A Travellerspoint blog

First month in Guangzhou

reverse culture shock!

sunny 82 °F

Yeah, I know, I need to do this more often….
For my third entry in as many days, I’d like to tell everyone about the difference between here and the north. Now that I have been here for almost a month, I can honestly say I feel like I am in a different country. The amount of Western looking shopping centers, buildings, bars, etc. here almost makes me feel as if I were back home. Liz and I definitely went through reverse culture shock by moving here. And while I am enjoying the new choices I am definitely missing our friends from the north. We’ve met several foreign teachers here, but things are just not the same. So, I’ll go on about the good and the bad.
Our community is beautiful. Just down the street from our school is a river with very Asian style boats going down it every time I go by there, and the street parallel to the river is lined with Palm trees. Anyone who knows me knows that I love them. The community has a free bus that will take you from one end of the complex to the other, about a 20 minute journey. Yeah, it’s that big. I’ve heard a foreign teacher who has been here for 5 years tell me that it is the largest private community in China, but I’m not sure if that’s true or not. Most of the homes are upscale, some along the river with in-ground pools in their backyard. Wait, did you catch that? Yes, I said yard. I didn’t see any of those ANYWHERE in the north. While a yard here might only be 5 yds x 5 yds in size, it’s still a yard. The amount of plants and green things in general also makes me happy, as coming from the desert climate, I missed it. The homes are all unique in their own way as well, which is another difference for the better. It’s enjoyable to walk down a random street here and see all of the different landscapes in people’s yards. I do like the community in which I now live.
The school is also nice. Every day at 5:00 when class ends, I can walk out of my classroom and play basketball right outside my door. There are also a volleyball courts, badminton courts, a full-size soccer field, a track, a swimming pool, and a gym all right next to each other. Again, all of these things are right next to my classrooms so it is extremely convenient. The Chinese teachers also have a volleyball league, so I have been playing for the 6th grade teachers’ team for about 4 weeks now. I’m actually impressed because most of the teachers are pretty good! It’s somewhat strict also, requiring switches out of positions, and other technical aspects of the sport which I have not had to do since high school. It has been enjoyable to play.
As for the surrounding area, this is also something I love our community about. We can take a bus to the front gate of our community where there are 2-3 restaurants, and a 7-11. From there, there are busses that you can pay for, which are quite cheap that will take you to different parts of the city. The busses go to three different places in Guangzhou, one to downtown Foshan, one to Shenzhen, and one to Hong Kong (only 1.5 hours away). One of the Guangzhou busses takes us to a neighborhood call Shi Qiao. This neighborhood has several shopping centers, McDonald’s, a Japanese restaurant which is very good, an Italian restaurant which we have not tried yet and most importantly, the subway train into the city. I have found that the subway is by far the best way to get around any city. Thanks to the internet I can figure out where everything is that I want to see in relation to the MTR, making it easy to go anywhere. Having other foreign teachers here, three of which have been here for 5+ years, also makes it easy as they know where the best places are.
So far, we have eaten at a Japanese restaurant, an authentic Mexican restaurant which was AMAZING, and will soon check out a Turkish and a German restaurant in town. We also play trivia every Thursday at a nearby bar owned by a Canadian person, which sells awesome hamburgers and nachos. These places simply could not be found in our previous locale. There are also many foreigners in the city doing a variety of things. When we were at the Mexican restaurant, I was wearing my Browns jersey, and a man came up to me and asked if I was a fan. It turns out that this guy was a season ticket holder in the Dawg Pound, and he was helping construct a second American Embassy near the Guangzhou University. We talked for a while, and I couldn’t believe that it had just happened. Speaking of that, at our school, next week college recruiters are coming to our school. The recruiters are not from China, but rather, Providence, NC State, Baldwin Wallace, Stanford, etc. Again, where am I…
Last weekend was amazing though. Liz was searching for events on the internet and came across a International Wine tasting event. The event cost about $35 American, but was well worth the price. All you can drink from 3-7 on a Saturday afternoon including some great finger food that was really tasty. The wine event was awesome. We sampled wines from all over the world, and agreed for the most part about which we liked, and which we didn’t. They also had a door prize raffle and I won a huge magnum bottle of Shiraz which more than covered my admission ticket. By the time it was over, we definitely had enough to drink, so, naturally, we met up with the other teachers who just happened to be one stop away on the MTR at a bar. After a beer or two and some mixed drinks that the bartender just gave us for some unknown reason, we had had enough. It was a great day and I expect more like it in the future. In two weeks the Guangzhou food festival is happening, and shortly thereafter is a huge Christmas celebration in Hong Kong. It is apparently an amazing sight to see as the HK harbor transforms their nightly light show into a Christmas show.
Last weekend we also found a new apartment in the community. While it is a little further from school, it is also much bigger, the furniture is nicer, and the view from the larger balcony is really nice. The school provides up to 800 RMB per teacher for moving out, and between the two of us it more than covers our rent for the apartment, which is great. Soon I’ll be buying a grill for the balcony and cooking up some kabobs just like home.
Please click the following link to check out some photos of everything! We purchased new camera in Guangzhou which takes great pictures, so expect more and more to pop up there. I’ll try to keep up with the blog now, as finally, I’m caught up from the last 3 months. Hope all is well back home! As always, send me an email at uconnhuskies99@hotmail.com to let me know what’s happening with you! Keep in touch!

