I’ve neglected my blog (as usual), but now that I’m home, I suppose I’ll finish this post I started ON APRIL 18TH LOL:
I live a pretty average day-to-day college life, and getting anywhere interesting from this campus requires planning and energy. My classes are going well; I’m still the class monitor this semester. I finally learned to ride a bike, which has made my life significantly easier. I’m in the student orchestra and go to English Corner regularly. My friend from Brazil started teaching me Portuguese, which is definitely one of the last things I expected to learn by coming to China. A German guy opened a restaurant just off campus and makes good pizza, including Nutella pizza and sometimes even Nutella sandwiches, and my friends and I go there regularly. I joined the translation team for Humans of XMU (人在厦大), which is styled after Humans of New York but features members of the Xiamen University community. And I mean other than that, life is pretty much the same every day. So instead of rambling about all that, I’ll catch you up on how I’ve spent some of my holidays here.
First, Chinese New Year, also called Spring Festival (春节). This is China’s biggest traditional holiday, and this year it fell on January 27 (Spring Festival Eve) and 28. We were given about a month off, from January 14 until February 12. I spent the first five days or so travelling to Hangzhou and Shanghai with a friend. In Hangzhou, we visited Hefang Street, the West Lake, the Chinese Silk Museum, and Leifeng Pagoda. I really loved Hangzhou – It was clean and beautiful, and the drivers there seemed to stop for pedestrians more often than in other cities I’ve been to. Our hostel was also quite nice; it was clean, the location was convenient, and they even had a cat! I’d really like to get back to Hangzhou and have more time to explore there.
In Shanghai we mostly went to places I’d already been before – Nanjing Road, the Bund, Chenghuang Miao, etc. – but we also had the chance to check out the Propaganda Poster Museum, which I’d heard of before but had never gone to. It’s super weird in the sense that it’s located in the basement of a building in an apartment complex… When you get there the gate guard gives you a little card with directions to the correct building, but you still question whether or not you’re in the right place until you actually get there. But the exhibition itself is really interesting, and they even have a little gift shop with prints, t-shirts, postcards, etc. of some of the posters.
After my friend went back to the US, I relocated to my Chinese friend’s house to spend the remainder of my break there. That friend herself was busy studying abroad, but she and her parents very graciously allowed me to stay there in her room. While her parents were at work, I was free to either stay in or go out as I pleased, so I did some shopping, spent an inordinate amount of money on food, and met up with a few friends. For the Spring Festival holiday, my friend’s parents had a week off. We made dumplings and ate a bunch of food for Spring Festival Eve, and then we watched the Spring Festival Gala (春晚) on TV. Though my friend’s parents went to bed shortly after midnight, it was my first time ever watching it, so I stayed glued to the TV and watched all five hours, from 8pm until almost 1am.
While they had time off, my friend’s parents also took me travelling to the nearby cities of Nanjing and Yangzhou. In Nanjing, we visited the Ming Tombs (明孝陵), Zhan Garden (瞻园), and market at the Confucius Temple (夫子庙). In Yangzhou, we visited the Slender West Lake (瘦西湖).
The second traditional holiday I had the chance to celebrate was the Tomb-Sweeping Festival, or Qingming Festival (清明节). I was very fortunate to have a friend from English Corner invite me to spend the day (April 4) with his family. We began the day at his uncle’s house, where we had lunch that included spring rolls, which are a traditional food in Xiamen for this holiday. After lunch, we went to a local temple-like cemetery, where they paid their respects to their ancestors and burned paper money for them to use in the after-life. Finally, I went with my friend and his dad for a walk in the park and to eat dinner at a hotpot restaurant before going back to school.