Friday, August 3, 2007

The Great Wall--A Journey in 4 Voices

Today we went to the northern wall of medium longevity. Sike totally
went to the great wall. And now we're in a cab back to beijing and
have determined that today's blog will be group authored, such that
we can all express our feelings about the wall. I (amy) will begin.
Um, top five most awesome things ever. Possibly top one, but I'm not
ready to commit. We started at Simitai, one of the less touristy
spots, and walked (actually, scaled) to Jianshanling. The 10 km took
us about 4 hours, and for much of that time we had the wall to
ourselves. Except for the periods of time when women wearing
decade-old keds basically danced circles around us trying to sell us
water while we sweated (yes I know that's my second mention of
sweating in as many posts, don't be misled, it's only really relevant
here because the inappropriately attired vendors didn't perspire a
single drop.) In any event, I've learned an important phrase: " bu xie
xie.". That means "please stop trying to sell me water, coke, t-shirts
and all other knick-knacks but might you have a popsicle?" It also
means "no thank you.". Anyway, as you will see from the pictyres, it
was absolutely incredible. I'm hogging the blogging (if you think I'm
not snickering to myself at that rhyme you're wong) so I'll pass it

I (Jon) was the sweatiest Great Wall scaler. I'm crossing my fingers
that that won't be obvious from the photos. Our adventures generally
involve learning as we go; at each new historic relic, we pull out our
guidebooks about half way through and read aloud. In the case of our
10 km march on the GW, this actually served as a good excuse to cool
down with some water. Ok, and to fill up on snacks. A few things we
learned: the wall was started by the Chu dynasty (happy birthday
Steph!); Mao said (maybe) that there is no great man who hasn't
visited the great wall; the great wall is not in fact visible from
the moon (which Lance Bass confirmed on his space tour); and the wall
was not in the end an effective defense against invaders (which became
clear when we saw several 90 year old Chinese women scale parts of
the walll that were vertical without breaking a sweat). The consensus
is that the wall was spectacular and hiking from one section to
another well worth the sense of accomplishment.

Oh look, EB and Josh are both sleeping so I (Amy) willl take a break
from watching our driver tailgate the propane tanker in front of us.
It's a tough call whether this makes me more or less uncomfortable
than basically sitting atop a propane tank at dinner last night
(delicious hotpot, I think Ebs is writing an exclusively food entry so
don't think that's the last you'll hear of the hot-yum- whole
fish-"don't eat the fin" pot). Oh we passed the tanker. Collective
(solo) sigh of relief. Back to the wall. I heart it. And continue to
be amazed at the scale of things here in China, modern and ancient.
It is palpably new and on the rise, yet also steeped in history
beyond the scope of anything we have at home, and in every way
imaginable it is truly enormous. Too sentimental/naive/lame? Sorry
team. What I meant to say was: wow the wall totally ruled and aren't
those olympic friendlies adorable? That's more like it.

My turn now (EB). In case you were not aware, we 4 are athletic rock
stars. We basically won the Olympic gold medal of great wall hiking.
We scaled amazing ascents and descents often requiring both hands and
feet and did so with style. Great Wall--conquered. The scenery was
breathtaking and the hike was unbelievable, even to the point of
disbelief at looking back at what we had already done when were in the
middle of it all and thinking "Did I really just do that? Wow.".
Though basically ineffectual as a deterrent to invaders, it is a huge
hit with me.

Also, since I am chief food reporter, here is what kept us alive on
the great wall--many huge bottles of water, powerbars, oreos, ritz
crackers and chocolate. The only thing missing was FOOT style gorp,
but I don't know the Chinese word for that so we had to take a pass.

Seems like most everything has been said, so I (Josh) will just brag
for a moment about speaking enough broken Chinese to secure us a
reasonably priced ride - and then to chat on a range of complex
subjects including how long it would take for us to get there and how
urgently we needed a pit stop. Oh, and to secure us another potential
driver as well, who showed up at the hotel at 6am this morning
thinking he was taking us less inexpensively to the wall and who, when
relieved of this misconception, taught me a range of new Chinese
curses. Also, I'm right with the others on the great wall, generally -
mind-numbingly long, leg-numbingly steep, and rediculously cool. We
learned (thanks, Jon, for the lesson) that in olden times, a man's
children could be considered blessed if their father had gone to visit
the wall - hopefully our someday little 'uns will be similarly
grateful. In the meantime, I'm looking forward to some of that cheap
Chinese massage.


Ron said...

Ah, the Great Wall. As the great Ben Hogan once seems as though you "brought that monster to its knees!" Still, I deduce that inspite of popsicles being widely available in Beijing, there is a franchise opportunity on the Wall itself for Good Humor pops. As Josh seems to be the only trooper wearing long pants--and speaking some of the local atonal sounds-- perhaps he has already been designated to remain behind to develop this biz. Continued fun and do your best to avoid cardboard and antifreeze popsicles!

Ron said...

Here is an important U.S. news flash that might impact the Chinese even beyond your tourist bubble: The world is now calm...Harry has started--just today--to lift his leg!!!!

Bates said...

Instead of a postcard, could you please send me back a milk Popsicle? Alex and I read together the blog and laugh and talk about how we want to be there too. Bug just lies on his bed. We miss you!

Kim said...

I like how Amy and EB are wearing matching sneaks.

Stephanie said...

Thank you for the birthday shout-out!! After reading your blog, I totally want to visit the wall my peoples built!

alice said...

I want an Olympic friendly. All my plants died while I was gone and I'm lonely.