Today was our first full day in Xi’an and after a long train ride and brief visit to the Muslim Quarter the day before, I couldn’t wait to explore the city some more. The breakfast in this hotel was very similar to the one in Beijing, a combination of American and Chinese foods, but this time with some new inclusions including French Toast and Dumplings. After breakfast we left for the Children’s Village which was around an hour and a half outside of the city. The drive required us to drive up an over some hills, which gave a great overview of the city of Xi’an. Once we arrived at the Children’s Village, we were given a tour and a brief overview of what the Children’s Village is. The Village was set up by a formal correctional officer at the local prison when she found that some children who visit their parents in prison often are orphans and homeless. She set up a series of facilities where the children could live, eat, and play all while being taken care of while their parents are incarcerated. The facility we toured had living quarters for the younger boys and girls and for the older boys and girls. The rooms consisted of bunk beds in a smaller room which reminded me of my time living in a dorm. After seeing all the buildings, we had the chance to meet some of the younger kids. We put on a performance of Baby Shark and brought handfuls of Hershey’s Kisses to hand out to the kids, but they seemed unamused at first, with even one of the kids frowning and shaking his head no. However, the second one of the children took some of the candy, they all started grabbing handfuls and stuffed their pockets. Next, we got to meet some of the older kids who were around middle school aged. We ended up shooting hoops with them and even taught them how to play Knockout. Additionally, we even played ping pong with some of the kids and sent our best player against their best and ultimately lost. After teaching the kids some cool handshakes and eating lunch, it was time for us to leave.
Next, we drove to the Great Wide Goose Pagoda, which was an active Buddhist temple in Xi’an. The temple was in almost a shopping-like center of sorts including a shopping mall and a fountain where we watched a fountain show. After walking through the shopping center, we entered and saw the pagoda itself which was huge. There were a couple buildings in front of the pagoda which housed statues and relics to Buddha and had many offerings of fruits and food placed on an altar before it. Additionally, I learned that many devote Buddhists live on the grounds too, and that we couldn’t go in certain buildings since they lived in them. Also, we saw many Buddhists who were visiting come up to pray to Buddha in front of his statue. We even got to light some incense and place it in front of Buddha for good luck. After walking around the pagoda, we had a lesson on Chinese writing and calligraphy. The Chinese write with horse or pig hair brushes and use either a mineral based or regular ink to write lettering on rice paper. Our teacher taught us that originally the Chinese used picture-writing to represent words like the name of Xi’an, but since then, have evolved to a style using seven different strokes to write lettering. At the end, I got my name written in Chinese lettering on yellow paper which is the royal color of the emperor.
After a delicious dinner treated to us by Dr. Li, we traveled to the Muslim Quarter again for some more shopping. The Muslim Quarter is expansive, nearing taking us a half hour to walk through it to the bazaar. The combination of lights, noise, smells, people, and scooters was so overwhelming, but I was amazed. There was so much going on at once that I forgot even where I was going in the first place. Once we arrived at the bazaar, me being the stupid American that I am, bought over 400-yuan worth of counterfeit products such as Supreme shirts, Louis Vuitton belts, and other fake designer clothes. Although I didn’t speak Chinese, the act of typing conflicting numbers into a calculator is a universal language. My best deals were getting a Louis Vuitton leather belt down from 220 yuan to just 40 and a Gucci leather backpack down from 800 to just 180 yuan. Although my wallet suffered greatly, it was an experience I never want to forget.