Last weekend in Hangzhou, my friend and I spent one afternoon boating on West Lake. It was a gorgeous late fall afternoon with lots of people out and about, so we decided to escape the crowds and get on the lake. Our boatman paddled us lazily along the north side of the lake where we had great views of the changing leaves (more hong ye!) and the activities of the folks along the shore. As we were paddling away (well, the boatman was paddling away–we were drinking tea), we heard the sound of someone singing. Now it’s not an uncommon thing to come across people singing at the top of their lungs in a Chinese park, completely oblivious to the world and the throngs around them. Sometimes they are singing Chinese opera; sometimes “Country Roads.” The voice we heard this day was singing some unfamiliar pop tune. As we got closer to the shore, we spotted him — a youngish fellow pretending to play a guitar, belting out a song at the top of his lungs! Is this Elvis, we wondered! Nobody gave him a second glance.
So here’s the question I was left with: who in this picture is stark raving mad? The air guitar player and the passers-by who pay him no never mind; or the foreigners who think it’s odd? It’s a question I wonder about a lot here because it’s never as obvious as it seems.