Monday, Monday . . .
The good news is that the JE group has made it safely to Xi’an (pronounced (sih-ann. To understand why you’ll see it spelled with the apostrophe and not, check out this site. There is also an audio clip here of the pronunciation of Xi’an.
The gang did little yesterday, other than travel and get situated for a big few days of sight-seeing. A good night’s sleep was highly anticipated.
Now, the bad news is that the internet connections available to Tom for transfer of photos is weak, at best. He knew this was likely, as it was the case in 2004, but is hoping that he’ll find a solution soon.
We do have a couple of photos and two entertaining reports to carry us through the day. Plus, we’ll talk a little about the sights the students will visit while in Xi’an.
Okay, so some of you are starting to figure out that throughout this journey I have made reference to a number of song titles. You are right, Sprinkled throughout the text, so far, are song titles from show tunes, Broadway, rock and roll, country, etc. Now that the word is out, pay attention -- there WILL be a quiz!
Let’s take a look at the photos of Xi’an and then jump right into the two reports.
The photo on the left is of the Bell Tower in the distance. The middle photo is of the tour guide, Wang Xiaoyan. And the photo on the right is a view from the City Wall. We should get some interesting “city” photos while they are in Xi’an, a stark contrast to the small villages the students have seen lately.
As with all of the reports from Journey East participants, past and present, the students’ writing is topnotch. These kids are demonstrating a strong ability to cut through the surface, the obvious, and share some really interesting perspectives on their encounters with the Chinese culture and people. The style and quality of their writing speaks highly of the teachers at Leland & Gray.
Ann Landenberger emphasizes creative writing. It is not enough to simply write correctly, but to write expressively, through the use of poetry, prose, and visual art. Just like listening to an articulate speaker say nothing of substance, a correctly written report can sometimes be quite uninformative and, well, boring.
As we mentioned a few days ago, someone once said, “a picture is worth a thousand words,” (Did we ever find out who said that? hint: this might be on the quiz, so keep it yourself if you know), the reports from these kids are “worth a thousand pictures!” (and it’s a good thing, ‘cause we don’t have any pictures!)
Let’s get on with the reports. The two reports today are from Travis Gervais and Allie Jones:
Travis Gervais, Freshman
April 9, 2005
[JINAN] Today we were scheduled to go to Mount Taishen, but because of dangerously high winds, its cable car was not running and we had to call it off. [Instead we looked around downtown Jinan for an hour or so and then went to the airport hotel.] Since nothing exciting has happened today, I've decided to focus this journal entry on one of my favorite parts of the journey: haggling with street vendors. Ever since my first encounter with a street vendor at the Temple of Heaven, I have been addicted to bargaining for the lowest possible price. This journal entry then, is about haggling techniques. All the information below has been gathered from personal experience. [NB: Haggling is very expected practice in China: At its best it's a game of wit and skill.]
1) The INTELLECTUAL Technique: When approached by a street vendor, act as if you know China. Try to speak Chinese to them as much as you can. When they give you the price, say "tai gua la," meaning, "That's too much." Then tell the vendor exactly how much you want to spend on a product using all Chinese numbers and units of currency. I find this technique works best if you stand next to your translator and engage him as you would a good friend. By using this technique you will let the vendor know how much you think something is worth and thus you'll settle for a reasonable price.
2) The LOUD VOICE technique. When bargaining, use your outdoor voice. Get stern with your vendor; keep the phrases short and simple. For example, if you're asked for 40 kwai for a pair of chopsticks, you just keep asserting yourself saying, "no, five kwai!" When using the loud voice, you should not come across as angry, just as stubborn and stern. Never yell from your throat, always from your diaphragm and that's for two reasons: First, when you're projecting from your diaphragm, you sound a lot more powerful and strong; and second, yelling from your throat causes you to lose your voice and if that happens, Ms. L. will kill you. I don't mean the word in the literal sense in which you cease to live. I mean she gives off an aura of anger that kills your soul when you're careless with your voice.