Photos: http://s1209.photobucket.com/albums/cc397/uconnhuskies99/Guangzhou%20First%20weeks/

Kenny

Posted by xumuskie 02.11.2011 18:36 Archived in China Comments (0)

Off to Guangzhou

Tropical weather for the winter!

sunny 82 °F

Vacation had ended and it was time to go back to work. For the previous two months our job had been trying to push a new contract on us. The new contract would reduce our hours of work, and also our pay. While this should not have been a big deal, they definitely made it one. For everything they wanted to change in the contract to make things better for them, we tried to add something that would appease us. For example, we wanted the same days off in the contract. After about 3 weeks of arguing, it finally happened. For other requests, we simply received a reply (2 weeks after the request) that it was not possible. Knowing that this was false, we contacted the main office in Dalian, near Beijing about the situation. To make a longer story short, we were frustrated with the fact that the manager at the school cannot manage herself out of a closet, and that common sense or efficiency are not understood here. The only somewhat comforting thing about the ordeal was that the other foreign teachers were having the same problems, so we had someone to fight with.
Due to all of the issues, Liz decided to look for other jobs in China, just to see what was out there. I was amazed when I saw her results. I knew the demand for a foreign English teacher is very high here, but what I saw did surprise me. Many jobs offered higher salaries, bonuses, flight reimbursements, etc. compared to our current situation. We inquired into a few of them, and received replies from each. Several were deemed not practical, while one job definitely stood out. The position was for teaching oral English only. After several email exchanges, a position was offered for Liz to teach Kindergarten, and for me to teach Primary school. Neither of us wanted to teach these levels, as Liz was looking for Primary and I wanted anything above Primary. Due to this, we turned the contract down and signed our FINALLY finished contracts at Aston. Amen. The debate was finally over. Until the next day.
One day after signing our new contracts with Aston, and deciding to stay in Yinchuan, we received another email from the school. This time they offered Liz Primary School, and Middle School to myself. After taking some time to think about it, we decided to make the move to the new school. It was not an easy decision. In the end, the biggest reason for deciding to leave came down to our current school being unable to manage anything, and the fact that we had seen everything to see in our current city. We had seen most of the things we wanted to see in the north of China. Our new position put us in Foshan, a small little suburb of Guangzhou. Guangzhou stands today as the second largest city in the world by population right behind Tokyo. Foshan, a suburb of the city, has a lowly population of 7 million. Another great part of the city is that it is in the deep south of China, and therefore, warm in the winter. This also played into our decision making process. When the decision was made to leave, we immediately advised Aston and had to wait there for 6 weeks (per the contract) to move to the south.
The new term at Aston started 1 week into our waiting period. Due to this, I had to teach several classes there for 4 weeks. It was a strange feeling doing this, because I wanted to get to know students’ names in the classes, but I knew that I would be leaving in 4 weeks so it really didn’t matter. The weeks seemed to fly by too. We spent most of the time having goodbye dinners and playing pool with our closest friends prior to leaving. Perhaps the thing we would most miss is the donut shop that moved into town about 3 weeks before our departure, and was located very close to our home. However, as the weeks went on, we both realized that we made the correct decision. We had seen everything we wanted to in Yinchuan, and if we stayed longer we would probably be bored. It was a great experience there, and we met friends for a lifetime. It was now time to move on to a new location.
Our contract terminated with Aston in the middle of the National Holiday festival. I was worried that travelling through the airport at this time might be crazy; however it really wasn’t too bad. We had a direct flight to Guangzhou, where the airport was quite large, but easy to navigate. We then took a bus to our new school. On the bus ride, we could see the entire sprawled out skyline of Guangzhou. For the entire duration of our 1.5 hours bus ride, it seemed like we never really left the big city. It’s like an Energizer bunny that just keeps going, and going, and going. Upon arrival to the school we were quickly shown where things were in the gated community where we now lived and shown to our room.
To say that the new apartment was small would be an understatement. It was essentially a glorified dorm room, as it had a tiny kitchen and bathroom in the room. The living room and bedroom areas however were very small for two people especially. We spent the remainder of the week unpacking everything and making the place look presentable. There were no teachers around as the school was off for the week due to the holiday, so we just became more acquainted with our surroundings over the next few days. On Saturday, we started our new job.
The first day was interesting. I met my supervisor who is an 8th grade English teacher. He told me I would be teaching 6th, 7th, and 8th grade. I was happy to be teaching these grades, but wanted to go no lower. The teacher hand me books for the 6th grade, and one book for both 7th and 8th grades. I asked why, and he said that the material is the same. Again, all education in China is based on these stupid exams. They get one score, and that is it. No points for anything else. This completely broken system is what I now had to try and teach in. My supervisor simply asked me to teach the same material to each class, but to make it “harder” for the 8th grade. The first week was not too difficult as I essentially did the same lesson for both classes. By week two, I was told that I would also be teaching the 9th grade. When I met with this supervisor, she told me there is no book. She told me to use the 8th grade book and make it harder. So, now, I’m teaching the same material, to three different levels of classes, 17 times a week.
My schedule is not too bad. Classes only go for 40 minutes, so time flies pretty fast. After every class there is at least a 10 minute break, so I have plenty of time to prepare for my next one. Usually I have a 1 or 2 class break in between anyway, and spend the time reading the news in my office. My favorite part of my schedule is that on every other Monday, I don’t have class until 2:30 p.m. Due to this, I can stay up on Sunday night from 1-4 and watch the Cleveland Browns on the internet. Liz does not have this luxury. Speaking of her, as I previously mentioned, she turned down a kindergarten job originally because she didn’t want to teach that young of a child. She accepted a primary contract, and was given 1st grade. I’ve been by her classes once or twice, and can honestly say that I could not do it. The kids have way too much energy, no control, and are too loud. All in all, I think she is handling it pretty well. That’s about it for this entry. I’ll have more about our recent travels into Guangzhou in the next one.

Kenny

Posted by xumuskie 02.11.2011 17:44 Archived in China Comments (0)

Summer Vacation in Beijing!

It's finally come!

sunny 97 °F

Hey, it was only 3 months ago……..

