After another beautiful night of sleep, we woke bright and early to make it to our first activity in time. A Taoist temple, the Temple of the Eight Immortals. Again, one of the most amazing experiences I had in China.
We also met my personal favorite tour guide, Phoenix, who was with us for the reminder of the day to help translate some of the colloquial phrases that were difficult for our other Chinese companions to translate because of the local dialect. There were some phrases and words that our other Chinese hosts couldn’t understand.
During the tour, I discussed religion and my view on respect and appreciate with Phoenix. She was amazing and part of why it was such an incredible experience. I also got my fortune read by a priest. Apparently I’ll be lucking in 2 years (so 2019) as well as in 2022. I also found out I have to do good things to have good things happen to me. And there’s something in my live that I need to fix and only I can and have to fix it.
All in all, it was a cool and exciting experience. I’d recommend a visit, but would impress upon everyone the importance of respect when visiting an unfamiliar religious site and don’t expect anyone to cater to you. I was incredibly fortunate that Phoenix and the priests were willing to share their beliefs with me as well as ask me questions about my own beliefs in return. It was a wonderful exchange and something I wish more people would take the time to do.
Next, we were off to a rural village outside of Xi’an. Now, anyone who knows anything about me knows that some of my favorite travel memories come from visiting with locals, especially those in rural environments, so I was really looking forward to the trip to the village.
The town of Yuen is home to 4,000 people and located a bit over an hour outside of Xi’an. We ate lunch, I suffered from an allergic reaction, and then I was given a private tour of the village and market. All in all it was a pretty great day!
Oh, you want to know more about my near death experience?
We were about halfway through lunch when they brought out this amazing fried dough dish. During this lunch they had promised there were no foods containing nuts. Still, I always waited until someone else had taken a bite to see if there were any of those pesky poison death fruits in my food before digging in. Several people had assured me that the delicious dough thingies didn’t have nuts, so I helped myself.
I paused to take a drink and continued eating a few more bites when all of a sudden I started to react to something. Worried, I put down the yummy pastry of questionable origin and drank a bit more tea.
Certain I was having an allergic reaction, I got up and alerted our hosts and asked about the pastry. Again, they assured me it didn’t have nuts and someone else at the table eating it also told me it didn’t have nuts.
Still, I was definitely having an allergic reaction so our host and bus driver walked me back to the van where I popped an extra Allegra and retrieved my emergency-for-that-exact-purpose toothbrush. Our driver was also kind enough to offer me a cup of his hot water.
In the mean time, one of our other hosts had gone to investigate the cause of my allergic reaction. I had mentioned the possibility of cross contamination: a knife being used to chop nuts and then to cut something I’d eaten, for example. It’s so easy for nuts to end up in supposedly nut-free food, especially if people don’t realize how serious it can be for someone with my allergies.
Basically, any time I eat food prepared by someone else I’m putting my life in their hands. Knowing this, it’s not going to stop me from enjoying my life and eating foods prepared in a variety of kitchens around the globe.
Back to the investigation into the mysterious source of the nuts: by the time I returned, our host had eliminated all of the other suspects and narrowed it down to one culprit.
The delicious fried dough pastry was proven innocent and instead the prime suspect was the tea!
Apparently the tea had been brewed with wild, hanging ‘nut berries’ from the garden. I’d never heard of nut tea, but you learn something every day.
I knew the first time I saw that most of our meals in China were going to be family style that I’d have difficulties. Basically, I had to be on constant alert during meals to ensure I didn’t die. However, even at my most cautious I still couldn’t prevent the inevitable. I think part of the problem was the lack of serious concern on the part of our hosts – both the American and the Chinese – to my allergy. So, in the future, I think I’ll make a bigger deal out of the importance of knowing what my food is, as well as not trusting certain people who have demonstrated that lack of understanding to feed me.
All in all, I was fortunate that the tea had been really hot when I sipped at it, because I didn’t drink very much. I’m also glad they figured out what was causing the reaction because otherwise I would have continued to blame the food and kept drinking the death tea in an attempt to keep my swollen throat clear (which would have exacerbated the issue).
Still, it was enough to make me fairly ill for the next several days of the trip.
But I wasn’t going to let a tiny brush with death stop me from enjoying Yuen.
Touring the Village
Instead, I embarked on a private tour of the village and market with Phoenix and the elected leader of the village.
We walked through every inch of the town and stepped inside several of the shops and buildings. It was incredible and a completely different piece of China that Beijing or Xi’an.
I was also the only student who wanted to go on the tour, which meant it was all at my digression. It’s not every day you get a chance to have your own personal tour with the most important guy in town and your own personal translator and newfound friend.
I enjoyed learning a lot about the man’s hometown, and he clearly loved displaying it.
I also terrified a baby. Oh, you want to hear this story too?
Before lunch, I’d smiled and waved at a little girl and her mom and grandma. Then, hours later during the tour, we ran back into them and they asked if I’d take a photo with them. Since I’ll never say no to photos with adorable children, I of course said yes! I now am the proud owner of a series of photos on my iPhone in which this baby gives me the side eye before crying and turning away.
One of our hosts, Emma, told me later that the mom had said I was very beautiful. Considering I wasn’t wearing makeup and felt like I’d just eaten a bunch of poison, I enjoyed the heartfelt compliment.
The tour ended only eight minutes before we were due back on the bus, and I had one stop I wanted to make. Since I hadn’t been late before, I decided this was my one chance to toe the line and dashed back into the village.
I was determined to get my over own street sugar candy creation.
I trekked through the streets until I found the cart and after some broken Chinese and wild gesturing, was able to use one of the nearby teenagers to track down the cart owner and determine the price of the sugar sculpture on my iPhone calculator.
When the cart master arrived, I spun the wheel and landed on a horse – my third favorite animal for anyone interested. However, the artist had other ideas and shook his head, spinning the wheel some more until it landed on a dragon. Which, quite frankly was a better choice, because, when in China… right?!
The sugar was heating and I was late, but I have zero regrets because I was able to get an awesome video of my creation being made.
Look at my dragon!
For the record, when I made it back my group didn’t seem that put off by the few extra minute wait once I shared my candy. If you’re curious what the dragon tasted like… sugar. Pure sugar. It was good mixed into my tea the next morning.
After we go to the airport we discovered our bags had been checked for us (oh the joys of traveling with government supervision). It was a nice reminder we were in China getting the gold star treatment.
Getting through security was easier and less eventful that it always seems to be in the States. I did get a very through pat down (as did everyone else as far as I could tell) but beyond that the airport and flight itself went smoothly.
I fell asleep on the way to the hotel, apparently the shock to my system was a bit too much, so I didn’t get much of a first impression of Shanghai. But arriving at our hotel, it was beautiful, as usual.
Upcoming: a visit to the Shanghai Jewish Refugee Museum.
My name is Hunter and this the blog of my worldwide adventures. The purpose of this blog is to show that you can be a traveler, not just a tourist.