could take pictures with me.
Most of my African friends, too, experienced the same and those who did not take our pictures or pictures with us simply stared and giggled as they pointed at the black figures in their midst.
Was I offended? Admittedly, initially, I was since I thought it was an act of sneer. But Chinese mannerisms, charm and simple acceptance of all mankind altered my mind and I simply went along with them, so did everybody else.
These were seemingly men, women and children who had never seen anybody outside their kind and for them, it was a moment to record, share with friends and do with the pictures as they pleased. We, in turn reciprocated by taking pictures with them and cameras flicked as everybody became fascinated with the other.
Indeed, one of the professors giving lecturers in one lesson affirmed our initial suspicion. No offence, but the majority of people in this area had never seen foreigners and he said most did not speak English, unlike Shanghai or Beijing cities where everybody minded their own business and foreigners were not an issue.
Of course, not everybody in Shanghai minded their own business as a visit to Shanghai Art Museum confirmed. The smiles were generous from the majority of Chinese and fingers pointed at our direction as they mumbled some Chinese.
I recall walking into a supermarket in Fuzhou and one of the female attendants failed to resist the temptation to come closer and feel my long extensions. She gestured an attempt of a conversation which I assumed was her admiration of my hair.
I walked head tall, with my fake hair, triumphant that one soul had been fooled. But, hey, who was to correct her, after all, what was I going to say as I spoke no grain of Chinese. This was one of the days I felt complete, especially when I saw her rush to her colleagues, probably to confirm to them how real that human hair was.
All in all, my little knowledge about the Chinese so far is impressing, in particular when one of us fell ill. They were genuinely concerned as they were concerned and caring for everybody visiting their country.
In spite of the language barrier, to me, these are gentle souls who are not stingy with their smiles and would help when the need arises. They have their faults, but don’t we all?
I shall always have fond memories about the Chinese, at least from the few places I have gone, including Hangzhou City, a one hour flight from Shanghai. Perhaps the other places I’m yet to visit will have a different feel. For now, I’m good. n