Serene’s Blog: My Big Idea

It all started in the spring of 2009, when my Mum, Dad, Grandma, sister, and I were in our car looking for lots to build a bigger house. We wanted a mother-in-law suite for my grandma, a studio for my dad (he is a musician), and another studio for my mom to see her homeopathy clients. She is studying homeopathy now.


My Big Idea

We were driving and driving, and switching music from one song to another. It was really, really boring. Then I just said, “Why don’t we move to China?”

My mum and dad looked surprised and said, “Well, let’s see!” 

So after about half of the day of looking at lots, we went home and consulted about moving to China, and we finally decided that we should go! We looked at the map of China and talked about where we could best be of service . We decided on a place called Xiamen, known as “the beautiful city by the sea.” Xiamen is in Fujian Province.

My dad took a one-year research leave from his university where he was a professor and found a job in Xiamen. We had a huge moving sale, packed up, and left for the Far East on my dad’s birthday, which he said was the best birthday present ever. We went to visit our relatives in Ohio and Virginia for a month before moving to China. 


Our New Home

The trip took about 24 hours to reach our new home in Xiamen. We were so excited! We did not know what to expect! When we arrived in Xiamen, we stayed in a hotel for several days while we looked for an apartment. My dad knew how to speak a little Chinese, so he set out to buy some things for breakfast. He came back with sweet bread and bananas, which was very different than what we were eating in America. We finally rented an apartment in a building where you could see the ocean on one side and mountains on the other.


My Chinese School

A few weeks after we got settled in, my mum and dad started looking for a good Chinese school for my sister and me. Since we were homeschooled in the States, we were not sure how it would all work out, but because we wanted to learn Chinese, we all thought it might be a good idea for us to go to a Chinese school.

We decided to go to school for only half a day each day. My sister and I both went to first grade so we could start to learn the language—although my sister was five and I was seven.  The school was interesting. There were 40 students in our class.  My sister and I were both in the same class together. We started making a lot of Chinese friends. The Chinese people are really kind, warm, and welcoming, and they love children.


Exploring Tastes and Sights

My family and I started exploring the city and found very interesting and fun places. We found a juice place, which has awesome fresh fruit juices and “bing shas,” which are fruits like mango and lemon blended together with slushy ice and honey. It tastes like heaven!

We went to lots of beautiful parks. We took a ferry to a small island called Gulangyu, which is also called Piano Island. We also went on a 45-minute cable car trip up the mountain, where one could see the whole city. We went mountain climbing, which is very common in China. We have a lot of mountains here in Xiamen. These mountains have stairs that one climbs to get to the top. As you climb the mountains, you can see people doing Tai Ji and Kung Fu. There are people who gather around and eat snacks and tea, and sometimes they are dancing or playing badminton.

We also went to some teahouses to taste different kinds of tea. In Fujian Province, tea is an important part of the local culture. Teahouses line the streets, and you can smell the fragrance of the tea once you enter the teahouse. Inside, you are greeted by friendly people who invite you to share a delicious, hot cup of tea with them. Whether it’s black, white, red or green, it’s the best tea you’ve ever seen (or tasted)!


Friendly People—and Goats

Sometimes, in the evenings, people gather around in parks or the mountaintops to dance. You can see a group of 50 people, whether young or old, women or men, dancing together. Sometimes the kids join in, too. The music is sometimes traditional or pop. My sister and I dance with everybody too, and it’s great fun!

After one year, we moved to a different flat. Sometimes when we go to the beach to walk or bike, we see a lot of people walking around, wading in the ocean, flying kites, playing badminton, taking pictures, having snacks, and slurping fresh coconut juice right from the coconut.  People love being outdoors, and so do I.

There are usually a lot of goats by our complex—big ones and little ones. They come there to graze, since there is lots of grass for them to eat. There are also lots of dogs that gather around in the same large open field as the goats! The people use the goats to get milk. Sometimes we see a few goats lined up in a little van, going from place to place to give their milk.

When my family and I walk through a village by our home, it is quiet, but there are also a lot of people there. You see the older people sitting on their doorsteps and gazing at the world that goes by in front of them. Sometimes the older people play board games and talk together. When we walk through the village, we see people’s homes made of old wood, bricks, and mud. Their kitchens and bathrooms are outside instead of connected with the rest of the house. There are also little restaurants and cafes, and other little shops. Sometimes when my family and I pass through the village at night, we see all the shops lit up. 

One of my favorite things here has been learning the Chinese Gu Zheng, a long stringed musical instrument.

More than anything, China is a beautiful place, full of life and warm, wonderful, and loving people—and you can truly see why ‘Abdul-Bahá wanted to visit this ancient and unique land.

Zai Jian (which means goodbye in Chinese!)

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