Awaiting Leo & the Great Wall

Worked on the blog a bit tonight and I discovered a few posts that I had written in China but never published for various reasons. I completed this one tonight. xoxo! 

We woke up Saturday morning (our first morning in China) bright and early and eagerly went down to the hotel lobby for breakfast.  The buffet was quite large, a mostly Chinese buffet (rice, seafood, congee, tropical fruit, boiled eggs, etc.) but also a few American buffet staples such as waffles and yogurt.  I stumbled upon a self serve cappuccino machine and proceeded to drink at least three cups before willing myself to stop (gah, I love cappuccinos!)

We left the hotel right after breakfast and got onto the bus.  I usually get motion sick on buses (actually on all things that move) and, in typical Sarah style, I left my motion sickness medicine up in the hotel room.  Thankfully, the views around me and the stories from our guide were so engaging that my stomach stayed calm.

About 30 minutes outside the hustle and bustle of Beijing, we began to see the city backdrop give way to hazy mountains.  The smog was still around us, draped like a blanket over the mountains, obscuring much from view, but nonetheless, you could tell you were entering into a different landscape.

Gone were the skyscrapers, the concrete sidewalks, and the endless honking of taxis and cars.  Homes now lay low, scattered all together, dark shapes punctuating the hazy smog as we drove past.

When our bus neared the entrance of the Great Wall (Juyongguan Pass, I believe), the juxtaposition of the ancient wall crawling above our modern roads, our signs, our cars, was quite poignant.  The ever present smog obscured our view but nonetheless, the mystic of the wall was unharmed.

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The fact that this wall is man-made astounds the mind.   Its construction began in 770-476 BC, and it served as a fortification for Beijing against northern invaders (Mongols).

At the entrance to the wall, we snapped a picture like good little tourists and made the requisite restroom stop before embarking on our journey.

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In case you have never experienced a squatty potty, let me introduce you to it.  You walk into a stall per normal, however in a squatty potty, there is no potty on which to sit, just a hole in the ground.  Oh, and no toilet paper either.  You get used to it but there is a definite learning curve involved.

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Our group broke up once we entered the gates, and we began the journey.   The Pass begins with a smooth bridged area and from there ascends.

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On the bridge with our guide George before we began to climb.

We climbed and climbed the uneven stairs which rose steeply up, snaking up the mountain.

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The air was thick and warm, and sweat inevitable.  I felt every bit my age as I wanted to touch the side as I climbed, a bit scared of falling and taking down others like a bowling ball down its lane.

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The ascent, though arduous at times since I am quite out of shape, was incredible.  The stones were largely smooth and cool to the touch, and one could not help but imagine whose hands placed them there.  As we toiled to summit as much as we could in our time limit, stealing glances at the magnificent view (despite the smog), one could not help but marvel at the Wall’s history and at the wonder that we were there at all.

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On our return to the entrance area, we found a little detour that took us to a quiet temple.  A woman dutifully sweeping the stones with a rustic broom, which fanned out at the bottom into a large cascade of what appeared to be bunches of dried palm fronds tied together, was the only sound.

As we neared the exit and waited for the rest of our group, a little girl in ubiquitous squeaky shoes played nearby.  I considered getting a pair of these shoes for Leo but thought perhaps it might make me crazy in due time.

The anticipation of meeting Leo hung in every moment of our first two days in China.  Knowing that it would likely be such a long time before we made a trip back, and that we bore the responsibility to import details to him about this trip, that it would be a critical part of his story, I tried to engage my mind and feel the experiences as wholly as I could.

Smoggy haze, cascading green,

gray stones ascend the land,

our feet clamber on ancient work,

toil of human hand.

Smiling faces turn towards us,

we climb in unity,

cognizant of the work below,

and its rich history.

Where windows cut into the wall,

imaginative souls must dally,

to play the scene in their mind’s eye,

the storming, fights and rallies.

Hopeful invaders surging forth,

yet easy targets they,

for soldiers perched on towering walls,

for centuries, held at bay.

The clock ticked on and now we walk,

our sneakers on their bones,

Our minds aware, we forget not,

the breadth of walls of stone.

That night we walked through a bit of Beijing, stopping at a bustling market looking for dinner.  The entrance was brightly decorated and led to a long hallway of sorts, with vendors on both sides, packed to the gills with people.

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Shoulder to shoulder, we pressed on through the crush of people as they ordered from tiny stands.  The first several vendors sold delicacies unfamiliar to myself; scorpions, sea stars, and sea horses.  I was surprised to see some of the speared food still moving.  Only a few adventurous friends tried the food here, largely because of the cautionary tales from our guides playing in our minds about avoiding street food.

We were escorted back to our hotel by the pulse of Beijing; glowing streets of neon lights, throngs of people, and the clamor of bustling shops.

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Being in a foreign place is always exciting for me, but nothing can compare to the anticipation and excitement of receiving a child for whom you have waited for, prayed for, cried over, and now are about to actually hold in your own arms.

The wait was almost over – only one day stood between us and our little boy.

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