I spent the past Sunday out with Tiffany and our new neighbor/great friend Pierre. The three of us headed out in London Taxi to a part of Kunming called the Guandu Old Town, where we had an excellent lunch and walked up and down beautiful streets where hundreds of local crafts are on display and for sale.
Today’s outing was particularly amusing for the local Chinese … that is, at my expesnse! Of course I get looks everywhere I go, given that I am a foreigner with blond hair in a wheelchair, but today was especially amusing.
We were browsing at one stall when a little boy came up to me and started to pet me like an animal. He also started to practice his English, which was adorable. Before we knew it, a crowd of about 15 to 20 people had gathered, all standing in a circle around Tiffany, Pierre and me, while taking photographs, videos and pointing. We were cracking up and decided to stay around about 10 minutes for everyone’s amusement.
On a side note, I have to say I have truly been surprised by the kindness of the Yunnan Province Chinese. I think this must be a South China thing, because, when I lived in Beijing 10 years ago, pushy city people certainly didn’t help me in any way at all.
As I have mentioned before, China is not particularly handicap accessible, and there always seem to be one or two steps in the way everywhere I go. These days I usually use my manual chair, which makes it quite easy to just have two or three people lift me up on either side of my wheelchair and pop me over a couple steps. Today, people were particularly helpful, and I practically had a line of Chinese men to help the funny looking foreigner over all the steps.
Next we ran into two live peacocks sitting on either side of a swinging chair. At first we were puzzled at what was going on, but then we figured out it’s a small busniess — that you can sit on the swinging chair and get your picture taken with the peacocks. Not a bad business plan, but as there didn’t seem to be too many customers we developed an even more promising business idea.
After about 5 minutes looking at the empty swinging chair and pair of peacocks and the poor lady trying to get people to pose for pictures with her peacocks, we realized there were over 20 people actually gathered in a semicircle around me, all with their mouths gapping open — no kidding. I know we get funny looks sometimes, but this was truly “special.”
We actually could not move for awhile because so many people were in our way. I have to wonder how many Chinese are going to post those pictures and videos of me up on their Facebook accounts in the next 24 hours. It wasn’t until we escaped that it occured to me that the next time this happens, I’m going to put a hat in front of me with my power chair, start wheeling around and charge 10 Chinese Yuan (about $1.50) for each person who wants to sit on my lap and take a ride. It is all about being an entrepreneur in China!
The funny experience we had today only scratches the surface of the hilarious moments that we’ve had over the last two weeks when out in public in Kunming. Generally speaking, being in a wheelchair in China you are second-class citizen and usually do not leave your home. So, when a person in a wheelchair, and especially a foreigner to boot, appears in public, well the Chinese are just so curious that they all want to touch you, look at you and generally be near you. It is kind of a sick form of being a celebrity 🙂
As I come across more funny moments, I’ll be sure to update you on the weird and wacky world that is China … rarely a dull moment!