I meant to write about this the other day but then adventure happened and I forgot. If you’ve been keeping up with things I decided to explore both the Bell Tower and the Drum Tower a few days back. I’d give you an exact date, but to be honest, living in the future has a way of making one not care about the time. I’m pretty confident, at least, that today is Friday (thank you very much iPhone).
Anyway, a few days ago I was exploring the upper floor of the Drum Tower. Specifically, I had just ventured outside to the exposed walkway that runs the perimeter of the building. It provides a beautiful view of the city, as well as some pretty spectacular examples of Chinese architecture and art. I was, for most of my visit, on my own. I think I had arrived early enough to beat the rush. At some point, however, I rounded one of the corners and almost ran into a young woman and her boyfriend. She looked at me and started speaking to him rather excitedly, then started looking at me and pointing at her phone. I assumed she wanted me to take a picture of the two of them. I smiled, reached out to take the phone, but at the same time she passed the phone to her boyfriend. Next thing I knew she was cozied up next to me and he was snapping several photos. I smiled like an idiot, unaware of what was going on. The photo shoot ended, they thanked me profusely, then went on their way.
And I stood there smirking, chuckling to myself, and wondering if the universe were playing some sort of cosmic joke on me. Did they think I looked like someone else? Was this a dare – collect as many photos with unsuspecting Canadians as possible? I laughed it off and continued on my exploration of the city.
Then yesterday it happened again. I was sitting under an umbrella at a local Starbucks – because of course they have Starbucks here – watching the world go by. Sometimes exploring is best when you do it from the comfort of a chair with a hot beverage. As I sat there watching the throngs of people come and go, I saw a group of women to my left chatting and looking in my direction. At some point, one of them walked in my direction. She cautiously walked past me as if to suggest she was looking for someone, but since her stealth skills were lacking it was very obvious she was moving to stand directly behind me. At the same time, one of her friends was trying to capture the photo without looking like she was trying to capture the photo. The rest of her troupe stood in the distance staring but not staring. It was all too comical.
I turned and looked at the woman standing behind me. She smiled and giggled like a little girl, I smiled back, and told her it was okay to take the photo. At that point, recognizing that I was finding this all very fun and amusing, another woman joined the stream of pictures that would follow. I sat there, smiling like an idiot, laughing about the situation, while they posed themselves around me. Apparently it was also necessary for them to hold my arm, my shoulder, or my chest while the photos were happening. I assume it was strictly for them to maintain their balance. HA!
Unlike the photo event in the Drum Tower, I decided to have them take a picture for me as well. I mean, why the hell not, right? I laughed, they laughed, and they happily obliged. Later, after I left the Starbucks and headed closer to the Bell Tower (to capture an epic sky and rainbow that followed a very light rain), I ran into the women again. They once again had me pose with them, this time with the Drum Tower as a backdrop.
Amused, I returned to my hostel to post some pics and relax for the rest of the eve. I spent part of the night also laughing about the events of the past day.
And then, believe it or not, it happened again. My life has reached new levels of weird.
As I sat enjoying an espresso, a young man and his troupe of twenty-somethings approached my table. He was pointing at his phone and repeatedly saying the words “picture” and “friends”. Now despite what had happened earlier, I assumed he really wanted me to help him get a photo of him and his friends. I mean, having a group of middle-aged women ask for my photo is one thing (because that happens all the time), but a group of twenty somethings? That’s just extra weird. Of course, based on the theme of this post, you’ll know that I was wrong. I stood up, tried to take his camera, and realized at that point that it was the troupe of women all over again.
As the one young man – we’ll call him Billy, because why the hell not – put his arm around my waist and insisted that I put my arm around his shoulders, I stood there awkwardly, laughing, assuming the universe was indeed playing some sort of cosmic joke on me. While waiting for Billy to find the perfect pose for the two of us, the cameraman – we’ll call him Eddy – looked at me and stated in very broken english “you are very beautiful man”. They all seemed far too excited. Seriously – this has got to be a joke – I thought. But they snapped away. Billy was replaced by Matilda, who rested her head on my shoulders and closed her eyes as if to be napping. More photos were taken – peace signs were held up, arms were interlocked, hands were placed on my chest as if her and I were a couple. So. Freaking. Weird. As before, I insisted they take photos with my camera as well. Thank you’s were exchanged, and then they left.
And once again I sat there wondering what the hell happened.
Oh China, you are one crazy place, but I think I love you.