Cold Currency – Yew Leong Lee

Yew Leong Lee, a Singaporean writer and video artist, writes about his relationship with a migrant worker during a visit to Shanghai, in the New York Times:

In 2005, I took a year off from my graduate studies in the States to teach art at a university in Kunming, in southwestern China. At 28, I looked as young ” and as Chinese ” as the students I was supposed to teach, and although I was raised in Singapore and lived in New York, I grew up in a family that spoke Mandarin and practiced Chinese customs. Any delusions I might have entertained about passing incognito, however, were quickly dispelled. Two weeks into my stay, I was negotiating the price on a camcorder battery when the shopkeeper cut me off with: “Don’t bargain. You’re rich.” My branded clothes and spiked hair gave me away as a first-worlder; my relative affluence was not something I could hide. On the other hand, I doubt he knew I was gay. [Full text]

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