Back in 1993, when I first came to Shanghai, some friends and I decided to get out of the big city and go to a rural village about 150 miles out to see the peasant's life in China. After all, Shanghai is not exactly representative of the Chinese lifestyle. I would know better later when I went to Tibet and poorer regions of China, but back then, I was pretty naive.

In those days, cars were still pretty rare. As soon as we entered the village there was a big crowd of people gawking at our ride. I began to have second thoughts about this trip. It was embarassing to have a ton of people staring at you. What happened next was very strange.

As soon as we stepped out of the car, there was a big gasp. I then realized that some of my parents' friends were Americans. It looked as if this was the first time some of these people had ever seen a foreigner. There were immediately shouts of lao wai (meaning foreigner). I felt like we were some kind of alien entourage, and everyone is staring at us and talking.

The rest of the trip was like a big joke. My American friends were surrounded by a pack of local Chinese, who inquired into everything, including the abundance of hair on the man's arms and legs. Initially, the people were very shy about having their photos taken, but once their children came out they were enthusiastic. After all, the kids here are practically little emperors and doted upon.

It looked like the whole village just stopped working to look at the foreigners. After an excellent dinner, we headed back. All in all, a very fascinating experience.

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