Maria Holland

Posts Tagged ‘beach’

I Can See Clearly Now, The Haze Is Gone

In Uncategorized on March 23, 2010 at 11:24 pm

I feel bad when one of my teachers is sick.  Clarification – I’m really happy when one of my teachers gets sick because then we don’t have class, but then I feel bad for being happy about it.  Our oral teacher was sick today, so we just had a short stint of 听力 (Listening) class.  A lot of my friends call it 听不懂 class, a play on words that means “don’t understand” class, a name that was unfortunately quite fitting today.

But the weather today was absolutely delicious – mid 70’s, sunny, and clear!  A few us of grabbed ice cream and drinks and headed straight for the beach. 



I think it was mainly due to the weather, but I was almost overcome by the beauty around me today.  The glory of a blue sky cannot be exaggerated, and its beauty is only magnified by the frequent gray spells here in China.  As they say, absence makes the heart grow fonder!  Same can be said for white clouds, twinkling stars, and tonight’s brilliant half-moon, all long absent from my vision. 

Campus was also exceptionally good-looking today.  On my way to dance class tonight, I stopped to sit by the lake for a while and realized an uncanny resemblance between the reflection of campus on the water and a picture I once took of a castle on the river in Prague (below):

Jordan - 1309

Dance class was fun, but hard work!  It has taken me over a semester, but I think I’ve finally figured out how to move my hips.  HuangDa said that I move my hips 非常厉害 (extremely awesomely), which was basically the highlight of my life.  It certainly made me feel better, despite the sweat and sore back muscles. 

Besides the passage of the health care bill, the other big news story is the latest development in the Google-China battle. no longer exists; instead users are directed to the Hong Kong-based site.  As of now I have no additional difficulties in accessing internet sites, but of course we’re all wondering what the next step is.  Opinions on the issue obviously differ and I’m still not 100% sure what I think, but I know this overseas Chinese commenter, obviously a supporter of the government’s right to censor, is a freaking idiot:

“All Chinese, I urge you to boycott Google, and join my facebook "Chinese boycott Google" group.

Um, apparently you live in Houston so you’re a little out of touch, but facebook has been blocked in China for a few years now because they, too, refused to self-censor.  Oh, irony’s a bitch.

My Soul Proclaims the Greatness of the Lord

In Uncategorized on February 24, 2010 at 1:33 am

Summer’s here; it’s official.  The first Chinese strolling with sun umbrellas were spotted, and the scarf shop has a small selection of the summer good on the front table.  I stopped by to stock up on gifts for friends back home because their scarf supply is running low . . .

Speaking of umbrellas, there’s a word in Chinese for sun umbrellas.  I hate it when people ask me the English word for things like that, because there isn’t really one.  ‘Sun umbrella’ is about as close as it gets, because they certainly aren’t parasols.  (As a matter of fact, I can’t tell the difference but they very particularly use two different words for umbrellas depending on their purpose of sun or rain.)  Another word in this category is “filial”.  I mean, the word exists, but can you think of an appropriate time to tell someone that they’re “a very filial daughter”?  It just doesn’t happen in English.  And this, folks, demonstrates how languages are not 1-to-1 correlations.

Caiqingjie, the restaurant on campus, finally opened today.  I went with a big group of friends (only half Dutch today), and it was just like old times last semester.  You know, we went around noon and had ordered within ten minutes but then got to enjoy an hour of conversation before the first dish was served.  The 炭烧茄子, the best eggplant dish in all of China, was very disappointing today.  I hope they get their act together soon!

After lunch I went for a walk across campus, around the lake, and down to the beach.  It was a sunny, fairly warm day, and the water even seemed especially blue, which was nice for a change.  Sometimes the air is so hazy in Xiamen that it’s impossible to tell where the water ends and the sea begins – and I don’t mean that there’s an everlasting stretch of brilliant blue!  It seems more like a vast concrete wall inches from your face.  There’s land not too far from the beach at Baicheng – I know, I’ve seen it a few times – but it hasn’t been visible recently.  Sometimes I wonder what China would look like if the air were perfectly clean.  I imagine it would be much more colorful. 