Finally I have found some time to write about the ridiculous week that was our vacation to Beijing. There is no easier way to start out this story than to tell as it happened. So, without further procrastination on my part, here we go.
Going into the final weekend of teaching before the vacation, neither wanted anything to do with teaching that weekend. Liz’s parents Tom and Lynne were coming to visit and we simply could not wait any longer for them to get here. Leave it to my best friend Mother Nature with help from the O’Hare airport (yeah, we’ve all unfortunately been there) to extend our waiting time. Liz’s parents were supposed to arrive on Sunday evening, directly after our classes. However due to heavy rain in Chicago, they had to wait an extra day to leave. So, instead of going to the airport on Sunday evening, we went to the Night Market with our colleagues to have a few drinks. After the drinks, I realized my wallet was missing. Yep, that’s right. Money in my wallet for the vacation was now gone and in the hands of some pickpocket. To say the least, I was extremely upset. Not only was the money in the wallet, but so were the non-refundable train tickets to Xi’an. I didn’t think things could get any worse; however I was proven wrong yet again.
Once Liz’s parents finally arrived at the Yinchuan Airport, we went downstairs to retrieve the luggage. The only problem is that there was no luggage. It was left at O’Hare (there’s that name again…). After getting back to the apartment, and after such a long flight, the last thing they wanted to do was to have a fight via telephone with United Airlines. The luggage finally arrived on Wednesday afternoon, a day and a half after we were supposed to leave for Xi’an. Due to all of the problems, our trip to Xi’an had to be cancelled. Liz’s parents graciously paid for our flight to Beijing (thanks again!!!) on the following Thursday. While I was upset that they did not get to see Xi’an, this also meant that we would have an extra day in Beijing. The only problem was that our flight took off on time, and landed in Hohot (Inner Mongolia) for 2 hours due to rain and pollution. Apparently that is a bad combination. However we finally arrived and I can finally say that the bad news ends here! YEAH! Since we only booked the hostel for four nights, her parents put us up in the beautiful Intercontinental Hotel for the evening. It was great to get a good night’s sleep for once.
The first day was interesting as we had a small map from the hotel that showed us where some of the tourist attractions were in the city. I noticed that the Forbidden City was only 2 blocks away, so we started to walk in that direction. About an hour and a half later I was really getting angry. No, the map was not lying; however it was drawn on some absolutely ridiculous scale. It was not only the map’s fault though. The fact is that Beijing is so massive that it takes an hour to walk one block. By the time we arrived to the location, it was time to go, as we had to switch hotels. We took the subway back to the hotel quickly, had some drinks in the lounge, and then had a great dinner at a very nice French Restaurant. We then returned to our hostel to get some rest for the next day.
On day 2 (Saturday) we first visited the Temple of Heaven Park. The park itself is enormous, running in a north to south rectangle somewhat similar to The Mall in Washington D.C. It was quite interesting to see some of the temples on the grounds and learn of the history of them. After touring the area, we returned to the hostel for some rest. The heat and humidity the city was simply unbearable for long periods of time. On this evening, we ate at a nice Italian restaurant which was also amazing. We then returned to the hostel for some drinks and sleep.
On day 3 we walked toward the Forbidden City again. First, we went to the Chairman Mao’s resting place. The Chinese claim that his body made into a sarcophagus after his death. We walked into the building which had only 2 rooms in it, the first with a giant picture of his face and a large statue, and the second with the “body”. When in the second room, we were physically pushed by security guards, who clearly didn’t want people to look at it too long or they would think that it was fake. It only took us about 2 seconds to figure it out. We returned to the outdoors, headed north to Tiananmen Square, and entered the Forbidden City. To say that this place is massive is an understatement. We toured the complex for at least 3 hours and still only managed to see about half of everything there. The architecture in the complex is so beautiful. My favorite part of the complex was a small museum which contained clocks from hundreds of years ago. These clocks were originally made in France, Germany, and of course Switzerland, as well as others. The clocks were extremely elaborate. We spent quite a lot of time there looking at each one, and enjoying the air conditioning. When finished we returned to the hostel for a nap. The heat was definitely taking its toll on us. We had a nice dinner at the hostel and called it a night.
