We were standing outside Xi'an railway station waiting for the new volunteers to arrive when a police officer walked up and hit Teresita, a volunteer working in Ningxia. The reason? She was holding five umbrellas in her hand and the police officer, here to protect us of course, thought she was an umbrella-seller. There are a few points, however, that he over-looked. Firstly, the umbrella-sellers at the station usually only have one umbrella out at a time, so as not to attract attention. They shuffle up, show you their merchandise with a whisper of the price, then shuffle away if you don't want to buy one. Teresita clearly had too many umbrellas and was standing with us chatting for way too long. Secondly, she had the umbrellas behind her back so, given that we were facing her, we couldn't even have seen what she was selling. Thirdly, all of the foreigners (Teresita is also a 'foreigner' but with dark hair this isn't immediately obvious from behind) that she was apparantly selling umbrellas to were already holding umbrellas up as it was raining. Our one Chinese companion couldn't even understand what the tussle was about, until I piped up to the police officer that we were all together and the umbrellas were for the friends we were meeting from the train. A little bit of thought can go a long way. [photo to follow]

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