Maria Holland

Exploring XiaDa

In Uncategorized on August 27, 2009 at 3:59 am

After getting back from the internet cafe last night, I laid down for a little nap. I set my alarm and expected to be woken up by either that or my roommate returning. I don’t know if it was jet lag or just me being me, but it was several hours (after my alarm was set) before I woke up. My body was loving sleeping in a bed (even a rock-hard one), so I just went back to sleep. I guess I missed out on whatever the UNC kids were doing, which was really sad. Also, my roommate never came home, so I still have yet to meet her.

This morning I woke up around 6. I spent the first hour or so organizing my stuff in my suitcases (although I still can’t move in because my roommate’s stuff is all over.) Despite the things that have gone wrong since I got here, I am very pleased to note that 1) all my suitcases arrived in Xiamen on time, 2) nothing was broken or damaged, and 3) I haven’t discovered anything I forgot yet!

I was a little bit down while doing this, because I’m kind of overwhelmed by all the things that I don’t know about the year ahead. But I had my spirit lifted in several small ways. I listened to my iPod, put some good dance music on, and soon found myself grooving along as I moved around. Secondly, I opened a roll of quarters that I had brought as gifts and discovered that they are from American Samoa. I found this hilarious because I don’t know anything about American Samoa and, frankly, didn’t think they were enough of a part of America to get their own quarter! What a fabulous gift from my homeland . . .

After a little while, I decided it was time to go out, because XiaDa was not going to explore itself! I took my purse (containing passport, wallet, camera, soap, kleenex/toilet paper, dictionary, etc.), grabbed a little notepad, and set out, drawing a little map as I went. It is certainly not to scale or anything, but it’s a good start and I’m feeling a lot more comfortable with the small area surrounding where I live. Basically, what I’m trying to say here is that everything I need to survive in China, I learned from SENEA.

After exploring, I joined some of the UNC students for lunch in the student cafeteria. The cafeteria is a large, open-air room (will they close it in winter? I don’t know) filled with tables with attached stools. The food is along one wall. You tell the lunchpeople (not all female!) what you want, using those ubiquitous Chinese words, “zhege” and “nage” (“this” and “that”). They serve it to you and punch the price into a little machine. To pay, you just wave your student card in front of it. Super easy, except I don’t have a student card, so I owe Ben 5 kuai (80 cents).

I’m glad I found these people. I don’t want to hang out with American exclusively, certainly, but right now there is so much for me to figure out and no one whose job it is to do so. They have almost a week of experience, which is more than I have right now! Anyway, they are actually a pretty good influence because they at least use Chinglish between themselves.

After lunch, I went to the supermarket with a few of them. Some things about it are very familiar and comforting because they remind me of Yikelong, our beloved supermarket in Hunchun. The dried stuff row, for instance, has the exact same packages of squid and chicken feet. They sell Alpenliebe candy here, too, which taste exactly like Creme Savers, and Orion snack cakes, which were Tanner’s favorite. But there are definitely differences. They have a lot more American brands here – I had seen Coke, Sprite, Snickers, and Dove before, but they also have M&M’s, Mountain Dew, and Lay’s. Granted, the Lays come in flavors like blueberry and kiwi and Sichuan spicy and Mexican Red Tomato, but still . . .

I couldn’t find the Chinese brands of shampoo and conditioner that I liked last year, so I ended up buying Pantene (one of the many American brands they stocked) but as the American brands had less English than the Chinese ones, I’m only hoping that I got both a shampoo and conditioner.

One main thing on my shopping list was notebooks, and I was more than satisfied with their selection. I got some pads with official-looking 厦门大学 (Xiamen DaXue, my school) headings on them, some postcards (get excited, all of you who gave me your addresses!), and a few cute notebooks. I bought one of them because of the inspirational message on the front. I think we would all do well to heed its advice:

“However mean your life is,
meet it and live it; do not shut it and call
it hard names. it is not so bad as you are.
it looks poorest when you are richest.”

It took me a while to find France bread, because it seemed like they only sold French Bread (way less cool), but I finally did. It was even harder to find my favorite yogurt drink, Mengniu, but I was eventually able to reward myself with delicious creamy strawberry yogurt.

Yogurt in hand, I went shopping for a cell phone at China Mobile, which I had heard had English speakers. I was greeted immediately with a “How may I help you?” I bought a Nokia cell phone and SIM card for 380 kuai ($54). The prices here are a welcome relief after America. I pay 5 yuan (80 cents) a month, but that comes with 50 free text messages. It costs .1 yuan (1.5 cents?) per minute to call someone, but receiving calls and texts is free. If I’m in a different province, then it is “very expensive” to call people – 0.6 yuan (9 cents) a minute. I think I’m going to spring the extra 6 yuan a month for caller ID, too.

The young woman who helped me spoke very good English. While someone set up my contract, we talked a little bit. She asked if I was a student, where I came from, if I’d been to China before, etc. When I told her I had been to Jilin, she literally took a step back – it turns out that she’s from Changchun, the capital of Jilin! She studying Oceanography here at Xiamen, which surprised me because with her level of English, I figured she was studying to be an interpreter or something. When I finally got my phone, we exchanged numbers and she helped me enter hers into my phone book. So I now have a Chinese friend!

I’m still kind of high off that victory – a cell phone AND my first 中国朋友 (Chinese friend)!

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