Maria Holland

Archive for July 4th, 2010|Daily archive page

I’m On A Boat

In Uncategorized on July 4, 2010 at 10:19 pm

I slept as late as possible (as I had, after all, been up until after 4 a.m.) but once I woke I up I had to hit the ground running.  We were supposed to meet at West Gate at noon, which meant that we trickled on to bus about 45 minutes later.  We were down three people but up two, and somehow all the food had showed up, so it was slightly chaotic but turned out okay.

There was a mix-up at the pier where we got on a boat but it turned out not to be our boat . . .

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. . . But nevertheless by 1 or so we were out on the open water.

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We sailed past Gulangyu and the statue of Koxinga, and headed for an island much further away (not, despite popular demand, Taiwan).

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Our boat was a long wooden contraption, painted green and other bright colors.  There was a little cockpit for our crew (and old woman and an older man) while the rest of us chilled on the open deck, partially covered by a roof.  We had stools to sit on and laps to eat off of – what else could you want?  The spread included bread, salsa, pasta salad, potato salad, barbecue, peanut butter and chocolate bars, cookies, and so much beer that it looked downright silly as they brought it on board.

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Our group was as diverse as Xiamen get-togethers usually are – 29 people from 15 countries.  There were 6 Chinese, 4 Americans, 3 Germans, 3 Dutch, 2 British, 2 Filipinas, and people from France, Ukraine, Thailand, Burundi, Austria, Romania, South Korea, Sweden, and Kazakhstan.

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It really was a melting pot, which is about as American as apple pie.  (Sadly, there was no apple pie, but we did have watermelon!)

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And the four of us Americans treated our guests to a rousing rendition of the Star-Spangled Banner, which has to earn extra America points, right?

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After an hour or two of sailing, we arrived at our dream beach.

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Haha.  No, seriously, I think the captain actually wanted to drop us off there but we said no, on account of it looking like Hades and all.  Instead, we turned around and went to a different, only slightly more hospitable-looking island dominated by insanely sharp pointy rocks.

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But it was good for exploring and the constant threat of death by impalement on said sharp pointy rocks kept things exciting.  I cut my toe on one of them, which actually just complemented the cuts I had on both of my pointer fingers from chopping vegetables and grabbing broken beer bottles, so it was okay.  Also, my fingers ached all day from the capsaicin embedded under my fingernails from last night’s salsa-making and I somehow lost part of a toenail . . . But believe me when I say I had an incredible time!

The weather was simply amazing – hotter than heck back in my room, I’m sure, but there was a steady breeze on the water.  We stayed on the island a few hours, then headed back while we fired up the barbecue.  A few of the guys took care of the fire, so I was free to relax on the side of the boat, enjoying the gentle light of the sunset, the rocking of the boat, and the sound of friends’ laughter.

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By all accounts, it was one of the best days in Xiamen.  It was the first Fourth of July for many people, and perhaps the most memorable for me.  Happy Birthday, America!

PS – The Onion did a special America edition.  Please enjoy these classic articles: Wikipedia Celebrates 750 Years Of American Independence, Report: U.S. May Have Been Abused During Formative Years, Third Amendment Rights Group Celebrates Another Successful Year, Supreme Court Rules Supreme Court Rules, and Life In The Navy Rocks Even Harder Than The Commercial Implied

Beach Football is the Best Football

In Uncategorized on July 4, 2010 at 3:55 am

I heard a rumor last night that they were shutting off our electricity today.  Why is that the bad rumors are so much more often true than the good rumors? 

The electricity stopped at 7 this morning, and didn’t return until after 8 in the evening.  Yes, that’s right – as if it weren’t bad enough that they were cutting our electricity during the hellishly hot days of July in Xiamen, they also conveniently arranged it on the weekend and during the scorching daylight.  Thanks, guys. 

We drew the curtains before going to bed, so the room stayed reasonably cool until we got up.  But then Leinira left the balcony door open for a half hour while she cleaned and all the pleasantly cool air fled the room.  By staying in bed and lying perfectly still, I managed to pass the time until about 2 in the afternoon.  At that point I got up, immediately started sweating, and decided to get the heck out of my room.

Apparently most of campus and some other parts of the city had lost power as well, so every place at West Gate with air conditioning was mobbed with sweaty patrons.  Eunice and Andreea somehow found a table at McDonald’s, and I joined them there for a few hours of studying.

