Wednesday, June 1, 2011

June 1, 2011

To my friends

I know many of you have suffered during the last few weeks and I want you to know that I’m thinking about you all.

I heard about the tornado while I was eating in a hostel in Xi’an. A Brazilian man who knew I was American asked if I knew of Joplin, Missouri. When I told him I had he showed me a series of pictures from around my home, displaying the destruction.

I can’t tell you how much I want to be with you right now to help physically but at the moment I am limited to thoughts and prayers. You are a strong community and I know you can overcome any hardship that comes your way. Continue to put your faith in each other and your faith in God.

I love and miss you,


The Wall- Xi’an

Sorry I haven’t messaged in awhile. I have been traveling throughout central China for the last week. I visited the ancient city of Xi’an. This is the home of the Terracotta Warriors that were discovered near the tomb of the first emperor of China. The most ancient part of Xi’an is surrounded by a wall and a moat. This has been the capital of several Chinese dynasties. So a few friends and I went to the wall. We rented bikes and traveled around the middle part of the city. It took about an hour and a half but we got to see the majority of the city. Also, there was a post showing where the Silk Road started. This is where the eastern traders started their long trek from Asia to Europe. It was one of the first real cultural exchanges between west and east.

Terracotta Warriors

The second day in Xi’an we visited the Terracotta Warriors. We went with a tour group that the hostel arranged. Our guide was a Chinese woman named Jah Jah. She quickly told us that her English name is Lady Jah Jah. So we went with Lady Jah Jah to see the ancient statues. They were created for the first emperor so he could have an army during his afterlife. At least 8,000 of the clay statues have been uncovered and more are expected to exist. All of the warriors have a unique face and equipment. Lady Jah Jah told us that the artists made the warriors faces in the same likeness of their own. That way their work would never be forgotten.

Another interesting fact is that most of the emperor’s tomb has not yet been uncovered. The Emperor’s chamber for instance, is still hidden in a mountain. The main reason for this is that he filled his tomb full of mercury. People can’t get inside. The government though has said they plan to break into the tomb within the next ten years.

The Muslim Quarter

On another day in Xi’an we went to the Muslim Quarter. It seems that the farther west you go the more religious tolerance exists in China. So there are many Muslims in this area. The quarter though, is a market that has all kinds of shopping and bartering. During my trip to Beijing I tried to barter but I didn’t speak any Chinese. And the Chinese love to mess with foreigners. I’m sure I was constantly scammed. But now that I have a fairly decent vocabulary under my belt, bartering is great fun. On some items I was able to knock the price down about 80%.

So I did a lot of shopping for a day. I don’t normally buy many things in the states but when you can get custom-made chess boards and hand carved masks for fewer than twenty dollars, it’s hard to say no. And there’s no greater feeling than getting a better price than a native Chinese speakers.

Also, I went to see one of the ancient puppet shows that are famous in Xi’an. This is a form of entertainment that was used for the less wealthy people during the first dynasty. It was interesting. The puppeteer came out in the beginning and told us that the story was about “monkey and pig.” Honestly, I didn’t see one monkey or pig in the entire show. Instead, there were two puppets that fought each other with sticks for about ten minutes. It was definitely an experience. But I’m glad we’ve upgraded to more meaningful entertainment than plot-less stories with endless fighting. Like Transformers. 


We went to the International Horticulture Expo too. My dad would be so proud. We didn’t really go for the flowers though. Instead we went because we heard the expo had pandas. I didn’t realize how rare pandas are in the world. There are only two zoos in America that have them at the moment and only a few others scattered here and there across the globe. So it was definitely a treat to see five pandas. However, after the initial shock of “wow a panda!” I started to realize that the black and white bears don’t do too much. I thought three of them were dead until one rubbed his belly. Then we saw some young pandas. They were only a couple of years old. These guys were sitting in trees reclining on branches when we found them. Once again, the only movement I saw was the subtle itch of a stomach. Still though, it was an experience that I will never forget.

After the pandas we got to see a final water show and boat show over a large lake. All the boats were decked out in flowers, lights, and bright colors. The whole event seemed a little out of place to me though. China, a country that appears to care so little about its environment held the International Horticulture Expo. I’m pretty sure most of the Chinese went to it because they had seen so little grass in their lives.

Zach’s Sock

I think I just found one of Zach Baughman’s socks in my laundry. I’m not really sure how it got there but I’ll be sure to take pictures with it around something stereotypically Chinese. Sorry, Zach.


After class this week a guy was waiting outside our building handing out fliers. He gave me one and began telling me about sailing. He said his company worked with sailboats and was offering a free ride to white people. I quickly explained that I had been white all of my life. He agreed and told me to come to his boat later in the week.

If this situation would have happened in America I would have walked away fearing a scam. But in China, things are rarely too good to be true. Instead, when someone offers you a free ride on a boat they actually want to give you a free ride on a boat.

So, I got to travel on the ocean around Qingdao and see the city and the mountains. It was amazing. I also realized why we were offered this opportunity. As we sailed around the harbor, the other Chinese people stopped what they were doing and took our pictures. They waved and got all of their friends to join. Pretty soon there was a small crowd of people watching us on our sailboat. We were free advertisement for the sailing company! In current Chinese culture, westerners are considered to be wealthy, interesting, and beautiful. Whether this is true or not the locals thought it was amazing to see us out on the waters.

I didn’t mind though. It was great to be in a boat on the ocean and learn how to move the sail so it can catch the most wind. In this situation I don’t mind being someone’s advertisement.


I stayed in my first hostel this last week. It was great. I have always heard stories about how dangerous and disgusting these places can be but I think ours was nicer than any hotel I’ve visited. True, we did sleep in a room with five people. But they, all being travelers, had the most appealing stories of the places they had visited. The Brazilian man I mentioned earlier went with us on several of our stops around the city.

The hostel itself was a mix between indoors and outdoors. Each of the corridors led from a set of rooms to a garden area that was covered with ivy. Also you could climb up to the roof and sit as you watched the city. It was beautiful

More importantly, there was a restaurant that had western food. I can’t tell you how much I’ve missed bacon in the morning. I bought this bacon-esque Korean stuff that has a meaty texture but none of the taste. As sad as it is, I think the food may have been my favorite part of our trip.


My high school pupil has discovered context clues this week. I’m making him read articles in the local ex-pat newspaper. He’s quickly finding out that the meaning of most articles should only take up a few paragraphs while the rest is often fluff added for effect. He was able to find several lines where the same thought was repeated in different ways. I’m so proud.

Home in a month

I only have one month left in Qingdao and I’m honestly about ready to come home. This is an incredible country but I’ve quickly realized that it cannot compare to America. I think for the first time I’ve really come to appreciate that.

Before I go I’m trying to wrap up a few loose ends. All of my jobs need replacements and I’d like to travel once more. We’re looking at going to Inner Mongolia. This is one most northern parts of China. It’s next to the Gobi desert and I’d like to ride a camel through it if there’s the opportunity. I hope to send you more entries but there may not be time. I hope you all are well and I will talk to you soon.


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