So like most twenty somethings stuck in a mind numbing job that started out as Xmas temp work (fast forward 2 half years later and you're still stuck at the same 'temp' job, the same desk, answering the same phone to the same arsey customers who are blaming you for ruining their kids Christmas!) you get itchy feet again to go and get your travel on. Well, even if you didn't... I did. Don't get me wrong my job was all good to a point... the point when I realised that I actually needed to do something instead of staying comfortable. It would be my second time leaving the country on a mad travel extravaganza, but this time for 6 months of good times on a budget of about 23 pence. But screw it... I was going before I began frothing at the mouth and spacking out due to the boredom of my London life.
The 2008 Olympics had just kicked off and the buzz from the Birds Nest in Beijing China was resonating around the world. I was super excited to jack in my jobs and knob off to see what the rest of the world had to offer. First stop... Beijing baby!
I should have really known whilst going through customs (dragging my physically and emotionally broken body from a stupid amount of hours flight) that things may have been interesting. My friend whizzed through immigration and passport checks, whilst I on the other hand was asked by the smiley immigration officer to take off my glasses as she squinted at me and my passport picture for an amount of time that became uncomfortable. I said jokingly "It is me!"... to a ripple of silence and more staring. Well of course it was me. I instantly felt like a dick but was handed back my passport and waved through. I was totally expecting a sniffer dog to grope my crotch and to be wrestled to the floor by ninjas... but no joy.
Reaching the hostel was fairly straight forward and to be honest the taxi journey was a blur due to lack of sleep and being in the same clothes for about a week! It wasn't until we checked into our rooms and deciding to venture around our local town, that it all became clear. Nobody had ever seen a Black person before...
I thought due to the Olympics and the multicultural aspect to this, the locals would be used to tourists. Oh dear God I was wrong. Every street we turned down we were met by persistent staring. The Chinese folk didn't even attempt to style it out! You know when you are blatantly staring at someone on the tube in the big smoke and they clock you, you at least try to pretend that you are looking out of the window...into the black tunnels which are all of a sudden so interesting... But apparently nobody had informed Beijing of this rule (school boy error on China's part) so the stares and pointing continued. Granted I did stick out more than some by having an afro and my lip piercing walking around with a White girl. (we looked liked a bad campaign ad for the United Colours of Benneton) BUT I think the initial problem was my skin complexion.
At first I was terribly upset and bordering on rage to be pointed at so noticeably (It is probably more accurate to say that I was portraying symptoms of the ultimate stereotype...an angry black woman!) but the difference with individuals who are actual straight up racists (that would just be Australia but I'll save that story for another time) and the Chinese population, Beijing quite frankly have never really seen a Black person before. As the realisation sank in that these folk were not being intentionally rude but simply inquisitive and intrigued by my round brown self, my body language relaxed and I started to enjoy my celebrity status! Photos were taken as if I was the main attraction at Disney Land (or Zoo) and I was met with some genuine warm smiles.
Was China (yes the whole of China) falling in love with me... probably not if we're honest, but I was up for a having a little love affair with them even though they totally were not ready for me!