"Wai guo ren!"
"Wai guo ren!"
You hear the cries everywhere you go. And why shouldn't you?
Guangdong, home of the infamous SARS disease and undoubtedly a number of other ones that are circling around the globe at this very instant, is star crazy.
If you're white, like Tom Cruise, you're red hot in Guangdong and if you're unfortunate enough to be black, well, you definitely are not.
Or so it goes, anyhow.
Whitening creams are sold everywhere, just to get the pallid, wasted complexion of, well... me.
And with naturally blonde hair (only blondish nowadays) and blue/green eyes, I had what no one else did; what had been marketed as "piao liang" (beautiful) to Cantonese people everywhere.
Thus, I was swept into a whirlwind of unwanted attention - filming TV commercials, radio stints, naming newspapers and various articles, was photographed by strangers, filmed on busses and hounded for my "autograph" by kids.
From going to conferences, to being taken out for expensive dinners and lunches, to judging at many varied events; I smiled shyly while my entertainer husband (a professional musician for years) would sing for the crowds, amazing them all by his outstanding vocal chords.
Truly it was a gift from God and he had the personality to make the most of it every chance he got (It's a God thing, he knows the right people to give these varied talents and abilities to).
Many times, I would judge the competitions myself and one of the last times was an English singing competition at a large middle school.
That day, I sat through hour upon of hour of crude performances, aptly showing the knack the Cantonese had for poor organization and their poorly grasped conception of showmanship.
Finally was the time for me to get up and present the awards.
A fiasco to say the least, everyone was running around the podium, tripping over chords and there was 5 kids standing up there expectantly that I certainty didn't choose as winners.
Nevertheless they were all excited when they saw me.
"Wai guo ren. Sing!"
The chants got louder, "Sing! Sing! Sing! Sing!"
"Ok." I smiled pleasantly and waved as a queen would to her adoring fans, remembering myself to be quite a well skilled singer and after all, I had Jesus as a backup. I was going to blow them away.
Jesus, please let me blow them away!
I opened my mouth, getting ready to sing the quite vocal; one hit wonder, "I Believe I Can Fly" and let every word drift out on top of the clouds of a beautiful melody.
Something horrible! Instead of floating my words were falling to the ground with incredible force as my voice took on unknown pitches and tones, even for the Cantonese whose local dialect sounded much like the sound of hocking up saliva.
And through the mike I could hear clearly every last strangled sound like the remains of a regurgitated breakfast.
I squeaked through every last morsel of the song, keeping the tears back from brimming in my eyes as finally I listened for the sounds of my undeserving applause.
I got it.
Humbled, I sat in my seat and looked into my hands.
Maybe I took being a Wai guo ren too seriously after all.
*note Wai Guo Ren means Foreigner in Chinese Pinyin
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