blurred night view, busy sidewalk near the Bell Tower, Xian, November 2012
Bell Tower, Xian
I’ve been sick for about 3 weeks, ever since i got back from Xian. The air quality in Xian seemed to be particularly nasty, resulting in breathing problems and an allergy attack. After my return to Chengdu and a week around students with colds and winter coughs, my allergies turned into a chest cold. I’m starting to recover now, but I’ve pretty much spent my free time in bed, when not working.
crowned head, Muslim quarter, Xian
In Xian, I missed the attraction that the whole world flocks there to see, namely, the Terracotta Warriors. A colleague told me that it was, indeed, a stupefying sight, thousands upon thousands of silent sentinels, unearthed after a couple of millenia, guarding the tomb of of the Qin emperor who unified China. Next time, for sure.
I stayed at the Hantang Inn Hostel my first night – a comfortable and friendly place in an alley near the city center. After walking through the Muslim Quarter and then visiting the Wild Goose Pagoda, I was exhausted. On the way back to the hostel I stopped at a small noodle restaurant and ate the best chicken soup with dumplings of my life. It was a bowl of soup to celebrate and to rhapsodize over, but sadly I never made it back for a second bowl.
Another Muslim restaurant
Getting to the Wild Goose Pagoda was an effort, involving a subway ride and a walk each way of about 2k. The pagoda is an immensely important monument in the history of Chinese Buddhism, being built in the Tang Dynasty by the monk Xuan Zang after his 16-year pilgrimage to India, for the purpose of housing the Buddhist documents and sacred objects he brought back to China. The present pagoda dates only from the Ming Dynasty, but is imposing in its austerity. Even the Disneyfied tourist traps and shopping malls surrounding it don’t detract from its significance. I didn’t enter or climb the pagoda itself, being content to stare at its exterior (and too cheap to pay the extra 30 RMB tower entrance charge).
大雁塔 Dàyàn Tǎ – Big Goose (or Wild Goose) Pagoda, Xian
My second night was spent at a 5-star hotel, courtesy of the British Council (this was, after, an IELTS Examination weekend), and Saturday and Sunday were examination days at Xian International Studies University. Dinner Saturday night was with a group of examiners at a Muslim restaurant, where we feasted in various grilled meats, rice, and bread.
Terracotta Warriors (not the real ones)
I didn’t realize it until today, but I’ve had 7 IELTS Exam weekends in a row. No wonder I’m tired, and it’s taking me forever to get this illness out of my system. Added to this is the stress of planning my life after Sichuan University. I’ve registered as a student for Chinese classes at the Southwest University for Nationalities in Chengdu, which will get me a six-month student visa. Soon I’ll start shopping around for an apartment. 2013 will probably be my sabbatical from teaching.
As a postscript, tomorrow I turn 57. I seldom think about birthdays any more, but I do think about how many more years I’ll be able to teach. I’ve completed 7 years teaching English, and I seem to have gone as far as I can within the Chinese university system, working as a “Foreign Expert” teacher, mainly of oral English. I’m simply tired. I plan to move into EAP teaching (English for Academic Purposes), directed at preparing students for academic study abroad, which is not strictly language teaching. The pay is better, but the entry requirements are higher. For this reason, I plan on starting an M.A. program in Applied Linguistics next fall.
My plans may all change tomorrow, but for now I have a cushion – plans for a visa and study for the next 6 months. More later.