I spent a few hours this afternoon/evening starting to learn the Magnificat in Chinese.  (The Magnificat is Mary’s prayer in praise of God: “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my savior…”)  Several hours, and I’ve only just begun.  I wrote it out by hand, which took a good half hour, and then went through each character, painstakingly looking up the ones I didn’t know.  Even with an electronic dictionary with handwriting recognition, this isn’t an easy task.  Next step – memorize. 

Chinese isn’t very easy.  Forget the grammar or the vocabulary or even tones – it’s hard even besides all that.  There’s just something about it that seems downright hostile to aspiring students.  Sitting at my desk, struggling to be able to read a simple prayer, I wonder how I came to choose Chinese.  I love to read passionately; even when I grew disillusioned with Spanish classes, I occasionally read in Spanish.  But then I chose Chinese, a language in which I can only hope to become barely functional?  Signs, menus, directions – yes.  Prayers, hymns, the Bible – only by relying on my memory of the English counterparts.  Newspapers – maybe a headline.  A novel for pleasure – kill me now. 

I might sound somewhat despairing, but actually I’m surprisingly okay with everything I just wrote.  I’m like a frog that was placed in cool water that has slowly been brought to a boil; there were a lot of places in the past where I maybe should have got out while I could, but I didn’t and here I am, studying Chinese and living in China.  Stuff happened, and I know that I’m here doing this for a reason. 

That’s What This Blog Has Been Missing!

In Uncategorized on February 21, 2010 at 11:46 pm

I found avocados today!!!!!

This was pretty much the highlight of my stay in China thus far.  Xiamen, despite being a tropical island, is not an avocado-producing island.  I imagine that the climate would be just right for growing avocados, but for some reason they are not grown here.  It is one of the constant disappointments of my life, because I think most days are better with a bowl of guacamole.  Am I right, or am I right?  (Although, really, the lack of avocados is not the only stumbling block here; there are also no tortilla chips.  I mean, there is a green saltine-looking cracker that mysteriously tastes like a Tostito, but isn’t that a little weird?)  The lack of avocados goes on the list of things about China that I will never understand, along with the acceptability of spitting indoors, the undefined ends of phone calls, and the preference for chicken feet over actual meat. 

But, as I mentioned, today I triumphed!  Following a tip from a friend, I went to Metro to look for avocados (and a dozen other things on my Metro-only shopping list).  There they were, in all their wrinkly beauty . . . I was planning on getting four until I saw the price – 72 kuai per jin!  Neither of those units probably make sense to you, but taking 6.8 kuai as $1 and 1 jin (half a kilo) as 1.1 lb, it turns out that they were almost $10 a pound!  Swallowing deeply, I grabbed two and went to check out.  $5 for two avocados!  I am really looking forward to that guacamole . . .

Shopping at Metro is like mini culture shock.  In a usual Chinese supermarket, the average item is probably under 10 kuai ($1.50).  I have to be careful in Metro, though, as most items I want are about $5 each.  Cheese, butter, powdered sugar, baking mixes – all in the range of 30 kuai.  It was so easy to spend $50 today, which is a ridiculous sum of money in China! 

Back at home, I decided to put some numbers with my gut feelings of “cheap” and “expensive”.  I graphed the price by weight ($/lb) of several food items:


I feel slightly nerdy, and it feels AWESOME.  And it feels awesome that feeling nerdy still feels awesome . . . Did you follow that?

The data set is far from complete, as it only contains items from Metro whose receipts I still have and two fruits I recently bought, but I still think it’s interesting.  Avocados are, by weight, the most expensive thing I’ve bought in China, narrowly edging out cheese and butter (the good stuff I buy for bread).  I’m going to the supermarket tomorrow and plan to add more fruits and vegetables as well as anything else I find interesting.  I would also like to do a comparison with American prices, so I hope you’re looking forward to some more graphs!  I think that’s what this journal has been missing all along . . .

Today Xiamen took the opportunity to remind us of what a charming city it can be when the sun is out.  It was a gorgeous day – not too hot and not too cold, and all you need is a light jacket!  (And scarf, of course.)  After dropping off my groceries, I went out to the beach to check out the sunset.  Evening Prayer before such a vista is one of the simple pleasures of life, one that I hope to partake of more in the upcoming months.