Day 4 came along, and it was time to go shopping. Normally shopping is not my idea of a fun time, but this place took the cake. We went to the famous Silk Market in Beijing. In the market, they sell silk paintings (duh), toys, shoes, clothes, electronics, furniture, jewelry, and almost anything else you could ever want. The catch is that you have to bargain with every vendor. Since almost all of the items are fake (except for the silk paintings), you can pretty much name your price. To explain, in the winter I lost my pair of gloves, and wanted a new pair since I was there. I went to a stand which had “Spyder” brand gloves with a tag for 500 Yuan on it (about $80). I held my ground and managed to buy them for less than $10. In a way, it was annoying, because the vendors are continually yelling at everyone, and some would come and grab you and try to pull you back to their stand. When we had enough of being assaulted by the Chinese we returned to the hostel for a rest. For dinner we went out and found the most famous restaurant in Beijing for Peking duck. The duck tasted amazingly good.
Day 5 came along and finally it was time to head off to the Great Wall! We signed up for a bus trip through the hostel which included a ticket for the wall and lunch. Once we arrived, after about a 1.5 hour journey, I was amazed to see how high up the mountain the wall was. We took a chairlift to the top and began to walk the on the Great Wall for some time. In all there were 28 guard towers at our location. We made it to about six or seven of them before turning around. Though the wall has been renovated, it is still quite difficult to climb it. The steps are all uneven and not level. While this makes it look perhaps more authentic, running on it is simply not a possibility without turning an ankle easily. It was also a very humid day so the view was somewhat restricted. We could not even see the top of the mountain where the 28th tower was. It was lost in the humid/cloudy/polluted air. While this was a distraction, it didn’t take away my fascination with the structure itself. To think of how many people it had to take to make the wall, and climb the mountain where it was, had to be out of control. It is definitely something I cannot comprehend. From on top, the views were gorgeous of all of the trees and surrounding mountains. It really was an exciting place to see. To get down, we took the toboggan slide down to the bottom. Made in Germany, the slide winded its way all the way down to the start of the chairlift. The ride in total took about 4 minutes to complete. It was definitely enjoyable.
On our final evening, I wanted to see the Bird’s Nest stadium, so we took the subway again to get there. Going upstairs to the plaza level surprised me though. I expected the stadium area to be empty, just like any other in America when there is no event going on. However there were hundreds of people walking around and touring the area. Many merchants were selling toys to children and adults alike. The stadium and the aquarium, right next to each other, are definitely neat to see. We didn’t stay too long due to the fact that I was having my picture taken by everyone who thought I was an Olympian. Tom thought it was hilarious though and jumped in as many Chinese family photos as he could. Everyone loves a foreign face here! Afterward we returned to the hostel for some sleep.
The following day it was finally time to go. Even though we had the extra day in Beijing, there were still several things we all wanted to see. If anyone ever comes to Beijing, I’ll give some advice now. First, give it 2 weeks. Yeah, it’s a long time, but there is plenty to do, and it will take a few days to get over the jetlag and time change. Second, eat the Peking duck. It’s that good. Third, when travelling around the city, use the Subway. Not only is it the cheapest way, it fast and easy to navigate. Stay tuned for another update!

