Yesterday was a travel day, so we spent most of the day on the bullet train. It was actually a really cool way to travel because it’s really fast and smooth, so it more convenient than driving or flying. We also had much more leg room than we would on a plane. When we got to Xi’an, we visited the drum tower, which is pretty self-explanatory because it was a tower with large drums outside. After that, we had dinner and then walked around the Muslim Quarter, which is basically what you would picture when you think of a Chinese market. There was a bunch of different street vendors and there was a large tented market where you could buy just about any designer knock off or little souvenir you could imagine. Naturally I had to buy a few things just so I could really get the full experience.
Today was day 6 and we started the day by going to the Children’s Village, which is where children whose parents are in jail can go stay to ensure that they are taken care of and they continue to attend school. It was a very humbling experience to meet those kids. They told us that by the time the kids are 10 they have to do all their washing by themselves and are responsible to basically take care of themselves. I think it’s crazy how self-sufficient the kids have to be, and it must be hard for them living away from home and without their family. We learned about the Children’s Village initiative and how they have been expanding to help more and more kids. We also got to do a little performance for the kids, and we chose to teach them baby shark. After that, we handed out candy to them and played games like soccer, basketball, and ping-pong with them.
When we were finished at the Children’s Village, we went to the Wild Goose Pagoda, a Buddhist Temple. From the outside the pagoda looked a little plain but the inside was so ornate. It had elaborate sculptures and big gold Buddhas, so it was really cool. When we finished walking around, we went to a calligraphy class and an artist taught us about the different Chinese characters. Then we all got him to paint our names in Chinese. They also had a lot of traditional Chinese artwork there made by students in art schools, so a lot of us bought some of those paintings too. After that we went back to the hotel for a bit and then went out to dinner which was another great Chinese meal. At the dinner we had a “Chinese burger” which is a specialty here in Xi’an. It’s basically pulled pork on bun that’s kind of a cross between an English muffin and a pancake. Next, we walked back to the Muslim Street market. It was quite a long walk down narrow streets with vendors on each side and mix of cars, scooters, bikes, and pedestrians walking in all directions. It was definitely a challenge and you constantly had to be dodging vehicles while simultaneously being overwhelmed with overpowering scents coming from various street vendors. It is abundantly clear that the driving laws are pretty lax in China and I’m honestly surprised none of us have gotten seriously injured yet. We finally made our way back to the market we were at the day before and we spent hours bargaining to buy different souvenirs. Our group as a whole bought an insane amount of knock off designer goods. It was kind of fun to see who could get the best price. We then ended up in a stall that belonged to a woman who made calligraphy. I think we stayed there for about an hour as we all had her write custom messages in Chinese. After that we made our way back to the hotel and we all passed out after another long day.