After the wang ba, I retired to my room for the rest of the lunch break. I decided to check out the TV in my room and flipped through the 60 available channels. My favorite show was a speaking competition for foreigners! Each contestant was given a fan with 5 Chinese phrases on it, and they had to incorporate those into a story. I was really impressed with their speaking ability . . . I could have closed my eyes and pretended they were Chinese!
I met Amy at 2:30 to figure out the rest of my registration. We went back up to the OEC building, where Amy talked to one of the workers. He looked up my information and verified that I am supposed to be here now! After he made a quick phone call to the next building, we went over there and I got refunded 900 yuan! (In case you don’t remember, when I first arrived they told me I was almost three weeks early and made me pay for moving in early, 60 yuan a night, for a total of 1,020 yuan. I was actually only two nights early, though, so I got most of my money back.)
I felt so triumphant. I’ve been here for three days now and have only added about 10 words to my Chinese vocabulary, but my knowledge of Chinese culture and experience of getting stuff done in this country has gotten so much better. I really wanted to stand at the top of the stairs (these stairs are intense, seriously) with my arms up and yell “MEI GUO REN!” (American!). But I didn’t.
Amy wasn’t done helping me yet. She walked me to the North Gate, which is a major bus stop, helped me buy a map of Xiamen (5 yuan), and then got on the #21 bus (1 yuan). She got off before me, but pointed me on my way to the mall, where I spent a few hours eating and looking around.
Eventually I realized I’d better get to church. I went down to the bus stop and went straight for the BRT (Bus Rapid Transit) bus waiting there. It didn’t seem very rapid, though, because I stood there for several minutes outside a locked bus with no driver. Another bus pulled up and I got excited, but everyone got off and they locked it, too. I was starting to panic so I went over and got on the first bus that I thought was going the right way. Well, some day I’ll learn my lesson, but it wasn’t today – buses go both ways, and I went the wrong way. Go figure.
After realizing what I had done, I managed to get on the BRT going the right way, and then took a taxi from the last stop. He dropped me off at the entry to a pretty seedy alley – again, go figure. I ran in there, asking everyone I saw “我找教堂，你知道吗?” (I’m looking for a church, do you know it?) Chinese don’t like to admit not knowing directions, so I got a few bad leads before finding the church. I stomped through some dirty puddles, turned a corner, and then saw my church – big, beautiful, and distinctly Catholic.
Despite being 15 minutes after the published time of 6:15, Mass hadn’t started. When it did, it was pretty easy to follow everything except the readings, although I only caught single words or very short phrases – God, Jesus said, why, because, we, you, etc. The only thing I picked up was the ending: “Thanks be to God”. I haven’t even figured out “And also with you” yet!
After Mass, I tried to find a way home. I was walking in the right direction when I was distracted by the sound of music. I wavered for a few seconds before deciding to go investigate, and I’m glad I did. As far as I can tell, I happened upon a talent show thing. It was mostly singing, but one guy did some tricks. The performers were called up by name, but they were sitting in the audience and weren’t dressed fancy, so it seemed like anyone could sign up to sing. According to the guy next to me, they do this every Friday and Saturday night, from 7:30 to 10:30. I didn’t particularly love the music, but I enjoyed the experience as a whole. It seemed authentically Chinese, with cigarette smoke wafting by every few minutes and a little boy running around in split bottom (more like gaping-bottom) pants.
From there, it wasn’t too far to a bus stop where I caught the #71 bus back to campus (another victory!). It dropped me off at the North Gate, where I was again distracted by the sound of music. Following it to its source, I came upon a group of people dancing. Classy dancing! A woman was sitting outside, so I asked her what was going on. Apparently they do this every Wednesday and Saturday night, from 7:30 to 10:30. I asked her why she wasn’t dancing and she said she didn’t have a partner, so we took to the dance floor together. The first dance was really simple, but then I was asked to dance by a variety of men and they got harder. One was almost like swing dancing and involved a lot of twirling; I absolutely loved it. Another found me sweeping across the floor with long steps.
I left after only about 5 dances because I needed to shower, but I absolutely intend to go back. I was so jealous reading about Whitney’s experience at a ball in Austria, but now I’m thinking it’s okay. I couldn’t believe my fortune – I actually found myself “leaking happiness”, a la Kate. Basically, the moral of this story is “Always follow the music”.
Especially after such a slow start this morning, I can’t believe how wonderful today was. I was vindicated on the issue of registration! I don’t think I saw a single foreigner after leaving campus. I managed to have a few perfect (albeit simple) interactions with local people, and learned a few new Chinese words. I had my first excursion on a Xiamen bus and managed to get everywhere I wanted to go. Plus . . . dancing!
感谢天柱 (Thanks be to God!)