I haven’t written much about my social life here. Of course, coming to a new place with no friends did put a damper on things for a few weeks. I was busy meeting people, and getting to know them, and finding people I really clicked with. (Actually, I did have one friend here already but he didn’t arrive until several weeks later so he couldn’t help me in the beginning.)
But six weeks on, things are humming along nicely, and this National Day holiday proved it. National holiday is one of China’s “Golden Weeks.” Everyone in the country has a week holiday. So traveling is a nightmare. Every bus, plane, hotel and passenger car is filled to the brim.
So I don’t travel. And anyway, I live in Xiamen. This is the place people come to visit, so why would I leave? I relied on my friends to keep me entertained, and they did not disappoint.
We started the holiday off with a delicious dinner at a local Greek restaurant. Actual Greek food that wasn’t “chinese-ified” at all (except the sweet mayonnaise on the salad). Then we went out to see a fancy DJ at a local club. There was a big electronic music fest in Shanghai and they were sending some of their international acts out across majors cities in China to drum up interest. We saw Eva Shaw, also known as DJ Bambi.
The next day was supposed to be chill and relaxed (it was a busy travel day and a good idea to stay off the roads and out of the way of the travelers). But I heard some piano tunes wafting out of a nearby window and I went out to explore. I found two of my co-workers writing original music and practicing. It was such a surprise. I had no idea these guys had musical talent, much less could play the piano. Now I’m their first groupie.
The next day was frisbee. There’s an ultimate frisbee team in Xiamen with both Chinese and western players. I’ve joined them when it’s not too hot outside and this was my first big weekend practice. Because of the holiday several people from different parts of china came to Xiamen, and we had a great time running, jumping and leaping for the frisbee. (My team even won a few times, despite my horrible skills.)
After frisbee, hot and sweaty, we went to an all-you-can-eat Japanese restaurant where we definitely got our money’s worth. We ate our weight in sushi and tempura.
The next day was the big camping trip. A friend said she knew a good place to camp, and I was a bit dubious. This was one of the busiest travel weeks in China, I expected the place to be packed. But I didn’t have any other plans so with tents, water and enough food for 24-hours, eight of us squeezed into a little seven-seater van for the 2 hour drive.
When we arrived we just kinda parked on an abandoned stretch of road, hopped down a fence, walked across a sandy expanse and found ourselves on the edge of a huge, wide open beach. The waves were crashing, the wind was blowing, and there wasn’t another person in sight. Un-fucking-belivable.
We found a great place to set up camp, with low brush on one side for us to go to the bathroom, and we pitched the tents. We also collected copious amounts of driftwood for our bonfire and after a dip in the water, we set up shop.
It was one spectacular night. Everything went perfectly. The bonfire lit, the food was sandy, but delicious, and we just laughed the whole night. Of course we brought plenty of alcohol but we barely drank it. We were having so much fun, it was like we almost forgot we had it. Secrets were told, games were played, swimming was swum. We had plenty of space around the fire, but I found we all kept gravitating towards each other; heads on shoulders, laying in each others laps, arms slung around each other. It was a night out in nature, no lights, no buildings, no people to break the spell, and in that expanse we all remembered what was so awesome about being human.
We thought we were gonna stay up all night, but with no electronics or lights we all felt sleepy around midnight. A few slept in the tents, but most of us just laid out on the sand, next to the fire, under a full sky of stars. Between light pollution, grey skies and air pollution seeing stars in China is quite rare. But that night the clouds blew away and the heavens put on a show. Hundreds and hundreds of stars came out to shine, including a few shooting stars. We had blankets but snuggled together to keep away the chill. I dug my toes into the warm sand next to the embers of our fire, snuggling next to a warm body, the sound of crickets and crashing waves filling my ears. I almost couldn’t sleep because I was so dazzled by it all. Throughout the night I tracked Orion moving across the sky.
I woke in the morning to two deep chinese voices. I looked up groggily to see two middle aged men looking at us bemused. One came into our camp, picked up the empty water bottles, and walked away with his friend, throwing one last look at us, laughing.
It was butt early, but the sun was up, so were we. We felt groggy, sandy and sore. The beach might be a beautiful place to fall asleep on, but its not so comfortable to wake on. We made PB & J sandwiches on smushed bread, packed up our stuff, and called the driver to meet us. The beach had a ton of trash
strewn everywhere, but we dutifully picked up our trash, put it in a big box, and left it on the side of the road, away from the beach. We knew it would probably end up being kicked over, rooted through by recyclers and the rest left to blow back onto the beach, but there was no garbage cans anywhere, and hey, we tried.
We squeezed back into the tiny van and fell asleep on the ride back. After that, the holiday was pretty much over. We still had a few days (one friend cooked dinner one night, we also went to a bar), but basically it was over. I’m paying for the late nights with a cold but it was totally worth it. This was without a doubt the most fun I’ve had on National Day since I’ve been to China, and I have my new friends to thank for it.
And all this just after a few weeks? What will the following year bring?