Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Let's get caught up

On December 5th, I met Jane Goodall. I went to a dinner fund raiser where she spoke and she signed a couple books for me. She was great! I only have a blurry picture of us.

The following weekend was our staff Winter Party. I had a dress made for the evening which was much less of a hassle than shopping for one here. I got a card from another teacher to show to the driver of the car we hired. He didn't know where the place was so he called and got directions. We arrived at an apartment building and went up to the third floor. Inside were about 8 or 10 sewing machines being used by that many workers. We showed the people the pictures of the dresses we wanted (I printed mine off from Nordstroms' website) and they checked them out to see if they could replicate them. Next, they measured us up and we chose our fabric. We came back a week later and the dresses were nearly finished. We tried them on again and got the fit perfect. They ended up having to completely redo the skirt part of my dress because I didn't like it. We came back two days later and the dresses were finished and beautiful! All that for less than $60! Here I am with friends.

I think that gets us caught up with China happenings. Christmas posts to come!


Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Xi'an 西安

I went to the city of Xi'an this past weekend to see the terracotta warriors. The characters that make up the name of the city mean 'west' and 'peaceful' or 'safe'. Xi'an is west of Beijing and with more than 7,000 warriors...... :)

We flew from Beijing on Friday after school and arrived in Xi'an an hour and half later. Some of our group of about 15 or so people decided to go grab a bite to eat and headed down the bar street. It is too bad that every time you go out in China, you end up smelling terribly of cigarettes.

Next morning, we headed to the ancient city wall. The wall that was built during the Tang dynasty is no longer there, but the wall built in 1370 during the Ming dynasty still surrounds the city center. The city has been rebuilding the wall and marks the bricks with the date in Chinese characters. The date I saw was 1985. We rented bicycles and rode around the whole thing which was about 9 miles. I shared a tandem bike with my principal and got a chance to practice my Mandarin when a couple on another tandem bike rode up next to us. After asking where everyone was from and complimenting each other on our language skills, they challenged us to a race. We let them win so the husband wouldn't lose face in front of his wife. Face is important in China.

We could see inside the old city wall while we were riding around on top of it. There were many old buildings which were falling apart. While we were riding, an announcement began playing in Mandarin. We asked our guide what was being said and he told us that is was a warning to vacate the buildings so that they could be demolished. It said that the government would give them a new place to stay or money for a new place, something like that. Whatever they get, it doesn't make up for vacating a home where the family has lived for generations.

Next, we headed over to see the terracotta warriors. The terracotta army is only part of a grand tomb of Qin Shi Huangdi, the first Chinese emperor. His main tomb is about a mile to the west of the terracotta warriors under a green, grassy hill. Supposedly, there is a huge necropolis depicting the whole of China in miniature under the hill. The hill is only just over 150ft high but the necropolis is said to be immense in size. In order to completely excavate it, 12 villages and half a dozen factories would have to be relocated. The terracotta army was discovered by farmers digging a well in 1974. The farmer who found the army learned how to write his name not too long ago so that he could sign the souvenir books for tourists. There are three pits of warriors, altogether containing over 7,000 soldiers, archers, and horses.

On Sunday, we visited the Wild Goose Pagoda which was built in the Tang dynasty in 652. Monks come here and many people come to pray. I saw one monk who reminded me of my uncle Tim in his robes.

At the end of the day, before heading to the airport, we tried to buy some kites in a square near the museum. Since there was an official stand where you were supposed to buy the kites, other people are not supposed to sell them. We wanted to pay less for the kites so we walked around until someone approached us to ask us if we want to buy kites. We followed a woman who was looking over her shoulder and all around to make sure she didn't get in trouble for selling us the kites. She took a bag out of a bush and walked quickly across the street to sell to us. She also pulled lots of kites out of her clothes. We all bought some and then got back to the bus to head to the airport.

My next trip will be back to California! I can't wait to see everyone!