Nixon went to China in 1972.
The City College Study Exchange went in 1986.
When we left the Guangzhou University Campus for a sight-seeing excursion, we were stared at, touched, followed and talked about (in Chinese) because we were often the first Westerns ever seen. I decided at some point it was just practice for when I was a superstar. (The internet hadn't been invented yet so writers were still revered.)
The streets were still filled with bicycles and very few cars and taxis that went even too fast for me. Crates of dogs were for sale, snakes were killed and cooked and served right then and there, and road side late dinner got served while sitting on wooden benches or crates. Hand holding between males and females was frowned upon until the sun came down. So during the day, it was normal to see men soldiers walking hand in hand.
If there was more than one western-like hotel in the city, I don't remember. The White Swan, an understated Vegas-like explosion on the idea of fancy luxury, had a waterfall or big fountain in the lobby. More importantly it had a western style all-you-can-eat brunch buffet on the weekends. We would bring big bags on the couple of occasions we'd splurge on homesickness and food.
On Halloween, we watched the university students dance in circles, the boys with the boys holding hands and the girls with the girls holding hands. I don't remember the music one of the exchange students had brought, but the Chinese students were lit up, liberated by a rock and roll beat. I had come as Marilyn Monroe and when I asked one of the students if he recognized who I was dressed as, he said, "Yourself?"
Of course, these days China is not like that at all. And now anything you see here in the United States that looks like Marilyn Monroe probably has been made in China.
Jo Davidson’s “Plastic History,” Featuring His Village Friends - This is one in a series of posts marking the 50th anniversary of the designation of the Greenwich Village Historic District. Check out our year-long act...
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