Last night, I went out with Lenira to a club called The Key. It’s was probably the most Western-looking place I’d seen since coming to China. I mean, there were certain features that just screamed “China!”: the large-screen TV’s that were constantly playing either an Avril Lavigne concert or America’s Funniest Home Videos . . . the woman who walked around with a broom and dustpan, sweeping the floor . . . and, at least for part of the night, the slight predominance of Chinese people (although the club had the highest concentration of foreigners I’ve seen here in Xiamen, by far).
They had a live Filipino band that was absolutely amazing. I did not expect this, not from a live cover band, and certainly not in China. They had some incredible voices – they did The Black Eyed Peas, Lady Gaga, Alicia Keys, Metallica, Sean Kingston, Bob Marley, Jai Ho from Slumdog Millionaires, and more, and sounded good the whole time.
A little later on in the night, the rest of our group (Lenira’s friends) showed up – Joao and Antone, also from Cape Verde who I had met before; Anastasia and her husband, from Russia; and a Japanese guy. I really really like her friends, so I had a good time hanging out with them.
We got back around 3:30, so we slept in today. Seriously, I always have the best roommates, and Leinira is a perfect match me for me. I slept in til 10 or so, and she slept past noon (although she may have gone to lab at some point during the morning).
I chilled out most of the afternoon. Among other things, I started a budget for this year. I think it’s necessary because I had a little money trouble this week. I’m going to blame it all on China, because 1) it’s easy to do so, and 2) it’s kind of true. According to the terms of my scholarship, the government is supposed to deposit 1,500 yuan into my Bank of China account on the 15th of every month. I stupidly counted on that to happen, and by the time I realized it wasn’t going to, was down to 50 yuan. I made a quick transfer and now have money again, but those two of three days where I didn’t made me think a little bit more about the money I’m spending.
Because I am both my father’s daughter and a ridiculous nerd in my own right, I keep pretty good financial records, so this afternoon I took a look at these last few weeks. Since coming to China on August 26th (24 days ago), I have spent about $650. This was a lot more than I would have guessed, so I took a closer look at how it broke down. First of all, I’ve had to spend $350 on things that I consider “required” – my visa and health examination, for example, as well as some deposits that I should get back at the end of the year. The next largest expense is food – almost $150 so far – but spread out over 24 days, that’s just over $6 a day. My new goal is 1000 yuan per month for food, which is just under $5 a day. We’ll see how that goes!
This evening I decided to try Chinese Mass again. I ran late again, especially after taking a long-cut through the largest and smelliest fish market in Asia, and arrived just in time to awkwardly squeeze myself into a pew near the front. I had done a little bit of “studying” this week in preparation for Chinese Mass, and it definitely helped. I got the main texts offline, added pinyin (pronunciation) and made a vocab list. With the help of these, I was able to follow the service alright, mumbling along in some approximation of the right words and catching glimpses of meaning in what I was saying.
I was a little bit bummed because, one again, everyone poured out of the church and went home immediately after Mass ended. A Taiwanese couple did talk to me, though, so I was hanging around until the priest and deacon came out. After I introduced myself to Deacon Joseph, he jokingly said something about me teaching him English. Unlike every other time a Chinese guy says this, I jumped on it immediately and said “Yes! If you’ll teach me Chinese!” We made plans to meet twice a week, and I told him that I wanted to learn Catholic words, so I’m really excited because he seems like the best person to learn this from. It’s also more appealing to me because his English is already not bad and improving it would be so beneficial to the Church. I’m also hoping that he can function as my connection to the community because I know that they have events but they’re announced in Chinese. For instance, the church’s feast day (Our Lady of the Rosary) is on October 11th and they’re having a novena leading up to it.
I returned to XiaDa and went straight to dancing. I had a wonderful time, but made what may have been a major cultural faux paus at the end. Just like at church, there seems to be surprisingly little (i.e., absolutely no) sense of community or even friendship among these people who dance together for several hours twice a week. The minute the lights come on at 10, they all change their shoes, get on their bikes, and go home. This has made it really hard for us (Karolina and I) to get to know any of them, because our only conversations take place in Chinese, over loud music, while concentrating on our movements and occasionally twirling around. I thought it would be a great idea to ask some of the people that have been most welcoming to go to dinner sometime before dancing, and according to Chinese custom, Karolina and I would pay. I asked Wu laoshi about this and perhaps somewhere along the line it came off as me personally asking him to dinner alone, which was definitely not the intention. It was awkward, especially when he responded “Is this necessary?”, but I think we rescued the situation from total disaster. He suggested we “go Dutch”, so I guess we’ll see how this turns out next week . . .
Tonight while dancing, I had a conversation that was very timely after my last post on tones. I asked him if he was a teacher, and he said yes, so I asked him what he taught. Well, I tried to ask him what he taught, but “nǐ jiāo shénme?" is “What do you teach?” and “nǐ jiào shénme” is “What is your name”, and I realized that as soon as the words were out of my mouth. Considering that he answered with “My name is Zeng”, I’m guessing I picked the wrong tone. Better luck next time . . .
Finally, a quick update on the water situation: for once, life is less máfan (hassle) than expected, because our water supply has not been affected in the slightest. We’ve washed our hands and faces, flushed the toilet, and taken showers with no problems. We are convinced that this whole thing was conceived as a stimulus for the bucket industry, because you know that every single resident of Xiamen went out and bought at least one bucket (we bought two). You just never know.
Well, it’s a half hour past midnight and I’m headed out to a beach party – from what I hear, it is the ex-pat event of the season. You know we say, party every day!