Team Journal, October 17

Sunday, October 17 – Judith

Thought for the day: “None of us can express the exact measure of our words, or our ideas, or our sorrows, and human speech is like a cracked kettle on which we beat our tunes for bears to dance to, when we long to move the stars to pity.” – Gustave Flaubert

For the seventh morning now, I took a pass on “congee” and noodles and opted for more familiar Cheerios and yogurt. By nine a.m. Tommy, Mary Ellen, Ginny and I were standing in the cool lobby where we were greeted by our size 2 tour guide, whose English name was “Chili” but whose Chinese name was the less unlikely Yang Yang. Our tour group was completed by Cyril, a handsome young orthodox priest currently teaching theology in Beijing. Cyril proved to be a cordial and articulate tour mate.

Mr. Toad’s wild ride commenced at 9:15. Our first stop was Banpo Museum, on the Eastern outskirts of Xi’an. Banpo, a cultural museum of considerable charm, has preserved the site of a matriarchal Neolithic Yangshao Culture from 6000 years ago. Too soon, we were shepherded to a pottery factory, where we saw all manner of small and large terracotta replicas. The objects in the lacquered table room were stunning, but somewhat out of our groups’ budget.

Stop three was the Huaqing Hot Springs and Palace, a famous resort for millenia of Chinese Emperors. It was here that the Emperor of the HanWu dynasty built Xanadu known to most of us because of Coleridge’s poem and Citizen Kane. Huaqing Palace was also the site of the “Xi’an Incident,” in which Shang Kai Shek was captured in his pajamas by two of his own Generals.

For lunch–not nearly as good as the lunches we get here at the Xi’an Empress–we ate right next to a “Silk Road Exhibit”, which was mostly an opportunity to purchase silk products. In our walkthrough, we were told about the silk making process from worm to fabric. Unfortunately, the women who would have illustrated the steps to us were all on their lunch break.

Back on the van, we drove through a busy farmer’s market. Even zipping through the streets proved a high point for we saw flower, fruit, and animal merchants-far more like the “real” China than any museum.

The Emperor Qin’s Terra Cotta Warriors and Horse museum was impressive, crowded, and remarkably short on horses. There was lots of jostling for camera space. Tommy said that weekday visits are considerably less congested. The achievement of the terracotta army is staggering, and the site well deserves its designation as the 8th wonder of the world. Seeing it was worth a 6000 mile trip, worth many an upset stomach; worth difficult teaching assignments. After touring all 3 excavation pits, we 5 celebrated with an ice cream and limped over to watch the cinema in the round presentation on the site–a show presented entirely in English. We were back in the van by 5:00 and home by 6:00. It was a long and interesting day. Would that we were all as young as Cyril, however.

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