Sunday 3 December 2006

Listening in

I was on a bus in Yantai, in the province of Shandong, China. Two middle aged matrons sat opposite me. They were holding a conversation in their normal everyday tones - loud enough to be heard from one paddy field to another.

"I can't believe how ugly that foreign devil is!" said one.

"Such a big nose", rejoined the other. "Foreigners smell bad too, it's all that milk they drink".

I looked about the bus, but I was the only foreigner on it.

My conversational Mandarin is reasonable. As I left the bus I said, "Beautiful younger sisters, have a peaceful journey".

Two mouths fell open, but not a word was spoken.


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