Woke up feeling great after taking an easy night. Being in China, I am split between wanting to get decent sleep and wanting to experience everything I can each day. I think I am going to continue to “drive on fumes” I can catch up on sleep once I get home! Anyways today we did a service-like visit to a Children’s Village followed by another cultural visit to the Greater Wide Goose Pagoda.
The visit to the Children’s Village is up there with our visit to the Great Wall as my favorite activities thus far. For some necessary context, the Children’s Village is a non profit with no government intervention or subsidies that takes in the children whose parents are both in jail or their single parent is in jail. It was founded by a jail professor who found the biggest issue for her students was that they worry about their children. Since 1996, they have helped over 2000 children at two locations relying solely on donations. To begin, we took a tour of the facilities and once we got to the stage we watched a video that explained all the above statistics. After the video, a group of 6 children performed a dance for us. Then the tables were turned and we took the stage to perform something for the children as well. Since there was group of 17 of us up there we decided to sing and dance the “Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes” song. Performing makes me extremely uncomfortable but I am glad I got out of my comfort zone. After we were done in the theater we had free time to play with the children. This is where I had the most fun because I was able to interact with the children in my element, sports. While the basketball court was occupied with another activity, we spent most of our time around the two table tennis tables and were still able to play with the basketball and have a great time. Two of the kids and I took turns all competing amongst us three and while we did not keep score nor speak the same language, sports are universal and while they were both 12 years old we had really competitive games. One of the most eyeopening things to have happened that day was how the one kid shared with me. Dr. Lei had bought candy and been handing it out to all the kids throughout the day, which had brought them all great joy. One of the kids we were playing with opened up his piece, came up to me, split it, handed me the other half, and we both enjoyed half a piece of candy together. No matter how simple the gesture, this really stuck with me. In school, the children had been learning English, but this was only to the “What is your name?” level. I wish I knew at least a very basic level of Chinese to communicate more so with the kids. Regardless, today was a very special day filled with joy for them and us alike. Later, we ate lunch with the children before heading off for the day. In retrospect, I wish I could have done more activities and hung out with the kids all day.
Then we were off the Greater Wide Goose Pagoda. Here we were exposed to a massive Buddha park and our tour taught my classmates and I all about the Buddha religion, more so than I have ever learned before. It was interesting to gain a greater appreciation for a religion so prevalent around the world. Especially at one of the most important sites in Buddha history. We were not allowed in the tower, but perhaps that was for the best of it because it has begun leaning and many believe this piece of architecture will not hold up for as long as China’s other important cultural sites’ buildings. After touring the site and learning a ton we took a class in calligraphy. This class helped me learn a ton of background information regarding the style of writing. I will still never understand any of the characters that I see everywhere I go. However, I now understand what goes into the writing and how the people who can read the calligraphy understand it and put together the strokes to create a word.
After Dr. Lei treated us all to meal, we came back and rested for a little bit. Xi’an has been almost a vacation away from our studying abroad. It’s more remote and most of us are using this time to rest because while we were in Beijing activities were non stop and once we get to Shanghai it will be the same intensity.
Tomorrow brings another extremely exciting day…we are headed to see the Terra-Cotta Warriors and then biking along Xi’an’s city wall. Can’t wait!!