Each time I left campus today, I felt like a fish swimming upstream.  The students of Xiamen University are returning in full force – finally!  The little convenience store downstairs opened today so we were finally able to get drinking water for our room, and the CaiQingJie restaurant opens tomorrow.  S

I met Diederik and three new Dutch guys for dinner.  Would “Holland and the Dutchmen” make a good band name?  I think so.  If you’ll allow me to make a generalization about the entire Dutch people based on 6 of them, I think they’re great.  Again, my data set is a little skewed – for instance, almost all of the Dutch people speak Chinese, and they’re all between the ages of 20 and 25 – but hey, it’s all based on my own personal experiences.

Come to think of it, every single one of the Slovenians I know speaks Chinese.  That’s probably not typical of the general population, is it? 


In Uncategorized on February 11, 2010 at 12:30 am

This morning, I made a trip to the supermarket and there is now toilet paper and garbage bags in our room.  Thanks, Leinira, that was thoughtful . . .

I spent the afternoon on the beach.  It was almost 80°F, the sky was obscenely clear blue, I still had my new book, and I happen to live 3 minutes’ walk from said beach.  I was so there.

The Chinese are not beach people.  They do not thrive in sunshine, as Westerners do; in fact in Chinese they say they “fear” the sun.  Thus, even on such an epically gorgeous day, I nearly had the beach to myself. 

I got my toes in the water, ass in the sand
Not a worry in the world, a cold [milk tea] in my hand
Life is good today, life is good today.

My book was not a disappointment.  David Sedaris is a funny guy.  The first book of his that I read, “Me Talk Pretty One Day”, has never failed to make me laugh out loud and has gotten funnier as his tales of learning French began to resonate with the trials of my Chinese studies.  “When You Are Engulfed In Flames” is hilariously self-deprecating, story after story.  My favorite parts are still his humiliating stories of French-language faux pas:

“Six months after moving to Paris, I gave up on my French school and decided to take the easy way out. . . I began saying “D’accord,” which translates to “I am in agreement,” and means, basically, “OK.”  The word was a key to a magic door, and every time I said it I felt the thrill of possibility. . . I said d’accord to a waiter and received a pig’s nose standing erect on a bed of tender greens.  I said it to a woman in a department store and walked away drenched in cologne.  Every day was an adventure.”

“On one of these trips, he attempted to explain that he had a metal plate in his head.  My French comprehension wasn’t very good at the time, and his pointing back and forth between his temple and the door of the glove compartment only confused me.  “You invented glove compartments?  Your glove compartment has ideas of its own?  I’m sorry . . . I don’t . . . I don’t understand.””

“[I would like to say] “Tell me, Jean-Claude, do you like the glaze I’ve applied to my shapely jug?”  Of the above, I can say, “Tell me, Jean-Claude, do you like the . . . jug?” . . . I might have to say, “Do you like the glaze the shapely jug accepted from me?” or “Do you like the shapely jug in the glaze of which I earlier applied?”  For safety’s sake, perhaps I’d be better off breaking the one sentence into three: “Look at the shapely jug.  Do you like the glaze?  I did that.””

After a wonderful afternoon luxuriating on my personal beach, I showered the sand off and went to Lun Du.  There was some special Mass in some other city, somehow related to Our Lady of Lourdes . . . that’s what I gathered, but really all it takes is Fr. Zhao telling me they’re doing something and I’ll show up. 

I figured we would head right out there from the bus stop, but instead we walked to the church and lingered there for a while.  Most church events seem to resemble nothing more than walking dinners – fruit in the bishop’s office, more fruit downstairs in the meeting room, sugar cane in the office of the other church, followed eventually by dinner.  I know we’re supposed to fast an hour before Mass, but in China I follow the general rule: “Stop eating before your priest does.”


Fr. Cai (#1) said Mass at the cute little church we went to.  It made me happy because I actually understood most of his homily, which is really really rare.  I missed Mass this week because I was sick and still recovering from my trip, so I was happy to make it to a weekday Mass – in 普通话 (Mandarin), no less. 

When they dropped me off back at LunDu, I took advantage of the night – still as gorgeous as the day was – and walked along the water enjoying the night lights of Gulangyu.  I even treated my fellow walkers to a rendition of Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You”.  What can I say?  I was in a good mood.

I planned to continue my walk back at Baicheng, but a crazy fog had moved in to the island.  Instead, I walked around the lake, which was really eerie with the top of the Tall Building completely disappeared into the fog.


