7.1 The Long March

Wow. I have been gone for quite a while. In my defense, I was in social siberia for the last 10 days because I took the high-speed rail back to my countryside home in Hunan, where my grandparents still lives. They were born when dinosaurs still roamed this Earth, so obviously, no Internet in the house. I thought I would have gone insane, but it was actually a wonderful break from the busyness, distractions and constant non-stop information that comes with Internet access. Now that’s what I call a true vacation.

But have no fear! I won’t be going on another one of these any time soon and I promise I will make up for my absence.

Now, onwards we match!

On my second weekend in Beijing, I finally took my first self-conscious step on the greatest wall of them all…

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You know what they say, you aren’t real Chinese unless you’ve been to the Great Wall.

Finally! now I can proclaim my Chinese-ness proudly and no one can deny it!

It was fantastic day to visit the Great Wall. The sun was out, there were clouds scattered across the beautiful blue that blanketed Beijing and its surrounding areas. I guess the smog decided on a different place to settle down on that day.

It was a group outing organized by Beijing University. So all of us wide-eyed fresh, new Beijingners got herded onto three big coaches. On its 2-hour journey to the base of the wall, most of us fell into a deep lulled sleep because many haven’t quite gotten over jetlag just yet, including me.

Beaded-eyed, we got off the bus and there it was, just sitting quietly through sunshine and rain of a thousand years, its blood-and-sweat built pavement pounded on by millions of feet of all kinds: soldiers, conquerors, researchers, photographers, politicians, and tourists alike in differing speeds.

It took us a good half an hour to actually reach its ancient steps. I took the lazy way up, via gondola, with three lovely exchange students from California. Even then, we were all sweating our clothes wet.

Then, finally, the moment came when we saw it up-close, snaking its way up and down, mountain after mountain, this unbelievable man-made structure connecting one of nature’s most majestic creations.

It literally took my breath away (with the amount of stairs we had to climb to get there, even with the help of the gondola. I admit, I’m out of shape.)

So we started to trek on, adding our minuscule footprints onto its aged stones.

Every few hundred meters or so, there would be a station that housed naturally cooling air from its shade.

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And there, we would always rest for a little while, looking out its small windows at the splendid mountain scenery.

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It was a splendid change from the smog/fog that usually settles to ruin the Beijing city landscape. We could open our lungs and actually breathe out here.

Once we passed our fifth resting station, it was time to turn around. Not only was there a time constraint on us little children, but we were exhausted and the next leg would have meant quite a steep climb up and then back down.

So instead, we took some photos at the bottom of those steps and all agreed to say that they were taken after we had conquered these steep steps, tried to talk one of us out of buying souvenirs from people selling on the Great Wall or even near it because the price is just too unreasonably high, and went on our merry way back.

So here’s to China, and to all the people who’s blood and sweat built this miracle.

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