Maria Holland

Posts Tagged ‘holidays’

Year of the Dragon

In Uncategorized on March 28, 2012 at 12:46 pm

I’m turning 24 today!  Because this is a multiple of 12, this means that it’s currently my 本命年!  That’s right, it is now the Year of the Dragon, as it was in 1988 and 2000.  Being born in the Year of the Dragon is pretty much the best, and it’s not just me that thinks so!  China and much of Asia are expecting a baby boom because everyone wants their kids born under the sign of the dragon! 

Talking to my friend XuLei shortly before the new year, I asked her what I was supposed to do during “my year”.  The answer?  Wear red underwear.  BUT you can’t buy them for yourself, she said – they have to be a gift.

I hosted a Chinese New Year party on 除夕 (New Year’s Eve) and had about a dozen people crammed into my tiny apartment for 饺子,麻婆豆腐,拔丝土豆,宫保鸡丁, etc.  I was talking to one of my American-born Chinese friends and told him the red panties, and he said it sounded like XuLei was “trolling” me. 

Next day, I got a text from him.  He had called his grandmother to wish her a happy new year, and she told he should be wearing red underwear. 

He was forced to concede that maybe XuLei was onto something.

Pengyou, Ting!

In Uncategorized on December 14, 2011 at 7:10 pm

This week, safely past Gaudete Sunday and into finals, I finally started listening to Christmas music.  My Christmas music collection includes lots of classics as well as music from past holiday concerts that I participated in during my band years, and one in particular stood out to me this year. 

I’d heard it a hundred times before, but I finally made the effort to look up the words.  All I could really understand was the beginning (‘pengyou ting’, or 朋友听, means “Listen, my friend”) and the name of Jesus.  After a Google search or two, I found this:

Pengyou, ting zhe hao xin xi:
Yesu jiang shi wei jiu ni,
Benlai ta shi tian shang shen,
Te lai wei jiu shi shang ren.
Pengyou, ting zhe hao xin xi:
Yesu jiang shi wei jiu ni,
Yesu Jidu, Jesu Jidu.
Jiang shi wei jiu wo, jiu ni!

And then I was even more confused.  This is one of the first times I’ve ever seen a bunch of pinyin that I didn’t already know the characters to, and it is striking how ambiguous this text is. 

The first line is pretty easy – “Listen, friend, to this good news” – and I understand on the first read-through.  But in the second line, I find myself wondering, Jesus did what to save you?  ‘Jiang’ can be 将, 讲, 降, and those are only the verbs that I know of that might possibly fit in this context.  After a little bit of thought, I thought the line was 耶稣降世为救你.  But, even more interestingly, I was really confident that the ‘shi’ was “to  be” (是), but Google pinyin seemed pretty confident that it was “earth” (世), which would turn the meaning from “[The reason] Jesus came down is to save you” to “Jesus came down to earth to save you”. 

Line 3 is also easy – 本来他是天上神, or “Originally he was a God in Heaven”, but line 4 causes at least a double-take.  The first time I heard it, I thought it was 他来为就是伤人, or “[The reason] he came is for the injured” but then again, maybe they meant 他来为救世上人, or “He came to save the people on earth”. 

Well anyway, I still like the song and its message.  Or messages.  Or whatever. 


In Uncategorized on November 24, 2011 at 4:10 pm

This year I celebrated Thanksgiving at “home” – that is, on Stanford’s campus where I’ve been living for two months now.  My parents came out here for the break, and for the actual holiday we enjoyed a free dinner provided by the Graduate Student Association.  It was nice because we got to share the meal with Mirela, my roommate, who is from Bulgaria and was celebrating her first American Thanksgiving.

Dad - 3281

My parents said it was their first time celebrating Thanksgiving not at someone’s home, and their first time eating Thanksgiving dinner outside (although we were in a tent), which I thought was interesting because neither was a first for me.  In fact, I realized that, of the last 6 Thanksgivings, I haven’t spent any two in the same place – 3 different states and two different countries, in fact – and there are only three people (Mom, Dad, and Grandpa Holland) who have been at more than one of the meals.

It reminded me of how often I’m far away from the people that I care about, and made me so grateful for those people who continue to care about me even when I’m far away from them for long periods of time.

Other things I’m grateful for:

Family, friends, and ways to keep in touch:
I QQ-ed with XuLei last night, something we still do pretty regularly.  How amazing is it that we can catch up whenever we want, talking face to face, for free?!  I’m also grateful for the fact that she said I look thinner, which I’m pretty sure was a first for her.

The circumstances that have allowed me to visit friends, and friends to visit me:
This last year was full of so many opportunities to reunite with friends – from Lester and Denise visiting me in Minneapolis, to my summer trips to Tulsa, St. Louis, and Chicago, and my extended road trip through 2/3 of the country, I got to see so many people that I hadn’t seen in too long!  Every visit was excellent, and there’s not a place that I visited that I didn’t leave thinking to myself, “Yeah, I could live here”.

