Maria Holland

Welcome to My Home

In Uncategorized on September 13, 2009 at 12:21 am

I still haven’t found a foolproof way of getting unfettered access to the internet, so while I can do certain things on WordPress and Facebook, some functions are beyond my ability. I can no longer reply to comments on my own blog, or comment myself, though I can read them. (I’ve been trying to reply with the answer to the trivia question I posed last week – the Dutch are the tallest nation in the world, although certain subgroups of other countries, like the Masai, are taller.) I also can’t accept friend requests on facebook – sorry Uncle Mike and Aunt Beth!

I slept in a little bit today, talked to my grandpa and a cousin on Skype, and then went out to venture downtown again. I started back at PC World, where I looked at the selection of electronic dictionaries with fresh eyes. It’s a very frustrating search because they’re intended for Chinese people learning English, and lack a feature that is absolutely necessary for English speakers learning Chinese – pinyin. Pinyin is the standard romanization of Chinese – basically, the pronunciation of characters. Without pinyin, I can’t read a character that I don’t know, because characters do not clearly indicate their pronunciation. It doesn’t seem like this feature should be very hard to add, but only one of the 6 dictionaries I looked at today had it.

From there I walked around a bit – this time, going in the right direction. I found some interesting things – a relatively cheap Westernish restaurant and a store that makes 名片 (name cards) – but the most exciting discovery was on the bus ride home. They showed a commercial for a board game store, showing dozens of Chinese people happily playing all sorts of board games, including Catan and Ticket to Ride! I have no idea where this store is, but I WILL FIND IT!

This evening I went dancing again. I was way late, but had the best time. I think each time is the best time, pretty much. Dad always told me I’m prettier when I smile, and I hope that’s true, because I think my mouth froze into a smile. The stodgy guy was much more forgiving today, I got to dance with the energetic one, and Wu laoshi spun me until I was dizzy.

On the way back to my dorm, I was listening to my iPod. I really haven’t listened to it at all since coming to Xiamen, much less when I’ve been out, but I did a little bit today as a treat. I was walking/dancing down the street, eating my Magnum bar and exuding happiness, when I ran into Elena, one of the UNC students out looking for something to do. We ended up walking and talking for almost two hours, which was a wonderful end to the night.

Somewhat in line with today’s theme of adventuring around town, I think it’s about time to give a rough tour of my home here in Xiamen. Some corresponding pictures can be found on my Picasa site.

I live on the 4th floor in 南光五 (NanGuan 5), which has a total of 7 stories (and no elevator). I know that the 1st floor is for females and the 2nd and 3rd are for males, but I think my floor is for families. I often hear babies crying and the shoes left outside everyone’s doors are all different styles and sizes.

It’s right next to 南光四 (NanGuan 4), an identical dorm (except actually mine is better). In addition to having a desk with a security guard/receptionist/government spy, we also have the laundry facilities and a small shoppette. The laundry room has about 10 washing machines (no dryers, that’s what clothes lines are for!) that you can use for the low price of 3 yuan . . . providing the aforementioned employee is not a) on a lunch break, b) on a smoke break, or c) simply unwilling to help you. The shoppette sells all sorts of bottled drinks (from a fridge, no less!), candy (including Snickers!), ramen, batteries, cigarettes, and probably condoms (because everyone sells condoms in China). Unlike in America, where convenience like this is not available without a high price tag, I’ve actually discovered that the woman’s prices are comparable to the other supermarkets and stores in town. Maybe there’s so little convenience in China that they don’t begrudge you any that you find?

On the other side of my dorm is the CaiQingJie building. The first floor contains the slow-food cafe, and the second floor has a slightly larger convenience store and the reception desk where I was told I had arrived three weeks early. The floors above that (3-10) are more dormitories for foreign students, and I have a lot of friends over there. CaiQingJie has a much better view of both campus and the ocean, especially on the high floors. Their rooms are also a bit larger and a bit nicer, but they don’t have balconies like we do. They do have an elevator, which I think is a huge deal, but for some reason it does not go to the first floor. There are elevator doors down there and everything, but they just aren’t hooked up to anything. How Chinese . . .

On the other side of CaiQingJie is the LianXing building, generally referred to as the Classroom Building. The first floor features the Office of Hell, where efficiency goes to die. Floors 2-4 contain classrooms.

Up an intimidating set of stairs is the Overseas Education College building, where registration took place and we are often sent on the false premises that answers await us up there. They don’t. A wonderful view of the sea, however, does.

These buildings make up the Overseas Education College part of the campus. They keep us apart from the Chinese students (to protect them or us, I don’t know). A few flights of stairs separate us from the nearest buildings, a gym, student cafeteria, and a Bank of China. The Bank of China is actually part of Bank Corner, which also features a Commercial Bank of China and an Industrial and Construction Bank of China. Turning between the banks leads down a street lined with shops – notably the MZone where I got my phone and a wonderfully convenient student supermarket. TWO cafeterias lie beyond that, as well as the entrance to the tunnel.

If I continue walking past the banks instead, I soon pass Coffee Lake on my right. It’s supposedly the Student Activity Center, but seems to mainly consist of the coffee/wireless bar and a lot of empty space. The cafe looks out on the large lake that seems to be the center of campus (and is also easily visible on Google Earth). On the opposite side of the lake is the Tall Building (although it surely has another name). I got to visit the top on my campus tour and took a beautiful panorama of campus. Turning by those buildings leads to the DaNan gate, which is the biggest bus stop by campus. It is also the location of both the [relatively] famous NanPuTuo Temple and the building where I go dancing.

If I continue walking past the Tall Building, I pass a garden on my left which is the site of English corner two nights a week. Then comes a short stroll down a broad avenue lined by palm trees, which takes you right by the almost-always busy basketball courts and the large sports field. Just after the swimming pool, you come to a large statue/fountain (which was turned on today for the first time) and the XiMen (West Gate). Just for reference, it is about half a mile from my dorm to XiMen.

The XiMen is where it’s happenin’, basically. Immediately across the street is a McDonald’s, KFC, and various other street food vendors, housed in and around a 4-story shopping building. Several streets over in either direction are filled with student apartments and small restaurants. A little further on is a large bookstore and Pizza Hut, big landmarks in the area.

Beyond the immediate vicinity of campus, it’s a lot harder to show you around using words. I would, however, like to share a panorama that I took of part of downtown Xiamen this afternoon.

Downtown.tif

I think it gives a pretty accurate picture of this city. Please notice the plethora of American fast-food restaurants – KFC, Pizza Hut, a very sprawling McDonald’s, and a Burger King right next to it. Also notice the traffic, and the vehicles which make up the majority of the road’s occupants – buses, taxis, and trucks, not personal cars. The huge column in the middle of the picture is holding up the BRT (Bus Rapid Transit) line that extends most of the way across the island. Also notice how about 1/3 of the picture shows construction projects.

This is China.

This is where I live.

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