Thursday, December 14, 2006


Ku Xiao Bu De
I Don't Know Whether to Laugh or to Cry: A Collection of Anecdotes

The Top Five Questions/Comments About My Hair

1) Who make you hair?
2) You make me hair?
3) Does you hair cross by itself? (When I cornrow it.)
4) My hair is the same as your hair. (Speaker is Asian with thin straight hair.)
5) This hair very complicated.

Trophy Wife
Sometime in late Oct./early Nov., I started noticing that a segment of the population expected me to be American. This was surprising, given my earlier (and still common) interactions with people concerning my nationality. After some thought, I realized that these were all males between the ages of about 16 and 35. I still couldn't figure out why and I was completely baffled until I had the following interaction.

I was leaving work one evening and my Chinese male co-worker was shooting hoops. He's the tech guy, so he's one of the few people I know, as I work after school when most of the full-time employees have gone home. As I walked past the track and courts to the gate, I heard someone calling a name. It wasn't my name, so I kept walking. After another minute, I realized that there were only two people outside, and so I took a quick look around just to make sure and walked over to my co-worker.
"Who are you calling?"
"Oh, I'm sorry, I thought you were the Filipino lady."
Although some Filipinos have African features and figures, this particular Filipino lady and I look nothing alike, not even from afar. My hair was twisted, we are different heights and body types. So I said to my coworker,
"Are you serious? We look nothing alike."

"Yeah, I know. I don't know why I mixed you two up. You look like a typical black American woman."
Typical, I thought, what does a typical African-American woman look like? Stereotypical? Is there a difference? How would he have any idea of typical? So I asked him.
"What does a typical black American woman look like?"
"Oh, well like you. When I watch...."
And now my mind is racing. TV. He got this idea from TV. Who do I look like on TV? Angela Bassett. Too dark. Too built. Too brown. Regina King. Still too brown. What American shows does he watch with black women? Oh, Phylicia Rashad. Wait, I don't think they get The Cosby Show in China. They get the Fresh Prince...but the first mom wasn't on long enough and the second mom was darker. Maybe the actress that played Hillary. What was her name? Is he even old enough to have watched Fresh Prince? Maybe TV shows are not good. DVDs are cheap, its most likely an actress. Light-skinned black female famous actresses...what black woman is famous in China? Oh, Halle Berry. Halle Berry? C'mon now that is just a fantasy. You WISH you looked like Halle Berry. Stop daydreaming and listen.
" The players you know..."
Is he about to compare me to a MAN? Oh my gosh, maybe I shouldn't have asked.
" look like their wives."
"You know what? I think you might be right. Have a good night."

Same Asia
An excerpt from an e-mail sent to me.

By the way, you might not have any informations about Japan.

I wonder you have the same image as China, cause it's the same Asia .
But I promise that you can really relax and enjoy staying in Japan.
We have morality, we have manners.

Bad Taste
Having learned most of the words for the parts of the body and the face, we played a few games after class one day to reinforce the lesson. After the games, we had to describe others, without saying their names. Then our teacher told us about Chinese beauty standards.

"Chinese people like long faces, not round faces. Chinese people like long noses, not short noses. We like thin lips, not thick lips. We like white skin, not black skin. Chinese people like big eyes, not small eyes. We like not too tall, not too short.
Shanghainese people like long hair, not short hair. A girl in Shanghai with short hair can not get a boyfriend. There is a Chinese model that is famous in France, they think she is beautiful, but in China she is not beautiful. To the French, she is a typical Asian beauty, but to us she is ugly. She has a round face with a chin that sticks out, small eyes, and thick lips. We think there is something wrong with French taste."
"There is something wrong with Chinese taste," I said.
"No, no, there is something wrong French taste," she says in the voice she uses when we don't understand.
"I understood you, I think that there is something wrong with Chinese taste. You don't like yourselves."
"WHAT? We like ourselves." (The Chinese are among the most patriotic and proud people in the world.)
"Well, Laoshi, Chinese people don't think that most Chinese women are beautiful. Most Chinese people have round faces, small eyes, yellow skin, and thick lips - "
"We do not have thick lips."
"I ride two buses and a train to get to work, I spend most of that time looking at people and I disagree. Most of the people I see have thicker lips, considerably thicker than mine. The beauty standard you just described is more like that of a typical European, not a typical Chinese. I haven't seen one Chinese woman yet that naturally has all of those features."
She changed the subject.

The following anecdotes are RATED R. They are for Mature Audiences Only.


This is an excerpt of a conversation I had with two of the guys a few nights ago.

"Have you dated a Chinese girl?"
"No, I'm scared of Chinese girls."

