We slept in a little bit today and, after a quick Chinese lesson, met some of my friends for lunch at the restaurant on campus.
The main attraction at lunch was 炭烧茄子, the best eggplant dish in all of China. It was a big hit all around, as were my three wonderful friends (Carlos, Pun, and Vikki).
Then we went back to LunDu, where we boarded a ferry. We opted for the scenic boat ride, which took us all the way around the small island of Gulangyu in about a half hour.
When we landed, we headed in the general direction of my church so I could show them the beautiful old building where I sometimes go to Mass. I’d only been before on Sundays for service, so I hadn’t realized that it’s not open the rest of the week. In one of those circumstances that happens to me way too often to be luck, we were seen standing at the gate by the sister who lives at the church, who let us in. She opened the church so they could look inside and then invited us up to have tea, where we also got to see the two priests that live there.
After visiting the church I didn’t have any specific plans for the island so we just wandered. We came across a small park, built in honor of a woman named Lin Qiao Zhi, who was a Chinese OB-GYN. There was a statue and a collection of stones engraved with quotes of hers, like this one:
“It is more significant for me to spend my birthdays in the delivery room than anywhere else. As an obstetrician it is my responsibility to be present at the birth. After the baby comes into the world, the cries are the most pleasant paean of life. To me, indeed, that is the best birthday gift.”
She really seemed like a remarkable woman. Most interestingly to me, she came across as a profoundly pro-life person – not in the narrow sense of opposing abortion, but just by cherishing life. Her job was bringing life into the world and protecting it, and she loved that.
We continued on, following the sun towards the shore. We ended up on the beach just in time to watch the last half hour of the sun’s descent, which produced some beautiful colors before being suffocated by the perpetual haze.
My parents got a taste of the real China when we attempted to take the ferry back just after sunset, along with half of Xiamen’s population and a delegation from every province of China. It was a little ridiculous, but we made it back to Xiamen safely.
We made it to the church just in time for Mass, but too late to find a good seat for the three of us. We ended up sitting upstairs, so Dad got some good (and relatively unobtrusive) photos of Mass.
Afterwards, of course, we took the mandatory altar photo.
The friends in the photo had asked to take us out to dinner, but time was relatively short because of my plans to take my parents dancing, so we took them to dinner instead. Unfortunately, they had planned to take us to a 5-star hotel restaurant, and I took them to a hole-in-the-wall where we sat on plastic stools and had to bring our own drinks. We did, however, arrive in style, because their driver gave us a ride in their personal car. The husband is the head of a major joint venture company here in Xiamen, and can’t imagine how different their experience must be here in Xiamen. Yeah, I felt a little silly bringing them to my little restaurant, but I think everyone thought the food was good (or at least the couple, who are incredibly gracious, acted like they thought it was). Anyway, the Xiamen part of this trip is about showing my parents MY China, which is definitely more plastic-stools-on-the-street than Marco Polo.
We arrived late to dancing and caused quite a stir. Most people knew my parents were coming, and anyway it wasn’t that hard to figure out the new foreigners had come with me. My parents got to see me dance, and Mom even got asked a few times.
Afterwards, I acted as a translator between Dad and one of the men who is a military teacher at XiaDa. He was quite impressed that Dad went to West Point, and Dad made his first Chinese friend. He also impressed them all by bidding the “ladies and gentleman goodnight”.
My parents are really loving China so far, or at least Xiamen. They say it’s like a dream, that no one’s life can be like this. I hope they enjoy the rest of their trip as well, or I’m afraid they’re going to get to the Great Wall, sigh, and say that the lit-up highways in Xiamen are better!