NI men hao! (Hello!) it’s the end of my first school week here at the Overseas college in Xiamen and I’m well on my way to settling in. I arrived in Xiamen on 29th June from Hong Kong where the climate is almost identical to Xiamen (but there is more air-con and a lot less direct sunlight). After stumbling my way through immigration (it was a 6am start and 9.30am flight) and mumbling some intelligible answer to the security officer who asked where was I travelling from (or at least that is what I translated it to) we (me and Nick) made it out to the small but extremely crowded taxi stand in front of the airport. Having only studied very basic greetings in Cardiff it took a while to get the taxi driver to understand where we wanted to go despite the fact that I had the address printed in Chinese. Even the taxi driver was a new experience especially since the driver decided to reverse back up a junction because he took a wrong turn. It also surprised me when we saw a number of street vendors hawking their stuff alongside the busy, dusty and barren roadside while bikes travelled against oncoming traffic like it was an everyday experience.
Having unknowingly chosen to arrive on a rainy day we spent about two hours trying to find someone who spoke English to ask where we could register and get our room keys. We must have looked so lost since the security guard gave us a lift to the accommodation in a open door bus. After collecting room keys and checking in we left to explore the campus in search of drinkable cold water, food and company (the dorms seemed deserted!) and it wasn’t until after we returned that we met up with the other students from Cardiff.
The formal university registration procedures were a little muddled but over the course of the first two days we have somehow figured out how to use the basic necessities here. (Bank, canteen, shopping, buses) The campus here is beautiful and an unusual mix of traditional Chinese and Western buildings as designed by a famous architect from this area (whose name I forgot). As the campus is only a year old and since it’s not normal term-time there are fewer students here so we can really appreciate the scale of the university area. From my room on the sixth floor of our dormitories I can still see landscaping and building work being done on the campus and Xiamen city in the far distance. Having travelled to Hong Kong before I was expecting high temperatures but the direct sunlight from 7am to 6-7pm, +30°C and high humidity here makes me feel like staying outdoors for any length of time would be encouraging heat stroke!
Cultural lectures started on Monday and language lessons started yesterday. So far topics have included Chinese pop culture, and an introduction to Chinese ethnic groups both of which lectures were comprised of common knowledge but included some interesting facts about the Chinese population. For example it is a generally well known fact that China has a one-child policy but our teacher explained the explicit reasoning behind it and let us try on traditional clothes of the different ethnic minorities. As both my parents are Chinese, the talks made me think of what kind of life would I have lived if I was born and raised here.
On Thursday we were fortunate enough to go into the city to visit the temple, overseas museum and main campus of Xiamen University. Although the city has its own appeal staying at the Xiang’an campus has its own perks – especially since it’s so clean and new.
Our timetable has been quite light so far and on Fridays we get half days so I’m hoping to go to town and find a tech shop since I forgot my adapter (there’s always someone!). Next week promises to be more interesting since we will be starting activities and I’ll let you how I get on.
Sorry if there are any mistakes, I’ve only got my phone out here and can’t find a computer to use. I hope this finds you well and I’ll probably send you something next week.
Let me know if you want me to keep you updated like this or if you want to know about specific things and I’ll do my best to enlighten you 🙂