Wednesday, November 05, 2003

 
White Like Me
I'm beginning to get a rough idea of what it must be like to be a token minority in the U.S. One of the (non-contractual) duties foreign devil coworker Jeff and I are required to occasionally perform is to make appearances at civic events somehow connected with the Shenzhen Daily.
It somehow lends a touch of the exotic and more credibility and prestige to the occasion, whether it's serving as a judge for a photography or English language contest or simply being the lone 50something white face amid a sea of Chinese at a puzzling 1 and a half hour ceremony featuring narcolepsy inducing speeches.
I was at such an event a couple days ago, along with another token foreigner, an Indian English teacher who also couldn't fathom why her presence would make the slightest bit of difference, but appeared anyway out of politeness. There were perhaps 300 Shenzhen municipal workers gathered in a city auditorium at 9 a.m. to get plaques and nod off while listen to city leaders drone. TV cameras covering this snoozefest kept panning and focusing in on my companion and I who were, despite our non-involvement, were assigned prominent seats in a front row. Thus we couldn't doze and clapped enthusiastically whenever an incomprehensible speech ended.
That night while flipping through channels, sure enough! There we were applauding madly on the local news - perhaps a .5 second close-up, but enough to let Chinese viewers know that the event was important enough to draw awed, appreciative foreigners.
Jeff said he'd met one man, another Australian, whose "job" is simply to sit silently and solemnly in a three piece suit at the side of a wealthy Chinese businessman in meetings throughout southern China.
"He gets a bloody fortune for it, too," swears Jeff. "Nice work if you can get it, I suppose."
It got me thinking about the possibility of setting up Rent-A-Foreigner in Shenzhen.
"Looking to lend a sparkling international touch of glamor and intrigue to your next affair? Foreign faces - both genders - available 24/7 for your banquet, board meeting, nightclub or home!
"Choose from our large selection of Americans - white and black - ages 20-65!
"Australians, British, Indians, Germans, French, Packistanis also available. Well-mannered, polite and patient, these domesticated and adorable barbarians take directions well and respond promptly to both voice and visual commands.
"Chopstick proficency guaranteed!
"Special this week only: Two Canadians for the price of one!"
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