I’ve now had two pretty good days in China.  I think we may be okay.  My confidence is back, there’s a smile on my face, and I feel curious instead of annoyed when I don’t understand something in Chinese.  It’s just hard because China doesn’t pull any punches; it’ll kick you when you’re down and won’t even feel bad about it.  I got kicked – several times, in a row – but it turns out that it’s nothing that a sandy beach, some sunny blue skies, a funny book, and a few glasses of milk tea can’t fix. 

Why stop now, though?  I think I’ll head back tomorrow and stick my toes back in the water.

Dad’s Bucket List: Check, Check!

In Uncategorized on January 18, 2010 at 12:21 am

Today my parents had their first Western meal in China.  It wasn’t that they couldn’t take Chinese food anymore after only four days – there were other factors.  I had invited two of my Saudi Arabian friends, who took me to my first Western restaurant in Xiamen, and they don’t really eat Chinese food.  Also, the Pizza Hut that we went to happens to be on the 24th floor of a building along the waterfront


and has a great view of Gulangyu


(or, from where we sat, a maze of typical Chinese streets)


I’m glad my parents were there for my first Chinese Pizza Hut experience because, while I thought it was delicious, it’s hard for me to tell if Western food is actually good or if I’m just so desperate that I’ll eat anything remotely resembling cheese.  Apparently Pizza Hut’s food is pretty legit, because we all thought it was great.


In the afternoon, we went to Baicheng (the beach side of XiaDa) and rented bikes.  One item on Dad’s bucket list was to ride a bike in China, so we paid a few dollars (for the kind of bike you would expect to get for a few dollars) and got to cross that off the list. 


The sun was out but the wind was too so the temperature was perfect.  There were a ton of like-minded people renting bikes, but luckily no shortage of bikes to rent.  There were single, double, and triple bikes and even bikes for four people arranged in two rows.  We only biked for an hour (from my beach to the next one up the coast) but it was just about the right amount of time.

After the ride, we had an appointment with a friend of mine to do something else from Dad’s bucket list – play ping pong with a Chinese man.  Mr. Hou is one of the men that I dance with and I recently found out that he plays ping pong every night before dancing.  He wasn’t there last night, but we luckily ran into him today and he had some free time.  Dad was really excited for the match until my friend pulled out his own ping pong paddle in a special ping pong paddle case.  Dad didn’t even have a paddle, much less a case! 


We think (slash are really sure) that Mr. Hou was being easy on him, because after winning the first two games Dad won the last three to be crowned the victor. 


We weren’t quite ready for dinner afterwards, so we decided to go up to the top of the Tall Building.  I had to convince the guard to let us go up, but it was totally worth it for the view.  I had been once before, but it was right when I got here and I didn’t know what I was looking at.  You can see basically my entire life from up there, though – XiaDa, Baicheng, Hulishan, West Gate, Nanputuo (pictured below), Gulangyu . . . my island! 


We just happened to be up there for the sunset, which was of course beautiful. 


For dinner, I took my parents to the School Friends Cafeteria, my favorite restaurant by West Gate.  We had 拔丝地瓜 (candied sweet potatoes), 咖哩鸡肉 (curry chicken), and 地三鲜 (my favorite dish, with eggplant, potato, and hot pepper). 

We ended the day a little bit early because we have to pack for the next leg of our trip.  Tomorrow we fly to Guangzhou (known in the West as Canton).  I can’t believe I’m leaving Xiamen (which besides being amazingly beautiful, is also my home right now) for three weeks!  Actually, I still haven’t exactly figured out what I’m doing once I say goodbye to my parents in Beijing, so it may even be 4 weeks! 

My China: Eggplant, Sunsets, Church, and Dancing

In Uncategorized on January 17, 2010 at 1:29 am

We slept in a little bit today and, after a quick Chinese lesson, met some of my friends for lunch at the restaurant on campus.


The main attraction at lunch was 炭烧茄子, the best eggplant dish in all of China.  It was a big hit all around, as were my three wonderful friends (Carlos, Pun, and Vikki).

Then we went back to LunDu, where we boarded a ferry.  We opted for the scenic boat ride, which took us all the way around the small island of Gulangyu in about a half hour.


When we landed, we headed in the general direction of my church so I could show them the beautiful old building where I sometimes go to Mass.  I’d only been before on Sundays for service, so I hadn’t realized that it’s not open the rest of the week.  In one of those circumstances that happens to me way too often to be luck, we were seen standing at the gate by the sister who lives at the church, who let us in.  She opened the church so they could look inside and then invited us up to have tea, where we also got to see the two priests that live there. 


