- I’ve lived in China long enough to become a bit immune to things like bamboo forests, more skyscrapers than I can count and a dog riding with its owner on an electric scooter.
Then our friend Kathleen visited for six weeks. I knew that with her arrival, the charm of China would return. And it did. She was intrigued by everything: street sweepers’ homemade brooms,
pink suitcases, cigarette boxes, the subway system being built, ceilings in airports, kumquat tea,
the messy conglomeration of electrical wires twisted together along telephone poles.
The list was endless. Truly, everything intrigued her.
Her amazement was reflected in the number of photos she took: almost 30,000 pictures, over 700 pictures a day! With her exuberant, friendly personality, hearts opened everywhere she went. After photographing card players on the street, she was invited to join, and she did, in a game she was absolutely clueless about. Another time she happened into a restaurant on opening day and photographed the décor, food and employees.
She strolled in a mostly abandoned apartment complex. When she bent to look at a bean plant a young girl, who was following her, bent to look as well. Then the girl had an idea. She led Kathleen around, showing her different flowers blooming among the broken sidewalk and crumbling garden walls. At each place, the girl picked a flower. When Kathleen left, the girl gave her the bouquet.
Kathleen got the idea to take photos of a Chinese couple getting married. and I asked around but couldn’t find any engaged couples who wanted photos taken. Meanwhile, Kathleen flew to Hong Kong for a few days.
One morning, at a red light, she glanced sideways and there, inches away, was a bride in her white dress. With her were the groom, a photographer and the assistant. Quivering with excitement, Kathleen followed and snapped pictures from a distance. Soon, the entourage invited her to join them. For hours, the five of them traipsed up and down streets, taking pictures.
Kathleen took pictures of Tim teaching,
Zoe at the West Lake,
and Sumner looking mysterious in his Sherlock Holmes coat.
And for the first time, I tasted life with my own paparazzi. Of the 30,000 pictures, need I say that I am in more than a few?
Here I am in my classroom.
At times I felt awkward having my photo taken up close on a crowded bus, and at times Tim was irritated that Kathleen lagged so far behind when we were trying to get somewhere fast (which is the only way that Tim knows to walk). But now, as I scroll through the photos, I re-experience China through Kathleen’s lens, and I feel even closer to my friend.
Furthermore, I feel so valued, validated and known. So much from our daily life — the people and things we experience — are captured in print. The photos say that we/they/it/this matters.
The pictures also make me want to buy a good camera and give others the same gift. I don’t know if I will, though, anytime soon.
Meanwhile, my dear friend, Kathleen, just know that you can be our — as Tim is now equally touched — paparazzi any day.
Note: We’re imitating the Chinese with the rabbit ears/peace signs. It’s so common here that I’ve seen two significant public sculptures of people and they are doing the rabbit ears/peace signs too. :)