July 29, 2004
It’s the summer holidays, I’m on a tropical island, the sea is the temperature of a warm bath, and… I have to come into school and sit at my desk every day. Drinking coffee from a tin cup. Argh! I just want to go snorkelling!
Thirteen sleepless hours later, at about half six in the morning, we arrived in Xi’an. First stop was the Youth Hostel, where we sat in the darkened bar and drank black coffee until our blood was circulating again and we were ready to go back out into the light.
On the way to Xi’an, I had been bugged by a niggling memory from when I went to the Miho Museum, near Kyoto, and saw an exhibition of pottery from Xi’an – I remembered seeing a photo of something beautiful and thinking “I have to see that at some point”. So when Jess suggested going to Xi’an, my reaction was “Yes! Definitely! Because then we can see the… the… um… the beautiful thing of Xi’an.” For the weeks leading up to going to China, I wrestled with my brain, trying to beat a more detailed memory out of it. By the time we got there, I’d managed to add only one detail: the Beautiful Thing of Xi’an had lots of blue tiles on it. Probably.
Despite the fact that we were only there for two days, I felt like a pretty hardcore traveller: partly because of sleep-deprivation – the air conditioning in the room in the (otherwise splendid) Youth Hostel wasn’t working so the room was stiflingly hot – partly because my luggage consisted of only a pair of pants and socks, a small towel, and Jess’ acoustic guitar, and partly because of the huge amount we managed to see in such a short space of time (and not having slept for two nights)… The Small Wild Goose Pagoda (pictured, top) is one of the strangest, most beautiful buildings I’ve seen. I was very glad we went despite the Rough Guide’s lack of enthusiasm for it – I’ll be less of a slave to the travel guide in future. The grounds of the Great Mosque were beautiful and incredibly peaceful, and when I passed through its grounds and saw the mosque itself, with its big, blue-tiled roof, I realised that it was none other than the Beautiful Thing of Xi’an itself.
Right. Although I haven’t even mentioned the Terracotta Warriors, life is pleasantly hectic at the moment, and so I have to go: it’s festival season on my island, so I’ve got to go to Eisa (Okinawan drumming dance) practice, and after that my friend Y-san is doing a Sanshin (Okinawan banjo) performance and workshop on the beach (picture below, taken with my mobile phone this afternoon) for a bunch of kids, so I’m going to that, and afterwards I fully intend to sleep on the beach. But before all that, I need a shower and something to eat. So…