We have now been here exactly a month, so this is a good point to sum up some first impressions of the city and the new setup we have. Some friends have asked me how this job compares to last year’s one, and of course we find ourselves constantly comparing,as this is inevitable. Firstly living off campus,and not having taught at all yet means that so far we have not had any meetings with students yet. Our teaching will start only after the October holiday week. But we have met many other teachers,both foreign and Chinese,all of whom are interesting,friendly and welcoming. We have a little grocery store under our building and are on good nodding terms with the owner. Through the local Expat website we met a charming girl called Ivy who advertised she wanted people to “hang out with” and so we had coffee with her downtown,invited her to lunch, and who is going to take me to the hairdressers next week. We then met a lovely man (from Couchsurfing) who is a retired Navy commander from Taiwan who now works for a travel agency which organizes trips to Taiwan. He is Kevin #3 of the title-the other 2 being staff of the International department at the University. And last night again through aforementioned website we met a girl called Jane who wants to meet foreigners. She is an English major who now works for a trading company .Jane took us to a tea house owned by a friend of hers where we sat chatting for 2 hours,our cups being constantly refilled,as we nibble on peanuts, and she told us a bit about herself,and translated all the time for her friend who knew no English at all. We then had to rush to the bus stop to get a bus back to the BRT station to catch the last bus back home.Unfortunately the BRT,for all its wonderfulness,(cheap,clean,easy to use) has one serious drawback,and that is that the last bus home is at 10pm. We had not bargained for the scene at the BRT station.
There were loads of people all trying to get on the trains. I have experienced crowded before ,but nothing like this,even in Shanghai. Everyone pushed hysterically onto the bus,I was sandwiched between tons of people,and the automatic door shut on my finger and Danny’s arm. Nothing serious,but quite an “Asian Experience”!
The Once bookshop teahouse we visited with Ivy
We have had a couple of departmental meals with Matthew,head of English teaching,and next week there is a Mid-Autumn festival meal at a hotel downtown for everyone,but on the whole,because the department is so huge,and the teaching staff live all over, some on campus,some in our block. some in a different apartment block near campus and some down town,it is harder to get to know everyone. It feels as if our social life,unlike Lin’an ,will not revolve around university,and that uni life will only be a small part of our lives here.We were going to go on a run with the local Hash House Harriers (google it!) -did not go in the end as it was thundering and threatening to pour (it didn’t) Instead we had tea and cake with Donna,a veteran teacher here who lives on campus. So life is pretty busy and full.
Xiamen Horticultural Gardens. actually in Jimei near our house
The city itself is great. Of course the beach is marvellous and we have not explored that a great deal yet. The shopping areas are many and diverse,likewise restaurants,coffee bars etc. The city is big but not unmanageable and overwhelming,and there are many more signs in English than there were in Hangzhou. There are green parks everywhere and many tree- lined avenues making it pleasant to stroll around. There is a pervading sense that many people here have money-we walked along near the sea front and there were some huge stunning villas there,making it look a bit like a Chinese Miami beach. Living in Jimei is kind of like living in the suburbs of London and going down to the West End occasionally.And Jimei is a lot bigger than we originally thought.The downtown area of Jimei,a ten minute bus ride away is lively and fun,and even has a crocodile zoo!
Anway enough for now…. more anon.