Friday, May 31, 2013

Terracotta Army

Here are my photos from my visit to the Terracotta Army site. Despite it being like most busy tourist spots, I had a really great time learning about this lost piece of Chinese history. I'll post them in Google+ so you can check them all out in full screen with descriptions. I still can't believe this just went missing from the historical record!

Check it out here.


Saturday, May 25, 2013

This Week's Entertainment

When it's not raining here in Xi'an there is so much to do! Last night the university hosted an amazing opera performance.

The director and composer is pretty famous in China. I'm told I am very lucky to have had the opportunity, especially since it was free. Here's the short video clip:

(Okay so I can't get the video to upload, 
can't hold a stable internet connection long enough
I'll update once I get it working)

There is a park just down the road that comes alive every night. Crowds of women doing synchronized dancing, men spinning tops with whips, and music everywhere. This happens all day every day and is a great way to relax, stay healthy, and socialize. Whipping tops (not sure of the Chinese name) is an ancient Chinese exercise that has been around since at least 1300 BCE, and involves good hand eye coordination and a strong whipping arm. Next time I go to the park I'll be sure to give it a try.

The older generation is quick to invite me to do things, but the students are initially pretty shy. Once we get past that, they are a lot of fun and always ready to invite me to experience something new. I've become the resident english writing tutor and I get paid in mandarin lessons. I now have a handle on the spoken numerical system, some animals and plants, but most importantly how to order food and drink at the cafeteria. It easily gets to 35 degrees in the afternoon so it's helpful to be able to order some fresh Níngméng shuǐ (Lemonade: pronounced nI-mOng-shway). No more ordering dumplings with a calculator!

Speaking of food, my new friend Cui Miao brought me to the Muslim Quarter to sample a bunch of dishes. All of it was delicious, but neglected to take pictures. I'll put together a proper post next time I visit.


Saturday, May 18, 2013

Two Weeks In

This first post is going to be a big one! It took a while to get decent Internet access, but now I’ll be posting more regularly. Where to begin… I’ve absorbed so much. It’s been two weeks since I landed in Xi’an, China and the transition has been fairly smooth so far! For those of you who didn’t see my Facebook post last week, there was a little confusion when I landed at the airport. After waiting for a while, I decided to explore Xi’an on my own until I made contact with someone at the university. I decided to take a bus to the center of the city to stay at the Bell Tower Hotel. The hotel got its name because of this amazing bell tower across the street.

This is what I’ve learned about Xi’an so far. The Bell Tower was built over 600 years ago, and lies directly in the center of Xi’an. Today a huge traffic circle surrounds the structure and connects the primary roads that span straight to the four edges of the city. Before applying for this internship Xi’an was an unfamiliar name. Yet, founded over 3100 years ago, as the city of Chang’an, this city has a long history. All I know so far is that it has been the centre of Chinese society on more then one occasion and was the eastern tip of the Silk Road. I look forward to finding out more about the history and sharing it with you.

Today this city is huge. 8 million people and growing every day. The Chang’an District I live in was farmland 5 years ago. Now all you’ll see are high-rise apartment buildings, parks, markets, and shopping malls. All of the universities that have campuses in the old city have created their new satellite campuses in this district. They even seem to be having a “best library” competition; I think Shaanxi Normal University actually won a prize. Here it is:

I put two pictures to show you what the air looks like before and after a big rainfall. The picture on the left shows you just how thick the haze can get. The rate of development is huge and the combination of burning coal and dozens of construction sites really takes its toll. Due to this rapid urban development, and all of the people migrating from rural areas, this metropolis has spilled out of the ancient walls that surround the old city. Agricultural land is being converted in to city blocks, reducing the amount of land that can be used to maintain the dietary needs of the population. One answer to this problem is to increase the productivity of the available agricultural land. 

This is the solution that I hope my primary research project will contribute to. Land is divided into very small areas. Sometimes as many as eight households divvying up one acre! In order to provide enough food for a family, and enough to sell for a decent income, the land needs to be as productive as possible. On top of that, there is a need to ensure that agricultural practices are sustainable. This will ensure long-term productivity and reduce their contribution to damaging the environment. There are many agricultural techniques being used, and by going out to interview farmers about their techniques and incomes I might be able to uncover which ones are the most successful. I'm certain that there are already some really great methods being used that are tried and tested for this climate. Ultimately, the appeal of higher productivity and income is a great way to convince people to practice sustainable agriculture. In the end, increased productivity means more food for everyone!

Biang Biang Mian aka Delicious Belt Noodles