Monday, June 1, 2009

Xiamen - more posts and reflections

Now that I am able to freely access the blog to update it (see previous post), I will document our arrival at Xiamen with more detailed postings with pictures and videos.....

We left Singapore for Guangzhou on Tiger Airways. As some of you might be aware, Tiger is a recent budget airline operating out of Singapore and connecting to many Asian destinations. We took Tiger primarily because it was more affordable. We would have preferred Silk Air (operated by Singapore Airlines) or Xiamen Airlines as these two airlines fly directly to Xiamen. One downside with budget airlines is their schedule - we were at the Budget Terminal in Singapore before 6 am to check in. Shortly after our flight took off for Guangzhou, both Hannah and David were ready for a nap - see below.

Having fun is such tiring work...

We arrived safely in Guangzhou. Interestingly, we will always remember Guangzhou as the first place we entered China. Since it wasn't a direct flight to Xiamen, we had to collect our luggage from Tiger and check it in again, this time with Xiamen Airlines for the remaining connecting flight. When all of this was done, we were tired and ready for food!

There wasn't a whole lot to pick from - no MacDonalds or Burger King in sight at this modern airport - bummer. Finally, we settled on this Chinese restaurant in the airport It was crowded with locals - usually a good sign. We each have a noodle/rice dish - the food was fine but the final bill was high. At the time, we didn't think it was unreasonable (note this was the first time we spent money in yuan or Reminbi - RMB) but sure enough, we were taken. Imagine paying 28 RMB - US$4 for a can of 7up. In retrospect, this was a timely learning experience and from then on, we were more alert and much wiser. Just for your info., in regular stores, a can of 7-Up sells for less than 2 RMB.

We finally arrived in Xiamen - all in one piece and luggage in tow......

My contact from the Department of Computer Science at Xiamen University, Mr. Xiang, and another driver met us at the airport. Fortunately they came in 2 cars - our family in one car and the luggage in the other.

The ride from the airport to the university took about 40 minutes - it was a beautiful day with temps in the high 70s. We feel really good and certainly very excited about what's ahead for the next 3 months in China.

As you can tell from the video, I speak some Mandarin. I asked how many students were studying at the University - see if you can figure out the answer.....

Dinner hosted by the Dean at the Faculty Club. Upon arrival at the college, we checked into our apartment. The building is certainly not brand new as you can tell from the picture below. We were on the 2nd floor of a 8-storey building. Fortunately for us, it was an easy climb since there were no elevators! The Dean of the Computer Science Department lives on the 5th floor of our building - no wonder he is trim and fit!!!

One of many faculty housing buildings on University grounds

That evening, the Dean and other staff and faculty members treated us to a grand dinner at the Faculty Club which is right on the university grounds. Gerda figured we had 15 dishes served (as the next video indicated) - I actually did not remember, just that we had some really exotic seafood dishes and I felt a touch uncomfortable for the kids (didn't want them to have food-poisoning on their first sit-down dinner in China). But all went well......

The Faculty Club where we were hosted by the Dean

First impressions - first 24 hours in Xiamen

While it can be considered mundane, activities like taking public transportation to buy toiletries and groceries in China was kinda fun.

We pay about US 15 cents per trip regardless of distance traveled for non air-conditioned buses and US 25 cents for air-conditioned buses.

Shopping at the World' s largest retailer......

Gerda missed this item (where is Aldi when we need it) - guess where we found the real thing! - see attached video.

This item is hard to come by and expensive too.....

Simple things and the right attitude. Let me say this - even though this summer may appear to be one big 'vacation' - that is certainly not the case. Soon we will settle into a routine of homeschooling for Hannah and David - Gerda has to guide their learning and manage our household in a foreign country, and with me teaching, I can't help but be pleased with their attitude. As the attached videos show, in spite of constricted spaces, they still have fun and make the best of the situation. It is this positive attitude that will serve them well all their lives.

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