Tuesday, June 30, 2009

The Great Wall

After classes ended last Friday, we headed to a nearby restaurant for Chinese language tables. (Every Friday, the program provides the teachers and their students a massive lunch and an opportunity to talk about the week, weekend plans, life in China, etc.) Our table of 12 had about 15 dishes ranging from Peking duck to egg soup to the most intensely prepared fish I’ve ever seen. (I don’t have a picture of the dish, unfortunately, but think gravity-defying dredlocks, kind of.) Despite that not terribly appetizing description, if last week’s Chinese language table was an accurate preview of what’s to come every Friday, I just might have found the highlight of the DSIC program.

We then boarded a bus to Simatai (司马台), a section of the Great Wall about three hours from Beijing. There are parts of the Great Wall closer to Beijing, but Simatai is reputed to be relatively undisturbed and less touristy. After unpacking our bags at the hostel, we enjoyed a pleasant dinner and promptly headed to bed to prepare physically and mentally for Saturday’s hike. Or not…

I woke up at 3 a.m. to someone pounding on our door and yelling in Chinese. I’m not quite sure how to describe the feeling of waking up before dawn in an unfamiliar bed at a youth hostel-turned-hurricane simulation center thousands of miles away from home to the sound of a teacher’s rapid-fire commands in a still-very foreign language. Five minutes later, we were making our way up the mountainside, hoping to make it to the top by sunrise, flashlights in hand, still half-asleep. A few Great Wall conclusions/epiphanies:
  • I am not functional by 3 a.m.
Jesse + my dark circles
  • You know something’s wrong when you’re sweating profusely by the time birds start singing.
  • The Great Wall, at least at Simatou, should be renamed the Great Staircase, because that’s exactly what it is.
  • Whoever designed the Great Staircase had very small feet, or at least they hated everyone larger than size 5½. Or maybe they just screwed up the calculations with their scale model.
  • Correction: the architect team died/was executed every hundred meters, at which point all measurements were reset. Translation: the stairs fluctuate in length between S and XXS.
  • I don’t remember ever getting up to see the sunrise before last weekend. Don’t get me wrong, I love sunrises and watch them regularly, but always at the end of a late night, not after sleeping.
  • qotd: 长城很⋯⋯长。