New friends:
This time last year, I hadn’t realized yet how important the friendships that I made senior year at TU would become.  I was still unsure about the consequences of leaving the country for my senior year, and hadn’t yet figured out that it was pretty much the best thing ever.  Also, I’m thankful for the new friends I’ve made at Stanford, who have helped me through this first quarter!

The opportunities I’ve had to study at three of the most beautiful universities:
I love TU’s matching sandstone, library steps with a majestic view of downtown, and luxuriously spacious student apartments.  I loved Xiamen’s proximity to the beach, neighboring mountains, continually blossoming flowers, and Tall Building.  And now I’m continually in awe of Stanford’s classic Main Quad, modern-but-appropriate new Engineering Quad, the killer view from the Dish, and the insane fall colors.  How have I been so lucky?!  And . . . where could I possibly go from here?

And lastly, I’ve started reading The Confessions of St. Augustine, and this passage reminded me of the way I learned Chinese (although here he’s talking about learning his first language, Latin):

There had  been a time too, of course, when I did not know any Latin words either; yet simply by paying attention I learned Latin without any fears or torments; I learned it in the caressing language of my nurses and in the laughter and play and kindness of those about me.  In this learning I was under no pressure of punishment, and people did not have to urge me on; my own heart urged me on to give birth to the thoughts which it had conceived, and I could not do this unless I learned some words; these I learned not from instructors but from people who talked to me and in whose hearing I too was able to give birth to what I was feeling.  It is clear enough from this that free curiosity is a more powerful aid to the learning of languages than a forced discipline.

Pretty much super grateful for that opportunity that I was given.

Thanksgiving – In the States!

In Uncategorized on November 25, 2010 at 4:04 pm

It’s been a while since I celebrated Thanksgiving in the only country that celebrates Thanksgiving.  I was in China last year studying and the year before that visiting, so it had been three years since I had spent the day with my family.

Those two years of unconventional Thanksgivings actually gave me a much deeper appreciation for the holiday.  The first year, with its meal of turkey curry and our night out at the Mongolian sticks restaurant with s’mores for dessert, brought my attention to Thanksgiving as a sharing of cultures through food. 

Last year, I was celebrating in my new home with people I had known for less than three months.  That NQR dinner (on the roof of a Tex-Mex restaurant on the beach) made me appreciate how, even in these circumstances so far from home, I was surrounded by people I loved.


This year, I spent the majority of my Thanksgiving break (9 consecutive days – glorious!!) in Tulsa.  On Tuesday, I drove down to Dallas to spend the holidays with family; not family as in “the four of us”, but family as in “the forty-three of us”.  My parents and brother stayed up in the snowy north but I opted for Texas due to proximity, number, and – let’s face it – weather.

It was a good holiday, just as Thanksgiving should be, with food and family.

I brought my own contributions for the feast – two six-packs of Tsingtao Beer and a bag of 汤圆.  I should confess, I suppose, that there was another reason I chose Dallas: Asian markets!  I stopped by one on the way to my aunt’s house and it was almost like walking back into the supermarket at West Gate.  I wandered the aisles, noting the varieties of tofu available, until I found the frozen food aisle and its pot of gold.  That’s right, 汤圆

If you remember, tang yuan are one of my favorite Chinese foods.  The English name is generally translated as Glutinous Rice Balls, which I’ll admit doesn’t sound appealing, but they are so good.  They’re sticky balls of rice dough filled with sweetened sesame paste.  And they’re also delicious. 

So, I boiled a pot of water and dumped a whole bag of small tang yuan into it.  Then, excited to share a personal favorite with my family, I invited everyone to try them.

Oh, how I wish I’d had a video camera.  One by one, everyone grabbed one tang yuan on a fork and ate it.  The facial expressions were ridiculous!  You would have thought they were eating fish eyes or peas – both disgusting foods I have ingested! 

Some people are just not open to new foods apparently.  Really puts the damper on that “cultural sharing through food” thing.  It also left me with several dozen tang yuan to eat by myself – when a normal serving of tang yuan is about 8.  Turns out they’re a pretty heavy dessert . . . .

I’ll just think of it as stretching my stomach for Thanksgiving dinner!

