Today is Easter. Today, April 4th 2010, is Easter everywhere in the world. Chinese people try to tell me that there is no such thing in China but that’s just stupid. For instance, the 4th of July will be America’s Independence Day everywhere in the world; whether or not you personally observe it is totally irrelevant to the discussion. Also, it’s a ridiculous statement to say that “Chinese doesn’t have this holiday” because Chinese Christians, though few, DO exist and DO celebrate it!
If someone came up to me in the States and told me “Today is Snuffelbarger day!”, I would respond, “Happy Snuffelbarger day!”, and then I would ask how this holiday is celebrated. This is not how the Chinese approach unknown things, however. This has been obvious in several interactions over the past few days. I got into an argument with my taxi driver last night, for instance, when he told me that no Chinese celebrate Easter. He refused to change his mind even after I told him that the traffic jam we just got out of was Chinese people leaving Easter Mass. Then today, XuLei told me that the reason no one responded to my Easter greeting, 复活节快乐, was that they didn’t know what 复活节 (Easter) was. She continued to suggest this possibility after I told her that the people I was greeting were fellow Catholics, immediately after 复活节 Mass.
Sometimes it’s exciting to be a square peg in a world of round holes, but sometimes I miss the melting pot.
I was awakened by a phone call in Chinese. I think it’s up there with fire alarms and “Open up, it’s the police” on the list of Worst Ways To Be Woken Up. But my Chinese is getting better every day, a progress I can measure every time my caller ID displays a Chinese name and my stomach sinks a little bit less. I fell quite far from last night’s sugar high, but even sporting that massive ‘Easter hangover’ I managed the call pretty well. Small victory for a day of great triumph :)
I had lunch with XuLei today. We went to our favorite restaurant – the one known as the Restaurant with the Green Chairs or Aleid’s Restaurant or The Sichuan Place on Post Office Street No Not That One The One We Went To That One Time . . . basically, anything but its actual name (like anyone knows its actual name anyway). We ordered the exact same dishes as last time; when the kungpao chicken is that good, you don’t try new dishes. They brought the rice with the first dish, which gives us hope that if we go often enough they’ll stop bothering us with the menu and the rest of the ordering process.
As we were walking back, I got distracted by the pretty clothes on the street and ended up buying a new dress and a super cute top for 110 yuan ($16). More importantly, though, I finally have pictures of my Easter dress, the one I got tailor-made!
This evening I went out for dinner for Sietze and Jelle, who just got back from an interesting trip to Quanzhou. Aleid told me that it was a great trip, cementing forever her status as World’s Most Cheerful Phone Talker EvAr. Highlights included getting their drinks spiked with Ecstasy and Sietze having his wallet, cell phone, and camera stolen. Great, eh? It sounds like a story that someone tells about something that happened “to a friend of mine once” as a warning to others of the dangers of Chinese bars and cheap hotels. It really sucks for Sietze, but I did enjoy the story of one of the drunk guys asking the taxi to take them to “XiaDa, XiMen”, the West Gate of our university, a several-hour bus ride away.
After dinner I went to buy plane tickets for a surprise trip to Guangzhou on Tuesday. Some family friends, the Edmonds, recently came over to China to adopt a child, and are right now in Guangzhou doing the paperwork. America is so far away and Guangzhou is so close – I just had to go over and see them. Then once I’m in Guangzhou, Hong Kong is even closer, so I’m going to proceed across the border to see a TU friend who is currently living there on a Fulbright Scholarship. I’m quite excited for this trip, although I’m a little bit bummed to be missing the epic Easter Octave meals I had been planning in Tulsa. It’ll be my first time seeing pre-August 24th friends!
Buying plane tickets in China – okay, doing most anything in China – is quite frustrating on a good day. Today was not a good day. Take a culture that uses cash almost exclusively, add in a small language barrier, slow internet, a holiday weekend, and a ridiculous double standard in China’s treatment of Hong Kong, and you have an instant travel nightmare. Seriously, I’m so over China’s claims to Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan. Any place that Chinese can not freely go to, that requires a separate visa, that issues a separate currency, or is considered an international destination is NOT a part of China! When they stop checking my passport at the border, I will gladly call it Taiwan Province. When I can book a cheap domestic flight, I’ll stop using 回国 when talking about coming back from Hong Kong. When I can use my Chinese cell phone in Macau, I’ll ignore the obvious border between it and the mainland. Until then, I’ll enjoy the free internet that exists in these non-Chinese locations and continue to call it like I see it.
So, after several hours of 麻烦, we 查得很累. (Apologies; today, more than usual, Chinese words are coming to mind and the translations all seem too awkward. The essence is, it was incredibly frustrating and we were drained afterwards.) We managed to buy the ticket to Guangzhou but still working on getting me back to Xiamen somehow. There are always buses, so I’m not too worried . . .