If there is one thing that I enjoy greatly in Xiamen, it would be the view. From many spots, Xiamen boasts some majestic sights; enchanting and bristling with life, yet serene. Sceneries that will make you think anew. As I’m typing this, I’m enjoying one of these views. From my apartment, in front of my desk, is a window. It shows a mix of nature, older buildings, newer buildings and a work-in-progress. This view, as well as many others, summarises what Xiamen, and by extension China, is all about.
From my view, there is a mountain. At the foot of the mountain are a few “older” buildings. However, the area around the mountain is well-developed. There are many “newer” buildings that serve as apartments, offices or storefronts. While the mountain is quite large and thus high, behind the mountain, another skyline is visible. That skyline shows a few high buildings peaking out over the mountain top. However, as I write this, another high building is being build that stands considerably higher than the mountain. If you look closely here in Xiamen, you will notice that it is building towards a better future. The high building, mentioned before, which is being constructed is not the only “building” taking place. Whether you look left or right, in front of you or back, you are bound to see large cranes constructing buildings. From my apartment alone, I can see 7 different buildings being constructed.
Despite these constructions, Chinese landmarks, nature and sights remain. During the week, the Chinese students organised an excursion to the campus of Xiamen University, which has a rich history. We also climbed many, many stairs while visiting the “Temple area”. The Chinese girls, on occasion, certainly seemed inexhaustible. It is true that many of the Chinese people aren’t very well versed in the English language, or at all. However, most of the time, the people that are a bit younger are. One example of this is when my group stopped at the beach to take in the sights. At some point two incredibly cute little girls aged around 5 or so came up to us. They wanted to “practice” their English by simply engaging in conversation. I, for one, was quite baffled by how fluent they talked English. Unfortunately, we couldn’t talk very long, because our bus arrived and we had to go, otherwise I’m sure we could’ve talked for hours. It, among many other things, is an indicator that China is getting more involved in the world, while still retaining its unique history. Food, for example, is very abundant and wherever you are, someone is bound to sell food close-by. There are many places and streets where every “shop” is a place to eat. My favourite place, thus far, is a little place not for from my apartment. It is run by a couple and the woman is just bristling with energy. As soon as you enter she seats you down and is at your service. Their kitchen is part of the seating area, so you can see how they prepare the food and how they work. It is evident that providing food is a passion for them. While we are talking about food; most of my group doesn’t like very spicy or hot food. I do. I let one the Chinese students know that no food here could make me “sweat”. He responded by treating me to a dish he “likes”. Admittedly, the dish was “hot” enough to make a man faint and, admittedly, I really had to keep my tears back, but alas, I have weapons-grade tongue, stomach and intestines. So well played Alex.
One thing that deserves special mentioning, is the traffic. I like to call it “ordered chaos”. When first experiencing the traffic here, you might wonder how people survive an hour here in Xiamen. Cars don’t keep to their lane and sometimes just drive on two lanes at the same time. Drivers change direction willy nilly. People just park at random all of a sudden. And there is a lot of honking. When crossing the street as a pedestrian you’re basically playing “Frogger”. However, you quickly learn that “it works” and that it’s possibly representative for China. Participants in the traffic don’t let themselves get “bogged down” by rules and regulations. They simply make the “most use” of all the available road and space. Honking is often done, not in anger or the most dangerous situations, but also to simply “notify” other participants of “here I come”. It is fantastic to experience this all and conclude that “it works”. I just have to remember to adjust my own behaviour when I get back to the Netherlands…
So far thus, my impressions of Xiamen are those that make me feel that the past, present and the future are all woven together. I am looking forward to learn the past, work in the present and accomplish in the future, here in Xiamen, together with the Chinese students and people.