What Was On My Mind (III)

In Uncategorized on September 4, 2010 at 5:00 pm

The end of the year, captured in facebook statuses:


Maria Holland heard someone say “Not gonna lie” today and, not gonna lie, it made me realize how long I’ve been away from America.
May 12 at 11:35pm

Maria Holland is still delighted every time I realized I can speak and read Chinese. Does it ever get old?
May 15 at 12:36am

Maria Holland It would have been nice to know we were climbing a mountain after Mass today, because the clothes I usually wear to Mass are generally not the best for mountain climbing. But, I’ve now climbed a mountain in peep-toed sandals and a skirt and feel more Chinese for the experience.
May 16 at 10:00pm

Maria Holland is spending the night at the church on Gulangyu. I’m planning a peaceful and quiet night, praying for Uncle Daniel and Robert, Nick, & Lonnie on the anniversary of their deaths. Glad we got to know you, Daniel.
May 18 at 5:12pm

Maria Holland had a beautiful night on Gulangyu. I took in a violin concert, savored the silence of the island broken only by piano music, slept three doors away from the choir loft of a century-old Catholic church, went to morning Mass, and had porridge with the bishop.
May 19 at 9:46am

Maria Holland got a SEVEN on the HSK!!!!!! I could theoretically go to college in China . . . but I think I’ll head back to TU and finish up there.
May 19 at 11:55am

Maria Holland it is May 2010 and, just like May 2007 and May 2008, I am making my way to the northeast of China. It’s almost like going home . . .
Meat sticks, I’m coming for you. Get ready!
May 20 at 2:54pm

Maria Holland is in Hunchun, the (0,0,0,0) coordinate of my life in China! I’ve been living with Xiao Zhang and Xiao Li, visited Mob Boss and MacGyver, eaten at DongFang and am currently preparing for an epic Shell birthday dinner complete with my cake and homemade dairy products like you wouldn’t believe.
Be jealous.
May 23 at 4:43pm

Maria Holland is in Hunchun at the farm today, for the third anniversary of my first day in China, and the third International Day of Prayer for the Church in China. Please join me, il Papa, and Christians around the world in praying for love, mutual understanding, and unity (both spiritual and political) between all 基督徒 in China.
May 24 at 8:34am

Maria Holland met up with Zaibin, my very first Chinese friend, today and we went to see Goose Lady!
May 25 at 8:52pm

Maria Holland has spent nine months in China!
May 26 at 10:31pm

Maria Holland is going to Xiao Zhang’s to learn how to make jiaozi and sugared potatoes! This means no internet ’til Sunday night though . . .
May 27 at 3:21pm

Maria Holland it is 10 a.m. in China and I’ve already stolen someone’s identity and broken the law. I’m currently sitting in what seems to be a love motel that I have rented by the hour. This has been a great trip . . .
May 30 at 10:39am

Maria Holland is back in Xiamen, happy to be out of Jilin but already missing Hunchun.
Also, how is it almost June??
May 31 at 10:52am

Maria Holland I live on a tropical island. Today is the 2nd of June. I wore my winter coat to go to dinner. One of these things is not like the others . . .
June 2 at 9:42pm

Maria Holland taking advantage of the rain to have the laziest day ever. Entire day spent in pajamas – check. Lunch delivered – check. Dinner delivered – check. Four seasons of Psych on DVD – check.
June 3 at 8:38pm

Maria Holland found out that Chinese people think mixed-blood babies are exceptionally beautiful and smart. Whatever. It’s when it turns into a matchmaking service designed to match me with a Chinese husband that I start to mind. Also, does EVERYONE have to participate? Random old man on the street last night, I’m talking about you . . .
June 5 at 2:56pm

Maria Holland watched Iron Man 2 (钢铁侠2) in theaters today and then bought both 1 & 2 on DVD immediately afterwards, for less than the cost of a movie in America. Sweet!
June 6 at 8:49pm

Maria Holland enjoyed an hour-long massage for $5 this morning. Yeah, I’m doin’ alright.
June 8 at 11:09pm

Maria Holland has still not bought return tickets. Maybe I’m not quite ready for that step . . .
June 10 at 12:52am

Maria Holland has pancake mix, dried pasta, marshmallows, chocolate, nutella, condensed milk, brown sugar, powdered sugar, and most of a bottle of gin . . . . and I am determined to use all of it before I leave this country, despite lacking an oven or any discernible kitchen.
June 10 at 5:41pm

Maria Holland had a great time watching the opening game of the World Cup. It’s a weird feeling, though, probably like what Harry Potter felt upon discovering this whole other world that only cares about one sport, a sport that you’ve never heard of.
June 12 at 1:01am

Maria Holland US vs. England in our first World Cup appearance – at 2:30 a.m. on a Saturday/school night? Why certainly!
June 12 at 11:12pm

Maria Holland needs more soccer-related vocabulary if I’m going to continue watching the World Cup in China. Tonight’s 生词: “draw” = 平. 我为美国加油! (I’m cheering for America!)
June 13 at 5:01am

Maria Holland Tomorrow would be the perfect day to leave Xiamen, because I just had the perfect Last Night in Country: singing French drinking songs on a bus that we flagged down at 2 a.m. and convinced to take us to a bar.
June 18 at 3:39am

Maria Holland is gearing up for a showdown between America and Slovenia – basically, me vs. Kristina. 美国 para ganar!
June 18 at 8:41pm

