Lent is never really that hard in the Philippines (in general), because we’re a predominantly Catholic/Christian country. It’s only now that I’m on my 2nd or 3rd time away from the Philippines during this season that I can see how we sometimes take the season for granted. Having daily masses, and even having at least 3-5 masses a day on Sundays, these are things you cannot find in China. When I was in Beijing last year, Lent was difficult for me because the Church was far away, even by subway. The only days I was able to attend mass for that season were Ash Wednesday and Easter Sunday. Now that it’s just a little more convenient (as compared to Beijing) that I am able to attend mass here in Xiamen, I try to attend mass each Sunday.
Coincidentally, the Sunday that passed by was Palm Sunday, which coincided with the weekend before 清明节 (Qing Ming Jie/Tomb-sweeping Holiday) which is when Chinese go back to their hometowns to visit graves and the like (something like All Souls Day I guess). Unlike my time in Tsinghua where the school celebrates the holiday like any normal holiday, my classes here at XMU try to make the most out of the holidays by giving classes beforehand, so I had classes during the weekend which resuletd in a 7-day straight schedule.
Right after my 8-930am class at XMU, I made my way to the nearest school gate and took a taxi straight to the ferry port (I usually take a bus, but it takes about 15-20minutes to get to the ferry port from my flat). Then I used my Gulangyu unlicard for the first time and took the ferry to Gulangyu before making my way to Church. I was already 20minutes late for mass, but it was still worth the effort. Our Church had baskets of palaspas (palms?) which they were handing out for free to the churchgoers (since we’re a pretty small community, with loads of Pinoys, fyi). I was able to take 3, 1 of which I handed to my friend. I even placed it on my door when I got home. It’s not as nice-looking as the palaspas we use back home, and this thing is painful (it has sharp leaves! i got pricked at least 5 times), but am trying to work with it nonetheless. Back home, my parents place our palaspas above our picture of the sacred heart of Jesus, so when I was talking to my mom, I asked hem to send me a picture/poster that I could hang on my door as well.
It really makes you appreciate the little things, doesn’t it?
I’m kind of looking forward to attending mass this Friday and Saturday, though the schedule at the Church mentioned that both masses will be completely in Mandarin. Scary and challenging! We’ll see if my schedule permits. The next few days are scary hectic, not to mention the HSK4 exam on the 14th~