Kenny

Posted by xumuskie 01.11.2011 19:52 Archived in China Comments (0)

Beginning of Summer

sunny 87 °F

Hey everyone! I realize I have not written in a while, but in my defense it is summertime and things have been very busy! With it being summer, there is also plenty to write about as well. I’ll try and sum up everything in two separate entries.

Since May 28th was my last post, I should start by telling you all about June. As far as I can remember, June was busy with work, and somewhat unentertaining. During the month we were both conserving money for our upcoming vacation in July, as well as practicing for a show for the PSB, the government agency here that signs our residence permits in China. For the show, the school was told that the foreign teachers had to come onto the stage and present 2 skits for their summer outing. The agency threatened the school by informing them that if we did not perform, it would be difficult for future foreigners to get residence permits for the school.

Everyone was quite angry about this, until Liz basically fought the school on it and arranged for everyone who participated to be paid overtime for it. Since overtime was on the table, many teachers had become more eager to perform. We prepared a dance routine and a rap song to be sung by several others. When it came time for our “audition” of sorts for the PSB, they decided they only wanted to see the rap song. So after listening to this song repeatedly for days, trying to memorize my verse, the show went somewhat smoothly in the beginning of July. The video is contained on my Photobucket page if you haven’t seen it.

http://s1209.photobucket.com/albums/cc397/uconnhuskies99/

Also in June, our colleague named Anne who has definitely become our best friend here had her mom, aunt, and uncle in town for 2 weeks. We had many enjoyable dinners with them and took another trip out to the real Great Wall to see it again. School seemingly flew by this month and July came along fast as is seemingly does everywhere.

