Tag Archives: Xiamen
18. Nov, 2010

Dog – A Late Night Snack

Dog – A Late Night Snack

“Biju, I’m going to show you some place hardcore. Some place really Chinese.”

We had already spent a late night at our local hangout and I am more than ready to go to bed. It’s late, but my friend cannot be denied. Grabbing my hand and shoving me into a taxi, I assume that we are going to find a local place to eat nearby, a comforting meal of late night barbecue cooked up to order at virtually any street corner in China.

But as the taxi meter counts steadily upward, I realize my friend is serious. A long time resident of China and a fluent Chinese speaker, his exploratory powers far outshine my own.  As we pull into a chop shop to ask for directions, he tells me how ridiculous it is when people say that our city is small.

Xiamen is home to over 3 million people and covers an area of 1500 square kilometers. By Chinese standards Xiamen is a small town. But the tendency amongst foreigners (myself included) is to stick the easy-to-reach comfortable areas where foreigners tend to congregate. Bars, cafes, and the university are places that are safe and familiar, where foreign faces are expected if not common.

An intense conversation in Chinese with the chop shop workers results in the bewildered taxi driver dropping us off in what seems like the middle of nowhere. The cab fair reads 50 RMB. 50 RMB! I didn’t even know you COULD pay 50 RMB and stay on the island!

As rain dribbles through my clothes I lurch into motion after my friend in the dark as he barks at a series of sleeping shop owners at 3 in the morning in Chinese.

“What’s open?! Where’s the restaurant!?”

The shopkeepers start, muttering and motioning to keep going down the road, promptly falling back asleep as we pass.

It’s so easy to lean back and rest on your laurels as an expat. After all, we’ve moved, we’ve settled, we’ve found the places of interest in the guidebook or the expat forums online. We’ve plumbed the depths.

But sitting at that restaurant, eating the dog and pan fried silk worm larvae as my friend chats with the grinning restaurant owners, I realize again that I’m in a new country. There’s no end to the exploration and when you find yourself in a new culture, there are always hidden depths to explore.

03. Nov, 2010

Funny Pic #15

Funny Pic #15

funny poster, bathroom, China, Xiamen

26. Oct, 2010

New Camera!!

New Camera!!

We’ve finally taken the plunge and upgraded from point-and-shoots to a real, grown up DSLR.  After much scouring of the internet for reviews and recommendations, we decided on the new entry level Nikon model D3100, and so far we couldn’t be happier.  Here are a few of our favorite shots so far.

bikes, beach, Xiamen, Fujian

Bikes for rent along the Xiamen coast.

Biju, Xiamen

Biju with the Xiamen skyline in the background

boad, man, dock, boardwalk, ocean, China

Man sitting on the docks in a local park

Biju, Helens cafe, Xiamen

Relaxing at our favorite local cafe, Helen’s

12. Sep, 2010

Six Months In

Six Months In

The first six months in a new country always fly by.  So much happens in the first six months abroad: finding a place to live, learning where to buy toilet paper, figuring out how to properly pronounce “turn right” in a new language…it’s sometimes difficult to find time to reflect.  Here are a few of my own reflections on our first six month experiences, what we’ve learned, and what we’d do differently if we could rewind.

1. Establish a routine as soon as possible.  Learning Chinese was a huge priority for us during our time in China, and as freelance writers, we had plenty of time to fit in lessons.  One of the best choices we made was finding a tutor and meeting regularly with her from the second or third week we were here.  Because those first weeks and months are so overwhelming and often exhausting, we may never have gotten around to starting had we not done it early.

2. Introduce yourself to everyone.  Biju and I both work from home, so we’re not cursed blessed with coworkers.  When you first move to any new location, your coworkers are often your first acquaintances, and without that social connection, life can feel lonely and isolated.  We’ve found that seeking out the happening spots and making an effort to talk with everyone we can has helped tremendously.  It’s definitely awkward at first to insert yourself into a conversation between complete strangers, but the shared experience of being an expat often makes up for such forward behavior.

3. Hook up with the Couch Surfing group in your city.  The Couch Surfing project is basically a social network of people from around the world willing to host fellow travelers.  We’ve had the pleasure of hosting several people, some of whom are now our closest friends.  Xiamen has a super active Couch Surfing community, and we meet together at least once per month.  If your city doesn’t have an active group, search for other members in your area and start up a monthly meeting.

