Wednesday, January 26, 2011


Friday, March 23, 2007 Xian (Home Visit)

Up about 5 am we had plenty of time before breakfast at 6:30 to work on the computer and complete our packing for today. We leave this afternoon to spend an evening and overnight with a farmer's family in the countryside. We will be two couples to a home; the owners will not speak English. We will each have our own rooms but share the bathroom; the rooms do not have any heat so we’ve packed our warm jammies for the night; plus extra toilet paper from the hotel and our ever present bottles of water. The tour company keeps us well supplied and so far we’ve only purchased two bottles for ourselves back in Shanghai. The hotel provides each of us with a new bottle each day and the tour company also gives us a bottle each day. We packed our large suitcases that will be taken to the airport today for our flight to Chengdu tomorrow afternoon.

On the bus by 8 am with only our carryon luggage, we headed for a lacquer furniture factory. We learned how it is made; watched some of the craftsmen doing the inlaid shell and also glued jade designs. They showed us a unique way to polish good wood furniture. Make a dough from cake flour and vegetable oil. Rub that on the wood for a period of time and then using extra cake flour clean the excess oil off and polish the wood at the same time. We’ve all decided to give it a try when we reach home. Again, the cost of the furniture for sale was pricey but one couple did purchase a thirty-six inch folding screen to be shipped to their home. They had them write their name on the screen with chalk so that they could be assured they were receiving the one that they chose when it arrives at their home in the USA.

Boarded the bus for a short drive to the old City Walls around Xian. It has been restored to its original condition and makes a wonderful place to ride bicycles or walk. If one goes completely around it is a total of nine miles. We walked the wall for about half an hour and stopped to watch them filming a movie at one of the towers that are spaced “arrow’s length” apart all around the wall. The wall itself is probably at least about thirty feet across.

Back on the bus we discovered that along the streets where they sell the materials needed to finish the inside of a home (pipes, toilets, doors, etc) there were many “day laborers” attempting to get work; mostly farmers who come to the city to earn extra money. Of the 1.3 billion people in China, nearly 70% of them are farmers and there is not enough land for all of them. So, those that don’t have enough land to split with family members send the extra family members to the city to earn money. On the front of each of the bicycles they had placed a sign showing what type of work they are qualified to do.

Our last stop of the morning was at the Big Wild Goose Pagoda. We spent about forty-five minutes walking around with a group stop at the main temple for burning incense and saying prayers together for good weather and a safe trip. We decided not to climb the tower as the smog is so bad in China that one can’t really see very far. Back at the hotel we had an hour before lunch to finish packing our things for tonight. Lunch was at the hotel restaurant: jup…Chinese lunch with the lazy susan!

Our bus trip took about half an hour to the suburbs. Our homes are located in a village located in the center of farmlands and is called Huxian. But, the homes we are staying in are not farmhouses in the American sense. More like two story homes in an association with no yards, but free-standing buildings. They are about 2000 square feet, very clean but simply decorated.

Before we met our host family we spent about an hour at a local primary school named the Guang Ming Primary School. It is support by the Grand Circle Foundation. We visited several classes, saw a film about the school and then had some fun playing with the students on playground. We played ping pong with them and basketball. Many of us brought boxes of pencils and crayons to give to the teachers for their students as recommended by the tour company.

From there we drove to the center of a commercial area with shops and a park where we walked around the newly built park that was full of mostly retired and young people. We were constantly surrounded by people who were curious to talk with us and the children loved to have their photos taken and then see the results on our digital camera screens. They don’t see very many Caucasians out here in the countryside so we were definitely a novelty for them.

Our host families are great. We used written phrase sheets, sign language and their limited English to communicate and get acquainted over tea. Our host family has twenty year old twin sons that are at boarding school. These are well to do middle class families that we are staying with. There are seventy families who have qualified to be a host family and each one has several visitors a month. They are paid to invite us into their home and they also enjoy practicing their English with their visitors. Like all beds in China they are what Americans would consider sleeping on a board…extremely firm! There was a heater in our room but we decided not to attempt to use it.

We saw their bed made of tile with a built in stove underneath for warmth. We have beds with an electric blanket under the bottom sheet and they are nice and warm. We even have a television in our room with limited Chinese stations. After having tea with the hostess and sharing photos of children we went down into the kitchen to help with the making of the noodles for our dinner. Rolled the dough and then sliced it very thin. Our dinner was excellent: pancakes, eggs, vegetables, fried bread, nuts and beer or coke to drink plus tea. Our host had something special for us to try: they ferment a liquor that is primarily made from ginsing root. Very strong and you only drink about one ounce each time. But it was great with a beer chaser! It was only offered to the men but I got them to give me several shots also.

By the way…our kitchen was on the rear of the house and also used for the garage for their motorcycles. Questionable sanitary conditions but no one got sick!

After dinner we all walked to the neighborhood park for an evening of playing on the exercise equipment with the children and dancing with the children and adults. They performed several group dances with us and kept all of us busy on the dance floor with them. It was a fun hour and good exercise after the large meal. We were all amazed by their dance performance for us when we realized they were doing the electric slide line dance that we do in the USA. It’s now almost 10 pm. Jim is sound asleep and my bed is warm but the room is cold and it’s time to close another day in China. Our one light, a single fluorescent tube in the ceiling, is too bright to burn much later.

1 comment:

Mary said...

Am so enjoying my "trip to China". question..what was the container with the grill on top that looked like it might slide back into the cut out of the wall? Your pictures are great. Would love to have one of those 3 panel peices to put in the back corner of my living room.