Dateline: Foshan: The International Sign for Big Noses
I took a walk after our first interview today. Just out for a 30 minute stroll in the muggy afternoon in an area of Foshan where there appears to be little to see except for travel agencies and bootleg CD/DVD emporia. Halfway through the walk, as I am turning back towards the hotel, four children, about 8 years old, say "Hello." They all have backpacks with cartoon characters on them and are presumably on their way home from school.
Then they begin asking me questions. I would have been happy to answer, if only my Cantonese were a bit better, that is to say, existent. We five keep walking, they peppering me with one or two of the same questions, me responding with a something of a Jackie Mason pose - shoulders shrugged, arms tucked to my sides at the elbows and then akimbo through the forearms. "I don't know what you're saying, but 'Hello' anyway." This continues.
The children, through their giggles, smell blood in the water. They know I know not a lick of their language. And they start mocking. One in particular is bold and will walk up to me, ask a couple of questions, and then skitter back to the pack for a group titter. It would go on for about three more blocks, but he would play his trump card well before they left. Hand to his face, cupped inward, then he dramatically pulls his forward. It was no reference to my particularly Semitic schnoz, but to the relative prominence of Caucasian snouts more broadly: The International Sign for Big Noses. And so I am, for the first time, the victim of a grade school Chinese hate crime.