Climbing the Great Wall

Today was an extremely busy day. I should be running on fumes right now, since I didn’t get much sleep on the way here and woke up at 5:45 this morning for no good reason. So after trying in vain to fall back asleep, I finally got up at about 6:15. I booked a tour to The Great Wall (Badaling section of the wall) and the Ming Tombs, which left at about 8 am this morning. (There were also some other “tours” squeezed in–basically a promotion of all good things China–silk and jade and hoping that we’d buy these extremely overpriced items from the state run store…)

Anyway, the Ming Tombs were first. It’s just amazing how old this civilization is. The tomb was extremely well preserved for 500 years old. And the items that were excavated were absolutely beautiful–gold and silver plates, money, jewelry belonging to the Ming Emperors and Empresses.

Then…was the Great Wall (well after about 2 stops inbetween…)
We were told that it would take a person 4 months to walk from end to end of the Great Wall. I thought that it was an exaggeration…until we got to the wall and started climbing. If I can make my way through the chinese characters on the website, I’ll try to upload the pictures. Pretty much, I climbed a mountain today. For some reason I thought that I’d just be coasting along the wall, chilling and taking pictures…didn’t realize that the term “climb” is used for a reason, LOL. I have NEVER climbed that many steps in my life. And just when you’d get to the top of a really steep set of stairs and cross through the tower at the top of those steps–there would be an equally long set of stairs on the other end. You all know I walk slow, but it took me about a good hour and a half to get close to the top of that section. We only had two hours there–but even if we had more time, I think my feet and my over-active sweat glands would’ve forced me to stop. I feel absolutely no guilt about not making it to the gym for the last 3 days…

Today, like yesterday, was also filled with quite a few stares–and I think amazement? People were much more friendly about the stares today though. I was asked by 5 Chinese people to take pictures with them today, LOL. And one little boy (about 5 years old) ran up to me and said “Hello, how are you doing?” and just giggled and ran off. It was really cute. Another girl, about 12 years old, heard me and some others speaking English back in Beijing and asked her mother to ask me in English if I would take a picture with her. Funny enough, moms got in the picture too. It’s really amazing to me that people from here really just don’t see many Black folks. It makes me realized how blessed I am to live in a culture as diverse as the US. The kids were so innocent and genuinely just curious. I wish that I could find something nowadays that made me want to stop some random person in the street and take a picture with them…

The Great Wall is right outside of Beijing. What a difference stepping outside of the city makes! I pretty much realized after getting to the Wall today that Beijing, as a city, pretty much sucks. I still have two more days here…there are several sites within the city that I want to get to. But if I hadn’t already booked a train ticket for the 8th, I’d really consider just skipping out of Beijing.

While on the tour, I met a cool girl, Richelle, from Vancouver, Canada. We were really the only two people who learned English as a first language on the tour, but everyone in our group was extremely friendly (even the French people, LOL). After the LONG day (we got back to Beijing at 6pm) Richelle and I went to dinner with a guy, Matt, that she’d met while she was in Beijing. Matt is a tall white dude who speaks Chinese better than some of the natives, LOL. Okay, well I’m exaggerating, but considering that he said he only took two semesters of Chinese, he was doing his thing.

So the three of us went to dinner, sat outside, and ended up next to a group of 5 older Chinese men who had clearly been drinking for HOURS. Amazingly, alcohol makes even conservative Chinese folks act a fool! One of the guys came over to our table and started talking with Matt. He offered to buy us all beer (I already had a full bottle) and just started chatting away. Then Matt looks over at me and said “he wants to be your Chinese friend…and what he said basically translated to ‘What happens in China stays in China.'” LOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOL. Uh, no thanks. I think I’m good. We actually ended up leaving about 20 minutes later because these were apparently “violent drunks” and got very amuzed by throwing the glass bottles on the ground. (That, by the way, started when my drunk Chinese friend knocked over a bottle of beer, which splattered all over my feet–guess they thought it made a cool noise and wanted to hear it over and over again, LOL.)

So, that was my very interesting day.

Before I try to force myself into bed this evening, I wanted to give ya’ll a sense of just how cheap it is over here. Every glass or bottle of beer I’ve had has been UNDER $1. I think one equated to about 30 cents and the other about 80 cents. Cab rides, about a dollar. Dinner tonite for 3 of us (which we didn’t even come close to finishing) and beer–about $12….wish it was that cheap in DC!