Maria Holland


In Uncategorized on February 11, 2010 at 12:30 am

This morning, I made a trip to the supermarket and there is now toilet paper and garbage bags in our room.  Thanks, Leinira, that was thoughtful . . .

I spent the afternoon on the beach.  It was almost 80°F, the sky was obscenely clear blue, I still had my new book, and I happen to live 3 minutes’ walk from said beach.  I was so there.

The Chinese are not beach people.  They do not thrive in sunshine, as Westerners do; in fact in Chinese they say they “fear” the sun.  Thus, even on such an epically gorgeous day, I nearly had the beach to myself. 

I got my toes in the water, ass in the sand
Not a worry in the world, a cold [milk tea] in my hand
Life is good today, life is good today.

My book was not a disappointment.  David Sedaris is a funny guy.  The first book of his that I read, “Me Talk Pretty One Day”, has never failed to make me laugh out loud and has gotten funnier as his tales of learning French began to resonate with the trials of my Chinese studies.  “When You Are Engulfed In Flames” is hilariously self-deprecating, story after story.  My favorite parts are still his humiliating stories of French-language faux pas:

“Six months after moving to Paris, I gave up on my French school and decided to take the easy way out. . . I began saying “D’accord,” which translates to “I am in agreement,” and means, basically, “OK.”  The word was a key to a magic door, and every time I said it I felt the thrill of possibility. . . I said d’accord to a waiter and received a pig’s nose standing erect on a bed of tender greens.  I said it to a woman in a department store and walked away drenched in cologne.  Every day was an adventure.”

“On one of these trips, he attempted to explain that he had a metal plate in his head.  My French comprehension wasn’t very good at the time, and his pointing back and forth between his temple and the door of the glove compartment only confused me.  “You invented glove compartments?  Your glove compartment has ideas of its own?  I’m sorry . . . I don’t . . . I don’t understand.””

“[I would like to say] “Tell me, Jean-Claude, do you like the glaze I’ve applied to my shapely jug?”  Of the above, I can say, “Tell me, Jean-Claude, do you like the . . . jug?” . . . I might have to say, “Do you like the glaze the shapely jug accepted from me?” or “Do you like the shapely jug in the glaze of which I earlier applied?”  For safety’s sake, perhaps I’d be better off breaking the one sentence into three: “Look at the shapely jug.  Do you like the glaze?  I did that.””

After a wonderful afternoon luxuriating on my personal beach, I showered the sand off and went to Lun Du.  There was some special Mass in some other city, somehow related to Our Lady of Lourdes . . . that’s what I gathered, but really all it takes is Fr. Zhao telling me they’re doing something and I’ll show up. 

I figured we would head right out there from the bus stop, but instead we walked to the church and lingered there for a while.  Most church events seem to resemble nothing more than walking dinners – fruit in the bishop’s office, more fruit downstairs in the meeting room, sugar cane in the office of the other church, followed eventually by dinner.  I know we’re supposed to fast an hour before Mass, but in China I follow the general rule: “Stop eating before your priest does.”


Fr. Cai (#1) said Mass at the cute little church we went to.  It made me happy because I actually understood most of his homily, which is really really rare.  I missed Mass this week because I was sick and still recovering from my trip, so I was happy to make it to a weekday Mass – in 普通话 (Mandarin), no less. 

When they dropped me off back at LunDu, I took advantage of the night – still as gorgeous as the day was – and walked along the water enjoying the night lights of Gulangyu.  I even treated my fellow walkers to a rendition of Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You”.  What can I say?  I was in a good mood.

I planned to continue my walk back at Baicheng, but a crazy fog had moved in to the island.  Instead, I walked around the lake, which was really eerie with the top of the Tall Building completely disappeared into the fog.


I’ve now had two pretty good days in China.  I think we may be okay.  My confidence is back, there’s a smile on my face, and I feel curious instead of annoyed when I don’t understand something in Chinese.  It’s just hard because China doesn’t pull any punches; it’ll kick you when you’re down and won’t even feel bad about it.  I got kicked – several times, in a row – but it turns out that it’s nothing that a sandy beach, some sunny blue skies, a funny book, and a few glasses of milk tea can’t fix. 

Why stop now, though?  I think I’ll head back tomorrow and stick my toes back in the water.

  1. Atta girl Maria! So glad you are happier!!

  2. So, life is good. It’s sleeting here….I am fantasizing about toes in the sand….but my toes are frozen now.
    A. Claire

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