In general, there are two types of people, attention seekers, and attention avoiders. I’ve always been part of the latter. I was always content being in the background and having a supporting role. As an introvert, I love having a simple life, and I don’t need much to be satisfied. Although even if I do love living in the background, I still love being in wondrous places.
To seek wondrous places, I love immersing myself in travelling. My first big trip was in China to visit my best friend from university. And unfortunately, my desire to just be in the background and blend in was not realized. My journey in China lasted about three weeks, and I had the chance to explore several cities and parts of the country. It was an unforgettable trip that gave me amazing memories to remember for a lifetime.
But my most extraordinary day must had been the very first one. My friend registered us for an organized tour that consisted of the Great Wall, a jade factory and market and lastly a martial arts performance. Sounds amazing but from all the remarkable cultural sights we visited the weirdest, most different or new was me.
That’s right, as weird as that sounds, I was probably the most impressive sight on this tour because I was the only foreigner. Apparently, my friend decided to register us for an only Chinese speaking tour. She thought it would be interesting for me to experience Chinese culture through meeting and talking with local people instead of foreigners. Although there was clearly a language barrier, it certainly was an exciting experience.
We travelled to the Great Wall by coach from Beijing. The ride was quite an interesting one because clearly everyone was staring at me. My introvert self was extremely anxious with everyone trying to get close and start a conversation. Thankfully my friend explained to them that I couldn’t speak any Chinese, so they toned it a bit down. And with a nervous smile I simply tried to enjoy the scenery outside of the window.
As we arrived at the Great Wall, apart from being a tourist, I ended up also becoming a celebrity. During the very strenuous climbing of the Great Wall, several people would stop me and ask for a photo with me. The first time a person asked me, I felt insanely uncomfortable because why would anyone want a photo with a stranger. But then my friend told me that most of these people had seen foreigners only on TV, so for them, I was like a celebrity.
I specifically still remember one couple who was from the far northwest of China, and they were spending their honeymoon in Beijing. Since it was their first time seeing a foreigner, they said that taking a picture with me made their honeymoon even more special. I’m sure that I blushed at that moment. Like, how cool and amazing this is, I made someone’s honeymoon special. It felt weird but awesome too.
Nevertheless, my most peculiar experience in this tour would be during the martial arts performance. As we all settled down in a vast hall to watch the performance, I could feel intense staring towards me. I was trying to ignore it, but gradually, it became unbearable.
In the end, I saw a little girl hiding behind her grandmother trying to get a glimpse at me. I wanted to avoid her stare, but, in the end, I ended up looking at her and gave her a shy smile. Unfortunately, that shy smile was all she needed to gain confidence and come right next to me. In the beginning, she was only trying to get close, but then at some point, I felt like she was all over me, giggling and dancing. Until she finally sat right in front of me looking at me with admiration all over her face. It was incredibly awkward. At first, I let her be, but then, I couldn’t stand it any longer, and I asked my friend if she could tell her to stop. Finally, she settled down next to me while her grandparents had a chat with my friend and like previously, I took a photo with her, which she loved and appreciated. Until today this moment was the most awkward, I ever had, and I will never forget this little girl.
And with this, my first day in China came to an end. It was the very first time that I truly enjoyed the attention and the only time that I will ever feel like a star. Being the centre of attention can be nerve wrecking but by being different I got to learn much more about this country, its people as well as myself.