Out of bed at 8, quick shower, then breakfast at what I would equate to a Chinese version of ihop, only with Chinese food instead of pancakes and whatnot. Then, camera in hand, I found a car and driver to take me to the Great Wall... No, not the buffet down the street from your house.
Speaking of breakfast, or food in general, I'm finding it hard to get used to the typical eating habits of most (if not all) Chinese ppl in china. It's mainly the loud slurping of noodles, lip smacking while chewing, talking with your mouth full, or eating with your mouth open. It's all normal here, so it's me with the problem, not them. Guess I'm to Americanized or something, but hey, ever culture has their differences. Take the Japanese for instance; burp, sneeze, fart, pick your nose, etc, is all ok in public, just don't ever blow your nose, cause that's considered disgusting and ppl will look at you funny ( also, if you do all those things at the same time, you might explode, then ppl will really look at you funny.
10 am Beijing local
Get to the great wall. At least a small portion of it. I'm told it originally spanned the entire height of china. Why build a massive wall that long??? It was the Chinese solution to boarder control, to keep the Mongols out... I guess... What do I know? I went to an american school, they don't teach us crap about china. Learn europe up the @ss, but hardly a word on a third of the worlds population!
Anyway, it really is an experience to behold and to be on the wall. Of course if you don't really care about world history and stuff, then it's just a really old wall. So I dragged my driver up to the wall with me. That entailed a bus ride to the... Cable... Suspended... Dangling... Car... Thingy (sorry, total brain fart there). A precarious ride on that thing, then a little hike up to the way itself, then hoofin it up the wall itself. It was quiet the workout. It was interesting too that all the ppl (and the place was packed) pretty much seemed to move and walk as most of the Asian drivers that I know back home, it seems the land of the "me first and the gimme gimmes". More on that and some of the things I've discovered about the Chinese culture later, that subjects needs it's own posting all together. That's right ppl, having been in the US since the age of 2, I'm essentially American! Deal with it!
So I learned a few things about the Great Wall and some about the Chinese culture and mentality by proxy. For instance, should one happen to somehow find themselves working on the wall, you end up pretty much living there, there really is no "going home". You are home. All of your days are spent lugging rocks and stuff of all shapes and sizes up mountains, hills, down valleys, where ever the rocks and stuff needs to go. You do it literally all day long, all week long, all year long. For many, that all there was to their lives. Many started as a child, literally spent their entire lives workin on the wall and died at the wall. In fact, I was told often, when someone died at the construction, they just built over the body. I don't know if was simply callus disregard or perhaps it was sort of "this person gave so much of himself to the wall, that it was an honor". I'm leaning more towards callus disregard, not from any personal feelings, but from the general sense I've gotten that life is pretty cheap. I've heard so many times from locals, that so and so problem exists from there being too many people. Apparently, that's one of the reason for the "Everyman for himself approach to things". Hell, getting on the bus to go up to the great wall... First, lining up was almost a moot point. People just walked up and cut in where ever there was any space to do so. "Why didn't you say something?" you might ask. Simply put, everyone was doing it, who would I start in on, and who would I stop at? When the bus got there, everyone mobbed the door, when it swung open, I had to crank up my @sshole dial and force my way on the bus (that translates to me pushing and bulldozing my way to to keep my place in the scrum, being a big dude came in handy. Petite women where shoving and elbowing to try to get onto the bus). This sort of thing has spurned a saying that I use to define the organized chaos that I fund myself surrounded with; 'if you don't take, then you won't get' (sounds more poetic in Chinese). The bus was so overloaded that it scraped the pavement when we made a turn. Literally every bit of room was crammed full of ppl on that bus.
Being on the wall wasn't much different. The climb was a pretty steep and treacherous one, and yet there were more ppl then what I would consider safe. If one person slipped or something, so many more would be taken down and more then likely badly injured. It was a bit of climb on a warm day as it was. Least it wasn't humid or anything, my climb up the "Chocolate Mountains" in the Philippines was 12 different shades of miserable from the heat and humidity. Anyway, back to the experience. I couldn't helps be feel a little awed and humbled at the idea that I was standing on a man made object that was visible from space. The history and the shear number of lives involved was pretty powerful to me. It was a little bit of a disappointment to see that over the years, people have taken to scrapping their names into the stone of the Wall.
I noticed a haze all around the horizon. The Great Wall isn't in the city of Beijing proper, so I asked if it was pollution from the city. I was told yes and no. Most of it was fog, but it was also made up of dust and stuff from Beijing. Beijing is a booming city. Apparently, most of china is now. Hell, in a lot of ways, Beijing is pretty then most city I've been in state side. I'll talk about why that seems to be when I post about what I've learned of the "Chinese Condition". So the haze is basically a combination of fog, construction dust, and basic metropolitan pollution (smog,etc).
Time to go. Only so much you can do on a wall... After shoulder and hip checking my way back to the car, it was decided it was getting too late in the day to hit my next destination, I'll save that for tomorrow. I want it to be a surprise... That and I don't know what the place is called in English. Ended up going to the Olympic colosseum they build for the 2008 Olympics. WOW! Now that's a building! Driver drops me off at one of the entrences road side and tells me he'll swing by in am hour and a half to pick me up. Cool! Left on my own with no working phone (swapping out my SIM card Monday), can't read the language, conversational level in speaking the language, no real idea where I'm going, and only a photocopy of my passport and Mr. Wongs cel number in my pocket. Getting lost could be interesting to say the least. So I line up to get through the security to get into the building itself. Xrays and metal detectors abound. Finally get up to the actual entrance and I see attendants tearing tickets. Funny, didn't remember seeing anyplace to buy tickets and believe me, I looked. Besides, couldn't imagine at this point them not selling tickets. When I was at the Great Wall, I had to have a ticket to get up to the wall, a ticket to get on the wall, then a ticket to get OFF the wall, and a ticket to LEAVE the wall. At that point, I wouldn't have been surprised to have to have a ticket to use the restroom! Any who, it turns out that there was some sort of special event going on there that you apparently had to have tickets prior to arriving and the building wasn't open to the public. Oh well, so I hiked around the facility and just took in the atmosphere. Atmosphere being Chinese people talking WAY to loud at their cel phones, a general absence and disregard for personal space, and being bumped, shoved, and cut off constantly as people made their way to where ever they were going. I really need to up my @ssholiness to get by here.
Back at Mr. Wong's. Dinner consists of *HA!* Chinese take-out! Time to relax, take a shower and gear up for tomorrow. Tomorrow should prove interesting, so tune back in... Same bat time... Same bat channel.
Location:Xiyang Middle Rd,Beijing,China