As July came, all of the teachers from America wanted to host a party for the 4th. Liz and I ended up hosting the party and approximately 30 people came to it. We made hamburgers, cole slaw, and had tons of other side dishes made by the other teachers. The Chinese residents in our complex were definitely confused as to what we were doing, as the grill was going until dark and then fireworks were shot off. My favorite part of the party was when a young Chinese boy came over to see what was going on. He was looking at all of the different foods that he had never seen before and opted to try a tortilla chip with salsa. As soon as the salsa hit his mouth he spit it all over the place, and the face afterword was priceless. Overall, the party went great and everyone had a good time.

As July continued, all we could think about was the arrival of Liz’s parents and going on our vacation. We had a trip scheduled to go to Xi’an for 2 days, and Beijing for 4. Days. As it turned out, our plans would be destroyed in more ways than one. More on this to come in part two of this update!

Posted by xumuskie 18.08.2011 20:47 Archived in China Comments (0)

As promised, more to write about...

Trip to Bayanhot and Xi'an!

sunny 92 °F

Since the last blog, for the first time since Hong Kong we have actually been very busy with sightseeing. Our best friend here named Ann, a fellow teacher from Australia, had her parents come in for vacation with her aunt and uncle. She was taking them out to Inner Mongolia which I had to skip with everyone last time thanks to the previously explained food poisoning spell. We tagged along for the quick day trip and had several stops along the way...

The first stop was at the real Great Wall of China. This part of the Great Wall is the original structure, designed to keep the invading Mongols out of the country. Due to the fact that the wall is located in an area of no tourism, the wall has not been renovated. It was very interesting to see the wall in its original form however. Even to this day the wall still stands at over 8 feet tall and is at least 4-5 feet wide. Erosion of the wall was taken its toll in places, however it stands firm for the most part. We had our pictures taken from on top of it several times and were fascinated by watching the wall go up and into the Helan Mountain Range. The wall is located directly in the middle of it, which made the sights seem very beautiful as well. Another great thing about the day was that it was possibly the clearest day that we have had in Yinchuan during our entire stay. Visibility was at a very far distance as opposed to other days when I can't see more than a 1/4 mile.

Our next stop on our trip was to Bayanhot, a small city in Inner Mongolia. While in Bayanhot we explored a Buddhist monastery. We took many pictures of the area, but due to the massive amount of construction in the area left without seeing too terribly much. Due to this fact however, the monastery was completely free of all other tourists and we basically had the place to ourselves.

After a quick lunch we were on the road again, this time to a large monastery village in the foothills of the Helan mountains. The compplex was quite massive, but the buildings were quite spread out throughout it. After exploring a few of the buildings, we came across one of the main buildings where we met a Tibetan Buddhist monk who spoke Mongolian, Mandarin, and English! I was so excited when he could explain some of the history of the complex with us and I could understand it. The monk explained that every building on the complex was quite new. He displayed a picture to us of what the village looked like at one time. There were clearly hundreds of buildings and dwellings shown, all of which were destroyed by the Chinese during the Cultural Revolution. Why these people thought that destroying thousands of years of history was a good idea I simply cannot understand. However, this was the case across the entire country. After exploring the buildings, we walked up a long train into the Helan Mountain Range. The trail was incredible. I was blown away with some of the sights from climbing the mountain and got a little picture happy with the camera also. After returning from the mountain, we returned back home for dinner and rest as everyone was quite exhausted.

