I've repeated in many conversations we have had on this walk. A university student who spoke Advanced English rode past us and stopped. After she knew Darrah's nationality, she said to me "Foreigners are so brave to do things like this, especially Americans." I said "Yes, but some Chinese are as brave as them."
She said "But only small numbers of Chinese would do this. She is so great. Americans are great." She didn't see me, the Chinese woman who is walking beside her.
When a foreign girl and a Chinese woman are walking to Beijing, 99% of Chinese people give a high praises to the foreign girl. Instead of praise, I get this question: how much does she pay you to walk with her? Now here is my question: why don't the majority of Chinese people think that a foreign woman and a Chinese woman can walk to Beijing as equals?
Last week we were invited for dinner by a generous man. During the dinner, our host kept saying how polite foreigners are and how bad mannered Chinese are. He put an emphasis on how great Darrah is and how much he admires her and hopes Buddha will bless her for what she is doing for the Chinese. When we said goodbye, he gave me a Dizigui, which is a book of discipline for children. When the book was in my hand, it was clear that I was inferior in his eyes. I was doing the same thing as Darrah and he didn't say I was great, but gave me a book of discipline. Really?
I have been assumed to be Darrah's translator many times, even by other volunteers. Once in Jiangxi, we met up with a group of volunteers. Someone introduced us in this way: "This foreigner, (he turned to me and asked Darrah's name again) Darrah is walking to Beijing for people with disabilities. And this is her translator." I didn't correct him in front of people but I told him later that I wasn't Darrah's translator but a partner. But my words didn't stick. Even though he was looking at my name card, he said I was Darrah's translator again the same night at dinner.
The next day while we were walking, a volunteer said to me "So, you are Darrah's translator." I said "Can you explain to other volunteers that I am not Darrah's translator? We walk together as a team." But she said "If you are not her translator, why are you doing this?" I was upset that a volunteer asked me why am I walking to Beijing after we introduced ourselves and after I gave them my name card.
A few days ago we walked across the Yellow River, then stopped at a restaurant for lunch. A man asked me what we are doing and I told him about our walk. He pointed to Darrah and asked, "Are you her translator?" I said "No, we are friends and we walk together as a team." Then he asked Darrah where was she from. Darrah answered “I am an American” in Chinese. The man said to me immediately “She said she is American. So you must be her translator.” I corrected him but he refused to believe me and kept saying I was Darrah's translator. Well, there is no point to argue with a person who doesn't listen to you. It's like arguing with a bag of rocks. So I said “Yes, all right, I am her translator.”
Thankfully, I am secure enough in myself not to let these close-minded people affect me. But these encounters do raise questions in my heart. Like, why don't we Chinese believe that we can do the same amazing things that a foreigners can do? In China, under the same conditions, foreigners are regarded more highly than fellow Chinese. Why? It's time for a change.
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