Sunday, November 4, 2007


*I am walking toward a group of Chinese girls. They're having a nice time talking together, unaware that a freakish alien is headed directly towards them. Suddenly they spot me! For a moment, their faces are panic-stricken, but soon they have recovered and the fear is replaced by utter fascination. Just as I'm about to pass the girls, one of them grins and says, HELLO! I smile, say hello back and continue walking. Behind me, there is uncontrollable giggling.*

Apart from students, most people in Zhanjiang don't know much English... with the exception of one word: HELLO. Whether young or old, peasant or wealthy, boy or girl- a major form of entertainment around town is shouting HELLO at any foreigner who may happen to pass by. It makes no difference where said foreigner may actually be from; he or she is not Chinese, and therefore must be an English speaker.

When yelled by an excited Chinese person, HELLO does not come out the way that you may be used to hearing it. Most people favor an exaggerated British accent with a slight- but audible- note of hysteria thrown in there (the hysteria is because of the extreme rarity of sighting a Westerner). The effect is something like "HAH-LOAH!"

The type of greeting given can be roughly placed into one of two catergories: annoying, and tolerable. The annoying HELLOs normally come from groups of three or more adolescent boys, and are preceded by lots of wide-eyed pointing, laughing, and joking in Chinese. Thankfully, most people use the tolerable version of HELLO; most commonly, this version comes from groups of three or more adolescent girls and is followed by a starry-eyed request to take a photo together.

Anytime I walk around campus, I'm automatically a HELLO target. It's shouted at me from the top floors of the dormitories, from inside the classrooms, around the stairwells, and in the teachers' offices. I've been here for two months, but the novelty still hasn't worn off! The only difference is that now sometimes instead of just HELLO, it's HELLO JENNY (Jenny is my name here).

Oh, the thrills of being a foreigner!! :)

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