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 . . .
. . . But nevertheless by 1 or so we were out on the open water.
We sailed past Gulangyu and the statue of Koxinga, and headed for an island much further away (not, despite popular demand, Taiwan).
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.
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.
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!)
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?
After an hour or two of sailing, we arrived at our dream beach.
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.
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.
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