For my final final, I had to talk about my favorite holiday for 3 minutes. Congratulations, you’ve now finished . . . kindergarten. Grades are in, and as proof that I do better when I’m challenged, they are the worst semester grades I can remember. I got 93 in Oral and 90 in Grammar, but 86 in Listening and HSK and an 82 in Newspaper Reading.
Aleid and I celebrated by going to massage. I asked for a man for the first time, and could really tell the difference. Everything was much harder – mostly in that “hurts so good” way but sometimes beyond that. At the end, he sat me up and did my shoulders one last time; it hurt so much that I nearly couldn’t breathe! It felt like getting beaten up, honestly. But at least it was only a 38 kuai beating! (And I did feel good afterwards.)
We had lunch at a Thai restaurant (curry!!!) and then walked around exploring a nearby park that she’d always meant to explore. The park was surprisingly big and completely Chinese, populated with men sleeping on every available horizontal surface and a crew shooting a TV show.
We also hit up a store we’d never been to, in which I discovered a game that looks like Chinese monopoly! Xiamen has wonders for us yet.
Aleid took me to a place on campus to get passport photos taken, so that I could have a nice one to be pasted on my graduation certificate. I got a bunch printed, although they’re completely unnecessary in the US. The only time you need passport photos is for, well, passports, and as a specialty product they come at a premium. I remember getting some done last-minute for a Chinese visa application and paying the standard rate of $10/two photos. The lady here even photoshopped me up so I look nice, but I only paid $5 for a sheet of passport photos and a sheet of 1” photos.
I returned the favor by taking her to XiaDa’s souvenir shop, similar to our campus bookstores where you can buy university gear. We were both looking for t-shirts but left empty-handed. The thing is, universities in China don’t have things like mascots or school colors, so there was nothing especially ‘XiaDa’ about them except the seal. Sillhouettes of trees, random blue ball wearing a mortarboard, lots of hearts – none of that would remind me of XiaDa.
Shopping done, I met up with a friend to get pictures. BinBin is the leader of the youth group at church and my go-to guy for official pictures of Bishop Cai’s ordination in May. I used to think that BinBin didn’t like me, but now I think he was just busy. He was surprised to learn that I was also an ME student (which, he said, explained why I was able to edit his thesis on helical grooves in cutting tools so well), and between that and the church, we talked for maybe two hours while the files transferred.
I learned that he comes from a Buddhist family in the north of Fujian (my province), and joined the church after the example of some Catholic friends at university in Nanjing. He said he would like to go to seminary but his family won’t allow it.
He spoke several times about the lack of freedom in China – both generally, as opposed to America, and specifically in religion. Apparently there are government officials who attend each Mass (at least on the weekends) and they call the bishop if they hear something they don’t like. He says there are a lot of things they aren’t allowed to do – all stuff that never penetrates the language barrier to come to my attention. I also, for the first time, heard a Chinese Catholic talk about underground believers. He was introducing me to a friend who was headed to America soon, and said that he was also Catholic but “doesn’t come to church”. I thought he meant a fallen-away Catholic, but then he clarified his meaning. A lot of the underground Christians try to get to Europe and America, he said, but unlike other Chinese who go to make money and come back, they stay there because the situation is not good back home.
I cut our conversation short because I had still more errands to run. Eunice and I went to the shoe repair man, where I got two bags fixed and she got the sole of her shoes nailed closed. We argued with the guy a lot – he didn’t want to do it the way I wanted him to do it, and he wanted too much money from Eunice – so finally she went off on him in Minnanhua. It was totally unexpected, as I didn’t even know she spoke Minnanhua (the local dialect)! All of a sudden she was just ranting, and although I couldn’t understand what she was saying I could tell that she was saying it fluently. So. Jealous.
When I finally got around to taking a shower after running around all day, it was well into evening. It’s good this way, as Xiamen becomes bearable after the sun goes down and the shower has a shot at “staying”. We grabbed dinner to go – Peking roast duck from the supermarket and a bag of lychee from next door – and took a bus to Bailuzhou Park to catch the fountain and light show. It was really impressive, actually, especially for something that happens every day! I’m glad we made it out there before leaving Xiamen. It was the perfect night to be outside, enjoying the show and engaging in a discussion of politics with a new Dutch girl.
In one week I will be in the Hong Kong airport; only 7 days left to enjoy what Xiamen has to offer.