Its sunday night, and time to go to sleep. A 1-2-1 Chinese class that starts at 7.30 in the morning for 2 hours requires intense concentration! It is an unusual Sunday, since I won't be working tomorrow. At work I only have to work 12 (out of about 24) working days a month -and the rest I can spend travelling or visiting our programme areas as a volunteer (not too useful out in the countryside yet, with current chinese level!).
Tomorrow's a day-off (as with Thursday and Friday) since Chris (Jingwei) came to visit -the 1st visitor to Xi'an. Chris was a girl I was living with in my first 6 months in China (along with various other people) and just returned from 1 year in the AIESEC Global HQ -but we don't just talk about AIESEC, or about Europe vs Asia stories! It means I have now done all the standard touristy stuff in Xi'an -and probably not for the first time. Definitely the hardest was climbing Hua Shan, one of the 10 or so famous 'must-climb' mountains in China, all above 1,500m or so. It was not too tough -we went quite slowly and weather was very cool; the views were some of the best of the various mountains I have climbed, with little cloud cover at the top.
I am always amazed at just what human beings can achieve: the Great Wall truly is breathtaking -at 5,000 km long and built mostly at the top of small mountain ranges, the wall is more like a highway made of solid bricks. But these mountains are similar, with most of the way paved with stone slabs, handrails and at the top -hotels and everything. Hard climbing up, let along carrying some stone up too! We gathered for the sunrise (the sun rose, but behind some clouds, unfortauntely) and I enjoyed watching on as another white guy was forced to stand in every chinese person's photos -aah, so often it has been me (though I was forced into 1 nearby some random well!).
This mountain was short of temples, but was also a superb example of good tourism (meaning the entrance fee of 10 euros is not so painful) with litter bins everywhere, guardrails, warning signs, signposts (yes, they do exist sometimes in china!) and snack/water sellers who were not too pushy. I don't see the point in cliumbing up at midnight, in time to arrive for sunrise, since you miss all the scenery and its more dangerous. Plus going down is so much harder on the feet (we took the cable car).
Random recent activities:
-seeing 2 'famous' Gou (ancient chinese board) players (Chinese champion and Korean champion) being carried from the cable car to the top of the mountain in sedans for a game
-realising that Chris is more impatient than me with her own country! (i.e. the minivan driver who refused to pay extra to go on the highway, or the smokers on the no-smoking buses, or the spitting...)
-rain, and lots of it in Xi'an. Unused to this level of rain (obviously the town planners never went to Manchester!) Xi'an becomes flooded as the drains cannot handle it. Apparently it gets so bad sometimes the trycicles come out to shepherd you just across the road for a few mao
-traffic jams, not much in Xi'an, mostly just just in a few areas -but when encountered, they are of the '20 minutes to go 500m' type
-crossing the road adventures. Chris finds this so stressful that she holds my arm! Xi'an has zebra crossings, but very few pedestrian lights. The zebra crossings lead to a gap in the railings dividing the 2 lanes. You have to therefore be no fatter than the railings to avoid losing your toes, and be very fast across the zebra crossings. Cars don't stop for you, People get impatient and start to be pushy, forcing cars to swerve around pedstrians without slowing, creating chaos and danger. Be warned!