"You know, there is a law in China that you can not have sex with a woman you are not married to. The Chinese do not even respect this law. But if you are a foreigner..."
"Are you serious? The girl just has to tell the police that you had sex with her and off to jail you go?"
"There was a guy here a few years ago, from Burundi, remember him? (Yes, yes.) Well, he had sex with a Chinese girl. And it was the first time for her. In China, they do not learn about this in school, they can not talk about sex, religion, or politics. So, she saw some blood, you know? And she didn't know that was okay. So she asked some girls, I think they were American girls. I don't know what she said, maybe she didn't want to tell them that she liked the guy. But she went to his room. And everything was okay until after, she didn't scream or anything. The walls are thin here (he knocks on the wall) and if she made yelled, said No, I don't want to (he yells in Chinese), everyone would know (this is true, I can hear all kinds of stuff from my neighbors)... I don't know what she said to the girls. These girls told her to go to a doctor or the police. Eh, once she heard the word police, she was scared. She told the police. They asked her why she came to them, was she still bleeding? They laughed, but then they heard the guy was a foreigner. And they came to his room and arrested him. They wouldn't even let his ambassador see him. They said that prisoners in China have no rights. Three months later when he got out, they gave him 24 hours to pack his clothes and go home. We wanted to ask him what it was like, what happened. But he was changed. He was so quiet. We didn't have the heart to ask him anything. He came just to get his master's. And we were friends, me and this guy."
"Have you heard from him since?"
"No. No one has."
"Whoa. I dunno. That story sounds strange to me. I'm not saying it's not true, it's just a lot of guessing and hearsay and - "
"Okay. We have another friend. And he was dating a girl from here. And she wanted to marry him. So she put a lot of pressure. What are you going to do when you finish your studies? I want to get married. Promise me we'll get married. (In Chinese, imitating a Chinese woman.) So, he finally gives in (both of the guys snicker and shake their heads). And when he was finished with his studies, he told her that he didn't want to get married. She wouldn't want to go to his country, she wouldn't feel comfortable, she doesn't know the language. And he is not going to live in China. And she was angry. And she cried and yelled, and he said no. And she reminded him that he promised her, and he said but now he didn't feel the same way. And she went to the police. Do you know what they do to you in Chinese jail?"
"No. What?"
"Bleep. (This part is rated beyond R...I'm sure you can fill in the blanks. The Chinese did create very unique and world famous types of torture. Just imagine what men do to rapists in jail. And get creative). No no no. That is why I tell everyone. I'm scared of Chinese girls."

The Exam
I was talking to my black American friend the other day, and we were sharing stories. She had to have surgery on an ovarian tumor while in China, and she was telling me about the experience. Please note that privacy is a foreign concept in China, so when she says room, she is referring to a ward, with over a dozen beds. This is the end of the story.

So I'm on the table, and the lady is doing the exam. And she is rough, like extra rough. Chinese people treat each other like animals, you know? Pushing and shoving and all that they do on the bus, train, buy tickets and stuff, well that's just how they treat each other. She was not making an effort to be gentle with me. So, I was in so much pain already, then here's this woman just pushing and pulling and poking and prodding. Rough. I was really at my wits end, but in too much pain to say anything. So, I'm just lying there wishing it would hurry up and end. Then, she starts calling out to the other nurses, doctors, every person in the room - "过来,过来,看看 (Come come, look look)." And she is beckoning them with her hand, urgently telling them "COME COME, LOOK LOOK!" And folks start coming from everywhere to look.
At what?, I asked.


Memee said...

makes me wonder why exactly you're putting yourself through this? couldn't you learn chinese in ghana or trinidad- oh i mean- i'm glad you're seeing the world and meeting new cultures.

Max... said...'s entries like this that make me wonder how you can deal with all these negative experiences while you are so far away from home...but at least the don't try to hide their racial biases so you know what to expect. Here in America, it's all hidden.

You definately need to save all your posting and publish a book or something! It could be called "the Black Girls Prep Guide to China." I don't think it would be best selling travel guide. But it lets us brown-skinned folks know what to really expect!

Sacred Stitch said...

If I get to travel enough, I might publish "The Black Girls Prep Guide to the WORLD"! When I was looking for information about coming here, the little information that I did find was OBVIOUSLY geared towards middle-class white Americans and Europeans, and it was intensely frustrating to me. And China is not only country about which information for non-white tourists, students, businesspeople and visitors is sparse, it is the status-quo.
Take heart, it's not ALL bad. The food is cheap, the guys are great, my self-confidence is being strengthened, I'm learning Chinese...and I'll be home in 7 months.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
max said...

Thanks for writing this blog. Since a computer and phone are the tools of my trade, I check it everyday at work. It's a nice break from all the FOOLISHNESS of Corporate America.

Today is one of those days where I think I would be better off in running away to China rather than being in this office!!! At least the Chinese' ignorance can be explained: Most Chinese have probably never had the chance to interact with an "American" (British/Caribbean/Portugese/African) black person, so they rely on the stereotypes they have learned. The ignorance of my supervisors has no good explanation. They are just stupid and WAAAAAAAAY to wrapped up in their work. It's insurance. It's not that deep. They make me want to run from the building screaming like a mad woman!

Thank you for sharing your experiences and giving me something to help me get through my painful day(s). Now...I'm going home to knit something and ease my mind.