After visiting the church I didn’t have any specific plans for the island so we just wandered.  We came across a small park, built in honor of a woman named Lin Qiao Zhi, who was a Chinese OB-GYN.  There was a statue and a collection of stones engraved with quotes of hers, like this one: 

“It is more significant for me to spend my birthdays in the delivery room than anywhere else.  As an obstetrician it is my responsibility to be present at the birth.  After the baby comes into the world, the cries are the most pleasant paean of life.  To me, indeed, that is the best birthday gift.”

She really seemed like a remarkable woman.  Most interestingly to me, she came across as a profoundly pro-life person – not in the narrow sense of opposing abortion, but just by cherishing life.  Her job was bringing life into the world and protecting it, and she loved that. 


We continued on, following the sun towards the shore.  We ended up on the beach just in time to watch the last half hour of the sun’s descent, which produced some beautiful colors before being suffocated by the perpetual haze. 


My parents got a taste of the real China when we attempted to take the ferry back just after sunset, along with half of Xiamen’s population and a delegation from every province of China.  It was a little ridiculous, but we made it back to Xiamen safely.

We made it to the church just in time for Mass, but too late to find a good seat for the three of us.  We ended up sitting upstairs, so Dad got some good (and relatively unobtrusive) photos of Mass.


Afterwards, of course, we took the mandatory altar photo.


The friends in the photo had asked to take us out to dinner, but time was relatively short because of my plans to take my parents dancing, so we took them to dinner instead.  Unfortunately, they had planned to take us to a 5-star hotel restaurant, and I took them to a hole-in-the-wall where we sat on plastic stools and had to bring our own drinks.  We did, however, arrive in style, because their driver gave us a ride in their personal car.  The husband is the head of a major joint venture company here in Xiamen, and can’t imagine how different their experience must be here in Xiamen.  Yeah, I felt a little silly bringing them to my little restaurant, but I think everyone thought the food was good (or at least the couple, who are incredibly gracious, acted like they thought it was).  Anyway, the Xiamen part of this trip is about showing my parents MY China, which is definitely more plastic-stools-on-the-street than Marco Polo. 


We arrived late to dancing and caused quite a stir.  Most people knew my parents were coming, and anyway it wasn’t that hard to figure out the new foreigners had come with me.  My parents got to see me dance, and Mom even got asked a few times.


Afterwards, I acted as a translator between Dad and one of the men who is a military teacher at XiaDa.  He was quite impressed that Dad went to West Point, and Dad made his first Chinese friend.  He also impressed them all by bidding the “ladies and gentleman goodnight”. 


My parents are really loving China so far, or at least Xiamen.  They say it’s like a dream, that no one’s life can be like this.  I hope they enjoy the rest of their trip as well, or I’m afraid they’re going to get to the Great Wall, sigh, and say that the lit-up highways in Xiamen are better!

The Perfect Date

In Uncategorized on December 14, 2009 at 12:14 am

I went to Chinese Mass early early this morning.  Apparently it’s BYO songbooks, which is another reason I don’t like Mass on Gulangyu.  Also, the tourists were worse than usual – for instance the large man who stood directly in front of the altar filming the Liturgy of the Eucharist.  Seriously??

The church is such a tourist mecca; I hate it.  I think I like Gulangyu less and less each time I go.  It’s certainly the most touristy place that I’ve ever been to, not as a tourist, and I can’t imagine how people feel when they live in such places.

But, I do love my 教友 (church friends).  I went to Mass with them for well over a month without anyone making any particular effort to get to know me, but since I reached out they have more than met me halfway.  I feel like I’ve been adopted as the tiny puppy someone found wandering around lost somewhere.  It really meant so much to me when they called to remind me about the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, for instance.  Anyway, today after Mass I talked to one of the women from the pilgrimage who told me that we are all 兄弟姐妹 (brothers and sisters).  She patiently answered some of my questions and, after one thing led to another, she offered to take me to a nearby convent after Christmas!

I spent the afternoon writing Christmas postcards and downloading Christmas music.  It was weird though – when I tried to expand my collection of Gregorian chant, I found that a lot of the links did not work or were blocked.  It seems like you can only download Christian music that sounds like pop music.  Coincidence?  I think not.

