It's been a while, friends. Last weekend we went to the Great Wall - actually more like one of the Great Walls. Throughout China's history, emperors in different dynasties would build walls to try and keep out those pesky Mongols. There are sections of the wall that are just hard-packed dirt, some sections are really old with improvements made later in history, and some are relatively (China's history is quite long, so "relatively") new, made of brick with periodic guard towers and pretty to look at. One side of the wall is China and one side is Mongolia, well, at the time that was the case, now both sides are China. We went to the section of the wall at Mutianyu.
First we had to walk up about a zillion stairs to actually get to the wall. It was way up there in my list of most tiring things I've ever done in my life (right up with track practice and gymnastics conditioning). Now, the stairs in China are really annoying, the steps are shorter than in the US so to go at a comfortable pace you need to step on every other step, which can get really tiring, but is better than tip-toeing up each step one by one. The stairs down into the underpasses are all like this too, longer steps with shorter distances between each.
We finally popped up into a guard house after climbing forever, I was concentrating so hard on keeping my pace that I didn't even realize we'd made it up. There was a guy selling popsicles for an outrageous price of 6-ish kuai when you can normally get them for 1 kuai, but I was so hot and thirsty I had to get one. That popsicle was like Jesus. Seriously.
Unfortunately I don't think I got any spectacular shots of the wall, maybe if we'd had time to go higher, but we ran out of time (and we wanted to hit up the souveneir shops on the way back). Pics:
There was also a spot higher up on the mountain where there were huge characters that said "long live chairman mao"(in chinese). Which reminds me of a moment in class this past week where the teacher asked "what road" (this was a grammar pattern we were learning) the Chinese government is walking in terms of governmental policy (all vocab words we're learning), the student said capitalism and the teacher was like, "what? you mean socialism, right?" and he said, no I mean capitalism. She just didn't understand why/how he could say that. He tried to save himself by saying some aspects were capitalistic (think: Deng Xiaoping's reforms in China after Mao lost power/died - "It doesn't matter whether the cat is black or white, as long as it catches mice." He was referring to the uncomfortable similarities between Chinese economic policy and capitalist countries' economic policy. Sorry for the history lecture) and some aspects were socialistic, but she still didn't go for that so he finally gave in and said China was walking the road of socialism.
With our drill sessions in small group lecture, the teacher always has an answer in mind, it's really hard to try and discern what she wants you to say. Still definitely not a fan of the Chinese emphasis on memory.
On Thursday, instead of class we got to go to a park and talk to old people about their daily lives and how retirement was treating them, for the most part I understood, but there was one guy from Hangzhou who had a really strong accent so I did a lot of nodding and scribbling "and then he said something I didn't understand" in English so he couldn't peak and realize I had no clue what he was saying.
The parks in Beijing are so popular, there are tons of people walking, dancing, doing yoga, taiqi, stretching, playing that hackey sack thing I keep telling you about, playing cards, reading the paper, and on and on and on. This park had a little "amusement park" for kids and also river that you could hire a boat to float down on, the lotus blossoms were so beautiful. There were also little stalls selling things. The old people all had the same look on their faces after I started speaking Chinese with them, kind of like a "what?! it can talk?!" look. But then they warmed up to me. It's because I'm so charming.
Until next time...