by Lia Engelsted '11
After a long night of squeaking carts and moving beds, we arrived in tolerably cold Xi’an, the historical capital of China for 13 dynasties. As we stumbled outside of the train station, our noses tingled with each inhalation of industrial fumes and cigarette smoke. We immediately attracted a few beggars, but Petya was quick to scream out her “Bu yao”, or ‘I don’t want’ (which may or may not have been the appropriate response).
Our new local guide, Steven, welcomed us to Xi’an with a supersized version of our old bus. The word Xi’an is comprised of two characters, ‘Xi’ meaning West and ‘an’ meaning peace, which combine to symbolize Western Peace. We were ushered to a breakfast buffet (eating seems to be the most significant activity) at a foreign friendly hotel. The bean curd buns were especially delicious and the only odd translation on the food cards were ‘ham intestines in a roll’ for the hot dogs in a bun.
Next, we hopped on our bus and headed to the Terracotta Warriors, a collection of clay sculptures depicting the armies of Qin Shi Huang, the first emperor of China. Not only was the sheer size and number of warriors impressive, but also each warrior had a unique face portraying the different ethnicities of the army and intricate details of dress and body positioning. Currently, only three pits of the warriors are viewable by the public, even though there are approximately 200 pits containing thousands warriors. Fortunately or unfortunately, Becca was mistaken for a celebrity as a gaggle of men gawked and asked to take pictures with her.
I was particularly impressed with the build up of shops and ‘tourist traps’ that lined the walkway leading up to the pits. It appears that a whole village has emerged to supply vendors to the site. There was even a Kentucky Fried Chicken, which Martin claimed did not exist 8 years ago. For lunch, we decided to bypass the KFC and ate the regional dish of noodles at a local restaurant.
After lunch, we had the privilege of touring the Xi’an XD Switchgear Electric Group, or the Xi’an XD Group. The Xi’an XD Group is a leader in electrical production and manufacturing. It is the 5th electric equipment supplier in the world and the number 1 producer of high voltage switchgear. Annually, the company produces a total output of 2 billion yuan. In order to get into the testing rooms, the group was required to don hard hats, white lab coats, and blue plastic covers over our shoes. We were ushered into a small airlock chamber and hosed down with bursts of air to disinfect our exposed legs. We later learned that the extra caution was due to the highly sensitive GIS machines, which could discharge if they sensed unfavorable air particles. We were shown a room that the guide boasted as the largest test site of electrical machines in a Chinese factory.
This factory was of particular interest to Professor Brown because ‘this company is about the story of China’ and the emergence of Western industry through the production of electricity, or the ‘Send West Electricity East’ program. The Xi’an XD Group was also the employer of Joe’s father and two grandfathers. Joe was even born in the company hospital!
For dinner, we went to a Xi’an specialty restaurant which served us a ‘snacktivity’. We were told to rip up thick flatbread rolls into small pieces. We then handed in our bowls of freshly torn bread and the cook poured in lamb soup. Afterwards, we explored the lively market place with a few of us giving purchasing items, with the most popular being scarves, hats, and small souvenirs. China at night is quite a spectacle because nearly every shop and sign is lit up with colorful, flashy lights. We went to sleep relieved to be sleeping in a stable bed and excited to celebrate Derrick’s 20th birthday the next day.