Sunday, September 28, 2008


If I think of myself in cultural terms, I generally think of myself as Asian. I often forget I don't look the part, however, until I come to a place like this.

There aren't any tourist attractions here, so foreigners are a rarity. People I pass in the street stop and stare, open-mouthed and unabashed. I've been here a few times now, but I still haven't gotten used to it. Jie's hospital is in a poor part of Guangzhou. They probably see a couple of foreigners a year here, if that, so the stares are even more common than usual.

Around the corner from the hospital is a store which sells framed pictures of historical figures. The largest samples on display are of Mao, Sun Yat-sen, and...Stalin! I suppose the Russian ends up adorning the apartment walls of older Chinese who remember the good times of Russo-Sino relations, back in the old days before things turned bitter.

I'm pondering the price a nation might eventually have to pay for propping up thugs like Mao and Stalin as role-models when I feel something prodding my hand. I look down to see a young girl staring at me, reaching out to touch me as if to see if I were real. We share a surprised stare for a moment, then her face lights up in a bright smile and she runs away laughing.

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