XIAMEN SCENERY. Take coastal Southern California. Add octopus on a stick, feral goats, and a lonnnng beautiful boardwalk. Et voila Xiamen. It’s chilly right now, though, so the only people swimming are a cadre of extremely fit old men in Speedo bathing suits. They tie floats to themselves (plastic balls or a piece of wood) so that they are visible if they start to sink. We had a nice walk along the beach yesterday, culminating in a stop at the Red Armadillo, where we had a Western lunch and talked to the owner, who turned out to be from Chicago. He recommends a trip to the rural areas north of here, where people live in round houses and make organic honey. I’ve seen pictures of those houses, and they actually do look like beehives, but I imagine that’s just a coincidence.
QUIP OF THE WEEK. Jonah and Frankie are bickering.
Frankie: Go away!
Jonah: I can stay if I want. It’s a free country! [pause] Well, sort of.
CHRISTIANITY. Xiamen is a former Methodist-missionary hotbed, and from all evidence the Christians are still hard at work. We had lunch with a missionary family the other day, and while they were very nice folks, we do struggle with the whole concept of “conversion,” given the rate at which China is losing its own spiritual traditions. When a vacuum is created (by, say, a governmental emphasis on money uber alles), then what rushes in? On the other hand, and paradoxically, thousands of years of history can’t really erase itself even when it is invisible.
METROSEXUALS. On one of our first days here, we read a China Post editorial debate about “Metrosexuals” in China. We wondered why they’d devote ink to such a trivial topic, but now we understand. Every day, the evidence of a crisis mounts: man-purses, high heels, dual-texture perms, fake sharkskin pants. Excesses aside, though, I must concede that the Xiamenese (Xiamenites?) are much snappier dressers than the average Milwaukeean, yours truly included. I suspect that the recent-past poverty of almost every prosperous person we see has dampened the allure of the casual-boho look. Why look poor when you can look rich?
[posted by Angela]