I think it’s tradition – the last leg of any of my trips is the only one to ever be delayed. This time? Over an hour because of “military exercises” in Xiamen.
The flight was short – only an hour once we finally got going. I talked to the other man in my row a little bit at the end of the flight. He’s a businessman in Hong Kong who frequently travels to Xiamen. He gave me his business card – the first in what I’m sure will soon be a large collection.
As we headed in for the landing, I got my first real glimpse of Xiamen. The first thing I noticed is that the city is very tall. Unlike most American airports, which are surrounded by one- or two-story suburbia, the entire city seems to be comprised of buildings at least a dozen stories tall. The airport is very nice and modern-looking and easy to navigate and conspicuously lacking in Chinglish. There were more foreigners there, too, than the times I’ve flown into Yanji – as in, there were other foreigners there.
Outside, I joined an orderly line for taxis and soon my turn came. We fit my bags into the back and I said “I want to go to Xiamen University. Do you know it? How much will it cost?” in Chinese. The taxi driver was obviously not aware of what words are in my roughly-700-character vocabulary, and he quickly tried to go outside of my knowledge base. Eventually, though, he dumbed it down a little bit and we were able to converse – about the weather.
Driving through Xiamen was somewhat reminiscent of driving in Hunchun, but there were differences. There are no motorbikes allowed here, first of all, which means there are significantly less instances in which I am positive someone is about to die. Also, the main road that we took was divided by a wide, grassy median for most of the way, eliminating the common occurrence of cars driving on the wrong side of the road. Perhaps most importantly, cars and taxis seem to actually use the main road, leaving the side road open for bikes and pedestrians (as opposed to Hunchun, where cars crowd the sidewalks, forcing pedestrians to take to the streets for safety).
The list of differences could go on and on, though. There are palm trees EVERYWHERE. Their buildings look strikingly less Soviet, which I definitely appreciate. Some of them are not rectangular in shape! There are bus stops along the road – not just gaggles of people whom you assume are waiting for a bus, but covered areas with benches and buses waiting nearby.
I think the city is really beautiful from what I’ve seen so far. I was even more excited when I asked about the prettiest buildings yet and was told that they were part of my new university! I’m so looking forward to exploring.
First, though, I wanted to resolve this issue of where I’m going to be sleeping tonight. Dragging around three suitcases, a briefcase, and a purse does not really incline me towards immediate adventuring. We asked several people where the Overseas Education Office was and eventually found it, at which point I unloaded my bags, paid the driver, and he left.
It turned out the doors were locked, though. After a brief moment of despair (not panic; I knew I could walk somewhere but didn’t want to), I knocked at the door until someone came. He was also not fluent in 700-word-Chinese. Our successful exchanges consisted of me saying I was a student studying abroad, him asking if I had a visa, and him saying something about somebody being somewhere at 2:30 (it was then 1:00). He offered me water, which was hot and therefore disgusting, and a classroom, which was air-conditioned and very much appreciated. And here I wait, for these people to return to their place.