3) The JEALOUS technique. A lot of the vendors sell the same exact stuff, so all the items at the various booths are actually worth equal amounts. But the vendors don't always offer these items for the same prices, so a technique I've found that works quite well is the jealousy technique. How it works is that you tell the vendor that another vendor is offering you the same product for a much lower price, even if that's not necessarily true. What this does is it causes the vendor you're currently bargaining with to become jealous because someone else is selling items for a lower price and they're selling more of them and thus, making more money. If the technique is used properly, the vendor will lower his price to beat the competitor's price.
4) The CUTE KID technique: I find that this technique works best for me when the vendor is female, regardless of age. What you do is approach the woman by complimenting her. Say stuff like, "piao liang" which means "pretty" and compliment her on . . . whatever -- hair, dress, eyes. The first impression is crucial for this technique. Once your flattering is done, put on the old puppy dog face and look as cute as possible. That ought to get you the price you want. Just remember, persistence is key.
Note: Oh that Rav. The kids are often swept away by the bargaining. It can be fun, I'll admit (even though I hate to shop). The one thing Tom always insists on, though, is that we ultimately end the game respectfully. Never string a vendor on as a lark; engage in the contest only over something you'd really like to buy.
After the morning flight to Xi'an we were met by Sally (her "American" name), the tour guide who took such good care of JE 2004 when we were in Xi'an last April. We visited the city wall surrounding this city that's rich in historical significance. Among other things, it's here that the Silk Road began (or ended, depending on one's point of view). The kids had a rare afternoon "off" to catch up on sleep or explore the immediate area. Allie took the time to reflect on her time in Qufu for her turn as "web reporter."
Allie Jones, Sophomore
April 10, 2005
A couple days ago we went to Confucius' birthplace: It was beautiful -- full of detail and color. When we were done there we stopped at a small rundown village. It was really in shambles: There were holes in roofs and walls of many homes had just fallen down. It just look like a really poor and rough place to live, yet the villagers were working on making it better; people seemed happy, children were playing. When we got off the bus and started to hand out gifts to the little kids, the adults came running over wanting something, too. The expressions on their faces showed they were surprised that we were there. I talked to Mr. Martyn later that day and he told me that in the village he was talking to a young child and he asked her if she lived there. She had a big smile on her face and said "yes" very proudly. That says something. Back home all people talk about is wanting something better, but that little girl didn't know better. I think that if I lived in that village, though, I couldn't admit it with my head held high.
Note: The visit to the village yielded sympathy, compassion, confusion, upset, and conflicting feelings about our being there in the first place. Tom's going to try to arrange another village visit in Inner Mongolia. As hard as it is to make that kind of stop, it's such an important piece of the puzzle -- of the process of coming to understand China. The juxtaposition of village life with city life is astonishing, very telling. Big day tomorrow; we're all turning in early. —ACL
Wow, the reports are so varied, giving us such a wide vision of their experiences.
Okay, now the group has left the small town life of Qufu (pop. 650,000 overall) and are in the big (capital) city of Xi’an. Let’s put things into perspective for you. Xi’an has a population of nearly 7 million people (12 times that of Vermont!). It is more than 3,000 years old. (Vermont is almost 230 years old.) It is the capital of the Shaanxi Province (Learn more about China’s provinces here).
The group will stay in Xi’an until Thursday, at which time they take to the skies again and head north to Hohhot, where they’ll become one with the Inner Mongolians for more than twelve days.
So, over the next couple of days, the group will see such fascinating sights as the Terra Cotta Warriors, Bell Tower, The Old City Wall, The Wild Goose Pagoda, and, among several other notable places, the Huaqing Hot Springs. Check out this street map of Xi’an to locate some of these sights.
The links provided are simply to make it quick and easy for you to get a quick learn about the points of interest. These are simply starting points from which you can search (endlessly) further, if you choose. There are many other are sites available for each of these popular items of interest, so please venture forth. I am sure there are some interesting sights “out there.” If you come across any that you think might be of interest to everyone, let me know and I’ll post them for all to enjoy.
Okay folks, that’s it. As soon as Tom gets things worked out (internet-wise) in Xi’an, we’ll get back on track with photos and updates. Until then, enjoy the continued beautiful weather we are experiencing in Vermont. Remember, each day is one day close to April 27th!
Toodle-loo . . .