This morning before 7 a.m. my cell phone started to ring. It seemed like a weird time to get a call and I was a little worried about what might be wrong… but when I checked whose number it was I discovered it was one of the many English leeches that had somehow gotten a hold of my phone number. Anytime I have spoken to this girl, all she does is laugh and try practicing a new sentence she learned in class. She likes to prove to her family and classmates that she knows a foreigner. Since I was in the middle of my quiet time I decided to ignore the phone… but she kept calling more than six times in 10minutes. When I finally did decide to answer, she asked me how to pronounce a word. It wasn’t anything important or earth shaking, it was a class question from a near stranger, but she felt free to call me repeatedly before seven in the morning.
Another day I was walking down the street and I had the creepy feeling that someone was following me. I glanced over my shoulder and saw a man walking very close behind; even in the midst of a busy crowd you can tell when someone is intentionally trailing you. I thought he was after my purse, so I ducked into the closest shoe store and appeared incredibly interested in a pair of red high heels. After a few minutes I left the store, only to find that the guy was a few feet ahead, standing off to the side pretending to talk on his cell phone. The second I walked by he fell back in step behind me. I tried turning quickly down another street, but he was still tracking me. I finally came across the entrance to a much larger store, as I started on the stairs I could tell he was planning on following me in. As I crossed the threshold I heard “you speak English? Be my friend” This man had been stalking me down the street for over twenty minutes, just trying to get up the nerve to speak with me. This is common that a total stranger tries to practice their English skills with me wherever I am. I have had some students recite whole dialogues from their textbook as I walk by.
Once I had a knock on my front door and it was a Uyghur boy insisting that I HAD to teach him English. When I said “no, I didn’t have time”, He stayed planted in my doorway insisting that he wouldn’t take “no for an answer”.
It is like I am a movie star with the press herding behind me. People who I have never met and don’t even recognize know my name and where I live. I was at a dumpling restaurant across from my old school. The place was crowed and I sat down at a table with a couple of strangers. I made small talk with my seat mates, asking them if they were students at the school and what major they were studying. When I mentioned that I use to attend the same school they said they remembered. They were able to tell me that I had been there three years ago; they knew my name and even where I had lived on campus. I had never met these young ladies, but they seemed to know all about me.
Most days that I live here I long for obscurity; I want to be able to just blend in with the crowd, instead of being pointed and stared at, to be left alone instead of people assuming that my white skin is an invitation to intrude on my solitude.