Maria Holland is really getting this football thing. Not getting the whole sleep thing, though. The two may or may not be related.
June 19 at 3:19am

Maria Holland is ready to go home, I guess. Everything is moldy and I’m tired of it. 30 days seems just about right!
June 21 at 11:06pm

Maria Holland has the Stomach Clench of Death. Come on yogurt, work your magic . . .
June 22 at 2:23pm

Maria Holland and this is why I’m loving the World Cup: sitting in a coffehouse, watching the England-Slovenia game and reading updates on the US-Algeria game, with friends from 3 of the 4 countries next to me. The US goal in the final minutes to win the group didn’t hurt either, of course!
June 24 at 12:38am

Maria Holland This may be the best line of its kind since “save a horse, ride a cowboy: “Although I’m a cowboy, I only drink milk in bars. Why don’t I drink beer? Because it’s bad for your health.” Courtesy of a Chinese cowboy song, “Cowboys Are Very Busy”
June 25 at 2:52am

Maria Holland taking a nap in my U.S.A jersey before the game. Sorry, Africa, but I hope Ghana’s out after this . . .
June 27 at 1:08am

Maria Holland Xiamen has a way of making up for Bad China Days. I had a very successful trip shopping for gifts this morning, spent a beautiful afternoon on the beach, and am headed out for dinner and the game. NEDERLANDS!!!
June 28 at 6:59pm

Maria Holland plans to enjoy each of my remaining days in China as much as I did today. Lunch with friends, afternoon on the beach, winning two games of 6-player Catan tonight. Spain and Holland play this weekend and we’re celebrating the Fourth on a boat, then I go to Hangzhou to see Matt Thomas! 挺好的 :)
July 1 at 1:38am

Maria Holland has a plane ticket! On July 20th at 8 p.m. (Beijing time), I will begin my adventure towards home. Expect me around 9 a.m. Central on Wednesday, July 21st at the Minneapolis/St. Paul airport – allowing, of course, for 48 hours of possible “adventure-related delays”.
July 1 at 12:20pm

Maria Holland is feeling far from home right now. Didn’t realize how important the internet is to keeping me connected, until they shut off our electricity today and I missed the news of my aunt’s heart attack. Please pray for my Aunt Cathy!
July 3 at 9:34pm

Maria Holland This was the best Fourth of July ever . . . if I do say so myself. Wait for pictures if you don’t believe me!
July 4 at 8:34pm

Maria Holland is not quite caught up from an amazing Fourth of July weekend but, ready or not, I’m off to Suzhou and Hangzhou tomorrow afternoon!
July 6 at 12:07am

Maria Holland Spain vs. the Netherlands in the World Cup final: two countries with the best-looking football, the best-looking footballers, and some of my best friends. I cannot lose!
July 8 at 4:29am

Maria Holland had Papa John’s delivered and ate it with an old friend from elementary, middle, and high school. BTW, I’m still in China. That’s crazy, right?
July 8 at 9:20pm

Maria Holland returned to Xiamen for the last time. The next time I return somewhere, I will be returning to the United States. 11 days . . .
July 9 at 8:55pm

Maria Holland will miss many things when I leave here – but not The Key anymore, and never the giant kamikaze bugs.
July 11 at 2:00am

Maria Holland is getting ready for three finals: the World Cup at 2:30 a.m., Listening at 9:00 a.m., and Grammar at 10 a.m. I predict domination in all three!
July 11 at 9:31pm

Maria Holland AAAH. This morning was amazing, between the game, the glorious sunrise, and the celebratory s’mores that we ate (possibly for breakfast). No longer tired. Two finals in three hours.
July 12 at 6:06am

Maria Holland is so tired. My sleep schedule has been messed up by constant goodbye parties and the month-long World Cup, but if I can keep it up for 8 more days maybe I won’t have jet lag when I get back home?
July 13 at 1:58am

What Was On My Mind (II)

In Uncategorized on September 4, 2010 at 4:56 pm

The middle of the year, captured in facebook statuses:


Maria Holland My parents are in route to China RIGHT NOW. Are they ready for China, and is China ready for them??
January 12 at 10:45pm

Maria Holland Parents, meet China. China, parents. (I hope they get along!!!) Yes, this means my parents have arrived in Xiamen safely!
January 13 at 11:12pm

Maria Holland had an amazing few days in Xiamen with my parents. It was almost too perfect, and now I’m hoping that the rest of China can live up to it! Next stop is Guangzhou, then we’re riding the world’s fastest train to Wuhan.
January 17 at 9:46pm

Maria Holland had the best day since leaving Xiamen today – looking at pandas all morning, and finding an amazing donut shop after lunch!
January 23 at 3:19pm

