Apparently I'm not hip to the Chinese version of April Fool's Day, or as it was China-fied to me later, "Happy Foolish Festival!" Twice today I have been duped by some of my Chinese counterparts.
The first happened shortly after lunch when a female acquaintance I know sent me the following two messages:
SMS Message 1; 12:54pm: "Love You !"
SMS Message 2; 12:55pm: "Love you ! Happy foolish festival ! ;-)"
And then later that day, my Chinese tutor, also by SMS, shared this with me:
Teacher: "There are some people want to play American football, but they are novice. Would you please be their coach?"
Me: "Sounds interesting. I'm not sure I'm the best coach around. Who are they?"
Teacher: "Many beautiful girls and an April fool!"
In the first case, I had some suspicions that this particular girl harbored some feelings for me. It was probably the constant stream of text messages and late-night phone calls that tipped me off! So as you can understand, receiving an "I love you" message out of nowhere sent a small chill down my spine. And considering the fact that her father is a retired military general, I was a little unnerved for the next two minutes. As for the second case, I'm not even sure how this classifies as a joke. I was actually more disappointed than anything else. Coaching an all Chinese girls American football team would have made a excellent story.
The point here is that to truly classify as a successful prank, you have to convince someone of something that falls outside their normal scope of reason. In Beijing, neither of my scenarios classify. Ask any red-blooded, white man in Beijing if he's ever had a local girl express (out of nowhere!) her emotions for him and he normally has at least 2-3 stories. It's just that common. And yes, the football story did seem a little odd to me, but considering what local students do to experience American culture at times...I really wasn't surprised. It's the equivalent of me learning to speak Chinese while experience the culture by learning Mahjong or the proper way to mix green tea and Chivas!
Apparently, I'm not the foreigner affected. Since I had already been the victim of two jokes, I decided to share the love and play a few of my own on some expat friends. I started off by convincing a Spanish friend that I'd hooked up at some bar with a friend of hers. And yet, despite her knowing that I've never done this, she completely bought it, right up until the point I reminded her what day it was. To my surprise, she had already been tricked twice as well, but fell for this one.
I then tried a slight variant of the first joke with a second friend, but this time using my first victim as the girl I hooked up with. Similar story, same result. Except this time, he actually called the girl I was supposedly involved with to dig up some dirt. And since she was in on the joke, she just played coy enough to have him believing what happened. He was actually glad to hear that our mutual friend had found a "quality" guy after all the losers she had dated. So feeling a little guilty, I told him it was just a joke. Yet strangely enough, he refused to believe me and now thinks I'm hiding something from him.
Was my little prank that good? Absolutely not. It's just seems that so many strange and dramatic things happen here in Beijing that no one is even capable of distinguishing fiction from reality. Basically, anything that has more than a 15% chance of happening can and will be considered the truth. Two years ago, you couldn't convince me that the Chinese government could control the weather, but I've seen it! I wouldn't have even believed a driving system based on rapid swerving and repetitive honking could get anyone between two points, but I make it to work every morning.
I couldn't even believe the government could convince all the people in Beijing to stand in line and stop spitting, but...oh wait...
Happy Foolish Festival!