I’ve been eating a lot of fruit. Not so good for my sugar intake but the fruit in Xiamen is amazing. It’s currently passion fruit season. The passion fruits are not like the expensive shrivelled ones we get in the supermarket in the UK, they are bigger and round and the taste is even better. Aaf gave me one to take with me on the morning that I left for Gulangyu. I asked the girl in the hotel where I stayed for a spoon so I could eat it and she said you can mix it with hot water and drink it. I tried with another when I got home. It makes a wonderful hot passion fruit infusion. The bananas also taste different here, they are sweeter and more intense. I have read that you shouldn’t eat more than three bananas a day or you might have too much potassium, so I try not to have more than two. My other favourite fruit here is pomello, which I’d never seen before until I came here last year. It’s like a football sized grapefruit which is not bitter like a grapefruit, just refreshing and sweet. You hack pieces out of it with a knife and the pull bits of the fruit out of the casing. I usually just eat it over the sink as it is easier.
You can also buy these amazing dried mini apple things that look and taste like sweets but are definitely dried fruits as there is a stone in the middle. The taste is like toffee apples. Some of my food purchases have been less successful. I have managed to accidentally order bitter melon on more than one occasion. It must be really good for you, otherwise I do not know why anyone would eat it. I eat out always as it’s so cheap (About £1 for a full meal). Some places I use a bit of Chinese to ask them to cook something without meat and other places have the cooked food out already on heated trolley things. You choose 3 things and then you get rice as well and soup. The soup is always clear with a few bits of egg, green stuff and if you’re lucky mini shrimps floating around in it. Sometimes it tastes of nothing except hot water and sometimes it is surprisingly really tasty, in these cases I like to call it MSG soup.
I took the BRT to the Gulangyu ferry port. The BRT is a direct fast bus. It is a bit like a train or tram in the sense that it has it’s own road above the city that only the BRT buses can drive on. The BRT in rush hour is an experience. People push you and in front of you to get onto the bus. I unsuccessfully tried getting on two buses before giving in and following the ‘strongest wins’ system (which I do not agree with of course, being British!) Most are not lucky enough to get a seat and are pushed in tighter and tighter as more and more people get on the bus at each stop. When I finally made it to the ferry port I realised I had forgotten my passport. Things like this keep happening to me. Yesterday I borrowed the key to C Platform to get my glue, which I had forgotten and needed for a workshop to teach school kids (more on that later) and I put the key straight in the lock, turned it and it just broke in half, like it was made of butter. Luckily I had my surgical tweezers with me for quilling, so I could pull the broken bit out of the lock and the art shop was thankfully open anyway so I could buy some more glue.
At the point when I realised I had forgotten my passport I was devastated, as I knew that by the time I got home, picked it up and went back to Gulangyu, it would be so late in the day, there would be no point in going. I called Zhifei who asked me if I had any other ID. I had my driving licence! She wasn’t sure if that would be ok, but I was allowed to buy a ticket with it and then the hotel were fine about it also. Phew.
I wrote about Guilangyu here in a previous post just after I came back from Xiamen last time. https://www.a-n.co.uk/blogs/skygroundbeing/date/2015/03 For an overview I think it’s better that you read this post. It’s hard for me to describe how I feel about Gulangyu. It has something to do with its rich history, my connection to it as a British person, the impression that grew in my head, of this magical place, as I read Bill Brown’s ‘Discover Xiamen’ book before I visited, the strangely compelling Chinese style preservation and takeover of a little ancient western world.
I didn’t book a hotel before I left, I just picked one when I got there. I was in the end very glad of my choice, called Little White House, partly because it was right next to the opening of a little tunnel, so I could find my way back more easily, but never that easily, everyone walking around Gulangyu seems to be a little bit lost with it’s winding little streets that all look the same. The hotel reception was beautiful and I got this great photo of the owner’s daughter sitting in a chair with his dog in the reception. He said he was actually from a country (or island?) near Thailand which I thought he called Bani, but this cannot be right as I’ve looked it up and there is nowhere, so anyway he’s not from China but came to Gulangyu about 5 years ago. After he let me take a photograph of him, he said he would take some of me, as he is a good photographer. He showed me some very nice photos that he took of his daughter. He got me to stand in nice places, near the plants etc in the courtyard, Chinese style.
Here are some of the ink drawings I made on Gulangyu.
It is fairly difficult making the ink drawings without the comforts of the studio. The way that they are made, lends itself better to working against a wall, but I just had to make do. It’s pretty hard to concentrate with people coming to look all the time. I didn’t take any pictures of the watchers actually, as I was focused on what I was doing and just tried to block them out as much as possible, but I did ask one guy if he would take a photo of me painting. I asked to take a photograph of him also, which he was a bit surprised about, but he let me.
I also took a million photos which I will work from to make more work. I want to return to the island before I go home, but I’m not sure it will be possible with other work I have on during my time here. Here is a selection of the photos I took.