This is a cheap, lowbrow post, and I’ll admit it right up front.

During our recent visit to Xiamen, I had in the back of my mind the notion to write a post about how people seem, as compared to my previous visits to China, to be shouting “Lao Wai” and staring at foreigners much less and so on. And generally, in Xiamen and Quanzhou and Jinjiang and Anhai, I’ve found this to be true. It happens, but far less than before (“before” = 1993-94, 1996, 1997, 2000).

I was even thinking of a punch line for a post of, “I guess all those ‘Please Do Not Stare at the Foreigner’ t-shirts are starting to pay off.”

But then we visited Gulang Island, just a short ferry ride away from Xiamen, and it was like a step back in time to when entire traffic flows would grind to a halt to stare at a foreigner.

For some reason, the “locals” over on Gulang Island (gulang yu) haven’t caught up with their Xiamen neighbors in becoming disinterested in staring and shouting “Hello!” at foreigners and all that, but even more so, the tourists coming from other parts of China to visit Gulang Island are still stuck in that “earlier phase of social development.”

This is my revenge post.

We were walking along the “boardwalk” after getting off the ferry to Gulang Island, and this old woman, who we could tell by dress and mannerisms wasn’t from “around here,” sauntered up to us, as we stopped for my Wife to tie one of my daughters’ shoelaces, inserted herself without a word right into our midst, and stared at our girls like she was disapprovingly examining some sort of abnormal fleshy growth.

In the first of the revenge photos that follow, you see her doing the close-range staring thing, while her husband, some distance away in the background, has spotted the situation. In the second photo, he’s at her side after telling her, “Let’s go; the foreigner is taking your picture.”

Even as he lead her away, she looked back to stare at our girls with that same Bill Murray/Steve Martin/Saturday Night Live sketch “What the hell IS that thing?” expression on her face.

We’ve gotten used to people “spotting” us and “looking” at us, but most who approach us have drummed up some conversation, maybe said our daughters are pretty, or asked if they speak Chinese, or something.

But not this woman–she spoke not a word, but went straight to her work–it was quite a throwback to the days of feeling like “Foreigner = Circus Freak.”

OK, enough venting. Here she is: