Meant to post this sooner, but ran into technical difficulties, which fortunately means this update is a little larger than intended as well. Upon re-reading, I realize that the last two posts were somewhat rambling and incoherent. Apologies. Let’s start out with some basic information for those following along. Despite being known as a “third tier city” today, Xi’an is one of the most important historical places in China. It’s most well known for being home to the terra cotta warriors who guard the tomb of Qin Shi Huang, the man who united China, standardized its writing system, and thought drinking mercury would lead to immortality (that last one didn’t work out so well, hence the tomb). It was also the capital of the Tang Dynasty, the golden age of Chinese poetry, the only dynasty ruled by an Empress, and the terminus of the Silk Road. These days, it’s home to a large population of Hui, one of China’s two predominantly Muslim minorities, a new Samsung branch, and some other sites. Also lots of noodles and Chinese hamburgers (肉夹馍, literally ‘meat jammed in a bun’).
So that’s where I am currently. Only been here for three days and I’m already getting somewhat familiar with the local area. Haven’t gotten a chance to see anything else of the city, but that’s what the weekend is for. So far classes are good. I have reading, which is a little slow, but I still learned things today (and got things wrong, which is important for learning), and Chinese history, starting with the Qing Dynasty, which is also interesting so far and not something I’ve studied in detail before. Today I think we’re going to the Muslim quarter in the city center for some tasty treats. Speaking of tasty things, my language partner was kind enough to treat me to a super spicy duck-wing hot pot dinner as a welcome gift; she’s kind of become the darling of the group, taking everyone around everywhere on campus and whatnot. On Tuesday, we stumbled upon a street cart selling one of my favorite Chinese street food: 煎饼 (Jee-en Bing). It’s a crepe made in this case from rice batter, with an egg cracked on it, then covered with onions, cilantro, scallions, peanuts, pepper flakes, tasty sauce, lettuce, and a crunchy fried dough wafer, all wrapped up and ready to be devoured. That practically made my day right there.
Yesterday I also got to meet with one of the other FACES delegates (a Chinese-American forum that Stanford and Beijing University put on. I went to it at Stanford in October and have the second half in Beijing in March). Anyway, at the first conference we divided into some small groups to do some projects. As some of you might know, our group is looking at increasing support and awareness for LGBTQ folks in China. The project as it stands now is to start off on a WeChat (Chinese What’sApp, a chatting app) public platform and provide a coming out platform where people can share their stories and support each other , then adding informational materials for questioning folks and allies, and then hopefully adding counseling services.` Really excited to see where that goes, and I’ll be working on a similar topic for my in-depth project here on this program (haven’t ironed out the details yet).
Attached should be the pictures I’ve taken to date so far, few as they are, hope you enjoy!