Immediately following the close of the ceremony, we were given a bit of time to walk around and talk to some of the students and staff that had watched the proceedings. Finding myself to be in amazingly good spirits, I was eager to try and start conversations with anyone that would talk. Many people were very shy at first, and most had a good laugh when I tried to start the conversation in Chinese. “Very good, very good!”, they would say, and then change straight back into English. Even if my Chinese was better than their English, the greater portion of people that I spoke with didn’t want to remain in their native tongue.
A few minutes into this mass-mingling, a girl approached me with a bunch of her friends trailing behind, most of them giggling wildly. She stood right in front of me, and in very shy English asked the famous question. “Excuse me, but, handsome boy can take picture with me?”. Seeing nothing but good times ahead, I said of course and we stood together while her friend pointed the camera, and, with a solid Qiezi! (Transliteration for ‘Cheese’!, this term actually means eggplant), I was imprinted in the memory card of a random Chinese girl. We looked at the picture for a moment, and then she thanked me profusely for the opportunity.
It was as thought the shell of shyness had been broken. As soon as the first picture had been taken I found myself surrounding by an endless stream of people wanting the same thing. One person would have their picture taken, then the photographer would quickly change spots with the photographed and the process would begin again. Handsome boy, qiezi, switch. On many occasions (as is demonstrated by the later taken picture shown above) a photo that started with a specific set of people often turned into a free-for-all, with many random people gathering into the shot. Whether these folks knew one another seemed to have little effect on their methods. They were united by the lens of the camera. Invariably marked by the signature peace sign, the taking of photographs appeared to be less for the memories and more for the sheer participation in the moment itself. This was photography as a sport.