As a foreigner in China you always feel a bit like a celebrity or a pink unicorn. Constant stares, people pointing with the finger at you and screaming “foreigner” 老外. I have decided to counteract this phenomenon by putting me even more in the spotlight.
Since last week I have got the job to present a local TV news show every Saturday. I am their new special VIP presenter 嘉宾主持人. The show is a normal news format, reporting daily things here in Bozhou and its surrounding villages. Usually I don’t know the different reports they are showing. The job description is pretty simple: I come in on Saturday morning, get make-up and hair done, sit down in front of a camera with a TV and read off the screen.
However, it’s easier said than done. The lines running down on the screen are in Chinese! As I cannot see the text before we start recording on Saturday (because they write the text right before I arrive the same day), I need ages to get acquainted to the different new vocabulary (compared to the professional Chinese presenters!). It is really frustrating because it would be a 30 minutes job, but in my case it takes at least two hours to record my parts for the whole program.
Today was especially difficult. Maybe they went easy on me last time, because it was my first time. Last Saturday they were so kind to change a lot of words, and make it a lot more colloquial. Today, however, they didn’t bother to change a bit! The worst was that there were parts which were so long that I never managed to get through them without a tongue twist. In the end we had to cut the parts down, and record separately. It made me feel like a failure.
The thought of quitting before it actually started
I have to be honest. Yesterday I gave the TV director a call to tell him that I don’t want to continue being a TV presenter. After just one show, I have somewhat become famous in our little town. And as maybe some of you know, fame does come with a dark side.
After the show has aired last week I have got a lot of positive responses, however, there were also quite a few negative ones. Mainly people were telling me or let’s say in a polite Chinese way asking me ‘how I had the courage to be on TV while my Chinese is so bad’ or ‘how amazing my self-confidence is, being so fat, and putting myself out there on TV’ or my favorite the straight approach ‘you shouldn’t be on TV, you are just a foreigner without perfect Mandarin Chinese and no previous TV experience’… But, the most hurtful reaction was to exclude me of specific gatherings and outings of so-called friends. That silent treatment and acknowledgement that I even exist really hit me hard.
Imagining that this was a reaction after just one episode, I got to think, what will be after a few months?
So I gave the TV director a call telling him I am too busy to do the show. He forcefully declined my declination and persuaded me, with the help of peach blossom flowers, to try it one more time this Saturday.
The power of Peach Blossoms
I love flowers. No matter the colour and shape. Flowers are the most beautiful thing on this earth and I am excited every spring to see the world waking up after a long cold winter.
Consequently, when the TV director told me that they were planning on taking me to Bozhou’s Peach Blossom Festival 桃花节 this Saturday, I had a hard time finding reasons to decline the job.
I have heard many stories of Bozhou’s Peach Blossom season, fields over fields with blooming trees. After the disappointment last Sunday, when my husband and I drove an hour by bike to the next village to find those magical peach blossom fields, I decided I will give the TV station another chance. Maybe they know where to find those flowery fields.
We met at 6am at the TV station, and to my surprise (and shock) there were two buses waiting. The guy on the phone sounded very casual about this ‘little recording’ of this ‘small festival’, so I though it will just maybe be him and one or two more people. In the end we started our trip to the magical peach blossom fields with a bus of 30 TV people, another huge bus with TV equipment, a small car as guide at the top and at the back.
When we arrived at 8am the huge stage was already set up and people started crowding the place. At that moment I started to regret my choice. I couldn’t see a single flower, just a sea of heads with black hair. As the usual Chinese spontaneity goes, they wanted me to perform ‘a bit of’ Kungfu on stage. Being inappropriately dressed (and not in the mood to swing my legs in front of hundreds of village people) I declined, and got another task assigned: Presenting one act on stage. I could live with that.
The presenting on stage went smoothly and my years of kungfu performances in front of huge audiences paid off, helping me to stay calm in front of a sea of people staring at me with blank eyes. As a reward one of the presenters promised to take me to see the actual peach blossoms, and not just the Peach Blossom Festival.
Unfortunately, I wasn’t the only one who wanted to see the magical peach blossom fields. Crowds of people were making their way to the fields, but nothing could stop me, not even the camera team which decided to tack along and use this opportunity to produce more film material of the foreign girl who loves flowers.
I was mesmerised by the amount of flowers. I have never been to Japan for the sakura season, and flowers in Germany or the UK never grow in such masses in one place. Here, there were fields of peach trees in full bloom. Colours from vibrant pink to pastel rose building a contrast with the greyish white tree trunks. I took hundreds of photos, and hundreds of people took photos of me and with me.
Why I will try to go through with this TV job
Even though, I have gotten a few negative responses which have put me down, there is one huge positive aspect to this whole being on TV thing: People start calling me by my name, instead of ‘foreigner’ 老外! This might be an insignificant thing for most people but for me it’s huge. Calling me by my name finally gives me a feeling of belonging. People can put a face and a name to that ‘foreigner’ walking through their streets.
Yes, I am sure, there will be more haters, but that is what happens of you put yourself out there.
But I have promised myself to listen to my husband, family and friends, and trying to put less weight on what haters have to say.
Last but not least, here are a few impressions of the peach blossoms:
Have you ever been on Chinese TV? Do you think it is a good thing to put yourself out there (no matter if on TV, the internet via YouTube or a blog)?
Latest posts by Anna Z. (see all)
- Why You Need a VPN in China - March 4, 2017
- “Sheng Da Pang Sunzi 生大胖孙子” The pressure of having a boy in rural China - December 11, 2016
- “Your baby must be cold!” – Comic - December 4, 2016
- The Thing I Wish I Knew Before Marrying into a Chinese Family - November 20, 2016
- ‘Sitting the Month’: Postpartum Traditions in Rural Anhui - October 30, 2016