Friday, October 30, 2009
A Trip Down Memory Lane
When we left Xi'an three years ago, we couldn't imagine why we'd ever want to go back, save to see a select friend or two. The city was polluted, dusty, a little behind the times; our day-to-day life was consumed with the tediousness of language school, and all we could think about was the day we'd finally be able to move on to the city of our own choosing.
And how did we find Xi'an on our return? Well, Xi'an is still horribly polluted, dusty, and a little behind the times (especially compared to fashion-forward Shanghai). Westerners are still a novelty - we drew our fair share of glances, stares, and gestures. One local woman in her mid-30s who was walking about 5 yards away from us, met my glance with a start of surprise then loudly exclaimed in Chinese, "Foreigners! Two of them!" as she gestured for her young son to come quickly for a closer look. We just had to chuckle.
What amazed us was how much the city has changed. Our old apartment complex, which used to be off of a quiet road at the very edge of town, is now surrounded by a busy intersection - with its own McDonalds! A previously nondescript thoroughfare has been dubbed "Art Block" for the scores of sculptures and statues that have been erected along its length. What once was a sleepy nod to the advent of Buddhism in China in the form of a tilted, crumbling pagoda (pictured above) has been transformed into a bustling pedestrian area filled with fountains, statues, parks, and restaurants, all constructed in traditional Chinese style.
The best part of the trip was the time (short as it was) spent catching up with old friends. Of course, socializing in China revolves around food - every meal for the whole three days was spent with a different set of friends! Our bellies and our hearts were full.
It was good to see how our little town has grown up. Revisiting it not as students but as "old friends" allowed us to experience it through fresh eyes, as a place of nostalgia and not simply as a means to an end. It was just the closure we needed.