One of my favorite times of day is when I go and pick up Macy from school. She’s only been gone about 4 hours, but I am excited to see her and hear about her day. Whenever I ask her what she does at school, she tells me they “eat breakfast…dance…play with Yue Yue…and eat lunch.” Must be quite a day.
Today when I was picking her up, the older class (4 year olds) was lined up out in the hallway. As Macy and I were leaving, their teacher asked them to say to me, “Ayi, zhongwu hao (aunt, good afternoon).” I smiled and replied – good afternoon to you too!
Then their teacher turned to them and said, “Can anyone tell me why this ayi (aunt) is different from all of you?”
I was confused. I immediately thought I must have heard her incorrectly. I looked down at my clothes – was I wearing something strange? Was is because I was a mom and these were kids?
One kid piped up from the back – “It’s because she’s a foreigner!”
The word for “foreigner” here literally translates to “outside country person”. You are a person not from the this country, therefore you are foreign. I hear it so many times in a day, I almost don’t even hear it anymore. People don’t mean anything by it, they’re just surprised to see someone who is not from here. The only time it bothers me is when people point at Macy and yell “foreigner!” as if accusing her of doing something wrong.
So while I wasn’t surprised to hear the word, I was surprised that this teacher was using me as a teaching opportunity – which one of these do not look like the other and all. It’s not her fault. She learned it from the generation above her, and so on.
And so goes another day in the life as an outside country person. It makes me more and more grateful for the friends that we have here that do not see us as “outside” people, but as friends.