Maria Holland

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

In Uncategorized on December 20, 2009 at 12:47 am

We got back from Wuyishan this morning around 8:30.  The trip was really wonderful – we had beautiful scenery, wonderful new friends, and some unforgettable moments.  We spoke a lot of Chinese and only saw 2 Westerners on the entire trip – getting on the train that we had just gotten off of.

I know that everyone who lives someplace cold wants to vacation in a warm climate, but for a few days I got to experience the opposite.  Let me tell you, it’s quite nice – knowing that your days in the cold are very limited and soon you will be returning to your pleasantly warm home.  The whole weekend as I wore leggings under my jeans and all the tops I had brought under my coat, I was looking forward to wearing skirts and short sleeves again in Xiamen. 

Unfortunately, Xiamen didn’t get this memo . . . the high today was 15°C (60°F).  I wore a dress anyway (albeit with leggings underneath and a sweater, scarf, and jacket on top) out of pure stubbornness.  All day, I felt like a little girl who insisted on dressing herself but buttoned the shirt wrong or something. 

I just got back, but for a lot of people, it’s actually time to leave Xiamen.  Some are just going home for the holidays – Liz left for 3 weeks in Belgium on Wednesday – but some are leaving for good!  “The Americans” (the group from UNC) left last weekend and Eva left today, which means I have basically no American friends left here.  The Dutch group leaves very early tomorrow morning as well.  This is all very sad, but as they’re all going to other countries, we’ll be able to 联系 (connect) on facebook. 

Also, it just happens to be a very fortunate time to lose one’s cell phone (as I just did).  A Dutch friend gave me his cell before he left, which meant all I had to do was get a replacement SIM card.  It took two trips because the only thing they would accept as proof that the number was mine was 5 numbers I’ve dialed in the past month (my original account paperwork and passport were unacceptable as proof), but I really shouldn’t complain.  Entire cost of new cell phone with the same number as before = 15 kuai, or $2. 

I went to Mass this evening.  As I entered and when I left the church, I was asked by several people if I had found my cell phone.  I was confused, as I had only called one man to ask if I had left it on the bus.  Finally, I realized what must have happened and asked if they had all gone to look for it.  “Yes”, they replied. 

As I thought about it, this relatively-small act of kindness moved me to tears.  I guess the weekend was a little emotionally draining because, when we weren’t being treated like long-lost best friends, we felt basically like animals in a zoo.  People would point at us and take pictures of us without permission, acting like we were another of Wuyishan’s famous sites to be pictured.  They would assume we didn’t speak Chinese and talk loudly about the 外国人 (and then bark out “会说中国话!” (You can speak Chinese!) in surprise if we so much as said 你好). 

Anyway, I think I’ve figured out something about Chinese people.  (This is a generalization and there are certainly exceptions, but this is an idea based on my observations over these past few months.)  There are a lot of them – 1.3 billion and counting – and it’s simply too much to be caring towards all of them.  So they don’t really try.  There’s much less “common courtesy” here than I remember in America: less door-holding, more pushing and shoving.  But families and friends are very important to Chinese people, and these people are treated with respect, deference, and love.  Outside the circle, you almost don’t exist to them, but inside the circle your happiness and well-being is of utmost concern.  It’s not that Chinese people are rude to foreigners; it’s that they’re rude to strangers.

Somehow, my church friends (and my dancing friends and some others) have accepted me into their circle.  The way they care for me is so humbling because I don’t think I’m as charitable as they are.  It gives me something to work towards. 

The good thing about the cold weather is that it really is starting to feel like Christmas.  I listened to Christmas songs as I walked between my evening activities, and found the words to one particularly interesting:

It’s the most wonderful time of the year
With the kids jingle belling
And everyone telling you "Be of good cheer"
It’s the most wonderful time of the year
It’s the hap-happiest season of all
With those holiday greetings and gay happy meetings
When friends come to call
It’s the hap-happiest season of all
There’ll be parties for hosting
Marshmallows for toasting
And caroling out in the snow
There’ll be scary ghost stories
And tales of the glories of
Christmases long, long ago
It’s the most wonderful time of the year
There’ll be much mistletoe-ing
And hearts will be glowing
When love ones are near
It’s the most wonderful time of the year

Only the last few lines are actually true for me this year – no Salvation Army bells, no carolers or concerts, no marshmallows or mistletoe, and no snow.  But 3 out of 19 ain’t bad, especially when they’re those three.

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  1. Don’t get me started on how much we are going to miss you!

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