Most of the time when people approach you with a camera they want you to take their picture. Here, people want us to pose for a picture with them. It doesn't matter that we're complete strangers. For some reason, young people especially, want to take home a photo of themselves with a Western foreigner.
These two girls approached Tom while we were out sightseeing yesterday. I took this picture while their friend was also taking one.
It's not that Americans or Europeans aren't around. It's that mos come either on business or in tour groups. When the kids or their parents do see the opportunity to stop a couple like us, they're usually shy at first about asking. After one works up the courage, they all want to pose. It's been fun. They especially seem attracted to Tom's beard.
This is part of what I like wandering around a city like Datong. It's a workaday, middle-class city, pretty ugly in parts. There's tons of construction going on. It's almost as if it was bombed and is being rebuilt, common these days in many parts of China where the economic engine is still running strong despite the global downturn.
But that's the physical part. Look beyond the rubble, the piles of boxes stacked up on the sidewalk, the mish-mash of ugly signs, and spending a day or so in a city like this is a chance to meet real people, eat great local food and see normal life.
"Hello, Nice to meet you,'' is a common greeting we've received from strangers as we walked down the street. They know a little bit of English, and are anxious to try it out.
Re our donkey meat dinner, apparently donkey is not only eaten in China. My French friend, Madeleine , shares this story:
"We have a neighbour here in Peyriac whose donkey we could hear from our terrace from time to time. One day we invited this lady for coffee (indeed to quiz her on the history of our house) and among the small talk I said : "We don't hear your donkey anymore..." --"Oh no, she said, we ate it". We had trouble refraining from laughing. Come to think of it a famous specialty in France is "saucisson d'âne". (Saucisson=dried sausage which you nibble on with a drink before dinner).''