Maria Holland has mixed feelings about the first two days in Beijing. Peking roast duck, Forbidden City, Mass, and sanlunche ride home were amazing; the lack of readable maps, decent hotels, and Matteo Ricci’s tomb is really frustrating me. Oh, and I finally found a Chinese breviary, as well as a Chinese-English Catholic Encyclopedia!!!!!!
January 31 at 6:00pm

Maria Holland climbed the Great Wall today – and then slid down on my butt. Pretty much the best way to experience ChangCheng (and probably the fastest). Also, I think approximately 1/4 of all Chinese people have a picture of me now.
February 1 at 9:05pm

Maria Holland Um . . . . well, the good news is that I have a train ticket home from Beijing to Xiamen. The bad news is that they were out of sleepers so I have a seat. Oh, and it turns out it’s a 31 HOUR TRIP
February 2 at 8:35pm

Maria Holland got in a fight with China today and lost. We’re currently not speaking, at least not if I can help it. I plan to drug myself heavily before my 31-hour train trip tomorrow. I can’t wait to get back to Xiamen with it’s 70+ degree weather and beaches and Coco milk tea!
February 4 at 9:03pm

Maria Holland has had the 3 worst days in China. Hopefully today will be better – a working toilet, a massage, and my first real meal in 2 days would go a long way in this direction.
February 7 at 8:34am

Maria Holland got my toes in the water, ass in the sand, not a worry in the world and a good book in my hand. It’s 75 and sunny in Xiamen, and I happen to live 3 minutes from a beach. Score!
February 10 at 11:12am

Maria Holland still hasn’t figured out how to say Lent in Chinese . . . but I know how to say Easter!
February 17 at 9:33pm

Maria Holland seriously, Chinese Mulan – no happy ending? I put up with the random foreigner, the sandstorm that came out of nowhere, the lack of memorable songs, and your insistence on speaking Chinese the whole time . . . but how can you end it with the lovers parting ways? This is crap. Good thing the fruit here is good, or I would leave this country.
February 20 at 10:53pm

Maria Holland just figured out that the 天上母后 can be sung to the same tune as the Regina Caeli with only slight squishing of syllables. Is it Easter yet???
February 26 at 12:48am

Maria Holland spent the night in a Chinese hospital . . . don’t worry about me, I was just keeping Lester company, but the poor guy has pancreatitis so please pray for him!
February 28 at 9:58am

Maria Holland 刚刚开学 . . . Classes started today, which means vacation is over. I try not to let school interfere with my education, though, so I’m still really looking forward to the semester!
March 1 at 1:58pm

March 4 at 7:06pm

Maria Holland might miss books more than bread, guacamole, ice cream, and tortillas combined. Why do Chinese libraries hate me?
March 10 at 11:50pm

Maria Holland is wondering if you know how to say ‘doorknob’ in another language – without looking it up! Please respond, I’m doing a small survey.
March 12 at 11:58pm

Maria Holland is translating the legend of Paul Bunyan into Chinese. Thus far, I have learned: giant (巨人), lumberjack (伐木人), Grand Canyon (大峡谷), axe (斧), buttons (纽扣), and footprints (足迹). Good thing I already knew how to say Mississippi River!
March 17 at 4:39pm

Maria Holland won’t be takin’ no calls cuz I’ll be dancin’
March 19 at 10:58am

Maria Holland in previewing tomorrow’s Chinese lesson, I came across this sentence: 美国人是非常小气的 (Americans are extremely stingy). Awesome . . .
March 21 at 11:43pm

Maria Holland was really amused to read this comment from an overseas Chinese on an article about the ongoing Google-China battle: "All Chinese, I urge you to boycott Google, and join my facebook "Chinese boycott Google" group." Um . . . great idea, except your government blocked facebook a few years ago for also refusing to self-censor. Irony FAIL.
March 23 at 11:42pm

Maria Holland is pretty sure she has the best parents ever. The package from home included Girl Scout cookies, jelly beans, chocolate bunnies, Cadbury eggs, Hershey’s kisses, lemonade powder, Jello mix, and another bag of marshmallows!!!! Dear Easter: I am eagerly awaiting your arrival :)
March 25 at 1:45pm

Maria Holland baked 7 cakes and a batch of cookies today. Isn’t a full kitchen a wonderful thing? Now if only it were mine . . .
March 26 at 8:51pm

Maria Holland will be celebrating my birthday for a total of 42 hours, from birthday vigil on Chinese time to the end of the day in the Central US. It’s going great so far!
March 28 at 3:18am

Maria Holland My birthday presents included flowers, Belgian chocolate, Kazah and Swedish money, a book titled "Anonymous Rex/Casual Rex", a Slovenian PowerPoint presentation prominently featuring 茄子 (eggplant), a bunch of Dutch music including Bisje Komt Zo (which is apparently about drugs, not buses), and a traditional Chinese bra. Best birthday ever? Possibly.
March 29 at 9:46pm

