Back in Xi’an After Three Years

Today, I’m off to Shanghai after spending seven days in Xi’an.

Xi’an is a city I have lived in for many years, and I have had our TLP office here for eighteen years. It is, in many ways, home.

This trip has been enjoyable because it reminded me of China from twenty years ago. A time when you could go days without seeing a foreigner. For example, during my time here, I only saw two foreigners, briefly, at a distance. To give you some context as to how strange this is, Xi’an has a population of 8.7 million and is the tourism capital of China. It’s a beautiful walled city with the Terracotta Army buried in its backyard.

On my daily walks, I would hear little children yell, “wàiguó rén! (Foreigner!).” I would then scream back, “Zhōngguó rén! (Chinese person!). The child would start laughing uncontrollably, and usually, the parents would stare daggers in my direction.

This short time in Xi’an reminded me of the Old China, the China I experienced in 2003, during SARS when there were very few foreigners, and kids would remind you of who you are.