While we sitting there, the day got even better.  (And of course by “better”, I mean “worse”.)  Two girls came in and stood uncomfortably near our seats, causing Eunice to protectively move her purse to her lap.  I, not being from the Philippines, didn’t think much of it and we all went back to reading.  Then all of a sudden there was a commotion and we looked up to watch Andreea nearly tackle a girl to get her purse back.  While we were figuring out what the heck was going on (and trying to think of the word “thief” in Chinese), the three of them got away.  No one so much as looked at us afterwards, and they barely reacted even when we finally started yelling 小偷, 小偷! 

That was the first time I witnessed an attempted theft.  When people warned me about thieves in China, I guess I always figured it would be more of a pickpocketing thing.  Anyway, with how easily I lose things I didn’t worry about it too much.  Why fear a thief I’ve never seen when I’ve lost more cameras than some people have ever owned?  But this, this blatant grab-and-run, was scary – and the complete apathy of everyone around us was even more so.

I wasn’t feeling like showering in my dark bathroom, so I went to get my hair washed instead.  It’s been far too long since I indulged in this luxury, and the scalp massage was even more amazing than I remembered it.  The lady next to me was so excited to see me, and said that she’d always wanted to wash a foreigner’s hair.  I’m not one to disappoint, so I’m planning on going back there once more before going home – #48, your time is coming!

I went to church in the evening and, thankfully, got home after the power had come back on.  I was able to get online after an entire day without internet – while it is kind of a long time for me, it really wouldn’t have been that big of a deal on a normal day.  But the first email I saw was from my parents and ended with “Still awaiting news on Cathy” and the second email was titled “Prayers needed”.  They had both been sent 16 hours earlier, when my aunt suffered [basically] two heart attacks and was put into a drug-induced coma to minimize damage to her organs. 

I was upset and scared to hear this news, and even more so because it seemed like so much time had passed without me knowing.  Let’s be honest – 90% of my communication online is not time-sensitive at all, and only a fraction of a percent is truly urgent like this was, but almost all of my communication over here is internet-based in one way or another, and thus it is all – important and trivial – subject to the whims of China. 

 

A little later, Eunice and I went to the beach party.  We arrived a few minutes past 10 to find an entire beach full of people focused attentively on the Germany-Argentina match being broadcast on a white screen that swayed gently in the breeze.  We had already missed one German goal but it turned out to not be a big deal.  We settled down in the sand to watch the rest of the game, all four German goals of it. 

One thing I’ve been a little annoyed about during the World Cup is the way everyone gets so worked up when a team loses.  I mean, everyone except one team goes home a loser, so it seems like it shouldn’t be such a big deal.  But I’m starting to see that it’s not so much the losing as the way it was lost.  France was an obvious disgrace and apparently (though I’m not clear on why) Italy was as well.  While I want to remember the awesome 91-st minute goal, everyone else is remembering how tired the US team looked when we lost to Ghana.  England’s Rooney was so hyped that a 4:1 loss is kind of bad (although, really, everyone and their mother has allowed 4 German goals, if you think about it).  South Africa didn’t live up to expectations/hopes as the host nation, none of the other African countries stepped up either, so that every African loss felt like a continent-wide failure. 

And then tonight – Messi, Maradona, que paso? 

While I don’t relish the idea of an entire country in mourning, I will say that I thoroughly enjoyed this match.  Cafe del Mar has been a nice venue, but nothing can beat cool sand and a fresh breeze after a hot day.  The sound of waves over there, the moon shining through clouds, and stars visible in the clear sky overhead – they helped, too.  And when they celebrated Germany’s victory with fireworks – well, that was almost too perfect. 

I also had a burger.  They were too small, the buns were sweet, and they cost $3 each (a fortune!) but they were still the best burgers I’ve had in nearly a year.  (It’s kind of fun to be able to say that.  Almost makes up for having to go nearly a year without getting to eat stuff like hamburgers.  Almost.  But not quite.)  It kind of felt like the Fourth of July!

I danced for a while but went home because I had to cook while we still had electricity.  The good news was, there was a match on – Spain vs. Paraguay – to keep me company.  I was hoping to watch it with Carlos, my favorite Spaniard, but he was sick.  I found him in his room, huddled under a blanket and asking me to bring him mine.  I would have stayed with him, but his AC was off and his room was so hot I started sweating immediately upon entering. 

So I sat on my bed, slicing tomatoes and cheering for Spain whenever I remembered to look up.  The game was 0-0 for a long time, and the thought of Spain losing made me cry.  Come to think of it, it might have been the onions I was chopping; really tough to say.  I washed spring peas and diced garlic and cut up hot peppers and finally Spain scored and won.  Around 4, I finally went to sleep on a bed that smelled of salsa, under the blanket I had reclaimed from Carlos.  Germ warfare using blankets – that is just like the Spanish, isn’t it?