This evening, I went out to dinner with some friends at a Japanese restaurant.  It was crazy expensive (almost 90 kuai, or about $12) for all-you-can-eat Japanese food and all-you-can-drink beer and sake.  I tried a lot of things that I hadn’t tried before.


Interestingly, I liked most of the new things I tried – the mussels were amazing, I liked the little tiny red eggs, loved anything with the slices of red ginger (which apparently you aren’ t supposed to eat on sushi, but are necessary for me to get it down), and even the sake was quite good.  I still don’t like seaweed, though, which is a rather unfortunate hang-up when eating sushi.

We were going to watch 花木兰 (the new Chinese live-action movie Mulan) but it wasn’t showing.  We did, however, have a wonderful Disney sing-along, everyone participating in whichever language felt most comfortable, which was pretty good after-dinner entertainment by itself.

The night ended with a few minutes on the beach listening to the waves and discussing the reason for the constant haziness in Xiamen’s air.  Even at night, it was 16 degrees (60 F) so I was fine in a dress.  In Xiamen:

“What is your idea of the perfect date?”
”Most evenings, because it’s not too hot and not too cold and all you need is a light jacket!”

Not So Good in a Sack

In Uncategorized on November 29, 2009 at 11:09 am

Yesterday morning began like the day before, at the sports stadium.  Kind of like Groundhog Day, except there were actually more people there.  I met my team there at 10:30 – 6 foreign guys and 3 other girls, all Chinese. 


Two of the guys (Julius from Germany and Victor from Hungary) were comically tall compared to our Chinese girls, so I had to take a picture:


We practiced the sack exchange a few times and then it was our turn to line up for the second heat.  As we lined up behind the stands, I cheered loudly whenever they said our team name and was, surprisingly, the only one to do this.  (This has always been my strategy in sporting events – make up in volume what you lack in skill.) 

Somehow, I was selected to be the first leg of the relay.


I fell behind, but the important thing was that I didn’t fall.  Each person had to jump 30 meters, which is surprisingly long when you’re jumping in a sack.  (Side note – the Chinese name for this event is 袋鼠跳, or kangaroo-jump.  The word for kangaroo literally means “bag-mouse”.)


Anyway, the rest of the team just continued to fall behind so I was really just being consistent.  The Chinese students sack-hop like they do everything else – with an intensity that borders on, and occasionally surpasses, scary.  We ended up with our last guy jumping after everyone else had finished.


Another last-place finish for the Overseas Education College.  But, really, we were all winners, even before the race had begun – because we got our t-shirts.


It was actually hot this afternoon, especially jumping in the sun.  Diederik decided it would be nice to have a picnic on the beach, so we bought some food and went out there.  We got to watch the sunset while we talked and ate.


It got a little cool after the sun went down but after all, it is the end of November.  That’s still warm in my book! 

I went from the picnic to church for the 1st Sunday in Advent!  The beginning of Advent (the season before Christmas), is the beginning of a new Church year, so . . . Happy New Year!  There were new missals, new songs and Mass parts, and an Advent wreath (although I think it’s just for the English Mass).  I don’t quite have the hang of the new Mass parts, but a few of the songs were familiar: we sang “O Come O Come Emmanuel” (天主圣子恳请降临) and something to the tune of Amazing Grace (谢圣体经). 

I made it back from Mass just in time to go dancing.  I had a particularly good time (Smelly Man didn’t come!) and I’m even starting to learn the Viennese waltz.  The best part of the evening was getting the women to agree to come to the club afterwards.  They were so funny – acting like teenage girls even though the youngest of them is in her mid-40’s.  They wanted to make sure the others were going so they wouldn’t be alone, and kept asking if the 帅哥 was going.  (It literally means “good-looking older brother”, but it’s a common term for “hottie” or something like that.  It’s what they call Lester, my Filipino friend . . . we actually aren’t sure if they know his real name.) 

