1) The last few days I have been in Xian, where the Terra Cotta Soldiers are housed. After a whirlwind type Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, I just got off the train and am back in Beijing. Thoughts:
a) The majesty of the soldiers engulfed me. Maybe majesty is not the right word. Maybe the "gargantuan-ness" of the whole situation dumbfounded me. I forget the exact numbers but each soldier is more than life sized, and different, from the lift of their eyebrows to the curls of their lips, to the position in which their hand clutches a weapon to shield the dead emperor from harm. Basically, he started thinking about his death right as he was beginning to rule. Is that morbid, or just plain pragmatic?
b) Apparently, Mr Yang, the villager who found the soldiers when trying to dig a well was at the site, and if you bought a book for 150 RMB, you could take a picture with him. I did not buy the book, and I did not take the picture. Im not too sure I was completely convinced. But maybe it's like Santa Claus. People believe in things so that other people can get money and feed their families, and so on.
c) We went to Hua Qing Chi, where a famous concubine bathed in the hot springs...and where Chiang Kai-shek was shot at. (Xi-An Incident) I'd never taken pictures of so many bullet holes. This was my favorite event that day-- interesting that two such historical figures dwelled in such a place.
d) It is said that something over 70 emperors are buried in Xian, or at least the Shaanxi province, because the feng shui is wonderful. I smell a new Tomb Raider movie!!
e) I have fallen desperately in love with the Shaanxi dialect. There is something so song-like about it, and I could very possibly just listen to it all darned day. Its more gutteral and soft palate-ish than Mandarin-- some sounds remind me of Persian. Either way, I have taken numerous videos of it being spoken.
f) I have a strange enjoyment for talkative taxi drivers. In Xian, it's much cheaper to take cabs places-- and I have thoroughly loved sitting and listening to them.
g) Traveling with Nancy Wang has been both surreal and incredibly wonderful--It's such a joy to take on a new city with friends. Many times during my stay in Xian, I honestly could not believe that I was there with her! What fun!
h) I rode the train by myself on the way back. To be honest, I was apprehensive. All the stories that my relatives told about girls being kidnapped and worse played into my mind, but I have to say that it felt pretty darned safe. Again, thanks to Chinese school and my parents, I manage not to sound like a complete foreigner, and was struck by the easy cameraderie of people in an overnight train. Played card games for 2 hours with men who upon first glance, were kind of scary looking. Pleasantly got back to Beijing. Now, Beijing things.
2) Went to a flea market and spent some 5 hours there. No kidding. 5 hours. But I have decided that I would like a victrola for my home. It wasnt actually the jewelry, or pottery that I liked best, rather I preferred the old telephones, and typewriters.
3) My milonga experience--that of which Im sure you're dying to know about.. was "eh". I imagine its because 1--it is a pretty newly established milonga and 2--it was raining the hour before. But either way, I made a few new friends over a Tsingtao beer, and got to practice leading in a big mirrored, practically empty room. Pretty darned okay.
4) Got a copy of Barack Obama's autobiography for the train and ended up finishing half of it before I even got on. His writing is incredibly calm, yet passionate-- what a guy! I'll have more thoughts on it soon.