This weekend we had the promised sports day which was cancelled last week due to the rain .So we were informed that we would have no classes on Thursday afternoon or on Friday,which made no difference to me as I don’t teach then,but Danny got two hours off. So we decided to head to Quanzhou on Friday, a place which I had heard was interesting historically and only a half hour train ride from Xiamen. We had actually passed through on the train to Fuzhou on our way to the Speaking Competition.
But first we had Sports Day,on which all University lessons were cancelled to allow the whole school to parade around the running track and do various other incomprehensible things. WE were asked to meet all the other foreign teachers outside the International Office at 12.30. We then had to march around the running track in lines of 6 and wave to the crowd. It was hilarious. We waved periodically and said “Ni hao” to the students and they all roared with laughter and photographed us. Then there were short speeches by various important university dudes (none of which we could understand of course) and at 2.30pm we were free to go!
On Friday morning we caught the 11am train to Quanzhou which was the city from which Marco Polo had supposedly sailed back to Italy.In the ticket line we met a lovely young student who helped us buy tickets and told us she lived in Quanzhou and studied at Huaquiao University in Jimei,just near our house. She sat with us on the train and told us she was a teacher of Chinese to foreigners and was going back to Quanzhou to get a passport,as she wanted to go to study for a second degree in Hong Kong. She also translated for us whenever the Chinese couple opposite wanted to ask us questions.
We exchanged phone numbers on arrival in Quanzhou and hope to meet up with her again.
Quanzhou has various interesting old Buddhist temples,a mosque and a few museums. We checked into our hotel and went out to explore. We found the Kaiyuan Temple to be very beautiful. It was a short bus ride from the hotel and we enjoyed the serenity of the temple.In the temple we met a beautiful tall Chinese girl who told us she was a Sports Major from Guangzhou and was obviously very keen to talk to us. Her English was very good and she was quite charming accompanying us around the temple and taking photos with us. We went with her from there to the Mosque which was not so impressive but on the way there we passed another temple which was really beautiful and ornate in the South Fujian style.
Pagoda at Kaiyuan temple
outside the other temple with Long Ping
Long Ping,our new friend said she was travelling alone and was continuing after Quanzhou to Xiamen and then back to Guangzhou. She invited us to go with her to a pop concert that night but we decided not to pay 250RMB each to see a Chinese pop singer,but said maybe we could meet her the next evening in Xiamen after we got back from our trip. Long Ping went off to look at Huaquiao University campus and we said goodbye. We had some supper in a Taiwanese fast food place and then took a taxi to the Brickyard a so-called British pub in another part of the city not far from our hotel. It being Happy hour we got free Qingdao beer and peanuts but failed to meet anyone interesting there and left when the Karaoke got started. We were exhausted anyway.
Next morning after the breakfast buffet at our hotel (bacon,eggs,sausage and lots of weird Chinese vegetables) we set off to see the Overseas Chinese Museum. On the way we ran into a kind of promotion of various food and drinks. Danny threw some beanbags at a target and won two bottles of some Chinese liquor. When my student gets here I shall ask him what it is.
The Overseas Chinese Museum proved to be very interesting,and also free of charge. It outlined the lives of the people who left China during the colonial period,to escape being exploited as “coolie labourers” and went to build a new life for themselves overseas. It turns out that it was quite similar to the lives of Jews setting off to be immigrants in foreign shores and being enterprising ane making a fortune. Many such immigrants became industrial magnates in Singapore,Indonesia and the Philippines,thus incurring the racial hatred of the indigenous peoples who then massacred them. Many Chinese became wealthy from rubber and sugar plantations,and trade and sent money back to their families. They also set up clubs and welfare organizations for other overseas Chinese,and schools to teach their children about their Chinese language and culture. One of these was of course our very own Chen Jiageng who built the University city in Jimei where we work. Again I couldn’t help thinking of the attachment between the Diaspora Jewry and Israel. It seems we are not special in our wish to preserve our culture or to help our fellow countrymen when we are abroad.
After the museum and a short walk in Dongu Park across the road we got the train back to Xiamen.