The Xiamen Botanical Garden is free if you go before 7 in the morning. It is also free if you go in by the secret route that consists of climbing a mountain by a barely-discernible path.
Getting up was obviously out of the question, so we climbed the mountain. There was me, Carlos, and Aleid, plus DongWei (a mutual friend of Carlos and me), three of his classmates, and another friend he got to guide us into the gardens.
The mountain climbing wasn’t actually too hard – although it was possibly the first time I heard a Chinese person say that it was still “very far” to our destination. (It was also definitely my first time hiking through a palm tree forest!) It was quite hot, though, and unexpectedly so. We were in the high 20’s today (mid 80’s), which is definitely the hottest day we’ve had yet this spring. It was okay once we got to the top of the mountain, where we had a great view of most of our island – including our campus and Gulangyu in the distance.
Truth be told, I wasn’t incredibly impressed with the botanical gardens. The only really cool 植物 that we saw were in the cactus garden.
It reminded me of my Abuelos’ place in El Paso, with a little touch of Udall orientation thrown in.
They seriously had every kind of cactus there. There were ridiculously colorful cacti:
There were cacti that looked like octopi:
There were cacti that looked like old bearded men:
There were cacti prickly enough to give you nightmares:
There were cacti that looked like a piece of art because of their detailed ornamentation:
There were cacti that looked like birthday cakes, complete with candles:
There were cacti that looked like they were dressed up for Easter with flowers in their hair:
There were cacti that looked like they would be more at home in the ocean than in a desert:
There were even cacti arranged to form a map of China and the characters 祖国万岁 (Long Live the Motherland!):
But the real joy of the day’s excursions was walking around in a nice environment, enjoying the beautiful weather, and chatting. For instance, we learned that Chinese people can’t tell us apart either and that certain trends (Pogs, Tamagotchies, and Furbies) were nearly universal. In the perfect end to a great morning, we had lunch at a Sichuan place on ZhongShan Lu with the best tofu I’ve ever had.
This evening I had the joy of a Mass buddy. JunCheng is a Korean classmate of mine who noticed the crucifix necklace I always wear and asked if I went to church here. He just got to Xiamen a few weeks ago and had been looking for the church without success. We made plans to go tonight, which was really nice for a change. We were joined by a Chinese friend of mine along the way, and by the time we got to the church and I was greeting the familiar faces around me, I felt connected again. I really missed Chinese Mass last week, I’m realizing, and it was good to be back.