Today’s post was written by Serena, Tori, and Anthony

The famous Terra Cotta Warriors of Xi'anThe famous Terra Cotta Warriors of Xi’an

If I didn’t already know about the Terra Cotta soldiers, anyone who told me about thousands of life-size pottery men buried underground would probably seem crazy. It was a little crazy, in fact, seeing even just a fraction of them in the main pit of the excavation site. They were like pottery time-travelers.

The emperor’s tomb is unimaginably large, somewhere around twenty square kilometers for just one man. The more time I spent with the warriors, though, the more I thought of it as their tomb as well. The soldiers were so individual and life-like that they seemed very real. We learned that each soldier was made with a different facial expression.

Of course, after the real sightseeing was through came the obligatory gift shop spree, which featured mini-replicas of the Terra Cotta Soldiers, which no one, it seemed, could get enough of. The farmer who originally discovered the Terra Cotta warriors was signing copies of the museum book, but not taking pictures or giving interviews. — Tori

Under the shade of an ancient tree, Brittany and I sat, waiting to be dragged back into the whirl of sightseeing that had become the norm for us all. The rest of our group was scattered around the area of the Museum of Terra Cotta Warriors. These life-size warriors were discovered by a farmer in 1974 while he was digging a well.

Sometime between all this, Brittany and I rested on a bench. A woman with Asiatic features hung nearby, glancing at us curiously. A few minutes later, as the time for our group to meet grew nearer, she approached us with broken English and a modest smile. She was a student and her name was Lenka. She took long pauses between her words, smiling and apologizing self-effacingly.

“Do you speak Russian?!” Brittany asked eagerly when we learned she was from Kazakhstan.
She did, and I told her that I had taken Russian classes for several months in the past. Her face lit up; to find somebody familiar with her native language in this land of foreigners must have seemed dreamlike. I had to apologize, explaining that I knew nothing more than very basic vocabulary and grammar, but this didn’t dampen her spirit. Unfortunately, by then our local tour guide had to come pull us out of our conversation. We said our goodbyes hastily, and as I was hauled away I mentally kicked myself for not asking for contact information. Having to leave such a lovely woman was painful for us both. However, as our group came into sight, I was hopeful that in the days to come there would be many more people to meet, all with their own stories and smiles. Until then, zài jiàn! — Serena

After the Terra Cotta Warriors, we went to eat at a buffet called the Tang Dynasty. The food there to me was okay, but I got really excited once I saw the burger and fries. When I saw the burger, I realized it was the Chinese equivalent. Many others in our group waited in a long line to taste some homemade noodle soup being made on the spot; those who tasted it said it was the best-tasting food of the trip.

Ella, our guide at the art museumElla, our guide at the art museum

Once lunch was over with, we went to a folk art museum. It had sculptures, paintings, and calligraphy art; it was beautiful. After going through all the artwork, we went to a calligraphy room and our tour guide tried to teach us calligraphy, which none of us really picked up on. I loved the art there so much; I bought a couple of paintings to bring home, as did many others.

I had bought so many things that I had to leave on the bus throughout the tour. I realized that I didn’t take enough pictures, so I thought I would redeem myself at the Muslim temple, the Wild Goose Pagoda. The building is a copy of the original Wild Goose Pagoda in India, but it houses a recently constructed golden Buddha from only a few years ago. It was great! As we met a couple people were late and the traffic was terrible so we just went to eat dinner, instead of going to the shadow puppet show first. We all are missing our American food, but our Chinese meals have left us all satisfied. Our dinner meal was extra special, because we celebrated Bruce and Jeff’s birthday with a fruit chocolate cake!

Then we were off to see the shadow puppets! When we went through the Muslim Quarter to get the shadow puppet theater, we were all slipping and sliding because of all the grime on the concrete from the rain. The shadow puppets were interesting but the commentary and sound effects were in Chinese. Afterwards we got some free time to walk around and observe the shops in the area. Once we arrived to the hotel, I was exhausted! I went to get a massage at the hotel and it was great. It was then I found out that our original flight was canceled because of a terrible storm in Beijing. It’s such a sad bit of news, especially since we just left there. We’re all so sorry for what happened and we’re glad that we are all okay. — Anthony