|We made a spectacle of ourselves last night at dinner. You have to understand
that no one speaks English, and it is rare to see tourists on the sidestreets
of Xi'an. Basically, you have to be good at charades. Seeing that ordering
from the menu was hopeless, the manager ushered us into the kitchen. He
showed us a tank full of snails, a bucket of live crawfish (that Jill
thought looked like bugs), and something that looked like a block of tofu.
From the gestures, the chef was going to cook the tofu with vegetables.
Feeling adventurous, we said yes to the whole thing (after all, meals
around here cost at most $5). We sat back down and smiled at the other
guests who were greatly amused. Of course when the food came we had no
idea how to eat it. Various guests tried to demonstrate the finer points
of snail and crawfish consumption. And the tofu turned out to be bacon
fat. Apparently, fat is a delicacy around here. Believe it or not, the
snails and crawfish were excellent. But it is very hard to look good eating
finger food like that in front of an entire restaurant of curious onlookers.
Don't get us wrong, though, it has been fun so far being the center of
attention wherever you go down these city sidestreets. The streets are
full of people and vibrant with activity. The Chinese are champion wall-builders;
too bad wall-building isn't an Olympic event. And the wall around Xi'an
is a good example of their skill. Fifty feet high and thirty feet wide,
it is studded with battlements and archery towers as it stands 8 miles
around the city center. Impressive. If you have time and energy you can
walk the whole thing. We simply enjoyed the view from the top before going
to another wonder near Xi'an: the Terracotta Warriors. These were built
over 2200 years ago for an emperor's tomb. The Terracotta Warriors are
life-size figures of an entire army (over 8,000 of them). They were meant
to serve the emperor in the afterlife. Now they're just a great tourist
attraction. The best thing is that each warrior is different and probably
a sculpture of a real soldier. You're not supposed to take pictures of
these relics, but we risked imprisonment to take a shot...