The weather was cold, but less than yesterday. I had lunch with Teresa today, I probably wouldn’t see her anymore. Due to her grandfather’s illness, the next day she would have rushed to her city. In the afternoon I went again to the E-Mall and chatted with the people there.
I had dinner with Kang Li and finally I ate dog’s meat, but I could not say it was special because it was a soup. I probably would have liked it better if it was fried or grilled. The color was like beef, as for the flavor could not feel due to the herbs that stole the natural flavor of the meat. I was very anxious to eat, but I was imagining the poor animal, I had to create courage to put it in to my mouth. I was able to pay the bill again, sometimes the locals don’t allow me.
The next day the weather was neither hot nor cold but with a little sun. Then, I went to buy the train ticket to Hangzhou for the next Monday night for RMB 294 or USD 38, it was 24 hours of travel and 1558km. There I would stay at Sébastien’s home, the Frenchman I met in Kashgar. I was also going to meet a friend from Brazil there, also descendant of Taiwanese.
I arranged to have lunch with Isaac, Regiane and the Lesser Quintet here at home. I bought the street lunches spending only RMB 19 (USD 2.5) for eight people plus the coke 2 liters (USD 1), the lunch was enough – still left rice. In the afternoon I met beautiful Rebecca downtown. And I had dinner at a Korean restaurant with beautiful Caroline, the Sino-Filipino-American.
Monday was cold and a little rain in the morning, the rest of the day was without rain. I had lunch with Jean, Candy and Roah, Dana and Emily couldn’t show up, Emily because of the flu. They gave me a little farewell souvenir. This is the group of younger girls, I will call it the “Minor Quintet”, aged 17 to 19 years. I was able to pay the bill.
After the Cantonese class with Teresa, I went out to dinner with the Cantonese – Teresa, Lili and Steven – it was missing only Roy and Rebecca (although not Cantonese she spoke the language).
I made another jump on the E-Mall, because I made friends there, too. I bought a used mini notebook for USD 155.
This week was going to be a marathon to say goodbye to the people I met here, mostly Chinese with whom I went out more and had more intimacy.
In the morning I visited an orphanage with Jan, the redhead curly hair girl wore glasses. It was an orphanage run by foreigners, so it had a good standard of quality and service to the children and it was maintained by a foreign charity.
The children in the range of 2 to 4 years old are needy and adorable, they just wanted to play and lap, too bad I only had two arms. They called any adult “mother,” including me. There were newborns and other ages, but the maximum age allowed in the orphanage was up to 15 years. Some were abandoned because they had some birth defect, such as leporine lips, autism or learning difficulties. The children are released for adoption, some already have adoptive family just waiting to come and get them, most of them adoptive parents are from Europe or USA. After playing with the children, they had lunch and I helped put them to sleep in the cribs, it was no easy task! There was one that was spider-man, he was climbing the crib, then he decided to take off his pants and underwear several times! They already found an abandoned child at the train station. Unfortunately, the abandonment of children is a chronic problem, especially in developing countries, even in Brazil I have heard news of abandoned babies in garbage or in a lake.
I could see the sun and the clear sky, I will never understand the weather! It’s been a hundred days since I started my journey, just thinking that there are 158 days left to finish, I was disgusted. I wouldn’t have time to go everywhere I’d like, it’s impossible to reconcile long-term tourism with short-term study. With eleven countries ahead and less than five months of travel. It was another reason to travel more, to know more countries and more places!
Jane finally got off my back. She constantly texted Chinese people on her cell phone, she wanted to meet me and hang out. I sent her a short and straight message asking to stop sending meaningless messages, she knew I couldn’t read Chinese. I’d ask anyone on the street to translate. Uff! Peace at last!
It was Thursday, English Corner day. I went there to have fun among the locals again. I’ve written before that there were many young women there who are students. In my cluster today there were only girls, in fact there were always more girls, sometimes some boy appeared. A guy came along who had seen it last week, but he didn’t stay long, at the end another guy who spoke Spanish (Antonio), and also Isaac.
I knew all the girls today, there were two groups: one was of girls graduated from various courses who were studying English, including some of them had come home on the day of the movie party, aged between 22 and 24 years; the other group was English-speaking students that I had met since the first time I came to the English Corner almost two months ago, aged between 17 and 19 years. When I told them the next week was going to be my last week in Xian, some of them were sad. Well, I ended up having lunch with both groups and Isaac.
