While not venturing too far off the beaten path on our world tour, we have been to a few spots where we have found ourselves the center of attention.
Having been to China, both International cities like Shanghai and domestic cities in China, like Wuxi, on business in the past, both Dad and I had experienced the stares and photographs of people who had never seen a “Westerner” before. We told our stories to Boy, to help prepare him for this. While Hong Kong is a more mixed city, we had been warned by other traveling parents that Hong Kong Disneyland is a stop for many Mainland Chinese tourists on their first visit outside of China proper, so Western children sometimes experienced some of this type of attention there.
We found as we toured the sights in Hong Kong, like Victoria Peak, that we did not notice any unwanted attention, but whenever we passed a school group on a field trip, the children would excitedly say “hello,” and wave at Boy to practice their English. He was a bit embarrassed, but not distressed.
At Hong Kong Disneyland, we were pleased that we were not subject to much attention, at all. A few people pointed and giggled at his light hair, but Boy was not bothered. Just outside the entrance, we met another school group, with children his age and their teacher, conducting a short survey for their English class, The students greeted us politely, asked if we would help their school work, and asked each English speaking visitor three questions: which continent are you from, are you here for tourism or business, and what was your favorite sight in Hong Kong (from a list of 10). The teacher explained that this was to practice spoken English, and then they would graph the answers, when they returned to school. We enjoyed this little interaction, and smiled as we went on our way.
It never occurred to us to expect this attention in India, assuming that as a former British colony, Western people were not unknown. We found this was not the case everywhere we went. In Delhi, at several of the monuments, we passed school groups, who like the ones in Hong Kong, all waved and said “hello” to Boy as we passed. A few times, we were approached, and asked if we would pose for a photo. I declined. While walking about, I did notice several people surreptitiously snapped us, but Boy was oblivious.
By the time we reached Agra, however, the crowds and attention increased. Our guide told us, this time of year, many of these were domestic tourists, who had not seen non-Indians before. While the school groups still shouted “hello,” the tourists no longer asked permission before taking Boy’s photo. Schoolgirls reached out to touch Boy’s hair. While taking our photos, at the Red Fort in Agra we were often photo bombed. Sometimes while we posed, an entire family would surround us to take their own group shot with us in the middle. At the Taj Mahal, the more aggressive tourists would stop Boy, without asking, and grab his arm for a pose with them or their children. While standing in front of one of the world’s most iconic buildings, Boy was more interesting to some people than the Taj Mahal. He hated this part, and was glad when we left the Taj. Thankfully, after leaving Agra, the other places we have been in India have not been so intense.