Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Xi'an, part 2 (Terracotta Warriors)

Here are the pics you have been waiting for, the Museum of Qin Terracotta Warriors. This was truly spectactular, and worth the 19-hour train trip.

I took a city bus to get from the city to the museum, and it dropped us off on a rural road, about five minutes' walk away from the museum entrance. The corn harvest was in full swing and there were ears of corn spread out everywhere to dry - roofs, hanging, sidewalk. Thankfully, the ones on the sidewalk were set on tarps.
I would have enjoyed sitting with these women husking corn. They were still at it when I came back after the museum.
After the ticket gate, there is a five-minute walk through this little park to get to the museum proper.
Persimmons were ripe and beautiful.
Persimmon trees are NOT this big back home!
The actual site is several buildings enclosing the actual pits where the warriors are being dug up, along with a museum and a couple other buildings, arranged around a central square.

I decided to see the Exhibit Hall first, which was a good choice as it was an excellent museum.
My first view of a real terracotta warrior. It was much more beautiful than I could show in the photo, particularly the facial expression. This one is particularly elegant because unlike most, he still has traces of colored paint.

And nearby were some more reconstructed warriors. The first photo shows them in the lighting the museum used, which shows their beauty.
In the next two shots I used the flash, and you can clearly see the damage and how they have been restored.

A stone die. I guess they played Dungeons and Dragons to pass the time...
(stage whisper) The Emperor himself.
These touch terminals contained fantastic slideshows all about the tomb.
These giant marionettes were made for (if I remember right) the Beijing Olympics.
Some horsies.
After the museum, I went to Pit 2 in this building, which is a massive section that is just in the beginning stages of excavation.
First view: this place is HUGE and more or less square. You can see the tiny people on the far side. The lumpy rows are where they will excavate the terracotta warriors, as they were placed in columns.
Here is a video to show the size of the pit.

Here is a section in progress. They have removed the pieces from the left row for sorting, while in the right row you can see the warriors as they "fell" (were found).
This was so awesome. I was told that this room was "boring" but I found it truly amazing.
Here is a video showing a reconstructed warrior and horse.
Pit 3 was something to do with "stables" and so there were some nice horses; this pit was very small.
And the main attraction, Pit 1. The entrance is at the front where all the people are crowded in.
This photo is blurry, but it shows the pieces of each warrior being put together in blue sorting bins. There were a whole row of these bins down the middle of the dig.
I'm standing about in the middle of the building. Like the first pit, this one is also HUGE.
In the far corner was the restoration area, which looked eerily like a morgue.
View from the back of the room; you can see the number tags on the warriors and that these warriors still have holes and cracks in them while undergoing the restoration process.
This one must have been sleepy...
A "live" section of the dig. You can see the blue sorting bins along the ledge. I wonder when the archaeologists do their work, at night when the tourists are gone?
Finally, some tour groups left and I was able to get a photo from the front entrance area.
Video of Pit 1.
Just outside the exit of the museum is a small tourist shopping area, and behind that is yet another construction site; they seem to be EVERYWHERE in China.
NO trampling!
A beautiful fountain.
And another beautiful fountain. The flags are in honor of National Day.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Teaching Update

As far as teaching goes, this past week was an eventful one.

I was aware that I had two new classes and one VIP class that would be added this past weekend, or so I thought until Friday, when we had a teachers' meeting at my school. At the meeting, I was surprised to be informed that I had four classes and the VIP class beginning. Ooooops, we forgot to tell you, we've been so busy...

It's a good thing we had the meeting, or I would have found out minutes after the bell rang when someone would have come to ask me why Ím not in class... There are many wonderful things about my school, but I'm afraid "timely, clear communication" still needs some work.

The school is growing extremely fast, adding new branches each year, and they have brought in a consultant to help them get things like this sorted out; already some very positive changes are coming out of this.

Thankfully, all of the new classes will use material I've already taught at least once, so there won't be much additional lesson preparation, just a little extra for the VIP student. (She is ten years old and impressively smart; I'll need to prepare some extra speaking activities for her since the group work won't apply.) The new classes all went off smoothly and I had a good weekend's classes, despite yet another cold/sore throat coming on.