Maria Holland Ate too many jelly beans and am on a crazy sugar high . . . considering playing the Regina Caeli on loop and singing at the top of my voice while eating chocolate bunnies. That should do the trick . . .
April 4 at 12:13am

Maria Holland Are you wearing pants? Correct answer is No! Are you saying Alleluia? Correct answer is Yes!
April 4 at 11:43pm

Maria Holland had the best Monday today – at least since coming to China, but possibly ever. Tomorrow I leave for an impromptu trip to Guangzhou and a weekend in Hong Kong! Going to class is for squares . . .
April 5 at 10:12pm

Maria Holland is in Guangzhou with friends from OKLAHOMA and their new Chinese son. My hotel room has a shower door and a bed with non-negligible padding – basically the lap of luxury. AND it’s still Easter! Basically, life is good.
April 6 at 11:10pm

Maria Holland must have gotten on the wrong train and ended up in Mumbai, as I’m staying the night in an Indian-run slum. But it’s okay: there’s free internet in Hong Kong (I’m on facebook without a proxy!), there’s a TGIF Friday’s around the corner, and it JUST HAPPENS to be Friday.
April 9 at 5:30pm

Maria Holland had a perfect day in Hong Kong today. I see a TU friend tomorrow (!) and then it’s back home to Xiamen :)
April 10 at 11:52pm

Maria Holland is anyone interested in going to see Mika in concert in Hong Kong on June 16th??
April 13 at 10:29pm

Maria Holland may have figured out how to say "soup Nazi" (and any other words with structure "XX Nazi") in Chinese. So yes, in answer to your question, studying for the HSK is going swimmingly.
April 16 at 1:29am

Maria Holland has a ticket to Changchun, Jilin for May 20th!! Can’t wait to return to the land of my "Chinese childhood"!
April 16 at 3:25pm

Maria Holland is 考试-ing her 汉语水平. It’s HSK time!
April 17 at 11:28pm

Maria Holland countdown in China is at 3 months !?!
April 19 at 11:56pm

Maria Holland F.M.L. Another weekend in China, another adventure – but adventures involving hospitals are significantly less fun than adventures that don’t.
April 22 at 10:21pm

Maria Holland is going to be singing the Misa de Angelis at the installation of the new bishop of the Diocese of Xiamen in two weeks! I guess this kind of makes up for the gynecologist appointment yesterday . . . I forgive you, China.
April 24 at 8:20pm

Maria Holland has been in China for 8 months now. Depending on your age, this may or may not seem like an incredibly long period of time to you. I’m 22, and it’s pretty much ginormous.
April 26 at 11:06pm

Maria Holland is in love with Sheldon Cooper. Also, mangos.
April 30 at 10:37pm

Maria Holland thinks that Chinese national holidays are about as much fun as bamboo shoots shoved into various body parts. Nevertheless, I had a really good day. I even managed to be part of a winning team based on the other side of the world!
May 1 at 11:02pm

Maria Holland had an amazing three day weekend but is infinitely more tired than when classes ended on Friday.
May 4 at 1:01am

Maria Holland is in the EXACT SAME COUNTRY as The Dear Leader RIGHT NOW. How could I be so lucky!?!
May 4 at 9:15pm

Maria Holland A year ago, I knew less than 100 Chinese characters. Tonight, I have the Chinese version of "Make Me a Channel of Your Peace" stuck in my head.
May 7 at 1:34am

Maria Holland The school year at TU is now over and I am officially . . . still a senior. It’s what I do best.
May 7 at 9:57pm

Maria Holland can’t even say how overjoyed I was to have the opportunity to sing in the choir at the installation of Xiamen’s very first local bishop, Cai Binrui (and how pleased I was to hear that he has a papal mandate as well!)
May 8 at 2:52pm

Maria Holland is fabulous. Tomorrow, please be 跟 today 一样 wonderful, 谢谢. I’m singing at Bishop Cai’s first Mass in the morning, but then how to follow that up??
May 9 at 1:27am

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 . . .


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

Yong Zhi - 2673

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.

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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.


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?

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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.

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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.


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? 

If It’s Tourist Season, Does That Mean We Can Shoot Them?

In Uncategorized on May 2, 2010 at 1:42 am

Today, May 1st, is 五一.  This literally means “5-1” (as in, May 1st) which officially makes it the most boring holiday name ever, right?  But I think the holiday is technically called 国际劳动节, or International Worker’s Day.  It is also, on church calendar, it is the feast of St. Joseph the Worker. 

I had forgotten about the last point but, in typical me fashion, had heard about a trip to another church this morning and signed up.  We met super early over by LunDu to board buses.  (Interesting fact – not many foreigners hang out at the sketchy ferry port at 7 a.m. on national holidays.  Who knew?)  We then drove to another location – not entirely sure on the details because a) I have no sense of direction and b) I was asleep, of course.

