Xander’s Overseas Log Day 27-38

Entry 011 

Foreign Student Dormitory Zijing
Tsinghua University, Beijing
Day 37 – 7.1 – 8:20 PM

Fast forward once again, it’s already my last night in Beijing. Yep! It’s been five weeks already, and tomorrow evening, we head off to Shanghai/Nanjing. It’ll be weird… this place is just finally getting to be familiar enough to live in comfortably. But, it’s time to play catch up, cuz a lot’s been happening. Too much to all write about, but lemme get some stuff off the table with bullet points:

Foodwise :

I ordered my first Kimbop–it was great, and cheap! I’ve realized that Korean restaurants around the world all have better kimchi than in the U.S. Another great food: McDonalds.

Great food all around the world. The Megamac’s are filling, but could be bigger.

For fun :

PC Bang / Netcafe – We played a little Counterstrike… had a good time :D. Paul and Ken established themselves as the top two players, I was somewhere in the middle. Last year, apparently, two of the kids (incidentally, both from North) spent most of their free time there, playing CS and DOTA. I’d like to say that we spent more time experiencing the city and culture, but we’ve played our fair share of C&C Generals and Starcraft over the past month and a half. Worth it though; brought out old and dusty SC skills, and had some good ol’ male bonding time.

Shopping is becoming more of a chore than a “fun” activity, now that I know what I want. I did get lots of “stuff” though, which may or may not be unveiled later…

Okay, now that the excess is out of the way… the cool stuff.

The Great Wall

Last Saturday, we went to a portion of the Great Wall. Now… when Sq told me about the great wall, she told me that it would be hot. And that it would be a lot of walking. Very crowded and touristy too. I had seen pictures too, so I had an idea of what she was talking about. Except none of that applied to the part of the 1000+ mile long wall that we went to.

After a two-and-half hour drive, we arrived at the base of a mountain, where nearly a kilometer up was the wall. There was a small town at the base, filled with touristy things and restaurants. But in addition, there were signs indicating that the wall here was “Closeo for construction”. Of course we decided to go anyway, though vowing that if we got to the top, we would go up onto the wall no matter what. And so began our climb…


The next six hours that ensued brought one of the the most dangerous, treacherous climbs that I’ve ever been on; also the sweatiest, craziest fun thus far. It didn’t help that it was above 90 degrees and nearly 100% humidity. It seemed easy at first; even though I’d missed all the climbs so far on this trip, I’d gone mountain climbing before, and I knew what was going on. I was prepared too: I had with me two bottles of water, and a full bottle of red-iced tea, and there were stretches where I was just dashing up the rocks.

Guofeng’s (our TA person) girlfriend complained about the difficulty of the trip as did the female TA; they had worn flip-flops, and thus were not prepared for the climb. They stayed behind after going up maybe 100 meters. The rest of us continued on…

As we got higher, the climb became more intense, steeper… and I began to regret having run up so quickly. Elaine somehow kept trudging on like a machine—the rest of us slowed down. When the path split, I kept taking the more difficult path (which usually was faster). Definitely not American insurance safe—most dangerous were the piles of rocks that littered the climb—on the steeper areas, occasionally a loose rock would start rolling, accelerating dangerously down to where others were.

FLam in shock…

After two hours, we reached a point where we could see the wall. And then we came upon this:

Of course, we had to cross it.

This was the point where I started a minor rock slide… I slipped on the pile of rocks there, and quarter of them started sliding and rolling down the slope. If anyone else had gone up the way I had, they would have been hammered with fist and brick sized rocks. Thankfully, no one had, and we just listened to the rumble (which went on for at least 10 seconds). We helped the others through and got to the “Wall”. I could hear workers throwing rocks around, above us. There would be random plumes of dust and trickles of water flowing down too, but that wasn’t enough of a deterrent. The workers didn’t seem to mind us either.

We found one of the mini-fort sections and climbed up to the top. I was one of the first, but even I was surprised when the rest of the group followed. We were finally there! I had that great feeling of accomplishment at the top—feeling the high mountain breeze after having sweat what must have been at least a liter. Truly understanding the scale of the wall is something you have to do in person, and of course, you can do that at Badaling, which is where all the touristy pictures seem to come from (i.e. Crazymysterena’s Xanga profile picture ). There was a separate trip to Badaling which I missed, but I didn’t mind—our visit was good enough.

From our high view, I saw that the section of wall the workers were rebuilding below had been completely eroded, and the workers were piling rocks into the gap. They would later fill it with a tan, concrete likes substance. It seemed like a lot of rebuilding was being done for the Olympics. I wondered how different this was from when the wall was first built. Then I wondered how the brought up the bricks for the wall in the first place. There were areas where bricks had become dislodged from the wall; but they had to be at least 20 pounds each—how the hell anyone (or even any thousands of people) could build a thirty foot tall wall on a kilometer high mountain ridge (let alone one for thousands of miles) boggled my mind.

