Notes from Shanghai: The proud and fabulous me prevails

2010-05-16 11:53

China diary: Day 2

ET is calling home! Yep, it seems I spoke too soon when I said I was not an

abnormality in China. Turns out I am.

Hotel staff and those in the hospitality industry are trained not

to stare and point, but it seems the rest of the Chinese population did not get

the memo.

Venturing outside the walls of the Marriott Courtyard in Shanghai

proved to be a taxing affair – a lesson in patience and controlling my temper.

From the moment I arrived at Expo 2010 I was a target – the

sniggers, the pointing, the stares and the unwelcome but ever present


While some did their “shooting” in a covert manner, others simply

stopped, pointed their cameras at me and snapped away.

Being treated like a circus freak is no fun at all!

Now imagine that whole blocks of streets have been closed off for

the Expo and that one has to walk a heck of a lot to get anywhere, especially

the African pavilion side, which is tucked away at the end near the exits.

The first 30 minutes were gruelling, with giggles and camera

flashes following me everywhere I turned. Only the thought of landing up in a

foreign prison cell stopped me from confronting some of those rude people. Was I

sprouting a third eye from my gloriously bald head? It was a bitch.

I finally decided the best offence was no defence, so I smiled and

offered to pose with them for pictures. I think that scared them even more, in

that excited and fascinated manner we reserve for petting wild animals on a


I don’t know how many family albums I will be gracing by the end of

this trip, but if today is any indication it will be a lot. And to think they

almost didn’t let me into this city.

But the proud, fabulous me prevailed – at least I didn’t make any

kids cry and if someone steps up to me and says crap, I will swear at them in

isiXhosa with a smile fixed on my face.

For a nation known for travelling and snapping away with their

fancy digicams and cellphones, I find the people here quite ignorant. Don’t they

watch TV channels and movies where black people feature? Who still gawps at us

like we are some kind of novelty from the forest of fantasy novels? It’s

disturbing and sad.

When the world descends on South Africa for the World Cup, I bet no

one is going to be made to feel as if they belong in a cage or an exhibition

hall. In fact we probably won’t give a damn about tourists, as long as they

don’t get up our noses.

In Shanghai, however, it’s a different story. Now I have to do

mental exercises just to prepare myself for leaving my room.

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