Sunday, June 06, 2004

I have been here since late April and it was not until this last Saturday that I went to the Great Wall. As you may or may not know, parts of the wall have been reconstructed, or extensively repaired and to various degrees this is evident. Where we visited, about 90km from Beijing, was largely if not completely left alone. The pictures I will be posting, as with so many I have posted already, do not do justice to the wall, or to the mountains on top of which it rests.

The wall at Simatai, where we visited, was attacked by the Japanese during the Japanese Invasion (War of Japanese aggression, WWII) and the evidence is readily apparent. Parts of the sentry towers are missing, there are blackened areas, and what appear to be bullet holes in the bricks.

To get to the top we had to first take a cable car, each one held two people by one thin arm and a dubious connection to the cable. These cars did not stop or even slow down while you were getting on or off, you just had to be quick. The ride up was peaceful and very quiet, though you had to keep your mind off of the likely age of the cars and the construction methods. Following the cable car, there was a mini train which climbed straight up the mountain for some distance. Same concerns about mechanical quality, but we did survive. Finally we had to climb the mountain on a path which was far from ideal in order to reach the stairs which would lead us up the wall. Remember, while I am out of shape and overweight, my father is on crutches, so making it up the wall was no small undertaking.

Once there the views were incredible. Nothing blocked your view to either side, as the wall was built on the highest point where ever it wandered. The wall itself is of course a marvel. Two things surprised me about the wall where we visited it: Frist was the width of the wall, as I expected it to be wider. Two horses could ride abreast on the wall (if you could get them up there and teach them to climb stairs that most of us have to use our hands as well as feet to climb) and yet in photos and descriptions of other parts of the wall I am given to believe that it is wider. The second surprising aspect is the absence of kneewalls or other measures to prevent falling from the wall. I would have expected some sort of raised section on the sides so that defenders could hide behind them, or at least so that defenders did not accidentally plummet to their doom..

There is supposed to be a tobaggon ride down this section of the wall, but I did not see it. I was planning on giving it a shot if we had seen it, but no such luck. This is probably for the best, as I fear that such antics would take away from the nature of the experience of the wall.

After making our way back down the wall and then the mountain, we drove back to Tainjin, a four to five hour drive, stopping for a wonderful lunch along the way. I have said a little about the food here, and while it is often very different from what we expect and certainly is very different from what we are used to in the west, I have no complaints, and I cannot claim to have had a bad meal here yet.

Back in Tianjin we rushed to Ms Zhou's home to have dinner with her and her family. She is married to a Japanese businessman, Summer's boss, who is also eager to get something going in the US. They are wonderful and welcoming people who turned what could have been a long evening given how tired we all were from the trip, into a lively evening full of humor and comraderie.

That was on Saturday. Sunday we again got an early start and began at Textile City shopping for more fabric to make into clothes. I ordered 5 more shirts made of various material, including silk in the case of two of them. While I will not claim an outright bargain as to the cost of the shirts if the cost is compared to off the rack prices in the states, I did get incredible bargains when one considers the quantity and quality of material combined with custom tailoring. The shirts ranged from about US$25 to US$35, but for me the cost is well worth it, as I finally have shirts which actually fit me. Most people do not understand the hardships of not being within the range of sizes available off the rack...

After ordering clothes, we sought out a bookstore I had been to, looked again at some furniture, finally ending up in GouLou to check out one more furniture shop. Another good day with some of the practical things taken care of.

This week will we are planning a good day at GouLou so that I can look to getting some art pieces, and perhaps another chop or two. I will also be preparing some materials to give to Ms Zhou and to BHA concerning Business Ethics. With some luck I will also get more photos posted and descriptions given, though as I have said before, it is likely that I will not get all of the photos up, and descriptions given until I return home. bear with me, I took a great many photos while at Taishan and I truly want to give each its due as this was a very powerful experience for me.

I have shots of the wall as well, and next weekend we are going into Beijing to do the toursity things I have not yet done: Forbidden City, Summer Palace, etc. I leave in 9 days, so the adventure is coming to a close, at least for now. Many of you know that I took as much time as I dared so as to ensure that I would not have any regrets or feel as though I did not get to see all that I wanted. I said to many that I wanted to stay in country long enough to want to be home. Well, while I will have no regrets, I would return to China if the opportunity once again arose. As for staying long enough to want to be home, I am not certain that I achieved this goal. While there are definitely hardships here, and while I do miss some of the conveniences of home, as well as friends etc. I do not find myself longing for my own room, my own bed, my own space, as so often I do whenever I travel.

Enough for now.. I have things to create, presentations to change into other formats, and other work to do.. I still have articles to write that I have barely begun!

As always, all my best to everyone


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