Blind date at the Orient

Stories about a blind date at the Orient with ex-pats Tina and Mark.

The Orient: an Australian bar behind the Marco Polo hotel (the reference location for all westerners here in Xiamen).

The blind date: Mark and Tina.

You can read their blog at They have some “crispy” stories there (that’s the French expression – des histoires croustillantes – and I have no idea if it translates well into English! Juicy stories, maybe?).

Anyway, Mark and Tina arrived in Xiamen two months ago from Chicago, and we had been exchanging blog comments and e-mails for a few days. So, Friday night we decided it was time to go for a beer together. And as they were on their way to the Orient, Tina told Mark how it felt like a blind date. We would meet and one of us could say “Oh, you don’t look at all like your picture!”.

On our side, I told Ed in the elevator “it is like a blind date, we know so much about them (we read the past two months of their blog) and we have not met yet”. Funny, no!

Well, we had a great time, sharing stories about how we manage the interesting challenges that life throws at us here. There is a certain connection that immediately exists between “ex-pats” here (as we are called) because we share the same experience.

And they are a few of us here: Mark and Tina, Mark is originally from near Boston, Tina from Toronto and they were living in Chicago. Mark works for a water treatment equipment company, and its contract manufacturer here. They have been here two months and will be here 18 months.

At the bar, we also met a writer from California who arrived one month ago, and another westerner who had been here for 20 years (20 years!).

At the METRO store two days ago, we helped two kids (they looked so young!) who arrived two weeks ago. They are from Denmark, and work for Ecco Shoes. They will here one year.

At the apartment (condo-hotel) we stay at, there are many Japanese and some westerners, some even with kids who leave for school in the morning. The American international school is probably not far.

It is a strange feeling, the feeling of being back in time like we imagine colonial India at the end of the 19th century or the beginning of the 20th century… even the haze from a hot and humid climate, the local people, and some of the architecture make you feel that way sometimes…

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