Yesterday’s train ride was interesting to say the lease, We rode the bullet train from Beijing to Xi’an which was the first time that I have ever ridden a train, yet alone one that goes 300 mph. It was amazing to see the “countryside” of China that appeared to be never ending cities. It was for only brief moments that we got to see truly rural China. It was over the course of the full day, spurred on by lack of sleep and a long day of travel, that everyone’s true colors began to show. After yesterday I feel that I know most people on the trip a little better, both the good and the bad.
Today we started by going to the Children’s Village, a non-profit organization that helps care for children whose parents are in prison. These kids are anywhere from babies to 19/20 years old. We had the opportunity to take a brief tour of the village (living facilities for both boys and girls, and the mess hall). We learned that in each room of 4 there is a “room mom” that helps the younger kids. We then had the opportunity to play basketball soccer and ping pong with the children. Before departing we ate lunch with the children and shopped at their sale. Some of the children make crafts with beads and twine that they then sell to raise money. When I first heard this I wasn’t expecting much, then when I saw the intricately woven 3d statues that were made of only beads and twine I had to have one!
From the village, we went to the Great Wild Goose Pagoda. Our visit here started with a fountain show followed by the pagoda itself. We learned that the until the 1980s the pagoda was the tallest building in Xi’an. This put into context for us just how large the housing boom is, as we travel the city and see hundreds of skyscrapers. We also learned that the pagoda is home to 90 monks who live in a building just at the base of the pagoda. This is because the pagoda is actually a Buddhist temple. Given the number of people performing religious rituals at the pagoda, I can only begin to imagine the significance of the pagoda to the religion. We learned that the pagoda got its name when a monk who was starving went to the top floor of the pagoda and prayed to the budda to relieve his hunger. At that moment a goof lost its wings and fell into the room where the monk was praying. The monk credited this to the budda answering his prayer and named the pagoda after this experience.
This evening we returned to the Muslim quarter where we got most of our souvenirs and gifts for friends and family. The most fun part of this experience was negotiating with the locals, as every stand had a very different price for the identical items. However cheap the shop keepers were we were cheaper! Today was a nice day to rest and recover from the long day of travel while growing closer as a group. I can’t wait for more adventuring on the city wall and the terracotta warriors tomorrow!