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Arrival: Xiamen

Published 2006-08-09
This is one of my favorite essays

After about 25 hours of transit we are finally in Xiamen. Flights were all smooth, after a delayed departure from Portland. The delay actually worked to our advantage...gave us more time with family in PDX, and we had about 6 hours in SFO in which to transfer B from United to the Cathay Pacific cargo dept. That transfer entailed hiking about 2 miles through the industrial wasteland around SFO, with a purloined baggage cart. Not a pedestrian-friendly neighborhood. BUt again, this worked out well...a long walk for everyone before the 13+ hour flight to Hong Kong.

We arrived yesterday at 11:30, but it took about 5 hours to get Bismarck out of customs. Luckily we had native Mandarin speakers with us who could help negotiate this absolutely amazing bureaucratic labyrinth. Bismarck spent more than 20 hours in that kennel with no water, and never lost bladder control. Jenny, unlike myself, kept her cool through all this, and by 4:30 we were finally free to go.

Any rate, Bismarck seems to be adapting pretty well. We've seen several local people with dogs, although none his size. Jenny, B & I went running this morning and got some really hard stares. There are not a lot of foreigners in Xiamen, and we look like a pack of space aliens.

Now we're staying with Patricia, the Elementary School principal. She has a nice apartment directly next to the canal that essentially bisects downtown. Xiamen is a really beautiful city: hills and green everywhere. Hundreds of some kind of small snowy egret live along this canal as well. The foliage is tropical: banyan trees, hibiscus, palms, etc. We passed a stand of Norfolk Island pines that were the size of, well, pine trees. I'm used to seeing those things in pots. I'm working on getting some photos up on Flickr. It's been hot but not unbearable. Around 85 degrees I'd guess, but REALLY humid. It's also a city in a state of visible flux: everything is simultaneously undergoing destruction, construction and decay.

We've had a few good meals. Last night we ate for-real Chinese food, family style. We got about eight dishes, rice, and two ENORMOUS Tsingtao beers...all for about $10. This included something called "crispy fried eel" which was easily the best eel I'd ever eaten. Good stuff. I'm seeing my survival strategy for China: if I ever get grumpy, I'll eat some of this amazing food.