These last few weeks have been really busy with church. I know most of what’s going on, but when I don’t it just boils down to this: if someone asks me if I’m going to be at XXXX on the XXth at XX o’clock, I say yes. Then I just pick up the rest of the details as we go. It’s usually pretty easy, almost always consisting of Mass at various places throughout our diocese, more often than not preceded by snacks or followed by meals.
So when I showed up at the ferry in a skirt and dress flats, and saw everyone else wearing athletic pants and sneakers, I didn’t think much of it. I mean, I noticed, but I certainly didn’t think “Huh, I bet we’re going to climb a mountain after Mass.” Because that would be ridiculous, right?
[Side note: I was also wearing my new glasses, which I bought for $110 – without insurance!]
Today’s Mass was in honor of the Virgin of Fatima, who first appeared to three children in Portugal in May of 1917, so we took a bus out to Changtai, site of a church dedicated to Our Lady of Fatima. Much to my dismay, they did the readings in Minnanhua instead of Mandarin, so I have no idea what was said. Thus, I was especially grateful for the music today, which had especially meaningful lyrics (that I understood!).
Random anecdote from Mass: When they brought the gifts forward (usually just bread, wine, and water to be consecrated), they also brought a few baskets of fruit as an offering. We do this in America sometimes, too – but these baskets contained pineapple, wax apples, lychee, and dragonfruit. It was just so quintessentially Xiamen!
After Mass, then I set about trying to get to Zhangzhou. Some of my friends were participating in a dance competition at our Zhangzhou campus, and I had talked to someone already about getting there straight from Changtai. I’m basically a master of all forms of transportation in China, so I didn’t think it would be a problem.
Sister Mangu found someone driving to Zhangzhou and they said I could go with them, but then everything fell apart when I mentioned that I was going to XiaDa’s campus in Zhangzhou. All of a sudden everything was 没办法 and 算了吧 and 不可能的 (in a nutshell, “no way, Jose”) because – get this – the Zhangzhou campus isn’t in Zhangzhou. Of course! Why didn’t I think of that!
Everyone counseled me to just go tomorrow, which was a nonsensical argument as the competition was a one-day only thing, but I basically had no option. So I joined the rest of the youth from my parish over bowls of noodles and fixin’s. It was around this time that I began to hear the words 爬山, which mean “mountain climbing”, and about this time that I began cursing the language barrier between me and everyone who had told me about today’s event.
I mean, I suppose there might be outfits that lie at the intersection of the sets “Clothes that are appropriate for Mass” and “Clothes that are appropriate for climbing mountains”, but when I have no particular reason to be mountain-climbing-ready, I tend not to be. Case in point today, when my outfit consisted of a pair of peep-toes, a skirt, and thick leggings (which turned out to not be necessary on this 90-degree day). After nearly a year of making fun of the tendency of Chinese women to climb mountains in ridiculous outfits (the woman at Wuyishan in high heels and a fur coat is particularly memorable), I can’t say how horrified/amused I was to see that everyone except for one person was dressed more sensibly than me.
Every time I cooed worriedly over a small scratch on my shoes (precious beyond words because I bought them in Hong Kong and they actually fit), someone would make a comment about how I had worn the wrong shoes. I kept my mouth shut, but apparently I climb better when I’m angry because, despite my attire, I kept up with the group just fine. I know my Chinese isn’t perfect (and was even more vehement than usual in protesting such compliments today), but I SWEAR that the words 爬山 were never once mentioned in any of the several conversations I had about today’s trip. It seems like kind of an important thing to mention, though, right? By the way, we’re going mountain climbing!
The mountain was nice, and we took a lot of pictures.
Once I had walked off my frustration, I really enjoyed the time. I finally talked to a couple of people that I see at church every week, learning their names and a little bit about them. After recently despairing about BinBin, the one person at church who doesn’t seem at all interested in being my friend, I think that maybe I wrote him off too early. We totally bonded over music today, singing the 天主经 (Our Father) in a round as we came down the mountain.
We ran into some strangers at the top and I got to hear Fr. Zhao explain Catholicism and Christianity in Chinese, which I guess I’ve been doing alright.
When we had conquered the mountain, we took the bus to a restaurant where the parents of one of my new-old friends treated us to lunch. It was a delicious lunch with about 13 dishes, that apparently all consisted at least half of ginger. Amazing.
I really felt Chinese during lunch. I dug around the fish skeleton for the good flesh, expertly avoided most of the bones, and expertly removed the remaining bones from my mouth without too much grimacing. I put said bones on the table without any hesitation, confident that the table-top was where my refuse belonged. I downed at least a bottle of 雪花 beer, tiny glass by tiny glass and 敬 by 敬, as people went around to other tables to toast. I even pointed to my nose (instead of my chest) when talking about myself.
Maybe I’m at a tipping point in my cultural immersion here in China. A week ago, I didn’t know what the term 中国通 (old China hand) meant, but since then I’ve had four separate people call me one. I eat rice porridge, I book tickets on qunar.com, I can converse freely with Chinese, and I sing in a Chinese choir.
And I point to my nose when I talk about myself. I’m basically Chinese.