When the music stopped at 10, we headed for the club.  One of the women owns a car – a BMW, actually! – so she drove, with four of us women in the back.  (They’re all so tiny that it actually wasn’t even a tight fit.)  When we got to The Key, the crappy new Taiwanese band was playing so we got a table upstairs and sat for awhile.  Once the bands changed and the music got better, I managed to get two of them to come down and dance with me.  It was a little bit crowded, but they slowly warmed up to it and seemed to enjoy themselves.  Dancing with these middle-aged Chinese women to songs like “Get Low” (they did, by the way) was one of the most ridiculous and special experiences of my time in China.  To make it even funnier, there was a very drunk man at the table next to our spot who indiscriminately hit on us, even the older women. 

Unfortunately I don’t think the other two women enjoyed themselves that much.  The smoke, noise, and crowds were too much for them.  Still, one of them is 60 and I’m kind of proud of her for coming at all!  They left around midnight, chiding me for not wearing a jacket and cautioning me to be careful – still old women after all!  I stayed there and danced with Leinira until almost 3 – after all, it was New Year’s Eve. 


I’ve put more pictures on my Picasa web album – most of them have already been in the journal, but there are a few new ones – and a particularly good Chinglish photo from Ningde. 

A Letter Home

In Uncategorized on November 12, 2009 at 10:01 pm

Today is a rainy day in Xiamen, perhaps our first one?  I went to class this morning and then returned to my room to study.  It works out because that’s pretty much what rainy days are for!  Today, I was assigned my first homework assignment since I got here – well, at least the first one that took me longer than 10 minutes.  We had to write a letter home, so I wrote a letter to my mom parent’s, whom I haven’t talked to in a few months.  For your viewing pleasure, here is the original Chinese, the babelfish translation (always good for a laugh) and my English words. 



我来厦门的时候,一个人都没认识过,所以很多事情很麻烦。 租房间,报名,买手机,延长签证,我几天都办好了。可是过了一个半月才办了好学生证!

我住在校园里面的一个宿舍。我有一个同屋,她叫 Leinira,是从 Cape Verde 来的。我非常喜欢她,她像我的姐姐。我们两个人住在一个房间,有两张床,一个洗澡间,还有阳台。








Dear grandfathers grandmother,

You are good? I am very good. I have lived in more than two months in Xiamen! My Chinese progressed many. Besides on Chinese class, I also every day use Chinese to eat meal, go shopping, ride the public vehicle, and so on.

I come Xiamen’s time, people have not known, therefore many matters are very troublesome. Rents a room, the registration, buys the handset, the extension visa, my several days handled. But one half a month has only then managed the good student identity card!

I live inside the campus a dormitory. I have a roommate, she calls Leinira, is comes from Cape Verde. I like her, she look like me the elder sister. Both of us live in a room, two beds, a bath room, but also has the balcony.

Originally, I am one year under student. Midterm examination’s time, I test very well, therefore I thought that class was too easy. I have traded to two years on, now I think this class appropriate spot. My schoolmates do not divide come from Asia, Europe, with the Americas.

Not only I study Chinese, moreover study dances! I come time, I had discovered some teachers, their each Wednesday, six, together jump the social dancing. They let me participate, at the same time has studied several dances, at the same time becomes friends, plays.

I have free time, I like in the seashore taking a walk. Seashore the place which lives to me is very near, walks, so long as five minutes arrived! Eight in September Xiamen weather has been too hot, but in November is very comfortable, therefore I like strolling the seashore very much, specially sunset’s time.

Weekend’s time, I arrive frequently with the roommate dance. Saturday night, on me church. On Sunday has an English mass, but I thought that Chinese mass is better much, because I may also practice the hearing.

I think of you very much! My in next July returned to homeland, the time is not too long. You take care the body,



Grandma and Grandpa –

How are you?  I am doing very well.  I have been here in Xiamen for over 2 months now!  My Chinese is getting better because, in addition to Chinese classes, I use Chinese to eat, shop, take buses, etc. 

I didn’t know a single person when I came, so a lot of things were very frustrating.  I rented a dorm room, registered for classes, bought a cell phone, and extended my visa in the first few days, but it took a month and a half to get my student card. 

I live on campus in the dormitory.  I have a roommate named Leinira, who is from Cape Verde.  I really like my roommate – she is like a sister.  We live together in one room with two beds, a bathroom, and a balcony. 

Originally, I was placed into the second semester of first year Chinese.  I did really well on the test so I decided it was too easy.  I changed classes to the first semester of the second year and think this class is a better fit for me.  My classmates are Asians, Europeans, and Americans.

