China in Photos

China in Photos: Day No. 74 In Which I Have An Awkward Moment in the Dumpling Shop

It rained last night and, in that somewhat unsettling Chinese fashion, certain rainstorms usually bring with them clearer skies than normal.

Which, in turn, give us glimpses of the sky like this.  So beautiful.  I will never ever take a sunset or a sunrise for granted again.

Anyways, today’s topic is awkward moments.

I tend to have a lot of them.  So many in fact that at this point in my life, they barely phase me.  As long as I’m being nice, I try not to let my awkwardness or the awkwardness that is living in a foreign country phase me too much.

Being awkward is something I’ve grown comfortable with and I’ve always been told that people who are comfortable with themselves tend to get along well with others.

Which might make me the most awkward outgoing person I know.

Like this evening at the dumpling shop, for instance.  A young man sat down, rather unfortunately, with his back to the glass door of the shop.  It was unfortunate because, just behind him stood a little baby.  Not just any little baby.  A Chinese baby.  Which, granted, shouldn’t be too unexpected at this point.

But let me tell you something about cute little Chinese babies with their spiky hair and chubby cheeks.  They make you feel like you’re being sucker-punched by your ovaries.  And I’m pretty sure that’s true whether you are a man or a woman.

Anyways, I’m staring at the baby and the baby’s grandmother is all proud of that because all grandparents here are sooo proud of their grand-babies because, you know, they only get 1.

So I start smiling and sort of nod a little to acknowledge that, yes this woman’s offspring’s offspring is currently one of the cutest creatures on the planet, and then I may have even sighed and it probably came out something like “awwww.”  Chris continued eating his dumplings since, let’s face it, I find a new “cutest baby in the world” pretty much every 5 minutes here and he’s used to it by now.

But then I managed to tear my gaze from the cute kid to the man sitting just in front of him and, oh dear.

The man looked horrified.  The man’seyes were drilling into my skull.  The man looked like was thinking was: “good grief woman, what the hell is your problem?  Can’t you see I’m eating dinner with my wife?” The man thought I was staring at him, cooing and all.

At which point I put my head down and studied my dumplings with an embarrassed intensity.

This lasted about a minute as I blushed, chased my dumplings around the plate, and occasionally peeked up to see if the man was still staring at me so ferociously.  He was.

I was mortified until, out of the corner of my eye, I noticed his wife look at him, glance at me, and then motion discreetly to the baby at the window.

The man’s expression changed from one of anger to one of pity for the silly laowai cooing at the baby 15 feet away.  And I thought I was mortified before.

See what I mean?  Awkward

On the way home Chris and I stopped in three little convenience stores looking for our favorite brand of ice cream here.  We struck out, everyone only had the fake version.  Hey, it could happen to anyone right?

As we walked up to our complex we noticed that the air was so clear you could see the fancy rainbow lighting on the building around the corner.  I attempted to take a picture and it came out like this because…

If you are a China-hand you can probably guess why.  Just as I was taking the shot a guard from our building came over and told me I wasn’t allowed to take pictures.  I stared blankly for a moment and totally forgot to say “sorry” and the guard sort of disappeared into the shadows.

I’m not sure what I wasn’t allowed to take pictures of.  This is, after all, the street where I live and I was attempting to photograph a building a quarter of a mile away.  There was not an oppressed minority or accident anywhere in sight.

But that’s how it is here.  Even as big beautiful DSLRs are becoming trendy accessories for millions of Chinese, what you can and cannot take a picture of in this country is always a little unclear.

In this case, I think it was a new guard who was feeling a little nervous and unsure about what is and is not allowed.  I’m pretty sure if I would have bothered to explain he would have backed away “bu hau yi si”-ing his way into an anxiety attack back at the guard station.

I generally like the guards at our compound so I didn’t want to push it.  I get the sense that most of them are good kids from the countryside, just trying to do what they are told and make it in the big city.  So I just put my camera away and chalked it up to awkward run-in number 2 of the night.

And now, here we are, at home.  Luckily, at home with Chris, it always feels like I can hang up my awkwardness at the door.  Home is where I can be with the man who has the strange misconception that my awkwardness is funny/endearing/not-that-embarrassing.

And that’s nice.  And so, until tomorrow!  Take care and make sure to check who is in your line of sight before you start cooing at any babies in the area!


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