I’m 5”10, pale skinned, big nosed and have legs that are slightly too long for my body. And… I don’t always wear appropriate clothing. These things I’d never really considered to be a gigantic issue but then again, I’d never been to China.
Realizing quickly that I’d significantly underprepared for numerous starring eyes and camera flashes, I did the only thing I could think of to make the whole thing bearable… pretend I was super super famous. It worked spectacularly well for a couple of hours, I wore giant sunglasses and pouted like a boss but the whole charade fell apart when I stepped into The Forbidden City.
I’d been reading this book called The Empress Orchid, which is all about the Empress Dowager Cixi, and is set inside the Forbidden City. I’d fallen in love with her story, the characters in the novel and the city itself. So when I strutted my way through the door originally reserved only for the emperor, giving my fans the side eye, I completely melted. My sunglasses flew off, my mouth dropped and my camera appeared as if by magic and I was snapping away just like the common tourist. I walked in the footsteps of the Dragon Empress soaking up the atmosphere and imagining my favourite scenes from the book playing out in front of me, I was in my element.
Being an excited tourist in amongst other excited tourists can mean, however, things get a little bit sticky. Elbows flew everywhere and fists and legs scrambled to get the best view. Being a little taller then everyone else seemed to make me a prime target for what I like to call ‘The Sightseers Helpful Involuntary Tripod’ or ‘SHIT’. Which involves people putting their cameras on top of my head and taking multiple pictures forcing me to stand still whilst still being elbowed and jostled around. I, of course, did not stand still and probably ruined several peoples photos that day.
But that’s all forgotten. Well it’s not forgotten because I chose to write about it, but what I mean is it just doesn’t matter. We were, the SHIT using tourists and me, all standing in the Forbidden City, where lives were crystalized and romanticized, where great and terrible leaders lived and worked. We were walking in a masterpiece designed for the eyes of emperors and preserved for us to enjoy hundreds of years later. It was magnificent.
And this was China.
I wish I could put some pictures on here but I’ve lost the thing for the camera. But I googled the Forbidden City so you can see what I was looking at when my jaw dropped.