Visit Pangliu School. Lunch at farmers’ homes.
Afternoon: Return to the city and see the Mosque and Bazaar, along with a traditional house complex.
Evening: Muslim dinner by the Bell Tower.
The village we were visiting was about an hour outside of the city of Xi'an. It was the place where our tour guide Richard grew up. The first stop was the brick factory. This area is known for its brick making, as it has the right materials necessary to make them. We watched as the workers mixed the earth with coal dust and water, put it through a machine that made a log of sorts, which they then cut. Through a series of transports in small trucks, the men put the newly-made bricks in the field to dry. After about 2 weeks, they are ready to be kiln fired, and we watched as men placed them in the outside kilns, then sealed the kilns with an earthen mixture before firing them up with coal heat.
In this area we also saw how the people grow vegetables in the greenhouses that they put up - massive expanses of plastic that housed thousands of pepper plants.
The next stop was the school. Built about 60 years ago, it was the place of learning for about 100 elementary students from the village. The children greeted us at the front of the school, in what I can only describe as a rag-tag sort of band. We were also greeted by the principal and administrator in charge of the academic program. After a brief presentation in which Richard served as a translator, we went into the classroom where the children were. To each other they smiled; to us they looked frightened. But one brave little guy stood up and proudly sang the English song "Bingo" to all. Then we sang The Farmer in the Dell to them. What a great moment.
We toured the school, then had the opportunity to visit in the villagers' homes to eat lunch. Most of us have never seen poverty like that before. To tell the story of this school, the village and the incredible Richard Wang, I would need an entire day. So I will save this for another time.
Rather than eat the traditional Muslim dinner with the group (something with sheep, we heard) Connie and I headed off on our own. After a brief trip to McDonalds (I am embarrassed to say), we walked through the streets of the Muslim market. So many vendors selling interesting items, including unidentifiable foods on sticks, pigs feet, and silks and jewelry. As we were walking, we spotted a crowd coming toward us. It was a beautiful bride with her attendants, one on either side of her, and they were surrounded by people carrying pink Minnie Mouse balloons. And of course she was wearing the traditional red shoes! At one of the stands we met a young lady who spoke English very well. She told us that she was a kindergarten teacher, and that she graduated from the Xi'an Art University, and that she was one of the artists at the local art show which benefited the art institute. Connie and I followed her down the street to a youth hostel, where all of the works were displayed. We both selected some great pieces to take along home with us. It was a win for both the artist and the tourist!