On Saturday, my host sister still had to go to school, but I needed school supplies. Luckily, my parents didn’t work on Saturday so they were able to take me.
School Supplies List:
-一本子 a notebook
My first ride in a Chinese car wasn’t that different from riding in an American car- either way, I’m still terrified. However, I felt safer in the car with my host parents than I do in America. I discovered why this was so later.
Because I only needed book-like things, we landed ourselves in a book store crammed beside about ten other stores on that street, which is just like every other street I’ve seen in Xi’an. I’m always surprised to find that the inside looks much, 怎么说, less sketchy on the outside. My host parents let me look around for awhile, so I ended up showing my 阿姨 two books I could read- one about a coffeehouse and one about a teenager falling in love. I’m not sure if it was because I didn’t understand the title fully or because of another reason, but she laughed and told me to buy the second book. She even bought one for my host sister! Besides the book 我在云爱上你，I bought my dictionary, my notebook, and Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone in Chinese!!! 😀 I am so 兴奋!
After that, we drove to a shopping mall about 18 stories high to window shop. It was really interesting because while most of the floors were just boutiques and random shops (like Chinese versions of Forever 21), the bottom floor was filled with small outlets and trolleys filled with stuffed animals, jewelry, clothes, etc. that you could bargain for! There’s nothing like it in America, except maybe for a really nice garage sale. I told my host mother I thought one of the hair clips looked beautiful, and while I wasn’t looking she bought both of us one! I was so 不好意思 but so 感谢. My host parents really are such sweethearts.
The final excursion was to a Buddhist temple, although I didn’t know that when we first arrived. We walked past the shopping mall and through the gates of a Chinese-特色的 building and it genuinely looked like my parents were buying a box of fireworks. I thought, “okay, the 4th of July is in a week, maybe they want to celebrate that with me or something?” But when we went through another gate, I saw the temples.
The Buddhist temple in Xi’an, although peaceful and full of people, felt desolate and somber. My 阿姨 gave me three incense to burn (as per the three-stick policy that Chinese people can only burn three incense per person per temple per day, because the incense smoke heavily contributed to air pollution) and we proceeded to burn three incense at each temple. Inside two of the temples showed “heaven” and “hell”, and the people in heaven were pushing back the demons in hell with spears or looking down on them from the clouds as the 坏人 as my 阿姨 called them either were burned, crushed, hung, cut up, put into soups, drowned, or some other horrible action done by demons with wild eyes, sharp teeth, blue skin, claws and horns. She told me that these temples made her afraid.
Me, too, 阿姨.
We passed two turtle ponds in the area before reaching the last temple, and I thought the turtles looked very cute, some big, some small. But all were snapping turtles, and you couldn’t get too close. Furthermore, the water in each pond was so polluted you couldn’t see past a fingernail’s width deep, and therefore some of the baby turtles lay dead floating at the top of the pond. It was very grieving to see.
Two other parts that I really enjoyed about the temples were the monks and the student temple. I had never seen an actual monk before, and here there were so many dawned in plain clothes, umbrellas, and bald heads! I wanted to speak with one, but didn’t know if it was appropriate, so I just moved on. The student temple is not just for students; in fact, parents mainly go to the student temple to pray that their son/daughter does well in school or on a test. Inside of the temple are tall golden statues sporting different poses, and cushions are laid before them so you can bow to them and pray. Outside of the temple is an awning with hundreds of red strips of cloth with wishes on them. My 阿姨read me a few. Most of them were parents hoping that their son/daughter is successful in their studies.
Overall, I’ve said this many times, but I really like seeing the contrast between ancient China and modern China. Right outside of the Buddhist temple, people were constructing another high-rise apartment building, and traffic swam all around. There are people practicing Tai Chi and listening to traditional Chinese music in the middle of a park filled with neon lights. It’s a very interesting contrast that you don’t get to see in America, considering it is such a new country.
Finally, for dinner we went out to a restaurant to eat some 地道的中国food. While we were there, there was a woman playing a Chinese instrument that I found to sound very beautiful, and I hope the video works so you all can listen as well!
Well, until next time! 拜拜！
P.S.- I’m sorry if it’s too confusing that I have Chinese in my writing (unlike in China, you all can use *cough cough Google translate). After being here for only 5 days, I already am beginning to feel like I can only phrase certain things in Chinese. It’s faster to think about it than to translate it into English. It’s so cool, but also a really strange feeling!