Breakfast in Xi’an felt a lot fancier than Beijing, a testament to the hotel we were staying at. The lobby of the hotel was a grand two stories high entrance hall clad in marble with large pillars, Chinese tapestries, and a view of massive stone terracotta warriors overlooking the koi fish pond outside. The breakfast area was larger than in Beijing and featured made to order omelets, and more importantly, dumplings! Once we had had enough dumplings, we got on the bus to head to our first destination, the Sun Children’s village. On the drive out of the city we passed by what must have been hundreds of stands all selling cherries. The business students said something I didn’t understand about “perfect competition”. I didn’t quite understand how there was enough demand for cherries to require so many sellers all with identical products.
The Sun Children’s villages were founded by a former police office to care for children whose parents are in prison. They ensure that these kids are fed, housed, and educated instead of being left on the streets to fend for themselves. When we arrived, we were given a brief tour of the Xi’an village. We saw some of the dormitories that the children live in. I was struck by how little privacy there was in the bathroom, and again by the squatty-potties. We were then taken to their main building where some of the kids performed a dance. Then some of our people tried to play charades with the Chinese kids, with our guide Jane acting as translator. It went better than I expected. Then we all got up and performed an embarrassingly bad rendition of heads, shoulders, knees and toes. We then went off to play some sports with the kids. First, we played some table tennis. These kids destroyed us at table tennis. One of them got so bored of winning he just walked away. Then we took out the frisbee we had brought and taught some of the kids how to throw it. One boy in a red shirt picked it up right away. Then that kid brought out a rugby ball and taught me how to toss it. This was a really enlightening experience for me because even though we couldn’t talk to these kids as we didn’t speak Chinese and they didn’t speak English, we were still able to communicate and interact with them.
Getting crushed at table tennis
After eating lunch at the village, we said goodbye to the kids and got back on the bus to head to the Giant Wild Goose Pagoda, a compound originally built over 1000 years ago to store translated Buddhist texts. We saw many statues of Buddhist figures and learned about reincarnation and the different levels of reincarnation. I’ve been constantly amazed on this trip about how much ancient Chinese culture, history, and religion prosper and thrive despite almost a century of Communist Party rule. At the Pagoda we had a calligraphy class where we learned the two characters for Xi’an, xi which means west and an which means peace. I got a chance to try writing the characters, something I wasn’t very good at. At the gift shop, I spent too many yuan buying a nice set of chopsticks. That night, Dr. Li treated us to dinner and taught us about traditional Chinese banquets. It is the hosts job to make sure there is more than enough food and to make sure all the guests are satisfied, but it is also the job of the guests to leave leftovers to let the host know you were satisfied. After so many days of activity and traveling, I wasn’t surprised that I was starting to feel a cold coming on, though I hoped it wouldn’t be a bad one. To wrap the day up, Alana Rashel Erin and I hopped on the subway and got off at a random stop. We just walked around and soaked up the atmosphere of this amazing city.
Giant Wild Goose Pagoda