October 7th, 2016. It’s a beautiful day temperature wise. The skies are a bit overcast, but regardless, the Chinese are out and about. From pre-dawn until late evening, long after the sun has set, the streets and parks will be crawling with locals. I board the usual bus along with the company of many eyes; my fellow passengers are staring. Is my shirt inside out? Is there something in my teeth? Oh, wait, no. I’m just American and a blond one at that.
A while later, I get off at my first destination of the day: A park. I don’t know which as I can’t read the sign, but I’ve passed it many times and have been wanting to check it out. As I walk towards the entrance, I’m offered a paper but politely refuse. It’s likely an advertisement, and I wouldn’t be able to read it anyway. A few dozen feet into the park, I hear music and see the first group of older Chinese dancing. It’s amazing the talent you see here out in the open. To my right, a man plays saxophone on a bench and children run after each other through the trees. A few people have headphones in and are speed walking the paths that crisscross the area.
I continue further in and see another dancing group followed by two more as well as a singer. A group of people gather around an ensemble as they honk out some song I’ve never heard. As I walk on, I’m accompanied by the eerie feeling of eyes on me. Not resentful, angry eyes, but curious ones questioning why the young westerner has ventured in here. I ignore most but smile at the occasional child who’s eyes follow me and mouths whisper “American”to their mothers. I find another clearing filled with performers and decide to stay and watch for a while. I sit on a bench to observe, but quickly, I become the thing with watching to the others, non-dancers. I catch a few people attempting to take subtle photos of me from across the clearing. I smile and wave at them which sends them into a panic of blushed cheeks and waves before they scurry off. I resume watching the performers, admiring the skill that these normal citizens possess. Chinese like to master their hobbies. Before long, my attention is broken by the first brave ones. They always do it the same way: Shyly looking at me holding up their camera or phone, and for the advanced ones, saying “photo?” We snap a picture or two, and then it’s their friends turn. We repeat the process, and they leave with the usual “thank you,” or, “you are so beautiful,” and I’m left alone again.