Asalaam alaikum, people of good will

I thought I’d title this with the opening line from one of my favorite hip hop songs, Aceyalone’s “Guidelines” Take a listen, great lyrics.  Anyway, on to the post!

So given the delays on the last post, I already have enough material for a new one.  Yay!  Nothing especially amazing has been going on.   My host fam has pool memberships so they’ve been taking me along every day, which has been amaaaaazing.  It’s a little different swimming in an Olympic sized pool (twice the length of the one I was using at UMass, but I’m coping, and feeling super great,  Unfortunately although the pool is close to campus, the card is expensive and I don’t plan on swimming enough to make it worth it I think.  Hopefully the campus pool proves nice when it opens up in May (allegedly).  Making good progress on The Three Body Problem which if you’re looking for reading material is a great sci-fi book with a slow start and more importantly an English translation.  It’s by Liu Cixin, look it up.

We (my other classmates and I) also threw a birthday party for another student’s host sister, cake, karaoke, hotpot, pretty standard as far as the Chinese birthday parties I’ve been a part of.  Unfortunately that seems to only apply to college students, as these high schoolers kind of just sat there, sang acouple songs, and didn’t eat much cake.  Hella awkward but at least we tried.  Perhaps they were overwhelmed by the amount of westerners, who knows?  I’m getting closer with my host siblings though, we went to an escape the room thing with some of my host sister’s friends and I actually contributed!  We got super stuck on the first problem which involved reading some numbers that had been doubled across the y-axis to divine a passcode, a problem which would have been fairly simple for an American audience, but because we all spoke Chinese we ended up barking up the wrong tree for like ten minutes.  For example, if you flip a digital number 3 over the y-axis it looks a hell of a lot like 王, almost exactly like it actually, 王meaning king in Chinese and also happening to be one of the most common last names in the whole country (if you ever meet a Chinese person surnamed Wang, or Wong if they’re from around Hong Kong, then it’s this character.  Anyway, then we stuck around the area which also had a bunch of board games and ma jiang, which I managed to win two rounds of mostly by luck.

I also tried and failed to make homefries and omelets for my fam, didn’t come out so well unfortunately, I’m a little out of practice and cooking an omelet in a wok doesn’t work so well.  I am routinely impressed with the variety of food my host aunt manages to put out with a single burner and pan.  Like damn, it’s amazing.

Which brings us to today, when I had planned on going to the Drum and Bell Towers in the city center, but I got there around 3 to find a big line I didn’t particularly want to spend time in.  So instead I did my backup plan which was Xi’an’s Great Mosque, and what a great decision that proved to be.  The mosque is tucked away next to the Muslim quarter (duh) which I’ve mentioned before.  Today I got to see a new section of it, winding through a covered alley with stalls on either side selling tons of different knick-knacks, everything you’d imagine a Chinese bazaar to be, it was awesome.  Get to the mosque which has a nice stone wall that makes a contrast with the surrounding buildings (you can kind of see in the pictures).  Anyway, the brochure boasts that it’s a fusion of Chinese and Arabic architecture, which I kind of disagree with.  On the surface it looks exactly like any other Chinese temple garden, i.e. beautiful, three-doored gates leading you through greenery with wonderful carvings, and halls off to the side displaying vintage Ming and Qing dynasty furniture.  When you look closely at the walls though, you notice that the vast majority of the calligraphy, including the carvings, is done in beautiful Arabic.  For those of you that don’t know, Orthodox Judaism forbids the creation of graven images, i.e. the depiction of the human form.  Christianity did away with this convention, along with the ban on bacon among other things, but Islam kept it and narrowed it to primarily apply to the depiction of the prophet Mohammed, hence the blasphemy charge inevitably levied against anyone who does.  As Dan Brown was so kind to educate me, this means that Muslims display their devotion by depicting the written form of Mohammed, Allah and other holy concepts as beautifully as possible, hence calligraphy which meshes quite well with the Chinese tradition.  I didn’t make it to the prayer hall as non-Muslims are not allowed in, but loved loved loved the atmosphere.

There are actually some pictures of me in this batch, mostly courtesy of my host sister, but also a good old selfie.  Two last notes, I’m actually getting used to myself without a beard, not sure if I’ll grow it back in Spring.  Secondly, my host aunt seems a slight bit embarrassed that we’re eating more simply now that the new year is over, but I’m in heaven.  Give be a bowl of spicy noodles or fried rice any day and I’m so so happy.  We also had jianbing’s the other night, essentially assemble your own handwrap, so great, so delicious.

We’ll be going to Chengdu next week (for more delicious food), should maybe be able to get one more post in before we do, we’ll see.  Take care everyone, and peace be upon you.



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