Maria Holland

International Day of Climate Action

In Uncategorized on October 25, 2009 at 2:41 am

Settle in for a long update, because today was wonderful.  With a side of pure goodness.  Smothered in awesome.

It all started just after midnight, when Leinira and I went out.  Leinira is a biochemistry grad student here and is ALWAYS in lab.  It’s really lame because she’s a wonderful roommate but we don’t get to hang out much.  She finally got a day off (rare even on weekends) so we took advantage of the opportunity to go out.

We went to The Key for 3 hours of great music, dancing, and watching foreign men try to hook up with Chinese women.  Hilariously, this also included Chinese women obviously showing absolutely no interest in the foreign men, and said foreign men totally not catching on.  In addition to people-watching, there are always TVs placed everywhere that your eyes rest, so I got to watch Michael Jackson and Beyonce dance for several hours.  I am becoming more and more familiar with Michael Jackson’s work, and it’s not because of a resurgence in popularity since his death – it’s because I came to China.  Same goes for Avril Lavigne . . .

This morning I woke up to a phone call.  This is almost never pleasant, and even more so when the person on the other end of the line is speaking Chinese.  I generally try to give myself 15 minutes after waking up before demanding such things of my brain, but today had no choice.  It was Jessie, a girl from the XiaDa environmental club.  October 24th is the International Day of Climate Action, and after I happened to discover that there was an event in Xiamen, she was planning on accompanying me to it.  In the planning process, she told me that it was on October 25th, which should have been a warning to me . . . anyway, it turns out that I had been right – it was today – and I had about 3 hours notice to go.  Hence, instead of going with 2 friends and this Chinese girl, I ended up going by myself.

It was okay, though!  I took two buses to Jimei, which is on the mainland to the north of Xiamen, because the event was being held on the campus of Jimei University.  Now, any Chinese person will tell you that there is no prettier campus than Xiamen in all of China (except maybe Wuhan), but I think I may need to get out more.  I thought JiDa was beautiful!  More so because of the buildings than the scenery, maybe, but still.  They have an impressive entrance with a fountain and everything – eat your heart out, TU!


I had made some friends on the bus, so they kindly accompanied me until I found what I was looking for.  They were three freshman girls – studying either French or law, I’m not certain which one – and seemed impossibly young.  Eventually we found the event, which was actually quite a feat because, at the time of my arrival, it consisted of a few people standing with a sign.

Jimei DaXue has a lot less foreigners than XiaDa, with its Overseas Education College, so I caused quite – possibly eclipsing, momentarily, impending climate-change-related doom.  The students were all very nice and very excited to 1) talk to me!  2) in Chinese!  It was wonderful.  The only action I noticed in the first hour was the posting of various signs, so I didn’t feel too bad for distracting them.

Things got more interesting later.  One guy read something (possibly material, as I heard both 350 [the desired concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere] and 390 [the current concentration] mentioned) while the rest of the students stood in a group with their fists over their heart.  At the end, they all shouted in unison; it was mildly terrifying.


There was also a painting of some scenery that was laid down on the ground.  Two boxes of coal were placed on the ground and students took turns getting their feet dirty and walking across the painting.  It was pretty visual – and, based on my experiences in Jilin with coal, very Chinese.


Near the end, they put up a banner that we were asked to sign – our names, as well as an idea for helping the environment.  In honor of Jesse, I wrote “No more coal – nuclear!”, but later changed it to “自己带筷子”(bring your own chopsticks) because I could write that in Chinese.  (Also, seriously, it is scary to think of 1.4 billion Chinese people using two small sticks of wood each, three times a day, and then throwing them away.  Think about it!)


We were set up outside the cafeteria, and they asked my help to recruit students passing by . . . this was pretty much a fail.  Although I do know how to say “sign here” and “protect the environment”, I generally failed to produce coherent sentences connecting these ideas.


After a few hours of fun and friend-making, I had to go.  Apparently they do lots of stuff, and invited me to come back.  I just might, although it is a long way (over an hour).  I really enjoyed my visit and, honestly, at least a small part of me wishes I went to JiDa.  I think it’s not quite as good a school as Xiamen, which is one of the top universities in the nation.  That may sound like a disadvantage, but XiaDa students seem to spend all their time studying, whereas these students seemed interested in hanging out.  Novel idea, that.  Also, I seriously think it’s a beautiful school (especially during the sunset I got to witness).


I took the bus back to Xiamen, where I arrived just in time for Mass.  I really need to start getting there earlier, as going to Chinese Mass is quite an ordeal for me.  I have to grab a song book, find a seat in the crowded pews, get out my papers, find a pencil, open my Bible to the right pages, cover my bare shoulders, etc.  I definitely catch more and more each time, and can now almost sing along with the Mass parts out of the songbook instead of having to look at my copy, which has pinyin pronunciation!

I had to hurry from Mass to get back to campus, where I was late for the first meeting of the environmental club.  We started off by sitting with our zodiac signs and introducing ourselves, then digressed into several all-Chinese PowerPoints that I didn’t understand.  Good thing I turned down that request to be translator!

I was also tired by this time.  I had speaking only Chinese all day, and it had been a long day.  This was obvious in my steadily-decreasing Chinese ability.  For example, I told someone that I had been in China for “二个月”, which is a mistake you make in your first week or so.  [Chinese has two characters for the number 2 – 二 and 两 – and they are used in different ways.  It’s really not that hard, but I managed to mess it up.]  It also took me a ridiculous amount of time to figure out that the word 地球 (literally, “ground” and “ball”) in the presentation was referring to the Earth, and not some sport I hadn’t head of.  [In Chinese, the names of most sports include the word 球 – 棒球 (baseball),篮球 (basketball),排球 (volleyball),乒乓球 (ping-pong),足球 (soccer),etc.]  Sorry, that probably mainly made sense to those of you who know a little Chinese – so basically . . . Chris.  Anyone else?

I left early because I had already missed out on half of dancing and wasn’t going to let an opportunity to wear my new shoes go to waste!  I love them and I love dancing, if I haven’t mentioned that yet.  I had a couple of exceptionally good dances with exceptionally happy men (even the usually-grouchy one) and learned some new steps!

But wait, it gets better.  As 10:00 (the end) approached, they put on another song – one that I hadn’t heard before, more disco/clubbing music than ballroom or Latin.  Lester, the Filipino guy who started coming with Karolina, said that it was freestyle dance.  I thought he was joking, but quickly joined in once I saw the other women breaking it down on the dance floor.  It was the MOST FUN EVER.  The men all packed up their things and headed out, leaving Lester and I with about eight 30-50 year-old women who I had only ever seen dance things like the waltz and tango.  They were so much fun, and seemed to appreciate all the moves I brought with me from America.  It was wonderful to see them all smiling and laughing!  I hope we do this every week.  Twice.  At least.

PS – Randomly came across this picture, taken in Xiamen, in NYT’s Pictures of the Day from yesterday, October 24th.  See slide #4.

  1. “自己带筷子”(bring your own chopsticks)”

    I might be able to write the first, second, and maybe the fifth characters in this phrase, but the third and fourth, Yikes! Is it just a coincidence that the fourth symbol looks like the Boston subway map:-)?

    Sounds like long, productive day.

    • Those are not even close to being hard characters!!! One of the worst simplified characters is 遍, and some of the traditional characters in Taiwan just look like black blobs – like library for instance: 圖書館.

      Believe me, I could tell you stories about horrible Chinese characters . . .

  2. What a day! I could feel your smile all the way over here!

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