China Blog 2011

Xian: 1987 and 2011

Banpo (5000-6000 BC), Terra Cotta Warriors (a mere 2000 years old or so), drum and bell towers, Wild Goose Pagoda, etc. So much to see here. AND MY BEST DAY YET: ON THE CITY WALL!

PHOTOGRAPHER EMERGES! On my second day, guide Eric took me to the ancient Mosque here. As we were walking, my head did a sci fi flip and all of a sudden, I knew exactly where we were! I got my persepective and knew where the prayer room was ahead! I had been here in 1987 when prayers were letting out and the place was full of the faithful. Today, in the sunshine (prayers answered after last night!) we had the place to ourselves. A gorgeous place for a photographer to spend time!

But even better were my two hours alone on the ancient City Wall of Xi'an at sunset! I sent car and guide home early, and ascended at 4 p.m. You'll see the collection of shots someday as I lingered, walked from side to side and captured glimpses of Chinese at their lives: the paper collector unloading his buggy, a couple holding hands, a baby using his split pants as dad smoked and watched, elderly folks walking in a circle maze, others exercising on park equipment, a majohng game, and two men buying long underwear. So much more. I think the title of this show will be "99 from the Wall"...that's about how many good ones I got. And it was peaceful, quiet, welcoming (people stopped me and said welcome to China!), and glorious as the setting sun turned everything evening colors! Ah! This is ME! Walked a good ways back to my hotel in the dark, enjoying the freedom to explore.

SHAANXI NORMAL UNIVERSITY: Yesterday, I was picked up by two students from Shaanxi Normal University where I taught in 1987. Eric helped me call the Foreign Affairs office, and Lucy and her friend William appeared. Both just 19 and eager to talk English. We had a ball together!

I spent the whole time seeking the OLD, while they were pleased to point out the incredible NEW campus! I had pictures of my students and we think we found my teaching building--still run down inside a bit, but not smelly as in the past, beautifully finished outside, and familiar when we got the Break Room. There we met a couple teachers who definitely recognized Huang Ke Qin who had been my deparment head! He's in his 70s now but still around! Lucy will try to reach him to see if he'd like to reconnect, but I won't get to see him this trip.

Saw other familiar places: the West Gate, and the post office there (where Rex and I exchanged the only letters we ever wrote each other--and I still have!), the ping pong courts (about 30!), basketball, soccer, and dorms, though the latter are now a bright clean pink versus dingy cement in 1987. I look forward to getting out the old slide to see if I can locate anything else.

The elementary and kindergarten schools are right there still, but huge! Painted brightly and reconfigured! How I wish we could have gone in to visit...should have had two days to explore, but time pushes on....

Lucy did take me to the NEW huge campus too on the other side of town. What a place! HUGE buildings and spaces and bright and beautiful. China has galloped into the 21st century here too.

Two final notes for my reading friends:
1. Students can now go in the library and search for their own books! In 1987, they could not. Gave title to someone who went to get book for them. Such freedom I felt walking into those stacks!

2. Needing a new book, I went to foreign language bookstore--now have 4 volumes of Dream of Red Mansions, the Chinese classic to take on the train!

Oh, also hit Walmart--yep! Got the welcome person's picture with a terra cotta warrior at the door. :) So have red wine, cheese (Laughing Cow), peanut butter...ready for Thanksgiving train ride to Dunhuang today! Leave at 11 a.m., arrive 9:30 a.m. tomorrow. Good to rest...

All is well! And I AM thankful for this life I'm getting to lead. Amen!