The Chinese have no malice as in Brazil, they are more naïve, Asians in general are like that. Of the girls I liked all I met, they have an inner beauty perhaps because they are purer, some also have outer beauty. Although the Chinese are more full-bodied than the Japanese, external beauty here is something kind of rare, I must have taken a month to find some girl of very beautiful appearance, referring more to the face. In any case, the places have a rarer internal beauty to find in Brazilian or foreign. I feel a affection for all the girls I’ve met, except for Jane and some boys too, I didn’t like them all (the boys).
The weather was rainy and cold! Funny how there could be such a beautiful day between two days of unrelenting rains.
In the morning I got a fright when two condominium security guards knocked on my door. The security guards here dress like soldiers, initially I thought they were from the government. They wanted to know the names, when they arrived and what the foreigners were doing in the condo. Well, with my Chinese disguise I did well, but I was almost wrong, I couldn’t write Chinese and ended up writing in English anyway. I did not quite understand what they wanted, although I was not the tenant, I gave them f Flavio’s data, since he has foreigner face (even having the Japanese grandmother) and I do not. They asked me where I was from and I generally replied that I was from the South (of China), they must have understood southern China rather than South America. Anyway my origins are from southern China in part and part from Taiwan, which is also in the south comparing to Xian. Flavio and Regiane looked like Uighurs, or the Uighurs looked like them.
The foreigners here had to register at a police station when they were staying for a long time, otherwise they would get a fine. As I did not register I was afraid, but then I knew it was only for count of foreigners in the condominium, so they counted one less, since technically I’m foreigner.
Today I created the courage to eat the lunch box of the street, it was very good. At dinner I ate a greenish gray noodles, the guy made at the spot squeezing the dough into a mechanically driven machine. I also ate something else that looked like fried pastry dough with meat. I was going to see the results tomorrow, I thought I wasn’t going to have bowel problems.
I bought a 40 Gb pocket external hard drive I was seeing yesterday at the e-Mall. I hadn’t seen one in Brazil yet.
The weather forecast was far away! The day was beautiful and cool, no rain, no clouds and no fog. We had lunch at McDonald’s, it was me, Flavio and two Koreans. We ordered the Korean snack, because today was not the day of the Brazilian snack. It came out expensive for the local standard, RMB 18!
I came along with Kang to the e-Mall to see the electronics again. She and her friend who worked there always ended up helping me look for things and haggle.
At night I went alone to Tang Paradise Park to see again the holographic movie of the fountain and watch the show of the Tang Dynasty, it was a theatrical piece with dances and beautiful choreographies, telling the story of emperor Tang, there was no singing, but it was worth it despite being more concerned with filming than paying attention. It almost got to the foot of Broadway, it was good.
Despite the heavy fog, today the temperature was pleasant. In the morning I went to walk in the “e-Mall” to see the gadgets, then I met Alexandre to buy some USD from him, and I made the transfer to his account in Brazil. My brother didn’t know if he’d come anymore, if he came, I’d ask him to bring me a few USD and especially deodorant that was rare around here.
I had doubts about:
• If I would go first to Chengdu (inland,) or Shanghai (on the coast), then descend further south towards Hong Kong. I also didn’t know if I would include India in my itinerary. I decided to shorten my studies and lengthen my time in travel, yet I didn’t know if I would be able to “embrace the world”. I hadn’t started planning my route yet, I thought about improvising everything, like I always did. I’d leave the big suitcase here in Xian and travel only with the backpack, pick up my suitcase on the way back to Beijing. I’d only be here for two more weeks in Xian. I was thinking of making a goodbye party and invite my new Chinese friends, coincidentally, mostly English students, with the exception of Kang Li.
• During today’s class Teresa explained to me that the “zhong zhu” (or “ba zhan” in Taiwanese) was not typical Taiwanese food, but from southern China, and that here there was only the sweet, not the salty. Anyway I hadn’t seen any yet, except at the Taiwanese restaurant, but she would buy two for me.
• I went out with Rebecca, a beautiful Chinese girl who I thought was from the majority Han, but she told me she was of the Li ethnicity. She said I’m a Han, her family was from Fuzhou, my father’s land. We dined typical Hui (another ethnic group) food from Xian in the Muslim quarter, behind the Drum Tower.
While I was writing my blog, in a few words I put a hyphen, as they could be filtered or monitored by the Chinese government. Back in Brazil I felt a relief to be able to express all my ideas with freedom.
Here the Chinese only greeted each other verbally, until handshake was not so common, kisses were not even thinkable! As I grew up in Brazilian, it seemed that there was something missing. Steven exclaimed, “Do you also shake hands when you say goodbye!?”. For him it was more than enough a handshake as soon as he met someone. Steven and another girl thought it was very different that I used deodorant or perfume. They did not have this habit, perhaps because they really had no need, since most of them did not exude any natural odor.
