Our last day in Beijing began with a trip to the Confucius Institute headquarters, to be welcomed by them and to express our thanks for their sponsorship of our trip. There are around 125 countries with Confucius Institutes, and over 700 Confucius classrooms (of which two are on the St. Francis campuses) The Confucius Institute headquarters has a hands-on museum of sorts, where students were able to get computer-generated pictures of themselves in Chinese opera gear, input their birthdays to obtain paper cuttings of their Chinese zodiac sign, and more. We also visited their library of Chinese-language books and textbooks.
Lunch was an array of Chinese dishes at a local restaurant (no duck this time, though) and afterward we began our shopping and bargaining odyssey. The plan was to go to the Silk Market only, but since we were ahead of schedule, we stopped first at another one with a variety of interesting items, including lots of electronics. It was a good introduction to the practice of bargaining. We were advised to begin at 10% of the asking price and under no circumstances go above 50%; in addition, it was suggested we know what we were willing to spend and then walk away if the price wasn’t met. Students and parents worked their way into bargaining and everyone felt successful. (Georges Ghali led the way fearlessly, seeming to enjoy the bargaining itself as much as whether or not he ended up with the item.) The first market was a good preparation for the Silk Market, which was six floors of all kinds of goods. Favorites included Rolexes, Beats, Nikes, and silk scarves, and Sam Borden purchased an erhu (a traditional Chinese musical instrument) so that he can learn to play it and construct his own for his Senior Project.
We ate dinner at a buffet that was essentially the food court of the Silk Market and then proceeded to Beijing West Train Station to catch our overnight train to Xi’an. The train is a new experience for most of the students (and many of the parents). We arrived in Xi’an this morning promptly at 8:00 and boarded a bus for the hourlong ride to the Terra Cotta Warriors site. (We also met up with our local guide, who brought McDonald’s breakfasts for us.) Most of the students had seen the Terra Cotta Warriors exhibit when it came to the Indianapolis Children’s Museum, so it was very exciting to see where it all came from! Pits 1, 2, and 3 are all accessible (2 including glass display cases of individual pieces to be viewed up close), along with a smaller building at the end that houses a real and a replica chariot.
Following lunch, we drove back to Xi’an and climbed to the top of the old City Wall. We then either walked part of or biked entirely around its 13 kilometer perimeter. The bikers in particular seemed to enjoy their time on the Wall – it was a gorgeous sunny 70-degree afternoon.
Dinner tonight is the long-promised dumpling banquet, followed by some traditional entertainment. Everyone is defin