Editor’s Note: This post was written by Claire Kane, but she was unable to post it. Why? She believes our site is blocked in China. I’ll inquire in a few days if this indeed is the case or if perhaps we’re just blocked by one service provider or in one internet cafe.

Landed in Xiamen! I’ll be spending a semester here studying Mandarin at Xiamen University. With a population of three million – over a million of whom are migrant workers and not considered permanent residents – the place is not considered big by China’s standards.

The speed of construction here is like nothing I have ever seen. The first day I arrived there was a construction zone outside the gate of the university campus. Within a few days the dust had settled and a deluxe McDonald’s was over half-way completed. A few mornings later, the McD’s ice cream shop was open for business. Last night I strolled by again and noticed that a new concert venue is a few days into construction – in other words, almost done.

Today in Chinese class we learned a phrase: Xiamen university is not Xiamen, and Xiamen is not China. Is this the China that 1.3 billion people know? Is this the air that most Chinese breathe? No. But for some  – and for me, at least for now – it is.

PS. If you want to find Xiamen on a map, locate Taiwan and then scan the mainland coast directly parallel to it.

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Editor’s Note: This post was written by Claire Kane, but she was unable to post it. Why? She believes our site is blocked in China. I’ll inquire in a few days if this indeed is the case or if perhaps we’re just blocked by one service provider or in one internet cafe. On a more positive note, this is the 100th post on Seven Continents! Congratulations to all the writers, and thanks to all our reader for stopping by.

I’m sitting in Flavor Tango, a fast-food Chinese restaurant in the Beijing airport. I’m feeling drained and dreamy. Air Canada flight 029 departed from Vancouver at noon and chased the sun across the Pacific Ocean until we landed in Beijing. Which means that it’s about 3am my time and I still haven’t seen the sunset.

After studying Chinese history and swallowing any article I could find on China for the past few years, I feel like I’ve just landed in my favorite storybook. I’m drinking hawthorn juice and crunching snow peas and all I hear through the airport announcements is a jumble of monosyllabic tones. After a few hours in this airport I find myself already escaping into the fiction pages of the latest New Yorker. Ah, the sweet relief of the Roman alphabet.

I try to ask a lady at a coffee stand how to say ‘gate’ in Chinese. Unfortunately, my year of Chinese language classes hide in a dusty corner of my brain and Spanish comes running out triumphantly. No, no, mi querida lengua, not this time.

I’m debating buying a beer and sinking into the sleepiness, slowing my mind for a few hours before my flight to Xiamen.

Over the summer I explained my trip to China to so many friends and family that it quickly became an abstract and distant idea. I reiterated the rhetoric of the relevance, timeliness of studying Chinese, and started to sound like another voice in the chorus of The Economist’s “China is Rising” choir, with all its epic mysticism.  Today in the Beijing terminal it is happening. I’m here. Instead of these logical, credentialist motivations for going to China, it is my heart that is pulling me forward: I can’t wait to land in Xiamen.

Apologies, this will read like the standard Thomas Friedman column:

“Globalization!!!…America losing its standing in the world…China and India rising!!!”

Formulaic, but probably true.

After traveling the long 44 miles between Amman and Jerusalem yesterday, I’ve been catching up with cousins, aunts and uncles I haven’t seen since I was much shorter. Life in the Middle East generally, and the West Bank in particular, is closely tied up with politics. Even so, people here are still abuzz about Bollywood films and China’s economic development.

Evidence: Yesterday, I had a conversation with my 60+ aunt about her love for Bollywood films. She knew every megastar and even every starlet, from Shahrukh down to Imran.

It’s not just her, either. Bollywood is very popular here. There are several satellite channels that exclusively broadcast Hindi films subtitled in Arabic all day every day.

Today, we shifted from Mumbai to Beijing as we watched the opening ceremony of the Olmypics. Throughout it, all of my relatives were abuzz about China’s economic development and perceived increasing wealth.

The panoramic shots of Beinjing’s newly-minted Olympic infrastructure only served to confirm their perception that China is already, more or less, a developed country. And as we watched every country from Monaco to Guinea-Bissau proudly soldier their national flag, they wondered which country would take the medal count: China or the United States. No one was sure.

Don’t worry, though, they watch Hannah Montana too. America still has something going for it.