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Sarah in China part 3 July 28, 2009

Posted by markgeil in Travel.
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July 17th : “Beautiful”

 I woke up at about 3:30 am and decided to brave the toilets. They were not that bad! I went back to sleep, off and on again, for about an hour and a half until I finally decided to get up and shower at 5:22. Two of my roommates were also up, suffering jet lag but morning people like me. I was much happier and braved the showers, after trying to figure out the free phone cards Hanban gave us!!! (They also gave us about four books, a shirt, an umbrella, and some other trinkets) So I went to the shower room, already full at 5 am and sat for about 5 minutes trying to figure the shower out. I finally figured that you had to wave your hand in front of the hand/key pad thing, and then turn the water on. But no matter how hard I tried I could not get the water cool, it was scalding! After a HOT 72 second shower (the key pad had a timer!) I dried as best I could and dressed, ready for an amazing day!

I met with the people from our group and, after searching for Walker’s already lost phone, and key, we went to breakfast, wondering if it would be oriental or western. At 7:03 (can you tell I am enjoying the watch daddy?) we entered the dining hall, upstairs for US downstairs for UK. I was really pleased to see a plethora of Chinese breakfastish items. I chose some dumplings of some sort, a cookie with some green stuff in it, a rice thing, and some other delightful pastryish items! We had fun discussing what we were eating, and all tried a little bit of everyones. (They had forks much to my delight, although the scorn of Shelby who thinks I am missing a part of the culture, oh well) Caffeinated from a little cup of Yellow Tea, we loaded the bus, after taking pictures with one of the guards/soldiers, who was very confused over why we wanted pictures with him.

I really enjoyed traveling to the summer palace. Everything was new, and different. Everyone was enthralled by the lack of following traffic laws combined with the many people on bicycles who weaved, often with babies or kids hanging on, not buckled in, in and out of the cars. Many people looked at me, sitting right by the window, which was kind of nerve-wracking but also funny. The funniest was three men in a small truck seat that had been following us for a little while. Shelby waved at them, and in response they offered her a cigarette! Through the window! He smiled and waved them out the open window. The back of the bus cracked up and when Mrs. Watts looked back, many rushed to tell her that we were being offered cigarettes.

Smoke free, we got to the Summer palace. Walking, like the Chinese, in the middle of a busy road, we made our way to the Dragon Lady’s domain. We walked into an entrance, me sticking close to the tour guide.  And I first experienced the uplifting Chinese compliments as the bus driver and tour guide were talking, he gestured to me, and then the tour guide told me, “He think you beautiful.” We entered into a beautiful temple-like area, plants and rocks representing seasons. We saw where the empress lived, ate, and all was carefully and precisely painted, although details were hard to see because of the massive crowds of people.  In these crowds the first people took a picture of me. I was taking a picture of some large, eccentric, building and a mom pushed her son close to me, rattled off something in Chinese, and then took a bunch of pictures with her son and I. They finished and my shock must have shown in my eyes as I turned around to look to Tyler, Nick, and Walker behind me. We all chuckled and went on in the tour.

After touring the palace, and imagining a queen rich enough to have an unmoving marble boat, we loaded back into the bus. We were told we were driving about an hour to the Great wall, but first a restaurant there. We passed the birds nest as we made our way to the mountains. We stopped at a giant red warehouse looking building.  Before eating we toured. There was a shopping area in the bottom layer that stored a store, full of handcrafted jewelry and pottery. We saw how they make it, a woman (who looked quite gruff/depressed) sat at the clay using individual copper shavings to make a design. Then the item moved to a painting station, then it was burned, and all the copper was taken away. The lady worked so hard, but in the end her effort was seen in the painting, but it was never her work that got the glory, it got burned. Profound object lessons to be had.

After the little tour we went to the Great Wall of China. It was majestic in its faded glory. Faded because of the dense smog that surrounds China, we stared from the bottom to the walls and towers all around us. We left the bus, took a restroom break (In the worst squatty potties yet, no TP, only wet wipes) And while we waited I purchased my first item, a tshirt for nine dollars with the wall in Autumn on it. We finally started to climb. As we climbed the uneven stairs at our own paces the group dwindled and traded around. With each stair the beauty was different. Not only could you look down and see how far you came, but you could look across to the mountains towards the north, and the wall that was there too, dotted with colors of shirts of those working hard to climb it. I imagined what it would be like as a worker, building the wall, carrying stone by stone up further and further, or running the length in order to protect China. While I had difficulty breathing, and was working up a slight sweat, I had a new appreciation for those men. Further I climbed until I reached the second tower and went inside, up even scarier stairs, wishing I was not wearing a skirt. We went to the top and as we looked around we saw further than I ever thought we could in all the fog, and I realized, not for the first time, that I was standing on the Great Wall of China, one of the wonders of the world (in some category) and something I would have never guessed I would be doing months ago! God’s glory is grand. We crawled down the scary stairs, out of the tower, and started down the great wall, after my taking pictures of a family down there. By this time Madeline, Tyler, and Thomas had caught up, Madeline from lower in the wall, and the boys from the highest point they could go. We started climbing and I had a charming conversation with a Chinese woman, who was seeing the Wall for the first time and was obviously proud of her country.  We cantered down, carefully, the uneven steps now even more treacherous, and met up with Mrs. Watts and Shelby in the first tower. Looking slightly tired, we rested there for minutes, laughing and imagining, until we all headed down, back to the bus, and as we drove away, crazily past the mountains, the Great Wall of China slowly became a Great memory.

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