Xiamen, Fujian, China, friends, couch surfing

Biju and Bryce, a friend from Couch Surfing

4. Plan a vacation or getaway around the six-month mark.  We’ve found that both in China and Korea, we really needed a break after those first chaotic months.  This year my family came to visit, and we traveled together around China.  While we didn’t even leave the country, we came back refreshed and ready to get back in a routine.  If you’re feeling frustrated with the language or cultural differences, getting away for a few days can really make a difference.

family, Great Wall, China, Beijing

My family and I at the Great Wall

08. Sep, 2010

Typhoons!

Typhoons!

Typhoon Lion Rock has has past Xiamen, marking my first typhoon!

Typhoon Lion Rock

My suspicions that something were amiss were quite indirect, since I can’t get my TV to work and in any case the weather would probably be in Chinese. Some friends in Korea mentioned that typhoon Kompasa was about to hit there. Someone else mentioned that there were three typhoons in the area. That was when my Spidey senses started tingling.

Finally I saw a post from people in Taiwan talking about typhoon Lion Rock, a noble sounding name that seemed to foretell the wrath of God. Since Taiwan’s weather is my future, I have resolved from now on to always keep an eye angled at our island neighbor.

According to one news source (not my TV) around ten flights were cancelled at the local airport, a dozen were delayed, schools were closed, as were scenic spots and the ferries to Gulangyu, the mainland, and presumably Taiwan.

Snug in my 20th floor apartment far away from the wet, I pondered only one question – what exactly is the difference between a typhoon and a hurricane?  Apparently, a typhoon is the name of a large storm that occurs in the western Pacific, while a hurricane is the same thing, but occurs int he eastern Pacific and the Atlantic.

In either case, I think I prefer my storms to have cool names rather than ridiculous people names. Like Earl.

05. Jun, 2010

Funny Pic #14

Funny Pic #14
bad english, clio coddle

I think you mean 'crocodile'

30. May, 2010

Funny Pic #13

Funny Pic #13

Yes...indeed it does.

29. May, 2010

Things that Shouldn’t Exist: Meat Doughnut

Things that Shouldn’t Exist: Meat Doughnut

Last week we had friends over for dinner, a nice mix of fellow expats and local Chinese friends.  As usual for a dinner event, everyone brought dessert.  No complaints from me; I love dessert.  We had homemade cookies, green tea and strawberry ice cream, brownies and doughnuts (doughnuts being a dessert food in Asia as opposed to breakfast).

The box of doughnuts, brought by Kate, our landlord’s daughter, contained a mix of different flavors, including some classic favorites like chocolate, coffee, strawberry, etc.  As Kate was helpfully identifying each for us, she pointed to one and said it was a meat flavored doughnut.  Hmm.  We all selected other types, leaving a few odd stragglers behind.

Later that evening, once most of the guest had left, we were hanging out with a few close friends and decided someone needed to try this meat doughnut.  Leave it to Biju to the the first.  After carefully observing his face as he took the first bite, the rest of us decided we simply had to experience a meat donut for ourselves.

The first few seconds after you take a bite are sweet and doughnutty, and you immediately think, this isn’t so bad.  Wait 5 seconds.  It hits you, a strange fishy, salty meat flavor.  If you’re lucky enough to get a bite with a dark brown flake on it, you get taste a strong flavor of beef bullion as you take in the doughnut texture.  You keep chewing.  It’s quickly getting gross.  Doughnuts really shouldn’t taste like this.  Nothing should taste like this.

So, if you’re ever in China, be careful what you bite into.

25. Apr, 2010

Goat’s Milk Anyone?

We had another one of those we’re-not-in-Kansas-anymore moments earlier this week as we walked home from our Mandarin lesson. To get from the local university to our apartment, we pass under the freeway, and this week we encountered an enterprising individual in his minivan.  He was just parked there with the trunk popped selling fresh milk from the 4 goats lined up where the car seats should have been. People were stopping by as if there was absolutely nothing out of the ordinary about this makeshift roadside milk dispenser.  I didn’t have my camera at the time, but I’ll snap a picture next time we pass by.

23. Apr, 2010

Funny Pic #12

Funny Pic #12
chinese tea, fujian province, xiamen, expats in China

Q Chunk Fun Milk Tea

There’s nothing quite like a hot cup of Q Chunk Fun Milk Tea on a cold, rainy day, right?!  What does that even mean?  I did try it out.  You basically fill the cup a third full of coconut tea flavored sugar and pour boiling water in it. There’s even a little packet of coconut chunks to add in if you want some little chunky surprises coming up through your straw.  I left those out.