Lowai. China Stranger.
It's odd going to a totally strange and unfamiliar country. Sometimes you think we're all the same, just people, but then there are things that are so different you doubt geography and history can ever explain them. Xi'an, the centre of China. Its a modern city and totally industrialised and 'high tech'. Just a stone's throw from these main roads are the markets where traders rarely set foot outside the back streets. As China develops these streets stand as a microcosm of the way things will come to be remembered. People stop in their tracks and just stare and point at you. You hear them all say "Lowai," which means 'foreigner', or more specifically 'outside one' in Chinese. Many people in these small enclaves have never seen a Westerner. A big crowd will soon form around you. To them, it's just as if you're from another planet. You're looking out as if from inside a fish bowl at the inquisitive gaze of your host. Inundated with requests to take photos, without the usual suspicion associated with what has now come to be seen as a mainly voyeuristic activity in the west. The children's attitudes are always the strangest. They stop dead in their tracks and seem almost to stop breathing as they stare at you... In the market there are two prices: one low price for Chinese and another higher one for non-Chinese-looking. It is always less than half of the price they offer to you as a foreigner or 'lowai'. Bargain is a part of Chinese life, its not offending towards the trader. Everything is negotiable in China...Photography, being universal and instant, you've always got something beyond language to break down the distance between strangers. Something shared between the local and lowai.