This morning I had plans with Alex, a friend of mine from TU, to meet for Mass at his usual place, Rosary Church Kowloon. The church was a beautiful building, and the Mass was just as beautiful. The priest (Irish, I’m pretty sure) was the first native English-speaker I’d heard celebrate Mass in over 7 months, and the Gloria was the first one I’d recognized from home in just as long. Those weren’t the only differences – the congregation didn’t talk during the service, the priest commented on the one cell phone that rang, and there were extraordinary ministers of the Eucharist. The main similarity to my church in Xiamen was that Communion was still confusing.
At the end of Mass, Father made a special announcement concerning the sex abuse scandal in the Catholic Church. This was another first for me. He shared some of Pope Benedict’s words, which I had already read, but it was still the first time I heard anyone mention the issue in person. (I think this is completely a function of me living in China, and not characteristic of the international church – is that true?) I wonder what they know about it [mainland] China . . . are they talking and I just don’t understand?
After Mass, Alex suggested that we go to his town, “out in the boonies of Hong Kong” and on the way to Shenzhen. We took the Metro over there, where we had a delicious Indian meal. (Alex confirmed my hunch that he eats a lot more foreign food in Hong Kong than he did when he used to live in Chengdu, simply because most Chinese food is as expensive as the foreign food.)
From there, we walked to the river, where we hung out and talked for awhile. We spent a lot of time comparing China with the non-China places we’ve been. Here’s a general summary: Chinese people are friendly, people from Hong Kong are courteous, and Taiwanese are both.
Alex and I have had different paths to China so it’s interesting to compare our past experiences and our hopes for the future. We discussed the prospect of returning to work in China; it sounds good but the more I think about it, maybe it wouldn’t be the same. We both like China and think it’s fun, but perhaps less so when you actually have to get something done . . .
Alex’s town has a nice ‘town square’, lots of sitting areas surrounded by food vendors. We got big glasses of milk tea (for the ridiculous price of $1.80, compared to 60 cents back in Xiamen) and I got a Belgian waffle doused in butter and condensed milk. I have pretty good self control when it comes to food, but all my restraint goes out the window when traveling. Especially in China, if I see good food in another city and don’t eat it, I may not ever get the chance again! And thus, my Easter sugar high has stayed around through the entirety of the Octave.
I managed to work the money situation just right, changing 1,000 renminbi (about $130) to Hong Kong dollars when I arrived and leaving with about $10 US of loose bills in my wallet and an Octopus Card with a negative balance. Basically what I’m getting at here is – I am a ninja.
He walked me to the subway, which I took back to the border crossing. As I approached passport control, my phone vibrated, delivering a text message from back home in Xiamen – now I have dinner plans to look forward to tomorrow! Reentering China was – surprisingly – quite easy and I was through in a matter of minutes. From the moment 請 became 请, I felt myself relax into the familiarity of China. The Chinese characters before me were all wondrously simplified, and the only language that my ears detected was good ol’ Mandarin. After a few days of English and Cantonese, it soothes my soul.
I bought a ticket for the 8:30 bus to Xiamen and sat down to wait for a few hours. The couple Chinese guys nearby were drawn in like moths to a flame, and after complimenting me on my Mandarin, the usual battery of questions began:
- How long have you been here?
- Where do you work?
- Where are you from?
- Which is better, China or America?
- Are you used to it here?
- Do you eat Chinese food?
- What brand is your computer?
- How much did it cost?
- Do you have a Chinese boyfriend?
- Have you been to ___ place in China?
It’s good to be back, China – I’ve missed you, and I think you missed me too.