You may be wondering, where’s Day 5? Did it disappear? Well, no. Day 5 started at the crack of dawn, 5:30 AM. We took a bullet train from Beijing to Xi’an. At a speed of 305 KM/H, we sped through neighboring cities and the countryside to cover 1216 KM in about six hours. Looking out the window at different times during the ride was very fascinating because the view was constantly changing at a quick pace. After arriving in Xi’an, we did some light exploring of the city Drum Tower and the Muslim Quarter, home to the Muslims in the city which make up only one percent of the total population in Xi’an.
After a good night’s rest, Day 6 began with a trip to the Children’s Village. This is a non-governmental, non-profit organization that provides refuge for children whose parents have been detained. The story behind the organization is heartwarming. It was started by a police woman with a mission to lead these children to a healthy lifestyle, physically and mentally. These kids are left in the wind when their parents are taken and this village allows them to grow up in a sheltered environment. The age range of the kids living there is between 4 and 20 years old. After receiving an informative presentation on the organization, we were able to go play with the kids! Although there was a language barrier between us and them, we were able to communicate through sports. We played basketball, ping pong, soccer, and volleyball with a group of the younger kids, elementary and middle school age, and we all had fun even though our age and culture differences are stark. After many laughs with the little ones and a lot of sweat, we went to eat lunch in their cafeteria. We ate what they were eating: sticky white rice, tofu, and cabbage.
After lunch we got back on the bus and travelled to the Greater Wide Goose Pagoda. This is a giant buddhist temple that monks travel to from all over the country. It also receives many donations from all over the country; it’s a very popular temple. After taking some pictures and exploring the area, we went to a room full of art, including some art that was donated from the same artist that drew the famous portrait of Mao Ze Dong in Tiananmen Square! The art was very beautiful. We also got a short lesson on Chinese characters and how they are written. The guy giving the lesson sold us calligraphy that he drew in front of us for whatever word we wanted. I decided to buy a design for my family!
After dinner, we walked back to the Muslim Quarter to explore a bazaar that we found yesterday. This bazaar had a bunch of high-end, fake clothing and items along the lines of Gucci, Supreme, and Rolex. Our group practiced our bargaining skills and we got many good deals and a lot of fake branded products. Lining the streets of the Muslim Quarter are countless street food vendors that I am not nearly brave enough to try. The smells are… interesting, which is a polite description. It was also insanely dense; the streets were filled with locals. It reminded me of some condensed places in India. It’s something that can not be easily explained, you just have to experience it. The amount of people in that small area is something you will not ever see in the United States just because you can’t find that population density anywhere. The closest thing you will find to this is New York City streets but there is more space to walk.