by Janae Gatzemeyer
We started the day being on time for once. We always seem to get off to a slow start in the morning, time changes are rough. After our prompt start, we headed over to the Shaanxi History Museum. We met up with our tour guide in Xi’an, Helen. Helen has so much knowledge on Chinese history and culture; it’s captivating to listen to her talk about it. On the way to the museum, Helen told us stories of the emperor. I love to hear stories of the emperor. No matter how many stories I hear, new information always seems to come up. When we got inside the museum, Helen continued to educate us on Chinese history. Just when you think you kind of have a grasp on Chinese history, you get flooded with more information. Chinese history is something us as Americans will never know enough of. Chinese people are so interested in learning about our history and culture. Why aren’t we interested in learning Chinese history? Or any other countries history? I’ve been thinking about this a lot during my time in China. I urge you to think about this as well as you continue to read our blog posts, maybe we’ll inspire you.
Since we’ve been here, the Chinese people have been so welcoming. I’ve felt so at home and welcomed with open arms here. Do we do the same for Chinese people that come to America? We talked with Chinese students the other day and we asked what they think the U.S. is like. Almost everyone said freedom. For a country that seems so free, I’m not sure we’re so welcoming. Myself included. Looking back at my encounters with international students, have I done my part to make them feel welcome? These thoughts have been running through my head during my experience in China. Americans talk a lot about the U.S. being a “melting pot.” But, our group has been talking a lot about this as well. We feel like we are a melting pot, but we expect other cultures to melt into our U.S. American Pot. It’s an interesting topic; spend some time thinking about it in a 3rd person perspective.
Fun fact: Yellow river has been the mother river of China. In fact, all rivers flow from west to east because of higher elevation.
When we first got to the Shaanxi History Museum, we were greeted by a smiling lion in front of the museum. This is very rare for China; Dr. Xia hadn’t even seen a smiling lion before. Helen told us that the Chinese adapted this concept from Afghanistan. Also, special shout out to the all the archeologists who discover that these rocks being displayed in a museum, aren’t just rocks. We spend a lot of time looking in the display cases thinking, how did they know that was important? So, Hooray for archeologists. Next, we headed off the Wild Good Pagoda, where they keep scriptures and statues from the Tang Dynasty. The 3rd emperor called for monks to translate, if they could translate the scriptures, they could come to the capital city. While we were here, we saw people worshipping the money god and bringing flowers and apples to the various gods around the pagoda.
After the pagoda, we were all withering away of starvation. (Okay, I’m being dramatic here, but you get the point). So, lunch was definitely on our agenda next. Of course, Helen took us to a great Chinese restaurant. Chinese food is really growing on me! Yay! Next, we biked 12 km (9 miles) around Xi’an City Wall. We had 3 tandem bikes and 2 singles. Now, this was many of our first time on the tandem bikes. Kelley and I were a team and it was not a pretty sight to see us get going. It was an interesting experience. We required one person to say at the back with us as our spotter, in case we fell. But, let me tell you….. It felt like 12 miles instead of 9 miles. So at the end of the day, we biked 9 miles and walked 7 miles. We’re all going to be in shape when we come back. Watch out. 😉
Next up for the day was the Mosque, a Muslim temple. This Muslim temple was made in the Ming Dynasty. It is a place to worship. Nathan asked a great question; “What brought the Muslims to China?” Helen, of course, had a lot of information to share with us about this topic. The Silk Road is the main reason that they traveled to China. It was a gradual move though, as to not overwhelm the Chinese people. There were a ton of shops surrounding the Mosque, so we obviously had to stop and buy some things. We’re getting really good at bargaining. I hope we remember we can’t do that in the U.S. After shopping around Muslim street, we headed to dinner. We ate dinner at the Shaanxi Grand Opera house in Xi’an. We enjoyed a delicious dumpling dinner upstairs. After we were stuffed full of dumplings, we headed downstairs to the ballroom. The show we watched was a Chinese culture show. It was unlike anything I’ve ever seen. It was so incredible to see all the traditional dances. It’s amazing to watch these young Chinese people perform traditional dances from many, many years ago. There were many different styles at the show; Traditional dancing, singing, and drumming. If you didn’t already know, cultural tradition is what China is based on.
Let’s talk about communication. I’m sure many of you are wondering how we’re communicating over here. Communication is something we’re constantly learning. Not everyone speaks English and we don’t speak Chinese. Most recently, it’s been pointing, head nodding, head shaking, body language, talking with our hands and a few attempts at simple Chinese words. I downloaded a Chinese dictionary app on my phone for when I need to know a few words. What I’ve done recently is look up words, and try them out on Dr. Xia before I try them on anyone else. It’s kind of awesome to think that spoken language isn’t the only way to communicate.
This trip has really inspired me to learn the Chinese language. It’s something I find so interesting and I’m excited to learn. Wish me luck!