Team Journal, October 24

Sunday, October 24 – Judith

It is said that Mark Twain visited Orange County, California, in the height of a summer drought, he stood on the shore above the bone-dry Santa Ana River and quipped, “water does something for a river.” And that, slightly adapted to “Water does something for Xi’an,” is the thought for today. On Sunday rain came to this part of China; mostly it was a light drizzle that made the sidewalks slick, the hair damp, and the tree leaves glimmer, but, oh, the sweet pleasure of that cooling, smog-defying water. May it rain all week.

The day dawned sleepy, with all the members of our group drifting to the breakfast table a lot later than usual. Thanks to Mary and Ginny’s kind intervention, I was invited to tour a bit of the city with them and Wang Ping, a teacher from Ginny’s school. And a lovely day it was, though shot through with the nervous cultural dance of Chinese politeness and American unfamiliarity with Chinese social custom.

We taxied first to the Bell Tower and listened to a short but lovely bell concert played by one man and four 4 women dressed in Tang Dynasty finery (Wang Ping dismissed the elegant gowns as “too inconvenient” for modern Chinese). One of the bell players was actually playing not on bells but on beautifully sonorous pieces of slate.

Not long after the bell concert, we had a delicious lunch at the Muslim Quarter; then Ginny took a taxi home and Wang Ping, her sweet, husband, Mary and I went scouring the Quarter for gifts for friends and family at home. Mary emerged as a stellar bargainer. I was less good, but Wang Ping was kind enough to negotiate 50% off one of my purchases.

We were wet and chilly on the way home, but the rain had eliminated most of the smog, so visibility was high and breathing easy. We were able to persuade (actually arm-twist) Wang Ping and her husband into joining us for coffee in the hotel bar. The conversation was lively and we felt like we’d made a good friend in Wang Ping.

At 6:00 pm we got another good meal, at which Elizabeth told me about her Warrior Cats and Gwendolyn regaled us with accounts of the strange but wonderful denizens of the Washington public library system – including “Oversized Book Man” and “Tony-with-the-identical-twin-cousin-named-Xavier”. Lots of laughter, then to bed.

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