Today was the last day of Fulbright Spring Orientation. We spent much of the day visiting Xiamen’s Gulangyu Island, a small island covered with private overseas Chinese residences and consulate buildings. It was quite touristy. Jason and I wandered away from the organized tour and took the kids to lunch at a local restaurant. It was so nice to be able to sit and order for ourselves! Then we headed out to the aquarium before meeting up with everyone else for a traditional musical performance and a traditional puppet show.
Something else that I found quite enjoyable about the day was the extent to which I was able to speak with and be understood by people out on the street. I had been getting frustrated here at the hotel because the staff seemed to not understand me when I spoke Chinese and the Fulbright staff who are Chinese did not seem to think much of my Chinese either. Yet, when we are out and about I seem to do fine. I believe that there are a couple of things going on. First, folks don’t expect me to be speaking Chinese so they are listening for English. Second, even if we are speaking Mandarin we are doing it with Cantonese accents – not so far removed from Fujianese.