One of the things I’ve noticed while living in China has been that Chinese people are not afraid to stare. I’ve gotten a fair few stares over the past 3 months. Anything out of the ordinary is worthy of staring at. I guess my boyfriend, Nick, is pretty out of the ordinary, because he has gotten by far the most stares I have ever seen one person get. And not only stares, but people approach him for photos and a chat.
Do they think he is someone famous? Or are they just keen to chat to a guy who is probably literally twice their size? He’s 6’2 and a solidly built ex-rugby player of Samoan/Maori/English ethnic origin. This blend of characteristics is of great interest to passersby wherever we go in Beijing.
On his first full day here we went to the China Central Television Tower, which is the tallest structure in Beijing and has an observation deck 238m up that you can go out on. Also included in the ticket price is admission to the culture center, which has info about the history of CCTV, and news desk/weather setups where you can pretend to be news presenters/weather people for photos.
I should have known shiz was gonna get weird when we got into the elevator with a bunch of Chinese tourists and one of the woman stared at Nick and, without breaking eye contact, slowly lifted her camera and took a photo of him. Right there in the elevator. She was standing literally right next to him. He pretended he hadn’t noticed it. It was really awkward.
Then I took a photo of her, to document the moment and so she knew what it felt like for someone to take a photo of you at close quarters while confined to a small space.
This is the photo.
She’s standing with an old man wearing a fur hat. I think the old people in the group were not Beijing-ers, they looked like they were one of the many Chinese ethnic minorities I learned about when I paid 90yuan to visit the Chinese Ethnic Minorities Park that was only half finished and for some reason covered in lots and lots of dried out corn cobs (it was NOT worth the 90yuan, although I did get to enjoy some pretty stirring ethnic dances).
The observation platform was pretty cool, though it would have been cooler if we had actually been able to see the horizon. Thanks a lot, Beijing smog. It’s definitely a ‘blue sky day’ activity.
There was a giant old school ‘loud speaker’ that you could shout things through. Neither of us shouted anything, though a fellow-visitor and old Chinese lady yelled something like ‘Hao, Beijing!’, that echoed impressively out to the city. As far as I know ‘hao’ means ‘okay’ or ‘good’. So… I guess she was like “Ok!/Good! Bejing!”.
We escaped the observation deck unmolested, but upon emerging in the cultural center, Nick was once again center of attention. A bunch of men indicated that they wanted to have their picture taken with him. He obliged. Once the rest of the group saw that these people were having photos with Nick they ALL wanted photos with him.They indicated they wanted him to sit at the faux newsreaders desk and pretend to talk with each of them, one at a time, while they had their photo taken. He obliged. They indicated that they wanted him to stand in front of the faux weather forecast wall and shake their hands while they had photos taken. I was also asked to participate in the weather forecast hand shaking. It was very very bizarre.
Below are photos of Nick being paparazzi’d.
This is happened to me once, at Olympic Park, when a man wanted a photo with me in front of the Watercube, but never en masse like it did to Nick.
He’s also been approached by people in the street who just want to chat, including an old man who came up to us while we were eating Chinese bread on a park bench who said “Shaobing! Zhongguo shaobing!” Which basically means “Bread! Chinese bread!” and who was very pleased when Nick gave him thumbs up.
Just being friendly, I suppose.
Also seen at the CCTV Tower: pictures of other tall towers around the world, including Auckland’s very own Sky Tower; the Chinese version of Judy Bailey.