How can a huge finger like that fit into such a small nose? – Piotrek was intrigued enough to maintain eye contact with the lady who was fervently performing some archeological excavating works in her very own face. She fixed her gaze on him and there was a serious risk she would drill through the wall.
Piotrek is a very interesting phenomenon for the local people. First of all, by now he is most likely a recognized celebrity in three provinces. I’ll explain soon. Secondly, he is way taller than everyone else, which makes him very easy to spot in the inevitable crowd. Thirdly, he’s got a beard. The Chinese men cherish and style every single one of the four hairs growing from their chin, but Piotrek’s image remains beyond their reach. Last but not least, his nose begins between the eyes and not midway towards the mouth.
All of this is very funny and very interesting, therefore we quickly grab local attention, wherever we go. This attention usually consists of a prolonged gaze, giggling, poking friends and taking pictures more or less secretly. All of this happens despite the efforts the Chinese government is putting in educating their citizens. In front of every tourist attraction there are boards informing that you should not sneeze into someone’s face or force foreign tourists to take selfies with you. In Zhangiajie people photograph the monkeys until they see us. Camels rule in the Dunhuang sand dunes until we show up. The only animals we could never compete with are the pandas. The pandas always win.
The lady dug her way to her destination, formed a little ball and fiddled with it for a lingering while. After a few weeks spent here, it doesn’t really impress us that much. It gets more fun when the protagonist uses a straw instead of a finger and, having finished the poking, continues the drink using the same straw. If I had just one word to describe the Chinese, it would have to be physiological.
They make all sounds invented by Mother Nature, disregarding the time and place. They poke their noses, ears, navels, teeth, in this particular order. They change babies (number 2, for the record…) in a full compartment of a full train on a neighbour’s bed. The bus driver makes a pee-pee stop which happens in an atmosphere of full integration: first the ladies all together, then the gentlemen proudly and commonly. A kid squats under a tree on the pavement and does his business, probably thinking that he wouldn’t have made it to the toilet that’s 50m away.
If you cherish your personal space then, well, not many places in China offer that. It’s best to travel to the west of the country and avoid Chinese public holidays, although there is no guarantee. Your ribs might still get stabbed with an elbow, your nap might still be interrupted by a fellow passenger watching videos 7cm away from your ear on full volume and you will still inhale cigarette smoke even if you’re sitting just under the non-smoking sign. There are a lot of Chinese people and everyone must fight for their space. In a crowd they just walk in their direction hurdling obstacles. If you’re on their way – that’s your mistake. You could call it a national sport, urban parkour.
Edit: Nose poking does impress us after all if the poker is to soon prepare our food.