For those who don't know, this week is a big week in China. Schools are out, a lot of places are closed down, and people are free to travel, celebrate Chinese nationalism, and eat moon cakes all week.
For us foreigners, however, it's definitely a "stay indoors" type of deal.
Tara, my friend, and I learned this the hard way this past Sunday. When we travel, we are generally stared at quite a bit, and it is socially acceptable to spit here upon seeing a foreigner. This we have had little trouble with up to this point. We are, on the whole, not harassed or threatened in any way, and you learn to ignore the older generation who spits more often at us foreigners. But Sunday, the beginning of the week-off for the country, was different. We were seen as being the rich American tourists, and we were treated as such. Between hearing the people spit almost continuously during our three or four hour journey around the city, getting harassed into paying 160 yuan for a shoe-shine service we didn't even ask for (and being told it was cheap because we were obviously rich Americans), and being asked by several questionable individuals for money for food and clothing, it was our first day where we realized how unwelcome we are at times. Tara and I have a very high threshold for the general lack of respect we sometimes get as foreigners, but it was almost unbearable, and it got to the point where we called an early quits and returned to our homes, going out later only to get food (and being snubbed at while we did so).
Don't get me wrong. This was, in fact, the first day this sort of thing happened, and until this point I took all the prejudice and obviously dislike of my foreign status in stride. The difference was, I believe, that it was constant. We would sit down and be spit at or stared at. We'd move, and they would approach and ask for money, insisting we were rich because we were American (they somehow know right away if you are American here, and not, say, Canadian). We'd leave and go somewhere else only to get the same treatment. It was everywhere, and it was beyond grating. We have already determined for the most part that we will stay indoors and study for the rest of the week; not a bad plan given that both she and I do indeed need to study quite a bit. But it's unfortunate that our day of fun during our first day of vacation had to end on such a bad note.
I am hoping today proves to be much better, as I begin my tutoring job (I am tutoring a woman's son in English). It will definitely be a new experience for me, as I never wanted to really teach but was recommended to the job by my professor, which I'm guessing is a rather huge honor here. We'll see. For the rest of the week, I have few plans, and I'm hoping to avoid as many crowds as possible. Let them have their week of fun and freedom from work, as they more than deserve it the way the Chinese work schedule is, and then Tara and I will go traveling and exploring when things have calmed down.