The next day was monotonous, without sun and fog, it did not rain and it was not so hot. We had lunch together, Flávio, me and Jan, the English redhead who introduced me to Steven.
In the afternoon after napping I went again to watch the fountain show at the Great Pagoda. I walked back, I must have taken over an hour walking and eating along the way. I was annoyed when I tried to dine in a fancy Tibetan restaurant, as I could not read anything, they had no menu in English and had no other tables occupied by guests to point out the dish I wanted, I left the restaurant without eating.
I woke up early to go to the station and take the tour to see the Warriors of Xian, the east circuit, the day was great! Me and Denise went together, I regretted taking the tour, we went through several expendable places and could have saved on tickets, since you only pay what you are to visit, besides the transport (USD 1.30) and the guide (USD 1.15), which were cheap, the tickets were expensive! We spent over an hour in a jade shop, despite the time spent no one was interested in buying anything.
The guide explained something in the van, but arriving at the place it had another guide proper to the tourist attraction, anyway we did not understand everything and ended up walking alone. And for the Warriors of Xian it had to pay another guide separately.
The tour was as follows:
• Lintong Museum, it was waste of money, it could not be worst. The guide tricked us saying it worth.
• Mount Lishan, where Chiang Kai Shek’s nationalist generals took refuge with the advance of communism, it was reasonable.
• Xiangyu Barracks, only a few replicas of the Terracotta Warrior statues.
• Qinling Palace, there was only a palace model and a few things in miniatures.
• Museum of The Eight Wonders, it was reasonable, with mock-ups of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World plus the Terracotta Warriors, the Eighth Wonder.
• Terracotta Warriors, the visit to Xian’s Warriors was half-race, the guide gave us only an hour and a half, which left me reviled.
The entry was RMB 90, I paid RMB 45 (USD 5.80 with the student card), it is better to go without much expectation not to be disappointed. There are three sheds, the main one being the largest and with hundreds of warriors. It was nice, but I expected to see the carriages, but there was only one and this one was in a glass, I wish I’d seen it in droves. And as for the soldiers, I expected to see closely and walk among them to see details of the faces, but it was not so. The photos I took up close with the warriors were replicas and were photographed elsewhere.
Altogether there are more than eight thousand statues of soldiers and horses in natural size and more than one hundred battle cars, arranged in regiments of infantry, cavalry and archers, not to mention the generals and officers who commanded the silent army. The pits where they were buried occupy a surface of 20 km², the ones that can be visited were sheltered by an immense pavilion and constitute only a part of the complex connected to the mausoleum of the emperor, which extends over an area of 56.2 km². They were buried about 2200 years ago. In 1974, a group of peasants from Xiyang village who dug a well by Mount Lishan discovered the first pieces of terracotta statues, a type of baked clay, and ancient bronze weapons.
The discovery of terracotta statues contributed to the scholars coming to a clearer conception of the dynasty of Emperor Qin Shi Huang Di. Today it is already known that it was in this period that the standardization of writing, currency, weights, measurements and the width of the axles of vehicles used in transport took place. The emperor is also credited with the beginning of the construction of the first version of the Great Wall.
Qin Shi Huang, his real name was Ying Zheng, was a feudal lord endowed with political and military qualities, cruel and tyrant. He ascended the throne at the age of thirteen, conquering and eliminating six rival kingdoms, founding China’s first unified state, the Qin dynasty, which grouped a large number of ethnicities. He adopted the title of Shi Huang Di (founding emperor) and lived about fifty years, from 259 BC to 210 BC.
Strongly superstitious, Qin Shi Huang believed in the eternal life of his kingdom and dynasty, he began to build his mausoleum soon after ascending to the throne. The works lasted for 36 years and even requested more than 700,000 men, most of whom were convicted and prisoners of war. The tomb itself, stood at 115m high, today due to soil erosion reduced to 70m, and is surrounded by two walls. The complex host a palace where the emperor’s stone sarcophagus was placed, surrounded by objects and statues in silver, gold and precious stones of incalculable value.
The first cesspool contains an infantry battalion supported by horse-drawn cars, distributed according to a precise war strategy; the second was filled with divisions of archers and cavalry; the third reserved for the General Staff. In addition to the military cesspits 1500m from the mausoleum, the complex comprises cesspits with statues of civilians and hundreds of other galleries, in the mass graves were sacrificed the craftsmen who worked on the work – these ditches reproduce the land empire of Qin Shi Huang. The warriors and horses symbolized the elite army that guarded it in its passage to the other world. It is estimated that these statues have been cooked at a temperature of 950ºC to 1050ºC and their quality and resistance reveals well the technological level of Chinese ceramics, more than 2000 years ago.
