I had lunch and an interesting conversation with Carlos (from Spain) today. We talked a lot about America – race and affirmative action, immigration and illegal immigration, economics and the prices of housing, and our constitutions. Apparently the Spanish Constitution (from the late 70’s) states housing as a right, which seems a little weird to me. Our constitution seems more abstract than physical – for example, it protects the right to bear arms but does not consider owning a gun to be a right. The American constitution is the oldest and shortest still in use, and Carlos asked if it was about time for a new one. I don’t think so! I like our constitution . . . I like that it is relatively timeless, and is supplemented by laws and the interpretation of the Supreme Court to be more relevant to current issues. Anyways, I think the entire nation would come to a dead halt for a decade if we tried to write a new constitution . . .
In the afternoon, I headed out for the International Ferry Quay to buy my tickets to Taiwan (since the ones I had bought were canceled for some reason). I was kind of tired, though, and kept dozing off on the bus ride. Each time I woke up, I tried to figure out where we were, but although I’m quite familiar with the XiaDa-ZhongShanLu part of the island, we were far north of my usual stomping grounds. I didn’t figure it out until we were on a bridge that seemed suspiciously large for such a small island. It was . . . because it was headed to the mainland.
By this point I was way too late to buy my tickets, and had to just get on a bus and head back to ZhongShanLu for Mass. I wasn’t late, though! In fact, I arrived early enough to catch the tail end of a Rosary before Mass. I felt a lot more comfortable with Chinese Mass this week. I think part of it was that it was my third time going (second with a copy of the words), but part of it was definitely my session with the Deacon this week. I understood more of what I said instead of just reading the pinyin in front of me. I managed to catch a few words in the prayers, homily, and announcements besides “Jesus” and pronouns – some of my new words were ‘glory’ (光荣) and ‘grace’ (圣宠), which were very helpful. I was even able to respond a few times without having to read (也与你的心灵同在, or “And also with you”)!
I almost forgot to mention this – we lost power for a few minutes during the Gloria. I was really struck by the lack of reaction this elicited, and wondered how often it happens. I didn’t mind at all, although I couldn’t read along anymore; I have some very good memories of unplugged Masses – ice storms at TU, for instance.
After Mass, some people that I met last week asked me if I had eaten yet, which I hadn’t. We went to dinner together, and they took me to a nice restaurant. (It was the nicest place I’ve been to yet, but that doesn’t really say much as I usually eat for $1.50 or so.) Carmen, John, and Peter are all Cantonese-Canadian expats and they’ve been really welcoming to me. It turns out that Carmen and John are going to be in Taibei next week as well, so I’m going to join them for Mass at the church they went to when they lived there.
The only downside to this unexpected dinner date was that I missed dancing. It’s going to be 2 weeks before I can go again – how will I survive?!?
Anyway, today is my one-month anniversary here in Xiamen. Today’s adventure to the mainland made me realize that I have lived the last month not only on an island, but I have not traveled further than 5 miles from where I live! What a month!
I’ve been doing some thinking over the last few days, evaluating my first month here. While this isn’t the longest I’ve been in China yet (last summer was 60 days), this time is different because it marks about one-tenth of the total duration, instead of half. This year has the additional challenge of transitioning from the excitement of life in a new place to the reality of living there for an entire year (or 11 months, but still).
I think balance is a really big issue in this – for instance, when deciding what to eat every day. I have some favorite foods here and know where to get them, but each time I go to eat I have to decide whether to try something new, which is hit-or-miss, or just eat an old favorite. This also goes for free time – do I explore something new or go someplace I’ve been before?
So here are the highlights of this month:
- Best New Friend: Leinira – she is truly wonderful.
- Favorite Thing to Do: Dancing – you probably all knew that was coming :)
- Best purchase: My residence permit?
- Best Discovery: Magnum bars!
- Favorite Food: 西红柿炒蛋 (tomato and egg)
- Best Story: the mercury spill, I think
- Biggest Victory: registering!!
- Most Useful New Word: 奖学金 (scholarship)
Well it’s a Saturday night, and you know what that means . . . homework. Because I have class on Sunday.