After the day trip, the rest of the week was spent preparing for my final adult classes of the term and for the children's classes on the weekend. This weekend was the parent's meeting for each class to review their midterm grades. Most of these meetings went well, however some did not of course. I knew one class would be terrible as the students overall did not do well. The parents complained to me that the book was too hard and that there was too much material to learn. Obviously, there is only so much I can do about that. After this class was my favorite class. I was excited to teach this class as the last meeting was terrible and now I had students who did great. Of course, one parent had to ruin everything. Even though her son had a 98% in the class, she obviously did not think that it was good enough. She went about 15 minutes into the lunch break expressing her problem to the Chinese teacher, at which point I finally had enough and left to eat lunch. The Chinese teacher came into the break room a couple of minutes later and explained the problems. First, I took off ONE point because her son often does not pay attention in class. Now, I have to sign a paper each week to show that he is. The other point was for pronunciation, and the parent wants me to have him do an oral dictation each class. This is simply not going to happen. This is the way things work here though. If you have money and power, you get your way. Period. Above all it is my main problem with the school that I teach at.

After Saturday had finished, we were looking at the week ahead. I teach adults on Monday and Wednesday nights, but they were off for this week for a mid-term break. For the first time, Liz and I had 2 days off together in a row. We decided not to let the opportunity pass and made arrangements to go to Xi'an after school on Sunday. This meant packing and doing laundry in a hurry to be ready to go. Sunday classes ended at 5:15 and the train left for Xi'an at 6:30 so there was no time for hanging around after school. We made it to the train station however in plenty of time and I then had the pleasurable experience of the train for 13.5 hours. Thankfully, it was overnight and I could sleep through most of it. We had a soft sleeper cabin, which consists of 4 total beds, 2 on top, 2 on bottom. We had the bottom beds. We were also lucky that one of the other people in the cabin could speak a little bit of English. It was an enjoyable ride, and we arrived in Xi'an at 9:00 on Monday morning.

Walking out of the train station, we ran into a lady holding Liz's name on a sign like you would see at an airport. We both felt too important. The lady walked us to the hostile that we reserved for the 2 days there which happened to be quite close. After checking in and looking at our room, I was quite happy. The hostile was only about $30 per night and the room was quite nice. The hostile also had a huge bar area and outdoor patio under some trees which made it enjoyable. We put up our things, arranged a tour for the Terra-Cotta warriors for the following day, and then set out to walk around the town.

As soon as we started walking, we realized one big difference between Xi'an and Yinchuan. Humidity. It was in the 90's and very humid (yeah, I remember that place...) while walking around. It didn't take us too long however to find the center of the city. The city center is a giant pagoda called the Bell tower. Just next to it is another called the Drum tower. In between the two pagodas which are over 1000 years old is Starbucks, McDonald's, and a giant mall. Nothing says China like that... After having our first hamburger in months, we continued down the street and visited the Muslim quarter of the city. Due to the fact that our city is surrounded with mosques, we found this to be kind of boring. We then returned to our hostile to rest for a while as the sun was taking its toll.

In the afternoon/evening we continued our walk through the city, looking for a western foods supermarket so we could take some things back with us that we would want. We were unsuccessful this time, however we did fond something I definitely did not expect to see in Xi'an. Papa John's Pizza had an enormous restaurant in the mall we were in and a menu to match it. Where is the last Papa John's that you went to where you could order a steak? We however stuck to the pizza and were pleasantly surprised as it tasted just like the pizza back home. It was a wonderful treat for us and we left feeling quite pleased. We continued our walk around the city and found a Belgian bar selling Belgian beer and decided to have one before retiring for the night.

Day two in Xi'an meant a trip to the Terra Cotta Warriors. We paid to take a tour with an English speaking tour guide to try to understand more of the history, and we weren't the only ones to do it. Our tour group consisted us from the US, an Australian who just happened to be an auditor (Liz had much to discuss), a student from Holland, and other tourists our age from England, Chile, and Germany. It was quite the diverse group which made the 1.5 hour car ride each way enjoyable. The first place we arrived to was a factory where the replica Terra-Cotta warriors are made. The people there explained how the warriors are made of clay and then roasted in a 900 degree coal oven to complete, and later cooled for 2 weeks. We purchased a small replica statue and continued our journey to the actual site.

