Monday, October 31, 2011

Wai Guo Ren

"Wai guo ren! Wai guo ren!" The little boy pointed at me across the lobby of the Shanghai hotel.

Catching his eye, I smiled and waved. This prompted the boy to investigate the strange foreigner at closer range.

Coming closer, with his patient grandfather in tow, the boy continued to talk loudly about the foreigner, asking his grandfather what she was doing there.
Only a few feet from me now, he continued to state the obvious to his grandfather. "Wai guo ren!"

"Wai guo ren?" I acted surprised and turned to look over my shoulder. "Nali?" (Where?)

The boy's jaw dropped, as he pointed at me, "Ni shi wai guo ren!" (You are the foreigner!)

"I'm not a foreigner," I stated in Mandarin. "I'm Chinese! Don't I look Chinese?"

Now the boy was really confused. He looked at me for a moment, studying my blue eyes, brown curly hair, pale white skin with freckles, and "tall nose" (as they call Western noses in China). After a minute he nodded with satisfaction.

"Yes, you look Chinese," he finally admitted. Then turning accusingly to his grandfather, the boy said, "And YOU said she was a foreigner!"