I am not only studying Chinese – I’m also learning how to dance!  My first week here, I found a group of teachers who get together twice a week for a social dance, and they let me join them.  I am learning a lot of dances, having fun, and making friends. 

When I have free time, I like to go on walks by the beach.  The beach is very close to where I live – only five minutes walking!  The weather was very hot in August and September, but October and November are very comfortable, so I like going for walks on the beach, especially during the sunset.

On weekends, I often go out with my roommate to bars to dance.  On Saturday evenings, I go to Mass.  There is an English Mass on Sundays, but I think the Chinese Mass is better because I can also work on my listening comprehension. 

I miss you very much!  I’ll be back next July, which isn’t too far away.  Take care!

~ Maria

The part of this assignment that took so long is the actual Chinese handwriting.  I know my painfully-simple letter doesn’t look like much, but it filled two sheets of paper! 

There’s Too Many Sunsets I Haven’t Seen

In Uncategorized on November 5, 2009 at 8:59 pm

I felt a lot better this morning.  This was due to several factors:

  • several loving messages from friends and family
  • a good night’s sleep
  • several episodes of Psych, which invariably makes me laugh out loud
  • my consumption of a French baguette and a block of mozzarella cheese in their entirety, as well as about a kilo of yogurt

This morning, I went with Aleid to the travel agency on campus to inquire about getting to Wuyi Shan.  It’s a famous mountain in my province of Fujian, and was our preferred destination for this weekend.  Unfortunately, it’s 14 hours away by train and the overnight option is only available one way.  As much as it was tempting to travel 28 hours for 12 hours on the mountain, we decided to save it for another weekend when we could spend more time there. 

Instead, we’re planning on going to Ningde.  We don’t know much about it except for some rather vague, cool-sounding attractions – two mountains, China’s largest waterfall complex, bamboo rafting – but we do know that our 3-hour bus ride will begin at 7:50 on Saturday morning.  That’s pretty much all you need to know – at least it worked for us in Taiwan!  Even though it’s not what we had planned, I’m excited about the trip.

This afternoon I had Oral class and my Listening midterm.  The test went well and the entire class passed without her making that horrible sucking noise of disapproval, so I was even pretty happy when I left.  Most importantly, we got out early – in time for me to catch the sunset.

I ran back to my room to get a jacket, and then headed for the beach.  The sunset was hidden by clouds so it was more of a spectrum of pastels than a dazzling sun, but it was just as beautiful.



I walked further to the west than I had before, and found a new beach.  It’s surrounded by highways (which, if you remember, are one of my favorite parts of Xiamen), so I thought it was beautiful.  They light up at night, so the scenery was beautiful even after the sunset. 



I walked along the beach, barefoot, listening to music and singing over the sound of the waves.  It was idllyic.  The songs that came up were so perfect, with themes of suns and sunsets, especially You Are the Sun by Sarah Groves (“I am the moon with no light of my own / Still You have made me to shine / As as I glow in this cold dark night / I know I can’t be a light unless I turn my face to You”) and Many the Miles by Sarah Bareilles:

There’s too many things that I haven’t done yet
There’s too many sunsets I haven’t seen
You can’t waste the day wishing it’d slow down
You would have thought by now
I’d have learned something, yeah

I made up my mind when I was a young girl
I’ve been given this one world – I won’t worry it away
But now and again, I lose sight of the good life
I get stuck in a low light
But then love comes in

How far do I have to go to get to you?
Many the miles, many the miles
How far do I have to go to get to you?
Many the miles, but send me the miles, and I’ll be happy to

I do what I can, wherever I end up
To keep giving my good love
And spreading it around, yeah
‘Cause I’ve had my fair share of “take care and goodbyes”
I’ve learned how to cry and I’m better for that

How far do I have to go to get to you?
Many the miles, many the miles
How far do I have to go to get to you?
Many the miles, but send me the miles, and I’ll be happy to

Red letter day, and I’m in a blue mood
Wishing that blue would just carry me away
I’ve been talking to God
Don’t know if it’s helping or not
But surely something has got to got to got to give
‘Cause I can’t keep waiting to live

There’s too many things I haven’t done yet
There’s too many sunsets I haven’t seen

Great song.  I highly recommend it, as well as leisurely walks on the beach, when you’re feeling down.  You just can’t lose sight of the good life – there are too many sunsets you haven’t seen.