Three marvelous days of sister-cities exchange trip in Xiamen
The Xiamen-Baltimore sister-cities exchange program was scheduled from July 25th to July 28th. Five middle school students from Xiamen, including myself, introduced Xiamen and Chinese culture to the exchange students from Baltimore high schools.
On the first morning, I was actually quite nervous. With only a list of names, I did not know what the exchange students would be like. But when their leader, Danny Evans, started handing out candies right after greeting with us, I knew that the three days were going to be awesome. The other students, Kolby Lewis, Mateen Kane, Aaron Garnett, and Alexander Garnett, all seemed very nice.
We first visited the Xiamen International Conference Center, where the 2017 BRICS Xiamen Summit was held. and the signboard of “One Country, Two Systems” on Huandao Road. In the afternoon, we took traditional Chinese painting class at the Xiamen Youth & Children's Palace. At first, the exchange students did not know how to hold the brush but after the teacher’s coaching, they soon started to paint away. Their paintings were actually pretty good. As one student, Kolby Lewis said: “It’s actually quite a new experience for all of us.”
The second day was all about Xiamen culture and traditional Xiamen snacks. We went to Xiamen University in the morning. The day was clear, with only wisps of cloud drifting in the sky. A student from the university took us on a tour around the beautiful campus. At first, we went to Furong Lake. The American students were surprised that there were actually black swans in the lake. “We don’t get black swans in our hometown,” Aaron Garnett said. Furong tunnel, which we visited later, contained the graffiti created by previous graduate classes. Everybody seemed especially happy to admire the wall art, or maybe it was because the tunnel was cooler than outside.
Shapowei, an arts and crafts center, is the place we had lunch. It used to be a fish oil factory and now has been renovated to become a “Food Castle”, literally. Each floor was designed for different traditional southern Fujian foods. We had noodles with Satay sauce, dumplings and even some of the “notorious” sea worm jellies. During lunch Danny said something that touched me. “Don’t be polite. If you are polite, that means that we are strangers, and we don’t want to be strangers.” Everybody helped themselves and was soon stuffed with food and content.
On the third day, we set off for Kulangsu. First, we went to the Kulangsu History and Culture Exhibition. The museum showcases exhibits dedicated to Kulangsu’s history, some famous people from it, and some sites of historical interest on the island. With the help of multi-language terminals, the exchange students had no difficulty in learning the history of the various buildings.
After that, we went to Shuzhuang Garden. The architecture was a mixture of Chinese and Western styles. Inside, there is the famous Piano Museum. It contained old pianos from the former residents of Kulangsu. Some were from the 19th century and had candle stands on them. Some were special; for example, a corner piano and a stepping piano. The corner piano was not intended for playing at all. The stepping piano was obviously designed for aristocrats who did not know how to play piano, for it would spin out a pre-programmed tune with just a step. One of the clerks in the museum played “The Waves of Kulangsu,” a tune adapted from a well-known song about Kulangsu. The exchange students were awed by the music pouring out of a 1932 piano.
The three days were long, because each day we had so much to see, to share, to try out. “We really got to experience the Xiamen culture,” one exchange student said. The three days were also short, because we had no much more time for further exploration. Anyhow, the three days were marvelous for both sides. For the students from Baltimore, the three-day trip gave them an opportunity to experience pure Xiamen culture. For we Chinese students, it was a great experience to share our own culture with students from another country, and it gave us a chance to get a new insight into our culture. I duly hope that there will be more and more of these kinds of opportunities.
By Yuhan Chen (Xiamen No.1 Middle School)