Our first activity of today was a visit to the Children’s Village, which is an organization that cares for kids ages 3 to 20 whose parents are in prison. We got the see the rooms in which the 61 kids currently live in the village. The kids lived in the rooms of 16 a piece and were cared for by the foster mother figures who lived with them. After the tour, we attended a presentation in one of the buildings during which I had no clue what was going on as the speaker and the all the other attendees only spoke Chinese. Sitting and listening to a foreign language for roughly an hour was extremely boring but at the end, some of the younger kids sang and danced along to some Chinese children’s songs, which was adorable, so I guess everything was okay. After the presentation, we had the chance to play basketball and soccer with the children of the village, which was a ton of fun. A lot of the kids, even the younger ones spoke great English, which they must be learning in their classes at school. We finished our visit by eating lunch in the cafeteria with the other children. The dinner was nowhere near as fancy and upscale as our other meals but it was still satisfying. It only consisted of rice and two choices of vegetable dishes.
Our next event was a visit to the Greater Wild Goose Pagoda, which is a place for Buddhist monks to pray. The iconic feature of the site was the terra cotta, seven-layer towering pagoda, but we were not able to enter. The tower was leaning and Cindy told us that, at one point, engineers had to tunnel under the pagoda to loosen the ground on one side so the tower did not eventually collapse. There were many small structures around the pagoda, which were dedicated locations for Buddhist monks to pray as was evident by the large gold and jade depictions of the Buddha.
Inside one of the buildings of the pagoda, we were given a lecture on the history of Chinese calligraphy. The speaker told us the meaning behind the shapes of certain Chinese characters and the reason for changes in characters over time. We were also given the chance to purchase watercolor artwork created by Buddhist monks that still live in the pagoda.
After returning to the hotel, some of us returned to the absurdly crowded Muslim streets where we found a hole-in-the-wall hot pot restaurant where you used skewers to cook the food you pick out various freezers. At the end of the meal, we had to pay based on the number of skewers we used at a rate of half a yuan per skewer which equates to about 8 cents. Despite the large amount of food we picked out, we only paid an equivalent of about two US dollars per person for the meal, which is ridiculously cheap compared to anything similar that would be found in America. All of the food here is so much cheaper than in America.