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Dear Mom, I’m Still Alive

September 2, 2018 – Originally posted on

By Jackson G, Saint Louis University, TBC Fall 2018


Dear Mom, I’m still alive, and I’ve been in China for more than three weeks! Sorry I haven’t been posting, but I’ve been very busy – for the past two weeks, I’ve been traveling with my study abroad program across western China, following the path of the ancient Silk Road.  


Before Beijing, Xi’an was the capital of China for hundreds of years, and it still has many remnants of previous dynasties – including, most famously, the Terra-Cotta Warriors! Constructed to defend the tomb of the first Chinese emperor Qin Shi Huang in the third century BCE, thousands of these statues have been excavated (though many more remain underground).  

This photo was taken using a sophisticated photography technique known as “sticking your phone in the air and hoping for the best.”

Sleeping on the job.

Xi’an is known for more than just some old statues. It’s a bustling metropolis with over 8 million people (which in China is a ‘mid-size city’) as well as many cultural landmarks, such as the famous Muslim Quarter. Centered around the aptly-named Big Mosque, the Muslim Quarter is the center of the city’s population of Hui Muslims, an ethnic group concentrated in western China. It also features one of China’s many lively, crowded markets.

This is the mosque.

This is the Muslim Quarter.


From Xian, we took an overnight train (not as bad as it sounds) to the city of Lanzhou, where we boarded a bus to Xia’he, a town on the northeast edge of the Tibetan plateau in China’s Gansu province. Home to the famous Labrang monastery, Xia’he is where I saw the most surprising thing I saw on this trip: a Buddhist monk carrying a selfie stick. 

I couldn’t get a picture of the monk with the selfie stick, but here’s a monk with an iPhone, so close enough.

Well, why not? Why shouldn’t monks get to enjoy the latest in tech fads? Apparently, I have a lot to learn about one of the world’s largest religions. 

Anyway, on to pictures!

Well, that’s everything for now. This post only covers the first part of my Silk Road excursion, so stay tuned for part 2, coming soon. Until then, my program’s Facebook page is always posting updates from our adventures.

I love you, Mom,