Je bekijkt de reis...
Reisverslag Challenge accepted - Part I
24 juli 2015
Challenge accepted - Part I
It has been 2 months already and I have not left you with a single word on here..
The reason for this is quite honestly that I didn’t feel like writing everything down.. I started doing so in the first week but after that I noticed that if I would seriously continue this, I would spam you with HUGE amounts of text!
This country is so, so incredible and different, that it was just impossible for me to put my experiences in just a few words. Also I wanted to enjoy the time, and typing stories at the end of a day of working on my research did not really belong to my understanding of “enjoying my time”. ;-)
However: I do think it would be a pitty for myself to not share anything with you and to not be able to re-read anything of what I have seen and felt and learned here. So I decided I will provide you with what I did write way back then in my first week here, and then I will put some time into writing one more post somewhere within my last 2 weeks with some things I learned/things that were particularly special and/or funny for me here.
To give you a small update on what I have been doing the past 2 months:
I am working on my thesis research with the topic of syndromic infectious disease surveillance in China and the use of social media as an early-warning surveillance-tool. I have been talking to experts at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention here in Xiamen and in Beijing, and while I am still FAR from done with my research, it has been extremely interesting! But more about that another time. :) Here you get my first week’s experiences:
Here I am, writing to you from mainland China after months of difficulties and uncertainties!
After my smoothly going flight from Hong Kong I safely arrived in Xiamen, which is a coastal city close to Taiwan. I left the plane towards the immigration desks, fearing they wouldn’t let me in for 3 reasons:
1) after all the things I have experienced on this China-adventure so far, I don’t expect anything to go as I wish to
2) I still couldn’t believe that this Visa-thing was suddenly working so easily and
3) I had gotten a quite bad cold from the rapid temperature changes in HK, where it was extremely hot and humid outside, but ridiculously cold in every single shop or building you went into because of the air conditioning (I literally had to put a scarf on myself sometimes because I was cold during my dinner). In HK and mainland China they have checks at the immigration so detect whether you might have the flu. So they check your temperature while you are walking towards the desks and sometimes even have you fill some extra forms/tests. Especially now, that I came from HK I actually expected to have to get some extra checks as someone from Korea had come to HK a few days ago, who had contracted the new MERS-CoV virus. By now they have “captured” him but it is not clear yet, whether he spread the virus to other people.
To my surprise there was no extra examination, besides the regular temperature-check so I was allowed to go through, and 10 minutes later I had passed the passport-check and was finally in China! Wooohooo!
The very nice assistant of my supervisor here in Xiamen came to pick me up and showed me around the campus.
Xiamen exists of an island, which is the main “center” of the city, and a part on the mainland.
The campus of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, where I am at the Institute of Urban Environment (IUE), is located on the mainland. That means that there is not much around but universities and business-buildings. The closest shop is 10-15 minutes away by bus.. but then you get a nice big Hypermarket with everything you need… provided you know how to read Chinese to be able to find it…
The past few days have definitely been challenging! Surely expected, but maybe a bit beyond my expectations. :)
I was told that there are a few international students here, but so far I have not seen any (not true, I have seen 2 Indians. I was rather talking about “westerners” in this case). And it is quite difficult to get out of this “foreigner”-role. Especially because I am very dependent on other people’s help as I don’t speak the language. Everything is written in Chinese, no single English sign to be found, and even the people at the institute often don’t speak English at all or very poorly. I knew this all, but it is still a different thing to actually experience it of course. And I think I expected that at least on the campus people would be fairly good at speaking English. Luckily E. and one of the researchers who guides me (Y.) do speak English quite well! Every now and then we have a misunderstanding because I don’t have a clue what they are talking about until they repeat themselves 3 times, or they don’t understand me either. Ususally that just causes a funny situation.
On Saturday I went to the dragon boat races with 2 Chinese girls that also live on the campus. The actual dragon boat festival will only be in 2 weeks but for some reason they already did some races here this weekend. When I asked the girls what is actually celebrated during that festival, they told me they are “celebrating the dumpling”… Mmhhmm.. Yeah, that sounded quite odd to me too.. I looked it up at home later on and I think what they meant is that during that festival they eat a special kind of rice-dumpling (Zhongzi – which is a glutenous rice dumpling with several extra things like pork meat or chestnuts, wrapped in a leaf - quite yummy!), but obviously the actual reason for the festival is another one. ;)
The girls were very nice though! They even helped me get a sim card, which was also an interesting experience. On day 1 Y. already tried to get me a simcard but the shop close to the campus did not know what to do with a foreigner, as I don’t have a Chinese id-card. It is illegal to get a sim card without a passport apparently.
But when I was in the city with the girls, I did not have my actual passport with me, only a copy, as I didn’t expect to go get a sim card that day. After 3 attempts we found a shop that was willing to give me a card without a real passport.
We discussed which kind of data plan I want and once we had decided I had to choose a phonenumber. He put down 3 simcards out of which I could choose. I was a bit confused as I was like “just give me one” but before I could express my confusion the girls already hung over the counter, discussing which number would be best for me. The decision fell on a number which ended with a 6. I smiled at them and asked why that number was the best? And they told me that it is a auspicious Number. The number 6 stands for “things going smoothly”. YES! NUMBER 6 IT IS! Smoothly I definitely could use after the past months! ;)
After settling this, the guy took us on his scooter to a close-by shopping mall where his colleague was apparently in charge of copying and stamping the passports. After this we went back to the small shop, where I got my simcard and paid for it. Sounds (a bit strange but) simple enough, right? Afterwards one of the girls came close and whispered to me in an excited voice “ooh! I feel like when you do something illegal that doesn’t hurt anyone, it gives such an exciting feeling!!!!” She giggled and went out of the shop. And while I slowly followed her, I thought “hmm.. nope.. feeling all normal… “
Interesting to experience how much of a social construct “legal” and “illegal” is.. For me this was the most normal thing in the world, because I have no clue about the rules here. But for her this was a thrilling, illegal (yet harmless) thing to do! Makes you think..
Anyway, now I finally have internet on my phone as well, which was desperately needed to get around here. Because I can finally Google stuff I need and use Google Translate to find out what I am actually eating for example.. but oh.. wait… that's right... Google, Google Translate and loads of other sites (e.g. Facebook and Twitter) are blocked here by the “great firewall”…………..
Foto's bij verslag (10)
26 juli 2015 17:47 | Door: Shirin Mazaheri
Wat leuk én interessant om je reisverslagen te lezen. Een hele belevenis voor je!
Wij zijn momenteel in Vietnam. Ook bijzonder, maar een stuk Westerser als China.
Ik wens je nog een hele goede en fijne tijd daar en kijk uit naar je volgende verslag.
26 juli 2015 18:45 | Door: corrie
Wij vinden het erg leuk dat je mobiel internet hebt Miriam! Heel veel succes in deze vreemde omgeving waarin vanzelfsprekende zaken dat opeens niet meer zijn, en ongewone zaken vanzelfsprekend. Leuk hè, antropologie :-)
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