Another “follow-up” post, this time to the tale of our visit to Anhai’s Wu Li Qiao, or Five Mile Bridge.

I went back not long ago with my Mother-In-Law and two daughters, and this time we walked further down the bridge than I’ve ever gone before–perhaps 3/4 of the length and back. This time I learned a bit more about the bridge from my Mother-In-Law, such as:

  • Half the bridge is in the jurisdiction (and under the care of) Jinjiang County (i.e. the Anhai side), the other half by another county, Nan’an County. The structure of these two halves is different. The Jinjiang/Anhai side has six stones across the breadth of the bridge. The other half has seven.
  • The supports on the Nan’an side are boat-shaped, as seen in this picture. On the Jinjiang side, they’re square.
  • In the 50’s and 60’s, water around the bridge was clean enough to swim in. Now it looks like it could melt steel.
  • Last year, people stole a pair of statues (pictures below) from the mid-point temple during the night, with several people required to carry each one away to a waiting boat, with the ultimate plan of smuggling them to a buyer outside the country. The “kidnappers” were captured before making the shipment out of the country, though, and the statues returned, however. (This wasn’t the first kidnap attempt, just the first time they actually got them away from the temple. On an attempt some years back, the thieves dislodged the statues, but apparently didn’t bring enough helpers to carry them. Darned heavy mo-fo’s, I’ll wager.)

Some photos from our outing:

My Mother-In-Law and 4-Year-Old Daughter in front of the Anhai-side bridge gate:

My two daughters in front of the mid-bridge temple altar:

The mid-bridge temple ceiling:

Detail of a stone inscription on the mid-bridge temple wall:

Stone inscription at the mid-bridge temple:

The view out the front door of the mid-bridge temple
(Those are the stolen-but-rescued statues dressed in red):

Halfway between the mid-bridge temple and the Nan’an end of the bridge, you’ll find this small kiosk-sized temple. The old man inside is telling one girl’s fortune while her friend waits to the right.

This is a cheap, lowbrow post, and I’ll admit it right up front.

During our recent visit to Xiamen, I had in the back of my mind the notion to write a post about how people seem, as compared to my previous visits to China, to be shouting “Lao Wai” and staring at foreigners much less and so on. And generally, in Xiamen and Quanzhou and Jinjiang and Anhai, I’ve found this to be true. It happens, but far less than before (“before” = 1993-94, 1996, 1997, 2000).

I was even thinking of a punch line for a post of, “I guess all those ‘Please Do Not Stare at the Foreigner’ t-shirts are starting to pay off.”

But then we visited Gulang Island, just a short ferry ride away from Xiamen, and it was like a step back in time to when entire traffic flows would grind to a halt to stare at a foreigner.

For some reason, the “locals” over on Gulang Island (gulang yu) haven’t caught up with their Xiamen neighbors in becoming disinterested in staring and shouting “Hello!” at foreigners and all that, but even more so, the tourists coming from other parts of China to visit Gulang Island are still stuck in that “earlier phase of social development.”

This is my revenge post.

We were walking along the “boardwalk” after getting off the ferry to Gulang Island, and this old woman, who we could tell by dress and mannerisms wasn’t from “around here,” sauntered up to us, as we stopped for my Wife to tie one of my daughters’ shoelaces, inserted herself without a word right into our midst, and stared at our girls like she was disapprovingly examining some sort of abnormal fleshy growth.

In the first of the revenge photos that follow, you see her doing the close-range staring thing, while her husband, some distance away in the background, has spotted the situation. In the second photo, he’s at her side after telling her, “Let’s go; the foreigner is taking your picture.”

Even as he lead her away, she looked back to stare at our girls with that same Bill Murray/Steve Martin/Saturday Night Live sketch “What the hell IS that thing?” expression on her face.

We’ve gotten used to people “spotting” us and “looking” at us, but most who approach us have drummed up some conversation, maybe said our daughters are pretty, or asked if they speak Chinese, or something.

But not this woman–she spoke not a word, but went straight to her work–it was quite a throwback to the days of feeling like “Foreigner = Circus Freak.”

OK, enough venting. Here she is:

During the 1993-94 school year, the foibles of which you can read at China Grunge, I taught all of the Fuzhou University Foreign Language Department’s sophomore (2nd year) and senior (4th year) students, over 160 young people in all.

I’ve heard tell of a few of them in the nearly 12 years since then–and in case you’re reading this, “Julia,” the student who wrote last year through my site’s Contact page about her new life in Germany, please write again: you forgot to include your e-mail address!–but during my recent week-long visit to the city of Xiamen, I was able to get together with about 10 former “4th year” students who live there for dinner and learn what they are doing now.

Of the two fellows who live in Xiamen and were able to make it to a gathering, one is now a policeman in Xiamen and the other a “sales executive” (he travels a lot) for a high-end Chinese jewelery manufacturer (and got married just a month ago–congrats!).

Of the gals, one describes herself as a “stay-at-home Mom”; a few work for trading or shipping companies; one is the manager of a particular department in a travel agency, overseeing “outbound” travel packages (rather than in-city Xiamen tours and arrangements, that means); one now works for the Chinese tax bureau in Quanzhou.

Another gal is the owner of her own trading company, and doing quite well–she drove us back in her stylish new Honda sedan to the apartment we were staying in after dinner that evening. (This is the student “Helen” who jumped in to help me negotiate commerce with sellers in a vegetable market back in 1993. I guess she had that go-getter spirit even back then.)

Another of my former female students and her husband have opened and are running three import-export companies. I’m not clear on why they have two in China, but the third is registered in Hong Kong, mainly for what I’ll describe as “tax shelter” purposes.

Here are a few photos from one of the “reunions”:

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