Sunday, May 26, 2013
To kick off the weekend in Chengdu, we were offered the chance to sleep in a bit longer than usual this morning before gathering for breakfast at 8:30am (as compared to 7:15am for the previous two days) at our usual spot in the campus Canteen. After a quick breakfast we went back to the International Exchange Center to grab our belongings and head to the bus for our excursion to the Wenchuan earthquake site and Shui Mo Ancient Town. Although many of us had the chance to catch up on some sleep overnight, some were still very tired, and the 2+ hour bus ride to Wenchuan was an opportunity to take a nap. Others enjoyed the scenery as we traveled on expressways past neighboring towns and through farmland, as well as on winding roads and through tunnels into the mountains.
Upon arrival to the Wenchuan earthquake site, about 50 mi NW of Chengdu, it was apparent that this location has special significance for many of the people traveling in our group, especially our Chinese friends and IC professors. Before beginning the tour, we stopped in front of the earthquake memorial to hear Hongwei recount the events of the earthquake and how it affected the IC trip to China that year. The earthquake occurred at 2:28pm on May 12, 2008, just days before the IC group was to depart to Chengdu and Beijing for that year’s trip. Because of the devastation near Chengdu, IC students and faculty were unable to visit Chengdu Sport University that year, but had to extend their time visiting Beijing Sport University and Shanghai.
The earthquake site we visited was actually the ruins of the Xuankou secondary school. The school buildings have been left in their post-earthquake condition, as a memorial to those lost. Forty-three students and 12 adults perished in the deadly earthquake, which measured an 8.0 in magnitude. We saw five-story buildings that had been leveled as well as buildings with shattered glass and gnarled window bars that looked as if a bomb had gone off in the area. The mood was a somber and reflective one, with little talking while everyone processed the scene. A sign outside the ruins stated “Civilization pay homage to the memory of. Do not laughing noise.” Indeed, we were paying homage to those whose lives were lost on that tragic day and the days following.
After spending time at the earthquake site and participating in some brief shopping at the local vendors, we boarded the bus to continue our journey to Shui Mo Ancient Town. Our first stop there was for lunch and a local restaurant. The second floor of the restaurant was reserved for our group, and a waitress from the restaurant even came with a flag to meet our group in the streets and guide us to our destination. The family-style eating has now become familiar, and we quickly helped ourselves, using chopsticks, to dishes on the “lazy susan” in the middle of the table. Even though a few of the local dishes were unfamiliar to some of our Chinese friends, they were quickly able to recognize which foods were spicy and warn us ahead of time. After lunch we split into groups and had the opportunity to do some shopping at the local shops and vendors. We were grateful to have our Chinese friends with us to help barter for deals, even though many goods were inexpensive to start. For example, hand woven shawls were being sold at some shops for as low as 15 RMB (which translates to less than $3 US) even without an additional markdown. We ended our shopping just in time, as light sprinkles changed to a full downpour. Huddling under umbrellas, we made it back to the bus. On the ride back to CSU, we showed each other our purchases of the day. There was excitement in the air as people talked about the deals they got on souvenirs or gifts for family and friends. Because the bus ride was over 2 hours long, some took the opportunity to rest, while others sang along to music or learned the Chinese version of the nursery rhyme “Frere Jacque” called the “Two Tigers.” Later that evening we headed back to Jinli Street near the CSU campus for some nightlife and additional shopping.
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