Saturday, March 24, 2007

University Beach

Today dawned cloudy, but warm, so we went to the beach. Xiamen University actually has its own beach – I can see it from my office window at the law school – and we decided to check it out early this morning. We took our usual walk toward the girls’ school, but before getting there, we detoured to “Beach Gate,” which deposited us on one of Xiamen’s busiest roads, Island Ring Road. As its name suggests, it circles Xiamen Island – that’s the road we took from the airport to the university upon our arrival in Xiamen. Right across the road is the beach – accessible by a pedestrian bridge over this very busy street, thank goodness!

Just before hitting the sand, we shucked our shoes and rolled up our pants legs (Even though it was 70 degrees and predicted to be 75 degrees later, we didn’t want to offend Chinese sensibilities (and endure the endless questions!) by wearing shorts!) . We headed straight for the water, and let the incredibly cold water lap at our toes. Brrr!
Maya was leery at first, but soon felt brave enough to let go of my hand – and promptly fell in the water! Oh, well, at least it was warm enough OUT of the water not to matter! But Maya is not a fan of being wet or dirty, so she wasn’t having much fun at first.

I guess after a while she figured being miserable wasn’t going to change anything, so she perked up and decided to have a good time. Zoe took her tumble in the ocean a little later on, so they were both basically wet up to the thighs.
We walked along the beach looking for seashells, and actually found some nice specimens. Zoe was even excited about finding bits of broken shell, and a fragment of blue-and-white china, and rocks galore, so we came home with quite a few “treasures.” Maya found a great stick, and soon they were drawing in the sand, writing their names, sketching Chinese characters, and making trails to follow. They tried to build a sandcastle, but didn’t have any tools (we’ll have to buy buckets and shovels before our next beach trip) and soon lost interest. We sat on a large rock to have a rest and a snack, and then headed back the way we came. Every time the girls saw a group of kids playing with a bucket or shovel, they ran to join them, invited or not (we DEFINITELY need to buy buckets and shovels before our next beach outing!). Zoe found a broken shovel sans handle, and was happy as a clam to finally have a real digging tool.

My favorite part was the people-watching – it’s pretty funny to see businessmen in full black dress suits, with their pants rolled up walking in the water. And women in high heels gingerly picking their way to the water’s edge. And children bundled up to look like the Pillsbury Doughboy (yes, in 70-degree heat) digging in the sand. And then suddenly a group of men looking mighty fine (and awfully naked after all that bundling!) in Speedos and bathing caps heading into the chilly sea to play water polo. And a Chinese junk pulling up to shore to pick up a man walking along with his fishing pole folded up. And a beggar in ragged clothes and bowl in hand approaching each group with his tale of woe. And an old man babysitting three fishing poles, catching a silvery fish no more than 5 inches long, and proudly showing it to the girls. And the inevitable grandmothers, horrified that I let the girls walk in the water with their shoes off and their pantlegs rolled up past their knees.

Around noon, we heard thunder and decided to head home. As we were brushing off the sand and putting our shoes on, the rain started. And wouldn’t you know it, the umbrella that ALWAYS lives in my backpack wasn’t there! ( I had even checked the forecast before we left, and saw 30% chance of rain, and reminded myself to check for the umbrella, and I swear it was in there!) So we stopped at a little shop that had a covered patio and bought cookies and drinks. The patio was pretty crowded, but a man invited us to share his table, and he enjoyed practicing his English on us. Soon two old ladies moved their chairs closer to listen (I don’t think they spoke any English), and a Chinese couple joined us at our table, and others gathered near to stand and listen. Gee, I feel like a celebrity! Actually, it’s the girls who are the celebrities. People are simply amazed to hear English coming from those little Chinese girls.

And it rained and rained and rained . . . .

After about an hour, the rain stopped and people started going along their way. We made it about halfway to the pedestrian bridge when it started to pour down again. We walked to a covered bus stop, but the busses on that side of the street were going away from the university, so I didn’t want to chance them. We waited about 10 minutes for the rain to stop, then Zoe started the “I have to go potty” song, and Maya joined in the chorus, so I hailed a cab. I’m getting really good at saying “Nanputuo” (the Buddhist temple near our gate) and “Xiada” (short for Xiamen University) and getting us home! I even managed to direct him right to our door (“Zuobian” means left – but given my pronunciation, it was probably pointing left that did it!). That was definitely 9 yuan well spent. Still, we were pretty wet when we got home.

It has rained most of the afternoon. But that’s ok, it gave the girls a chance to dance around the living room in their princess dresses. They’re usually too eager to go, go, go to want to stay home and play. And it gave me a chance to try the rice cooker – thanks for the directions, Nora, it worked like a charm! I even steamed some pork buns (purchased frozen at the supermarket) at the same time. Yum, yum!

I’ve been trying to remember if this was Maya’s first trip to the beach. I know Zoe has been to the beach in Corpus Christi, and in Arcachon, France. But that was before Maya came home, and I just can’t remember a trip to the beach since she came home. Well, we’ve remedied that omission, and both girls are committed beach bunnies now! And this definitely won’t be the last trip to the university beach.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I would have like to see you at the sidewalk cafe, "holding court". I am sure it must seem strange to hear little Chinese girls speak English. I hope you have pictures of that. I do not think Maya had gone to a beach here nor in France, it's a first for her. Glad you all had a good time and can get yoourself home in a taxi, it will be handy when I get there!
bises et bisous