Sunday, 24 May 2009

Scenes from outside the museum

There will be no scenes from inside Hebei Provincial Museum, as I was refused entrance because I didn't have my passport on me. Although exceptionally bizarre and infuriating, given the attitude towards foreigners often manifested in this city, I wasn't terribly surprised. And before anyone tells me off for not carrying my passport with me, I was told not to by the policeman that issued my residency permit, owing to the prevalence of pickpockets in the city.


Having spent forty minutes on a bus, followed by a fifteen minute walk, to get to the museum, my kind readers are probably able to take a guess at the particular phrases that I muttered to myself as I walked away from the ticket booth.


So I decided to pretend that the square outside was an open air exhibition. The main portion of the square had been turned into an open air car showroom. Eager and stylish young sales assistants, wearing ever-so-fashionable sunglasses, snuck off to take phone calls in between showing cars to clients.


The cars themselves were divided into two categories: the cheaper Chinese brands and more expensive Western branded but still made in China cars. The people looking over the expensive cars had a self conscious swagger in their step, telling me why such a public place would be chosen to sell cars.


The Chinese cars were being browsed mainly by couples in their thirties or early forties, who tended to look both slightly intimidated and nervous and proud all at the same time.


If so moved, you could commission a variety of rather tacky and vulgar photo portraits, the epitome of which was the eighteenth century lord and lady of the manor one above.


The square also had a thriving pigeon population that provided a wonderful source of entertainment for children passing through the square: I watched as one toddler started to chase the birds, before getting frightened and running away, making it look like the birds were chasing her!


  1. Sorry to hear you couldn't get in sans passport. What a mess with the conflicting advice on carrying one.
    I want to report how much I enjoyed Reading Lolita in Tehran. Nafisi did a great job of using 20th century classics to illustrate her points, and I enjoyed revisiting those classics from a different perspective. The book made me think about how women must feel who are forced to cover themselves and disguise their true selves and true feelings. I'm glad you mentioned it earlier, or I may not have made locating a copy a priority.

  2. How frustrating! A friend of mine kept her passport in a muslin "pocket" with a long muslin loop around it that she hung around her neck (under her clothing) so that it was well attached to her at all times when she was out and about. That would be easy for a tourist, but probably inconvenient for a resident.