When we first got to China we felt like celebrities. Where ever we went people stared. Often people would take pictures of us, or ask for our autographs. Many were very interested in our three children and wanted to hold them if possible. It got to the point that it was difficult for us to even walk down the street. We went to the forbidden city in Beijing one day to tour the grounds. People gathered around to see us so that it was difficult for us to move through the park. In my memory it seems that many of them were from the surrounding countryside. Their dress and manner of speaking seemed like that of farmers. So it may have been that they hadn't seen many foreigners in their life. But this scene was replayed many times during the first weeks that we were in China. One of my favorite photographs is one that has me and my youngest son surrounded by a group of chinese tourists who were touring Shanghai and happened to see us as they passed.
Our church had a small congregation of foreigners that met in one of the homes of the ex-pats. One Sunday I was talking to one of the women there and told her of the difficulty we had experienced. She taught me a lesson that helped change our life. She told me that the same thing had happened to her when she first arrived. But after awhile it stopped happening. She said she felt that we had a certain body language that told people they could approach us. I thought alot about that and payed more attention to the signals and cues I had been unknowingly giving off. Within a very short time we were able to walk the streets without drawing a crowd.
I might have to make an exception to that statement. My children were something of an oddity to the chinese. I have one son that was quite hyperactive during the time we lived in China. He was constant motion, and was very outgoing and happy. Chinese children are taught to conform and to strictly obey societal expectations. My son was a free bird, bucking tradition. Although for the chinese, this kind of behavior is not accepted in their own children, they were fascinated to see it in mine.
I took my kids to have their picture taken at a photo studio. Several photographers came in to the room to photograph my children. I don't think they were used to having children to photograph who would stick out their tongue or constantly move while being photographed. Their cameras were clicking furiously, and they did get some really interesting shots.
I shopped for fresh fruits and vegetables at the open air market. Farmers from nearby towns would bring their wagons of food to a certain street and sell their goods out of their wagons. I took my kids with me on my frequent shopping trips. Soon we became acquainted with many of the farmers. They took a liking to my wild son. I had three children at the time, but only the one was hyperactive. They began to take a special interest in him. When he walked by they would sneak fruit or vegetables to him. He often would come back to me holding a cucumber, zuchinni, or fruit. They called him "Tao Chi"...or "naughty" when he would climb or run around. But they said it with a smile, and I could tell they admired the freedom he had to be naughty.
Although we learned to not come across as celebrities while walking in public, I don't think we could have ever over come being a magnet for curiosity. I don't know if those days could be considered as my "ten minutes of fame", but it was interesting while it lasted. However, I much prefer just being an oddity to being a celebrity.