Once we arrived to the complex, it felt we were at a National Park. The place was enormous, with buildings everywhere, tons of shops and restaurants, theaters, an art gallery and more. Having no time to see most of these, we continued to the main site. The warriors have been found in three very close areas. Each large area is called a pit. Pit 1, the largest pit, also happens to be the 1st pit that was found. For a quick history summary, let me explain. The Terra-Cotta warriors have been dated back to the time of Christ, approximately 2000 years ago. The Emperor of the Dynasty had these clay lifelike statues of his warriors made and placed into a typical battle formation of the time period. The statues were then buried under the ground to preserve them. In 1974 a Chinese farmer in the area was trying to find water via a well that he dug and came across something he didn't expect to find. Since '74, the area has been thoroughly excavated. Three pits have been found, however the first is definitely the largest of them.

We entered the 1st pit and I was overwhelmed by the sheer number of each of the statues. The tour guide began to explain the battle formations of the warriors. The people in front of the formation had no armor or weapon. He explained that these people were the poorest people, but were considered the bravest for entering combat without and defense. Others behind them included, infantry, archers, cavalryman, charioteers, and generals. Some had armor on the front only, while other had it on both, symbolizing a different rank. When the warriors were unearthed, they were also painted in traditional Chinese colors. Oxygen however has taken its toll on them and the paint has wiped away from all of the statues. Near the rear of the pit we could see the archaeologists at their work. The original soldiers have been crushed by the 2000 years of erosion. These scientists must log each piece of pottery found, its location, and then try and piece it all back together into a giant statue. This is no easy puzzle either. Seeing the way that they are in the process of reconstructing these however is very interesting.

After seeing the entire first pit, we continued to the second. The second was also quite large, and the building was air conditioned (a welcome relief) and therefore more tolerable. The first pit had fans, but due to the heat and the number of visitors it was almost unbearable. The second pit was almost as big as the first, however it was not as scenic. From the top, you could still see the tops of the battle lines that had been excavated. The warriors however remain buried. The tour guide explained that excavation has stopped completely, as the government and scientists both want to wait to see if a new technology is created that can preserve the color of the statues that are still under the ground. While neither I nor he thought that this would happen, he also stated that in 100 years if the technology had not been found, the site would be excavated in its entirety. I find this number to be quite arbitrary but who am I to say otherwise. On the walls of the museum were pictures of the statues with their color, and they are quite amazing, so I can't say that I blame them for trying something.

The third pit was very small, yet also interesting. The third pit is commonly referred to as the command center. It had the commander of the army in the middle along with a few high ranking archers, charioteers, and cavalrymen. Due to the small size of it I left the pit unimpressed just because of the sheer size of the other two pits. After the third pit we toured a small museum and then proceeded to the burial ground of the Emperor of the Qin Dynasty. The Qin Dynasty was China's first more unified dynasty, with the country stretching fro Shanghai to Beijing, and from Xi'an to the coast. The country was more unified than ever and has grown obviously since. The tomb built for this emperor seemed to resemble that. The tomb looked like a giant Indian mound, much higher off of the ground and the emperor buried much deeper. The tour guide stated that the emperor is estimated to have been buried about 10 meters into the ground. Today however, due to erosion from the mountain next to it, the emperor is buried almost 35 meters below the surface. The government had at one time accessed this tomb, however, for reasons stated above, have now sealed it off for the time being. After seeing the tomb, we returned to the bus, and then to the hostile for some rest.

The final evening was spent at a nice Italian restaurant with some wine and two filet mignons. A trip to the Western foods supermarket followed and after loading up with goodies we returned to the hostile for some drinks at the outdoor patio of our hostile. The next morning we had to take a taxi to the airport and return to Yinchuan. We were both excited to see Dallas win over Lebron and the Heat at the airport, and then returned quickly. Now it's time to prepare for the upcoming weekend's lesson plans and to teach. Until next time, goodbye everyone!

For a great VIDEO of the trip, go to the following link: http://s1209.photobucket.com/albums/cc397/uconnhuskies99/

Posted by xumuskie 08.06.2011 17:18 Archived in China Tagged xi'an Comments (0)

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