One thing I have learned about myself here is the kind of schedule I prefer. After years of working in the 8-to-5 corporate world, I find that I prefer to have a nice, steady, regular work schedule. The constant and often last minute schedule changes stress me out, and the handful of classes on weeknights (2 hours per night), followed by an intense 18 hours on Saturday and Sunday really exhausts me and compromises my immune system. My two days off I spend resting, cleaning the apartment and so on, usually trying to nurse a cold back to health.

I do hope that I'm becoming a better teacher through all of this. Working with children is not really something I had imagined myself doing. I love them, they are really fun, but I wish I had taken some child development courses, or classroom management for teaching young children, or something. I'm learning to manage the children via the "sink or swim" method... some of my Chinese co-teachers have taught me a lot of tips and tricks, for which I'm very grateful.

As for the Interactive White Board (SmartBoard), my opinion is that it is a great tool for upper level students, but for children, it's like putting a big TV in the room and then asking them to listen to me. In addition, at least the way this school uses it, there is a huge amount of work in preparing lesson files to be used with the SmartBoard. I miss my classes from last spring where we had old fashioned chalkboards... less work and more fun for me, and the kids liked the chalkboard just as much.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Xi'an, part 1

As usual, I have taken hundreds of pictures, so I'll start at the beginning, and work my way forward.

First, the train trip. For the first leg of the trip, I was too late to get a sleeper, so I got what is called a "hard seat". Underneath the gray slipcover is a straight wooden bench, with about half an inch of foam padding covered with brown naugahyde.
The seats hold two passengers on the left side and three on the right side of the train; with four people in this space, we had to actually interlace our legs with one another carefully to move them at all. We got pretty good at it by the end of nineteen hours.
The miniature table was much smaller than the length of the bench and so we took turns sleeping with our heads on the table. Nineteen hours in this bench seat was truly miserable; I don't recommend the hard seat travel for a long trip at all. One could not get up to walk around because the aisle was full of people who didn't even have seats, and their luggage. I kept repeating to myself that I was lucky to have a seat.
The train toilet. The floor got more and more disgusting as the journey went on - it's really a challenge to pull down your pants while also making sure the bottom of the pants legs don't touch the floor! I just rolled mine up to the knees before going in. No doubt the Chinese thought I was nuts.
Some kids at an elementary school, watching the train taking on passengers at a stop.
The holiday crowd all rushing for the stairs. This is apparently "nothing" compared to Chinese New Year, so it looks like I won't be able to leave China right away when my contract ends because the Chinese New Year holiday period lasts for a couple of weeks.

I also found it interesting the kind of baggage people carried - everything from designer luggage to giant plastic sacks.
On the way home, I was lucky to have a "hard sleeper". As you can see, it's still just a board with a little padding and Naugahyde, but at least I could stretch out and lay down. There is a duvet and pillow supplied, but since Xi'an is not the first stop, they were already used by the time I got on the train, I wonder if you get clean bedding in the soft sleeper. There are six bunks in each cubicle (not enclosed, you can see the aisle there and the mini-table with folding seats). The top bunk is at the level of the luggage rack so they can't see out of the window, and hard to climb to. I am happy the bottom bunk was free.
The hostel was, like the others, quite good. I met a lot of interesting fellow travelers. This hostel was great about helping arrange tours and so on, and had some kind of entertainment each evening.
The rec room was an enclosed patio with a pool table, a couple of sofas and a miniature garden with some pets - bunnies, a mouse, some reptiles and crustaceans, and a one legged giant green cricket in a tiny cage.
Apparently the cook is quite the pool player, as there is a running contest against him. All the youth hostels here seem to offer hookahs with strange flavored tobacco. To each their own, I suppose.
The interior of the hostel was decorated beautifully, a very nice atmosphere.
Sadly, the view from the windows seems to be another thing all the hostels have in common...
The rooftop garden was really the nicest I've seen. It had a jungle of plants, a ping pong table, a stereo, swing chairs, private cubbies with loungers for sunning, a tiny putting green, a sauna, a yoga room, and of course, more pets: three caged birds and a ginger and white cat. Downstairs was a sweet brown poodle named "Teddy".

to be continued