After we bought all the stuff at Panjiayuan yesterday, we took the bus home, and this old Chinese man wearing Harry Potter glasses immediately looked at us and asked me in Chinese if I were a Uyghur (a Chinese Muslim). When I said that we were American, this man got super excited!
For the remainder of our ride, he spearheaded the rest of the bus into asking us questions about what we were doing in China, what we thought of China, etc. The best part was that, at every stop, he'd announce to the people coming on that I looked Uyghur but in fact was American.
We didn't really understand a lot of what he was saying, particularly when he launched into some diatribe against (in support of?) French tourists. But it was so exciting for us to engage and have a legitimate conversation.
I was so happy for his mistake for a more personal reason. People have often told me that I can "pass" as many different ethnicities--in Mexico they thought I was Argentinean, in Chile they thought I was Mexican (I think the gist is that I have somewhat olive skin and dark features so can blend more easily into a crowd in many parts of the world...until I speak or turn so people can see my schnoz in profile)--and a few friends joked before I came here that it'd be the first time I'd so obviously not be a part of the society I was living in. But turns, out, I can still pass as Chinese--just as a marginalized religious/ethnic minority!!