Xi’an and the Reverse Culture Shock Experience

The first week of October is the Chinese National Holiday. It’s an actual holiday, where the country shuts down and parties. Workers are given 7 straight days off and it seems that all of China heads somewhere else within the country. Amazing, at least by United States standards where a good holiday is a Monday off work and leaving early on Friday.

In hopes of checking out a few holes in the ground, complete with thousands of ceramic statutes, C and I headed to Xi’an to see the Terracotta Warriors. For about $55 USD we headed out on an adventure navigating all the famous touristy locations in Xi’an. The tour was complete with an “English” speaking tour guide, transportation, admission to all the sites and the most flavorless Chinese meal I’ve ever had.

Crammed in what was a Chinese version of a minivan, this would be C and I’s first tour group day trip. Our fellow tour mates were a German woman and her young son, a Spanish couple and a guy I’ll refer to as BSCSG (short for Bat Shit Crazy Spanish Guy). While the sites of Xi’an were beautiful and seeing the Terracotta Warriors in person was amazing, BSCSG provided the most entertainment.

As supplmentary historical background that’s useful for the rest of this story, it’s good you know that the Terracotta Warriors were built by Qin Shi Huang, who was the “first emperor” of a “unified China” in 221 BC. The warriors were  found just a few miles away from Qin Shi Huang’s tomb (pictured below). The tomb has yet to be unearthed, which is probably for the best since China has some issues with archeology* and considering their museums are subpar (moldy display cases and reflective glass).

The Emperor’s Tomb – a World Heritage Site

After an exciting day of sightseeing, we were dropped at our last stop of the day: the site of the Emperor’s Tomb. I’ve never been a fan of drama or helping sort it out – but when C snuck away to snap pictures of the site up close – I was left with the broken English of the BSCSG and our tour guide who were screaming at each other. As I walked over to figure out what had went on – I was dragged in to translate/mediate.

BSCSG was infuriated (or as he said in a 90 DB scream “I’m just expressing my opinion”) that we would not be going to see the man-made “Emperor’s Tomb”. Yes, since the tomb has not been unearthed and the Chinese need a way to sucker more RMB off tourists, they built a man made replica of what they think the tomb looks like. A good plan considering they are waiting a good 100 years before getting serious about opening the tomb.

The situation continued to unfold as the tour guide explained (via my translations) that the entire reason we could not go see this replica tomb, was because BSCSG continually asked for more time at the sites earlier in the day. We had 30 minutes to walk Pit 1 (pictured below), which is approximately the size of an American Football field. BSCSG was satisfied – 30 minutes was not nearly enough time – he wanted more. Not only did he request and get more time, he was LATE meeting up with the group thereafter. By the time we finished walking all the pits and returning to our minivan – the ticket office for the man-made tomb was closed. Quick to come up with a replacement activity, the tour guide took us to the actual site. Note: Both C and I were happy to have missed the man made site, having no desire to see wax figurines and another poorly fixed museum – the actual site was much more interesting to spy up close.

The back of Pit 1.

If that all confused you, here is the short story: Because BSCSG was rude, slow and had no concern for the group – he would not be able to see a man made replica of an unearthed tomb only he wanted to see.

The tour guide vs BSCSG assault was still on as C returned from her photo journey and upon seeing her, our guide shoved everyone into the van, wanting to get home as soon as possible.  I had no chance to explain the situation to C. Just giving her an “OMG this is hilarious” look and hinting to her how excited I was to get back to the hotel.

The entire van ride back to our hotel BSCSG was screaming. Sometimes in English but mostly in Spanish – spewing his feelings to the young Spanish couple sitting three rows ahead of him. It took almost an hour to drive back to the city and  when C and I got to our hotel, we hoped out of the van and ran inside.

At last! Finally we could discuss what had just happened and I could explain the situation in something other than facial expressions. We realized how much it stunk to be around  a group of foreigners/people who speak our language.

In the last few months, we have gotten used to speaking our minds and spewing off whatever we are thinking because rarely we run across English speakers. It’s was a first taste of reverse culture shock. It will be difficult returning to the US and a land full of English speakers where it’s going to be difficult to discuss the strange smell of the guy sitting next to you at the lunch table or why his shirt has a “Playroy” bunny on it.

*The Terracotta Warriors were discovered in the 1970′s and they kept unearthing them despite the fact they were brightly painted but after a few minutes the coloring disappeared. Apparently nobody had thought that maybe some serious thought should be put into preservation and unearthing of them – and it wasn’t until much later it was figured out. The joke is – the Chinese don’t let anyone with a Ph.D. in archeology anywhere near them. It’s likely ordinary laborers were used to dig the pits.


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