One more thing I did not know - the whole Great Wall is steps, nothing but steps, up and down, and down and up, and up and down! The only flat parts are the little towers. Definitely not for the out of shape or people adverse to working up a good sweat. I sort of do not fit the first category, and since I live in Houston, the second category is not a problem with me.
If you are in certain cities, there are certain things you MUST see, or so everyone says. When you are in Beijing, the Great Wall is just one of those things. So today we arranged a couple of drivers and vans and headed out to Mutianyu to see the Great Wall. It was a nice drive, and the wall there is not as crowded as Badaling. Also, this part of the wall has a toboggan slide down the mountain! Wheeeee! (more on that later)
We went up on a ski lift and begin our journey up part of the wall. The wall (actually it is a series of walls) was built over a couple of dynasties over 4,000 years ago. Amazing and awesome are still understatements when you see it and start climbing it. First of all, it is built in mountains, hence the up and down and down and up. Second many of the inclines are extremely steep, and there are often no handrails or anything to hold on to except the wall. When you see pictures of it from the air, as in the one on the left here, you can't tell about how steep it is. But there are a couple of shots in the slideshow that sort of show how steep it really was. Then to think, as you do with any of these "Seven Wonders of the Medieval World" (and the Ancient World ones as well) that this was built by thousands of humans at what probably was an exhorbitant cost of life. That just makes it all the more amazing. (I need to find another adject to use.)
After a ski lift ride up part of the mountain, we start climbing and exploring. After a time, the fact that I have neglected to eat lunch catches up with me and I decide to watch the scenery from what was our second to last stop in the climb. Michelle, Craig, Chris, JR, Claire, Vince, and Liz all went up the last part. Fan Jing and Roy (our two interpreters/guides) stayed down with Gary and I also. Fan Jing did not have on good shoes for today's walking, so she was happy to sit as well. After the rest of the group came down from the last part of the climb, we start heading back down to where we will catch the toboggans going down the mountain to the base. Now this is the part of the climb we were all looking forward to. (Again see pics in the slideshow)
There is a large covered area where we all sit for a minute to gather all bodies and such, when what happens - it starts to rain, pouring rain. We wait for about 20-30 minutes for it to stop raining only to find out that they will not resume the toboggan rides for at least one more hour - to make sure there is no more rain. Not wanting to wait that long, we take the ski lift back down. Sigh - it will have to be another trip I guess.
As we get to the cars we decide to go to the grocery store, Carrefour. We discovered in Athens, that going to foreign grocery stores is quite fun. There are food combinations that are interesting and unusual. FanJing and Roy helped us choose a couple of Chinese beers and wines for us to try. We picked up some fruit, water, and orange juice and decided to check out the snack aisle. Seeing Lays Potato Chips with Chinese characters for the writing is amusing. And the flavors are so different than what we find in the US. We got some regular chips, some Texas Grilled BBQ chips. (OK - I know you are thinking that those are not so unusual!) But we also grabbed some mango flavored and some cucumber flavored chips. There were many other flavors as well. I will have to remember to get a photos from the grocery store next time we go.
Last night, this sounds really blasphemous, but we had Dominos Pizza for dinner. (cue the eye roll here!) We were all tired, the housekeeper had Sunday off, and it was the easiest thing to do as suggested by our host family. So Dominos it was. Today was way different! We came home to a great meal cooked by our housekeeper. She made a huge pot of steamed rice, and 5 or 6 different dishes, mainly vegetable dishes and one with chicken. There was an eggplant dish that was great, and one with green beans and a chocolate sauce of some type (unsweetened chocolate), one with sauteed onions that were very sweet, and one with cauliflower. Again - should have take pics, but did not think of it until we were cleaning up dishes. I promise I will do better next time!
All of us managed to stay up until almost 8:00 tonight. Craig and I seem to have the least amount of jet lag, Chris being the first to crash tonight. It is actually about 10:30PM here as I type, and I am just now starting to feel tired. So with that I will sign off. Tomorrow is the first softball game, and we are going to leave the house about 9:30 AM even though the game does not start until noon. Traffic is a big unknown here. There are odd/even restrictions on driving here to cut down on traffic and it seems to be working, but still our interpreters suggest an early start to gauge the travel time. And we can always watch the end of the 9:30 game if we are early. Catherine will not start tomorrow we also found out tonight, so if we do run late it is not as huge of a deal.
Did any of you watch the exciting 400 meter mens freestyle relay today? (It was on here this morning before we left) The USA team was still behind at the last turn on the 4th leg of the race. France had about 1/2 body length on our team. The US pulled the gold medal out by 0.08 seconds to beat France! We were all cheering and yelling and clapping. Our housekeeper must have thought we were all crazy. We also watched Yao and the Chinese play the US for a bit on TV this morning. They all love Yao here - he is a basketball rock star! US won that game, close during the first half, then pulling away for a 101-70 win. Tonight we watched the US women's basketball team take the Chinese women's team down.
Well - good night. More tomorrow. I am not sure what we are doing after softball, but if it is half as fun as today it will be great!
Until then - wahn ahn or late peace or good night!