So all of a sudden I wake up, look out the window, and see a huge church with an even bigger mountain in the background.  Impressive, to say the least (although this picture is not that great). 


Even more overwhelming than the mountain was the number of people there.  (Later, I would find out that this was to be the theme of the day.)  Despite the crushing crowd, my Chinese mom (note to self: learn her actual name) somehow managed to find us seats right up by the altar.  Correction – she found us space up by the altar.  Only the 7 concelebrating priests had seats as far as I could tell; everyone else alternately sat or knelt on kneelers.  Some were obviously taken from inside the church, but otherwise I think it was BYOK.  

After Mass ended, they had Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament and Benediction.  While I kind of wish I had taken some pictures, I do hope that the mental images never fade – especially of Fr. Cai (as of next week, Bishop of Xiamen) holding the monstrance aloft and staring at it with an intense gaze.

As the priests processed out, the ruckus began.  It was even louder than I expected the crowd to be, and I found myself with an overwhelming urge to duck and hit the floor.  Maybe the news of all the attacks in Chinese elementary schools has me on edge, but I really thought someone had opened fire on the congregation.  It turned out to be fireworks . . . (By the way, Chinese fireworks are not the pretty ones we fire on the 4th of July.  They’re like blackcats on steroids, basically sounding like a thousand machine guns firing simultaneously.  Festive, no?)

Chinese Catholic churches are just like American Catholic churches – breakfast often follows Mass, especially at large events.  Unfortunately, no donuts and coffee over here.  Instead, standard fare is 米粥, or rice porridge (hope you remembered to BYO dishes!).  It’s alright, but today’s was served out of enormous tubs on the floor, and – call me crazy – I have this ‘thing’ about eating food from the floor.  Also, there may or may not have been worms among the various things added; no big.

I found several things interesting about the morning’s excursion.  First of all, I really like the feeling of community in the Xiamen diocese.  There have been several times throughout the year where the diocese has come together to celebrate special events – the ordination, two First Masses, the choir competition, the Chrism Mass, and several church’s feast days.  Even I, the epitome of an outsider, have found it easy to attend these events because they are publicized and the church takes care of the details. 

Secondly, Chinese people no longer look all the same to me.  This has actually been some time coming, but today especially illustrated this to me.  As I looked out on the crowd, my eyes would immediately seek out “my people” – the ones I know by name certainly, but also the ones that I just see in the pews every week.  I admit, it’s still hard for me to remember what those I just met look like, but I could never mistake the ones I know. 

Third, despite trying really really hard, sometimes I just can’t think of the behavior that Chinese people find acceptable at Mass as anything above repulsive.  Today’s service was outside, so things were even worse than usual: The man spitting on the tree behind me.  The little kid eating a bag of chips on the altar stairs.  The people discussing where in the missal to find the readings, in “outside” voices directly next to the altar.  Perhaps worst of all, the seating area after everyone cleared out:


I’ve seen fairgrounds and public restrooms that look better than this.  Judging by the refuse, somebody enjoyed a banana during Mass while someone else ate a stick of tubed ham.  Seriously, guys??

We took the bus back to Xiamen, but it only went as far as LunDu.  It’s usually only a 15-minute bus ride back to campus from there, but today it took me an hour to get home.  Happy holidays! 

Yong Zhi called me in the afternoon to see if I wanted to go to Gulangyu.  I didn’t know how to say how I was feeling (“I’d rather shove bamboo shoots under each of my nails than go to Gulangyu on a national holiday”) in Chinese, so I just offered another suggestion.  We went shopping at West Gate, prepared the food in my room, and then went to the lake for a picnic.

The lake was beautiful, there were guys break-dancing down on the pavilion, and we had food.  Oh, the food!  We made sandwiches and salsa, bought Tostitos from the Fake 7-11, and made a fruit salad of strawberries and mango.  I thought it was all insanely delicious, and it was certainly the best sandwiches, salsa, and tortilla chips that Yong Zhi had ever had because he’d never had sandwiches, salsa, or tortilla chips.  Now, pause a moment to reflect on that and think about how lucky you are. 

We lingered over our meal, but eventually I had to go to church again.  ** Fun Catholic Fact of the Day: There is a Mass for every day of the week, including Saturday – and not just the pre-Sunday Saturday night vigil.  (I literally did not know this until I went to college!)  So this morning’s Mass was Saturday’s, and tonight’s was the Sunday vigil service. **

I met up with Kartika, an Indonesian classmate who has started to come to Chinese Mass sometimes.  We met up at West Gate and, right around the time we finished sharing our life stories, realized that none of the buses we could take to LunDu had come yet.  We decided to get on the next bus that came by, and ended up at the botanical gardens.  It wasn’t much progress – basically a lateral move – but at least while we waiting in growing desperation for the right bus, we were waiting in peace instead of in a teeming mass of humanity. 

