Maria Holland

What Good Is A Library Where You Can’t Check Out Books??

In Uncategorized on October 27, 2009 at 11:14 pm

I went out this morning with a personal goal of 20 pictures of my campus.  I didn’t quite make it, but I did get several good shots. 


Every time I climb the steps up to or down from my dorm, I am stunned again by the inconvenience of this staircase and I wonder how to capture it in a photo.  Basically, when going down the stairs you have to step up at an odd angle, from one step to a ledge that is about a foot higher.  Words and photos can’t begin to convey how awkward it is; it must be walked to be believe.  It is an accident waiting to happen – if I die here in China, it was the step. 


These ladies were walking down one of the paths by the lake, and I found their umbrellas quintessentially Chinese. 


Sorry to bore with another picture of the lake and the Tall building, but it is the epitome of XiaDa in a photo . . . and I think it’s pretty. 


One one side of the lake, there’s a tiny island connected by a small bridge.  It’s a beautiful part of campus, at night and in the daylight. 

My walk brought me to the library.  You need an e-card to get in, so I had never been.  Underneath is a small bookstore, which I checked out first.  They have a lot of textbooks, and I was excited to see that I could at least understand what subjects most of them were – for example, in the law section they had environmental, insurance, corporate, and international law.  I finally found the math/physics/engineering section and spent almost an hour looking through the selections.  I ended up buying a 工程力学习题 (engineering mechanics practice problem) book.  For most people, it’s written in two foreign languages: Chinese, and Engineerlish.  It was $3, and I’m hoping it can be good practice for my Chinese, engineering, and engineering Chinese.

I went in to the library next, found the math section, and grabbed a cool math problem book.  (At this point, please feel free to comment on how nerdy I am.)  When I went to check the book out, my e-card didn’t work.  The librarian fiddled with it for awhile and then asked me if I had filled out some paperwork that she showed me; I said no.  Apparently I was supposed to have downloaded some form, printed it, and gotten it signed by my department before trying to check out any books.  Oh, obviously, because that was so clearly stated . . . I was kind of annoyed, but I didn’t get really pissed off until I shared my story with some other foreigners.  Apparently even if I were to go through this 麻烦 (hassle), I still couldn’t check out books because foreigners don’t have library privileges.  I don’t know what the heck is up with that, but I plan on throwing a minor fit on Thursday until I get permission. 

I thought I was done with 麻烦 since I got my e-card.  Stupid me . . . 麻烦 is the national pastime. 

I didn’t have much time for lunch, so I bought some random stuff from the supermarket and brought it back home.  I tried the imitation Pringles I won at Bobing (actually quite like Pringles, but almost completely without salt) and olive juice (not as foul as I expected from something that looked like, smelled of, and consisted almost entirely of olives, but certainly not good). 


I also tried a fruit that Leinira brought home.  I asked her what it was and she replied “good”.  So, we’re not quite sure on the name, but I would describe it as: orange + grapefruit + sweet + bigger than your head.  Very good!

I headed for class this afternoon, but Yang laoshi was sick so I had an extra two hours.  I had an interesting conversation on Skype with a friend of mine who is also studying in China this semester.  We were talking about faith, and I was reminded of my last summer in China.  It wasn’t possible for me to go to Mass for the entire two months, and I really felt lost without the sacraments.  At the same time though, living with a house full of strong Christians – always praying together and watching them serve others – helped me realize another aspect of my faith.  There are so many parts of Christianity and while it is a little bit harder for me to keep God in my mind and my heart all the time without the regularity of my community back home, there are a lot of ways that I can grow and learn from the people around me this year. 

It also reminded me to send an email to my deacon here in Xiamen.  I had heard something in the announcements about a pilgrimage to Beijing in November, and I wanted to know more.  The reply I got was somewhat vague – he’s not sure if I can go because I’m a foreigner – but was exciting for another reason.  The whole email was in Chinese, and I understood it on the first read.  It wasn’t long or anything, but I was still a little bit proud that I didn’t have to look any words up in my dictionary or anything.  There’s so much positive reinforcement in language learning, when you understand something that you didn’t before! 

After listening class, I grabbed dinner and went to dance class, where we continued working on the basics – body posture, different foot positions, etc.  I had two exciting Chinese-learning moments.  First, the teacher was showing us how to do the 尖脚, or pointed toe move, and I understood what she said because I had learned that adjective 尖 (pointed) last summer.  The context then had been to differentiate between pointed shovels (尖铲) and square shovels (方铲).  Secondly, I learned ‘knees’ (膝盖).  This came after I mistakenly thought I had learned that 膝盖 meant “lock [your knees]”, though.  There’s no convenient way to distinguish verbs and nouns and adjectives in Chinese like there is in most romance languages, so it was a fairly honest mistake.  I definitely got a lot of laughs from my fellow dancers when I had an “Aha!” moment about 10 minutes later, pointing to my knees and saying “xigai!” like a toddler learning a new word. 

Lastly, I have a request for all you readers.  I have an English name and a Chinese name, and am now looking for a man’s name.  I am considering, fairly strongly, about changing my QQ profile to indicate that I am a man.  I think it may cut down on the creepy male 网友 (internet friends) who try to talk to me, and may be an interesting social experiment.  I just need a good name, so: If I were a guy, what I be called??

  1. Martin? Kinda like your name, but not.

  2. Mario. Or Blade. Either is acceptable.

  3. Wonderful photos! What a beautiful place (and clean…). Thanks for the informative post, I love reading about this stuff especially because my knowledge about China pre-your blog was essentially nil (the capital’s Beijing right?). That being said, there are a ton of joint Chinese-Russian projects going on here in Voronezh and China is always all over the daily news here. Just goes to remind you that despite the perception that Russia is European, they still feel really close to their eastern neighbor. How do the Chinese feel about Russia? Is it ever even mentioned?

    • Ha, I feel the same about your blog! I don’t know much about Russia so especially your history lessons are interesting.

      I haven’t had any explicit conversations about Russia with Chinese people, but the Russians are a definite presence in China. Up in Jilin, where I used to be (on the Russian border near Vladivostok), the Russian influence was very visible – all signs where written in Russian in addition to Chinese and Korean. I got asked if I was Russian all the time, simply because most of the foreigners there were Russian. But even way down here in Xiamen, people still guess Russia half of the time.

      I have a couple Russian classmates (and have impressed them by mentioning that I know someone studying in Voronezh) as well as others from Soviet-bloc countries (Kyrgyzstan, for example). The Kyrgs (can you say that?) look more Chinese than anything else, but they speak Russian. The Europe/Asia line is definitely a thin one.

  4. I vote for Maximillian!
    And yes, Maria, I did miss this blog, but am now caught up!
    Enjoyed our talk tonight. However it would have been much better if I was not distracted by how horribly ugly & odd I look on camera…………. You, are lovely though!

  5. I like Mom’s suggestion but would modify it ever so slightly…Martian. That way is has all the letters in your name, in the right order and quantity, plus two others thrown in for fun! Let’s talk about the trip on Friday AM (our time)…’kay?

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