At night, we Brazilians ate Moroccan food made by Regiane, we ate with the right hand. The flat and baked bread, called “nan” was similar to a pizza, we dipped the “nan” in the pan to try to catch the meatballs in a red sauce, which was not tomato.
Xian terracotta warriors.
The next day it was hot. Denise left our city this morning, but maybe I’ll find her again in Taiwan.
At lunch I was going to look for another Cantonese restaurant, but on the way I ended up meeting Henry the Uighur, and we went to eat typical Uighur food with two other friends of his who had not yet adopted a name in English, suggested and they readily accepted: Jack and Tommy, one came to study English and the other French. We ate the chopped pasta by hand and the lamb kebab, which incidentally was something that I ate most in Xian. This time they paid the bill, because I had paid Henry another day. As they were Muslims they had concerns about food, so we did not go to the Cantonese restaurant, they did not eat pork and I think they didn’t want to eat any dish made in the same pot the pork was made either.
I always made a point of paying the bill, because most of the people I knew were students and life here wasn’t easy, but they insisted on paying. Anyway, I always took my friends to a cheap restaurants, so no one would spend too much.
The dinner was also the farewell of Alexandre, who would spend only a couple of months in Brazil. We went to the wonderful Thai restaurant “Banana Leaf”, he ended up paying the bill.
The next day it was no longer hot and the sky was half overcast, the temperature was good. I had a sandwich at home, it should have been the second time I had my meal myself. It was more practical to go out to eat and sometimes it would come out even cheaper when I ate simple things.
I studied Mandarin and took a Cantonese class with Teresa. I went out to dinner with Teresa and Steven at a Cantonese restaurant. Cantonese is the language of southern China, from Guangzhou Province.
I haven’t had diarrhea in a long time, I didn’t miss it. Normally the foreigners had here, Regiane was already a whole month with diarrhea, but Daniela, extraordinarily, had diarrhea once for a whole year. I think I only had about three or four.
I woke up around 7:00 in the morning. I took a bus to the train station to join the tour. The traffic in the vicinity of the station is always very complicated.
On the highway there was traffic jam and everything was stopped. The cars started to go back in the other lane. My bus where there were only Chinese did the same, returned to the toll site to be able to take the highway on the other side by the opposite hand. I was a little apprehensive, because the cars and trucks came from the front giving high headlight.
Due to the delay, we didn’t go to one of the museums, maybe I hadn’t missed anything at all. The sights I went to were:
• Maoling Museum, a well-kept place with carved animal-shaped rocks belonging to the Han dynasty (206a. C to 24d. C.), its construction began in 139a.C. It was 40km from Xian.
• Qianling Museum, was a kind of history museum with wax statues, mockups, reconstruction of ancient scenery, nothing impressive.
• Qianling Mausoleum, it was interesting, there was an outdoor corridor with some statues on both sides and a hill to climb. Belonging to the Tang dynasty (618D.C. to 907d. C.), had several tombs around him. It was 50 miles from Xian.
• Tomb of Princess Yong Tai of the Tang Dynasty. At the site there was a tunnel, and at the end of the tunnel was the large black stone sarcophagus of the young and beautiful princess who was sentenced to death at seventeen by her tyrant grandmother in 701.
• Faman Temple, last place visited and the furthest 120km from Xian, beautiful place with monks, was a Buddhist temple, but after so many temples, it looked all the same to me. There was a thirteen-story pagoda. Outside I ate the “Chinese Shwarma”, the bread was baked on the plate and the meat was precooked before it was grilled.
Surprisingly no one smoked on the bus!
The workers work till late, day and night they are opening or closing holes in the street or sidewalk. Men and women, often ladies, in normal attire often without the use of company uniform. In another city, I saw people paving the road without the machines we know, all manually, for example, without the use of the truck with steamroller. To open a hole, they didn’t use a jackhammer, they hammered with their hands anyway. Of course not every place was like this, in some places should use modern machines.
Today it was a sunny day and a good weather. I looked at the map of the city and took a bus to the monument that marks the beginning of the Silk Road, it started in Xian and ended in Baghdad.
While exchanging a few dollars in the bank, I began to smell an unpleasant smell, I looked at the sole of my shoes, but there was no indication of having stepped on something unwanted, I noticed then that the smell came from the street, the so-called “stinky tofu”, the fermented soy cheese, a Chinese delicacy that usually emits an unpleasant odor.
From the monument I went to the center (“Bell Tower”), it was very crowded, some foreigners and especially many, many Chinese! The whole week would be like this, due to the holiday week. I finally found the Grand Mosque, which had a half-hidden entrance, but I decided to visit it in another day. Then I stopped by the “electronic mall” to buy a microphone for my computer.
