China Team Journal

Monday, April 14, 2008

Friday-Sunday, April 11-13

Friday, April 11

By Mary Rae
Thought for the Day:

We have been at it for five days. The children are enthusiastic, curious, friendly, and an absolute delight. Although the school is very noisy at times, the children are obedient and compliant. I wonder if the fascination will wear off when the second round begins. It feels as if I am back in the schools to have children greeting me by name.

I’m feeling as if this experience is much less about me and my nervousness than it is a learning opportunity. The teachers are as varied as the students. One has family in Toronto, another a seven-year old son and is a working mom, another is single. The stories are varied, but the women have become teachers and appear to like their jobs and their students.

Next week will open new windows as our team completes its task.

Saturday, April 12

By Peggy Hale

Thought for the Day: “The worst fallout from China’s quest for natural resources will be seen not in the countries they come from, not in the countries that are competing for supplies, but in China itself. . . . China has gone from miser to glutton in its use of energy [which] has led to the rapid depletion of resources that China cannot import, such as clean air and water” (Economist 15 Mar. 2008).

We are very aware of air which rarely provides sight of the sun and moon. The sign at the bathroom sink reads “The hot spring is not fit to drink.”

The day began with a breakfast adventure. We had the dining room to ourselves, ordering a la carte. Four ordered American breakfast; Gael only wanted the Continental, which seemed not to be available. After much consultation with and between hotel staff, five continental breakfasts appeared!

This was a full day away from Xi’an, westward to An Shang and Famen Si (Temple), with varied sights and adventures along the way.

Our first stop was An Shang, a small village of about 1,600 residents. At the School we heard a presentation about the history and economy of the village. The area is known for its poverty. As recently as forty years ago people were living in caves. After a series of post-1949 misadventures with land distribution and communes, a “family responsibility” system was adopted in 1980. Not there is enough foos, but little cash, so the young people work in cities and send money home. The area is primarily agricultural—peaches, apples, wheat, and chickens. In 2003 a Village Congress established a local plan with a more democratic, elected government and a series of infrastructure projects. The first paves road (cement) was built in 2004, trees and grass have been planted, and street lights installed. The An Shang School was built 2002-2004 with the assistance of Global Volunteers.

After a tour of the school, we had lunch with members of Team 160, who are working with College students in An Shang. Then we walked to the Chou-Chin Folk Art Gallery, which opened last year. Work in wood, clay, metal and cut paper was on display. The p;an is to develop a tourist industry in the village.

Our second stop was Famen Si, a major Buddist temple which flourished during the Tang dynasty (7th-8th centuries). It is quite lovely, though the compound is much less extensive than it once was. The pagoda was recently rebuilt after its collapse in 1988. Adjoining the temple is a museum complex of three building displaying ancient artifacts—glass, silk, porcelain, and gold.

Navigational adventure. The local road to An Shang off the Xiboa Expressway was apparently closed for construction, so we took an unmarked detour over bumpy, muddy, dirt road. Our driver stopped frequently for directions (who says men never ask directions?). As a result we saw more of the rural countryside than had had been planned—buildings, crops, cemeteries, scenery, a brick kiln. The way to Famen was not as bad and the return to Xi’an for dinner was adventure free.

Sunday, April 13

By Peggy Hale

Thought for Sunday: “When I’m at home, I wish I was having an adventure; when I’m having an adventure, I wish I was home.”

We were up early for breakfast. Mary, Hugh, and I left for our trip to Hua Shan Mountain and the Terra Cotta Warriors. The day was relatively clear and warm. When we arrived we bought books in English and Chinese with photos of the mountains. We were the only Westerners I saw before we got to the Warriors. The cable car ride was beautiful, like going up a canyon. There is a very expensive hotel at the top of the mountain. Hua Shan is a Taoist site. Taoists are mystics who worship nature.

Getting off the cable car, I climbed steps until I found a chair. The others went on for ten minutes to the top. I wrote this while resting in the chair. People were interested in watching me write. They noticed critically that I am left-handed. It was fun communicating, without a translator, that writing right-handed is not something I can do legibly.

We had lunch near the mountain. The pumpkin with water chestnuts and green ppper was the best dish. After lunch we visited the Warriors. Dinner at the hotel featured the much anticipated rice wine.
[Dave’s supplement] Blue skies and warm temperatures were the beginning of a lovely day. In the morning Gael and I wandered around the ancient City Wall, observing the many activities—exercising, dancing, kite-flying, whipping the top, badminton, playing the erhu (two-stringed instrument).

After lunch we set off with Nancy our guide. The first stop was the Banpo Site, a Neolitich village housing a matriarchal society. The evolution of its poverty is most interesting. After a brief stop at a workshop which produced replica Warriors (and much else), we visited the real ones. The museum complex is quite large, especially Pit 1, which is the main exhibit area. Around this are other museums, plus a complex of shops selling everything from jade to kites to Coke.