Back in Xiamen

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Published 2006-10-07

Jenny and I returned to Xiamen yesterday on remarkably uneventful flights. The meal they served (at 9am) was actually (gee I hate to say it) good. Fish, rice, a kind of sushi salad, and really fresh tropical fruit. You can say a lot of bad things about Air China (like “most unsafe commercial long-haul airline in the world” and “start the in-flight movie one hour before landing” and “randomly hold your plane at the gate for an hour but don’t tell you until you’re in the air that the problem was mechanical”), but “the food sucks” isn’t one of those things.

Xiamen feels downright homey. I can’t say I missed it, but when you leave a place for a vacation and then come back to it, I guess that place is your home. I can do two years here easy. It felt a little strange being the only non-Chinese people in the airport. The people in Singapore tend to brownish skin but Europeans don’t stand out in the least. Every crowd scene is multi-culti. But waiting in the Xiamen airport, we’re back to being the only laowai.

We also decided to set some goals for the next two years: learn Mandarin and save enough money so we can buy a house when/if we return to the states. There are other goals but I’m just not much for goals, sorry.

Our last day in Singapore we spent visiting Singapore American School, where the Superintendant (clearly one of Jenny’s biggest fans, and she has many), spent a better part of the morning touring us around. It is a huge school, 3700 students. Although I think if you added together where I went to pre-school, elementary school, junior high and high school you’d have somewhere near that many kids. But SAS’s facilities are nothing short of amazing. They have an indoor rock-climbing wall, for Pete’s sake. This clearly has an effect on the kids: I saw a 6th grade math project where the kids were developing their own mathematical systems. Like in Gödel, Escher, Bach. In sixth grade.

We also visited Jenny’s old apartment building and the surrounding neighborhood, a lovely greenish area called Little Guilin. There’s a large nature reserve here, and a series of landscaped garden parks built, unexpectedly, around a former rock quarry. This was pretty amazing: they turned what we would consider to be a scar on the landscape into a Chinese garden replica of the lakes and mountains in Guilin province.

Jenny’s dad is visiting from Taiwan for the weekend. I think we’re going to Gulang Yu today. It’s like back to back tourist adventures!