I took a Cantonese class with Steven and last night I had dinner at a Cantonese restaurant, my favorite. I used to go there about five times a week. And always asked for something different in the menu of the day. To order the food, I had to look at someone’s dish at the table near by and point out that I wanted it, or I could read the ideogram of beef to make any request that had that ingredient. The restaurant was small and very dirty, the price was at the average local price, ranged from USD 0.50 to 1.20. And I had to share the table with any local, even if the table was already occupied, like it was in a college canteen, it used to fill up with students. It was in front of the XISU, where the “English Corner” took place, just across the avenue.
The next day once again made a good time. I tried to visit some temples in the south of the city, according to the guide, just take bus 215 until the end, and from there take a “rickyshaw”, the motorcycle cab with cabin, in South Africa it was called “rick”, but no one knew how to inform me anything. Frustrated, I went to the train station at the north gate of the wall, checked the tour package for tomorrow, for the Circuit of the Imperial Tombs, the western circuit. And not to lose the habit, I ended up strolling in the center.
I found a Taiwanese restaurant in the center, near the south gate, where I finally found the “zhong zhu” or “ba zhan” in Taiwanese, in Brazil they call it Chinese “pamonha”, but there is no similarity, the only similarity is the fact that both are wrapped in leaf of some plant. The “zhong zhu” was made of a kind of sticky rice. I thought it would be easy to find this food here in this country.
A funny thing is that sometimes on the city map it had a historical point, a tomb, but it couldn’t be found at all, as if it had been removed.
With so many daily walks, I’ve lost about 3kg in these two and a half months. Excellent, I was getting in shape!
The variety of ingredients and ways of preparing the dishes make Chinese cuisine one of the richest in the world. There are more than ten thousand dishes and about twenty different regional cuisines. In an immense country, with great climatic and landscape differences, there is a wide variety of dishes, dependent on an infinite range of products. Chinese cuisine has strongly influenced Japanese cuisine and many Southeast Asian countries, in addition to Central Asia, not to mention its influence on the world cuisine, after all noodles are a Chinese invention taken to Italy.
The hunger, poverty and wars that marked the country’s history caused the Chinese to set aside food taboos and take literally advantage of anything that could be taken to the mouth. Alongside rice, soy, pork, fish and vegetables, exotic delicacies often appear to the Western palate, such as shark fin, tiger penis, dog and cat meat, bat, snake, scorpion or locust.
In ancient times, the guests used the chopsticks and the spoons. There were no knives on the table because all the food was cut into small pieces so they could be caught with chopsticks. It was inconceivable to cut the food on the table while eating, it was considered something rude.
When preparing a typical Chinese meal, the cook is usually guided by various principles. The main one is the Taoist of Yin and Yang, the two complementary opposites. In the usual round table, where everything is arranged at once, soup, rice, pasta or bread, vegetables, meats, poultry or fish cooked in different techniques usually appear. One dish should be sweet (Yin) and the other salty (Yang); one cold (Yin) and the other hot (Yang); one soft (Yin) and the other crispy (Yang). The final picture is a feast that stirs all the senses. A good Chinese dish obeys four commandments: it has color, aroma, taste and presentation.
The Chinese believe that the meal should be a joint experience and this translate the cooperation that exists between family and friends. People serve each other in small portions.
Although they have a common base, it is possible to separate Chinese cuisine into four major regions:
• from the North (Beijing), which was for years the capital of the Empire;
• from the Central Maritime Region (Shanghai), where the handling of fish reaches its greatest refinement;
• from Sichuan inland, sweet and very characteristic;
• from Guangzhou (Guangdong), which mixes the elements of all.
The gastronomy of Guangzhou is the best known, due to its richness and diversity to a historical fact, the fall of the Ming dynasty in 1644 when emigration to the south was general. The venerable Beijing cooks and their kitchen equipment from the imperial palace made a long march. On their way they collected the great dishes from the kitchens of the mandarins of the provinces, which were thus incorporated into the Cantonese cuisine. In Guangzhou, breeding animals such as dog, cat, snake and monkey go to the plate. Even in China, this cuisine is considered very cruel. What the Chinese talk about this cuisine is that: “you eat everything that has four legs but the table, everything that flies except the plane, everything that swim but the boat”. There are always people who try to organize movements against this cuisine; but on the other hand, there are a lot of curious people.
Rice is the main item of an Asian cuisine. It is so essential that it incorporated the way of expressing itself, when a Chinese receives a visit at home, he always asks “have you eaten rice?” instead of simply asking “have you eaten” or “have you had lunch?”.