John likes it on the edge.

Even I had a few moments of vertigo looking down from the wall. A fall would include an initial thirty foot drop, directly onto a nearly vertical mountain face, followed by maybe another 50 foot fall off a cliff. Thrilling, really. A lot of pictures were taken from that point, but then some of us wanted to go a little further. So we did. Climbed what seemed to be an impossibly steep stairs; the stairs were actually slanted to the front. Climbing wasn’t too hard, but I knew that going down would be a vertigo-inducing challenge.

Suddenly, from above, we started hearing explosions! It was coming from the next “fort” up ahead. From the echoing on the mountainside, it sounded almost like a small bombing, but we realized that it was fireworks. I personally was afraid that the explosions would start a landslide. But the workers seemed unconcerned. When we got to the ruined fort, the fireworks stopped. This one, we could actually go inside. It was dark, and left me feeling rather uneasy. There was a ladder going up to the top, where the man with fireworks was. He began to ask for money for us to go up. We ignored him and passed through. The wall continued for a little more, but then… ended in what was one of Frank’s favorite pictures.

On the way down however, the money wanting fool came after us again, and threatened to throw us off the wall if we didn’t pay. We started down anyway, and Jeff kept him company while we made our escape. The way down was even more treacherous than the way up. SQUISH called while I was there, and a short phone call ensued, while I climbed down with one hand.

When we got back down to the first fort, Jeff asked the construction workers what they thought. They said what we had thought all along: the wall does not belong to anyone, and that man is crazy for thinking he can charge money. Then
we noticed that the drunk man was climbing down the wall towards us. This got him going. This was when Jeff told us that he ended up paying like 20 yuan to the crazy fool. THAT was surprising, as Jeff was usually the one that held onto his money tightly, saving us loads elsewhere. Now he was pissed.

We said that we’d throw him off if he tried to do anything. Levon (this girl born in Haiti who was going to a New York school and was on exchange in Germany and had studied in India before coming to China) asked us why we were being so “uncivilized”, to which Jeff responded.

That man… he has no purpose to his life. There is no place for him in this world.”

Applause followed. But he didn’t do anything and we climbed down without incident. Well… nothing, too dangerous. There were so many loose rocks on the steep slopes—there were several times when I’d accidentally send a rock rolling down to people below; yell out a warning, and hope that it didn’t roll into their head or face, or another loose rock. I think I hit Teresa a couple times. Tim was the worst though.

To make matters worse, about halfway down, it started raining. “Xia yue ya!” proclaimed Jeff. It wasn’t too bad though, and I took a few more pictures.

Oh look… it’s raining…

As soon as we got to our bus, a HUGE thunderstorm started, literally blowing apart the makeshift tourist village. Tables and sun umbrellas went flying, and racks full of live coals were toppled. I was soaking wet with sweat and rain, as was everyone else…

And then we started home. So much better than any tourist Great Wall.

Oh yes, and we kind of had a cake fight when we got back to the dorms, whilst celebrating birthdays of Allison, Steve, and Bernice.



Entry 012
Beijing-Shanghai Train
Day 38 – 7.2 – 11:00 PM

Beijing-Shanghai… they serve only “Tiger” beer here.

I will forego writing out in detail about the cake fight. It was fun, that’s all I can say. Okay, now it’s time to do some major catch up… again. I’ve all but given up on trying to get all the details in, more of the same, really. More bullet points. Went shopping again. Korea, U.S., Australia, all failed to make it to the second round. Went to Propaganda Wednesday night (international club in Wudaokou). Got on train. Now headed to Shanghai. This is the first “sleeper car” that I”ve been in, basically a train where you sleep. Generally, it’s pretty nice, three story bunks, but I know the peeps, and have experience in bunks, so that’s fine.

A view of our car.

We’ve left Beijing now—the place that was our base camp for the past five weeks, shared a few experiences… blah blah… it’s kind of sad; I was just getting comfortable in this city. Now we’re headed to Shanghai, and Nanjing, and have a packed schedule… hope it’s fun!

Schimitt and little bunny (not pictured) are with me as well!

Here’re some more pictures on stuff that I haven’t mentioned:

A North Korean restaurant. Damn commies… they even have to SPELL differently.

A shop by the restaurant.

Okay, that’s all! Next entry: Shanghai, Nanjing, the water town, and back to Beijing!

I still have a LOT of catching up to do, I’m not in China anymore… now in hometown Korea!

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