Sunday, July 19, 2009

Day Four Xi'an

We take a short bumpy flight to Xi'an (pronounced like She On)I and meet our city guide, Bryan. He gives us some history about the city and the region. We are all a little confused and frustrated as to why we have a second tour guide, for which we must tip in addition to Simon. I think by this point in the trip most of the graduate students had figured out that EF is not a great way to travel for adults – it is probably great when you are 18 but at 30 I like to have time to explore and choose my own adventures. The constant sales pitches and additional charges also begin to irritate me.

Bryan tells us that Xi'an is a melting pot city of Chinese, Buddhist and Muslims with rich, fertile soil for farming and the yellow river running through. The city is laid out in feng shui and is considered a middle size city at 8.3 million, which is pretty telling of the dense population. At this point, I have actually been surprised that China is not more crowded – it's certainly more densely populated than Portland but it doesn't feel that bad. After time in Seoul, it seemed downright roomy. I am reminded of what my Korean boss once said – he told me to not be offended by the lack of a personal bubble. He said that we do not mean to be rude, we have just always lived in such tight quarters that we don't have any sense of space!

We go to the National Museum, which house 18 of the major national treasures from the 13 dynasties that reigned in Xi'an. I had a hard time distinguishing or relating to many of the pieces. It seemed that the iron pots all looked the same and I knew they were ancient and important but really didn't get enough time to discover why they were considered national treasures. We also visit a Painting Museum and get the chance to practice some Chinese calligraphy, which is nice. Then we are given the sales pitch again and we spend over an hour waiting for people to make purchases, and further decreasing our free time. After a simple dinner I go strait to bed.

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