A picture with me, a picture with you.

Taking pictures in China is fun. It seems that everybody has either a camera or a phone, and they’re not shy when it comes to using them. People are happy if you take their pictures, and more often that not, they’re actually the ones to ask if you will pose with them. Man, woman, young and old, English or no English, they walk up to you with a wide smile, and it’s simply impossible to say no. Once, in Xi’an, we created a mini congestion, as a picture with one person turned into half a dozen with young women crowding our kids so they could fit in the frame, too. And let’s not forget: everyone holding index and middle finger in a V sign. I’m not that inclined to let strangers go away with my picture or that of my children, but in China, really, it felt genuine, and bon enfant. And I liked the reciprocity. I take your picture. You take my picture. Let’ all take each other’s pictures, and everyone will be happy.

Our family also attracted a lot of stares and open curiosity because of our obvious mixed heritage. But there again, I never felt any animosity. Once only, on the first day, a group of older Chinese men and women stood in front of me and my little one (we were sitting on a rock, in a park, at the end of a long day, after a very long night flying there) talking about us in a way that was too obvious not to be somewhat rude. I don’t speak Chinese, but it was clear that they wondered if my daughter was mine, and they were trying to find similar features in our faces. Then, they saw my husband, and there was a lot of laughter, and they walked away. That was the only time I was slightly annoyed. Otherwise, it felt like candid curiosity about something unusual – to them.

Once, my husband even heard “movie star” (yes, in English) and all of a sudden, he had a dozen young Chinese women surrounding him, and pictures were taken left and right. Someone in China, at this minute, may be searching the Internet, looking for a black movie star, and feeling very disappointed that the guy on her mobile phone or camera is nowhere to be found.

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5 thoughts on “A picture with me, a picture with you.

  1. You’re all very kind, but come on, Janet, you’ve been there, and you know it’s got nothing to do with looks, and all with being a foreigner. I’d love to have my picture taken with all of you, as it would mean we’ve finally managed to take the virtual friendships to the next stage. Pics around a table with a good bottle of wine and lots of talk about writing and books – sounds heavenly. It will happen, I’m sure.

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