While we had joking talked about walking to Mass, it probably would have actually been a good idea.  As it was, we hung out on the bus as it inched along at the approximate rate of growth of my fingernails.  While it was 7:10 by the time we got to the LunDu bus stop with about 7 minutes of walking still to go, we figured that Mass (which had started at 6:30) wasn’t entirely hopeless yet.  But . . . we thought wrong!  As we climbed the stairs, the first people were leaving – Mass had just finished.  The sound of a silent church?  That’s the sound of an epic fail. 

We prayed by ourselves for a few minutes and then reluctantly set out on the way home.  Lundu was a chaotic mess, so we walked through ZhongShanLu, which was also a chaotic mess, until we found a bus headed home.  Summary of the evening’s adventure: over 3 hours, for nothing.

So yeah, I wasn’t feeling super disposed towards the average Chinese today.  Probably the largest cultural obstacle I’ve found since coming here, even worse than the 麻烦 of paperwork, is the indifference (slash astounding rudeness) with which strangers are treated here.  Even after 8 months, I haven’t completely let go of my irrational hope that, if I persevere in treating others with respect, they will return the favor.  Over here, though, this attitude just sets one up for disappointment – the law of the land is “shove or be shoved”.  I watched “Take the Lead” this evening and realized how much I miss common courtesy when I felt my heart melt when Antonio Banderas opened the door for a lady – not because he’s Antonio Banderas, but because he opened the door for a lady

On a very related note, I’ve officially decided I’m not going to Shanghai for the World Expo.  A bunch of tourists from all over China converging on a single location?  Basically feel the same as I did about going to Gulangyu today – bamboo under the fingernails would be preferable. 

Happy Birthday, Queen Beatrix!

In Uncategorized on May 1, 2010 at 1:42 am

We got our midterms back in class today (solid 91%) and then basically had free time to do whatever we wanted as long as it was speaking Chinese.  My group got on to the topic of food (of course) and the teacher even joined in.  I found out that Xiamen’s worm specialty is called 土笋冻.  From what I’ve read of this Chinese article on it, the snack originated when Koxinga (the man who got the Dutch out of Taiwan) was stationed by a sea and running low on food.  From what the teacher told us, nobody likes it the first time they eat it, but after three times you start to like it.  Good thing they’re available at night markets here, because I only have to try two more times to start liking them.  Can you imagine me going through a worms-in-jelly phase?

Today’s weather was absolutely gorgeous, which was perfect because Friday is Jiaozi Day!  They’re looking for a female worker . . .

After lunch, I walked around – grabbed ice cream to cool off my mouth, bought some earrings off the street, looked at glasses and prices, etc.  I also went to the XiaDa souvenir shop!  They have hats and t-shirts and desk accoutrement and mugs and postcards and business card holders and pocket knifes, all with the XiaDa seal on them!  Their prices are almost unreasonably reasonable, especially when compared with college bookstores in America.  I bought postcards, bookmarks, a keychain, and a pin for $5 – for the same price at the TU bookstore, I believe, you can buy a window decal for your car.  Oh wait, plus tax . . . okay, you can almost buy a window decal for your car.

Today is Queen’s Day, the Dutch national holiday, which we celebrated by wearing orange.  We met up at Diederik’s place for drinks at 5.  (Incidentally, if you like the “it’s 5 o’clock somewhere” argument, that means 4 a.m. in the central US.  So go ahead and start the day with a beer or two!)  Diederik lives on the highest point of the entire island.  Okay, this is an exaggeration – he lives on the 8th floor or so – but there are no stairs so it’s a little extreme.  The upside, though, is that he has a great view.


We proceeded from there to dinner at a great seafood restaurant on DaXueLu (aka Fish Restaurant Street).  We got a table outside next to a huge banquet table of Chinese working hard at getting totally wasted.  The atmosphere was kind of nice, actually, lending a feeling of festivity to our dinner (except for the fact that their favored puking spot was the tree next to our table).  The service was surprisingly good as well, and the food was great.  We ended up ordering three servings of their garlic shrimp, plate after plate after plate, because we still hadn’t had enough. 

We had all sorts of interesting things to talk about over dinner.  I am really getting interested in government and politics, although only in comparison.  I’m fascinated by monarchies, their powers, and popular opinion about them.  I have so many questions – for instance, for the Dutch: Would you like to have a king next?  Would you be okay with a foreigner sitting on the throne?

I had mangos for dessert.  I didn’t have them for breakfast because I had loquats instead.  Do you know what a loquat is?  I didn’t, until last week.  This is such a common occurrence with fruit here – between the language barrier and the climate difference, I see new fruits almost weekly and learn new words even more often.  I’m working on a fruit dictionary, which I will post once I add pictures.  Get excited – there are cool words like mangosteen and longan and rambutan and wax apples, any of which would make a really awesome band name. 

And with that, April is over.  Hello, May!