|The giant inflatable duck floating on Victoria Harbor, just before it is found deflated|
Let's get back to our story. The promenade is rather busy, mainly with tourists. I relax my back and legs, stretch my neck and watch. People watching, close or from afar, in front of me of from above, has always been one of my favorite hobbies.
Suddenly a Chinese tourist (I mean from mainland China, not from here) draws near me, holding a point and shoot camera.
At first I think he wants me to take a picture of him with the skyline in the background. How naive. I haven't been in China for long, I must be a bit rusty when it comes to Middle Kingdom matters. I notice that he is with a friend, and that he is pointing at that one, not at himself. I am reminded of the way the Chinese are and I finally understand what is going on. He wants to shoot a photo of his friend standing beside me. Just as when you take a picture next to a headless statue, or the Thai McDonald's clown, the one with joined palms, or a Panda, or any other funny attraction. Like the giant yellow inflatable duck that has been floating for a few days at Victoria Harbor and that tomorrow will be found mysteriously deflated. In short, they want to take a photo with a lao wai, a white man, a caucasian, a europoid, the one they can only see on TV. As a souvenir, or maybe even more than a souvenir: something to show off as a trophy with parents and friends once they are back home. And it's too late to sneak away in a smart way, without offending them: I'll have to undergo the humiliation, and I'll have to do it with a smile on my face.
First picture: taken. Then another one, since someone was standing right in front of the camera. And one more, as the Chinese guy was not smiling: maybe the epochal event is making him nervous. Damn, time must just have stopped: this excruciating moment seems to last forever. Obviously the guy who just took the photo wants his satisfaction too. While I'm posing in a daze for yet another time I suddenly get a panic attack. These guys are part of an organized tour...help me! Little by little all their buddies realize what kind of treasure their friends got hold of and start to crowd around us, bashfully at first and then more and more aggressively. Now they are all standing in line to take their picture with King Kong, the hairless, pale and skinny version of it. Surprised and fairly shocked I undergo this torture with a couple of ladies.
When the second one leaves I take advantage of the hesitation of the following ones, who might not have agreed on whose turn it is. I smile broadly, I say goodbye (in English, god forbid, some barriers, linguistic or not, should NOT be torn down for any reason), and I walk away, slowly but very determined.
Gosh, it could have been much worse. I'm getting closer and closer to China, I need to be extremely careful. Never lower your guard or let your thoughts wander, be constantly alert, ready to capture any warning sign. In case of doubt: run away, before it's too late. When it comes to the Chinese you never take it too lightly.