So on to today... The Great Wall. Did you know that the Great Wall would stretch across the entire US if is was stretched straight? Or that the stones were held together with either rice flour and crushed limestone or vinegar and egg white? Do you realize how incredibly steep it is going up and down those mountains?
We had a wonderful day. If we had personally ordered the weather we couldn't have asked for better. It was very sunny and clear and the temperature was mild enough that if you weren't moving a light jacket was all you needed and while hiking a t-shirt was fine. (There were moments of incredible wind while we were up on the wall, though.)
The section of the wall our guide took us to is not the section designed for tourists. There is no lift up to the wall and it is not restored. It's the real deal and we climbed it. (Sadly, there were no t-shirts for sale stating that fact. An oversight, I'm sure... maybe if we were at the more touristy part.) So, the Great Wall is up on top of the mountains surrounding Beijing. And since the wall is no top, to get to it, you have to climb up the mountain. Happily, stairs were built to access the wall. 1100 stairs. It made Baiyun mountain look like a piece of cake.
Here's where we were heading. The wall is the light colored stripe along the right hand side of the mountain.
Here is what the view looked like from about a quarter of the way up. The whole area is filled with nut and fruit orchards. Our guide said that in a month everything will be green and all the trees will be filled with flowers. I'm sure the view is breathtaking.
On we go. H. was a trooper. At first she wasn't overly happy about all the stairs. We alternately pulled her along by the hand and coaxed her with snacks and water. And we rested a lot. You could just tell she was thinking she got the crazy family and was this going to be her life forever and ever.
We're getting closer. This is the section of the wall we're going to climb. (Yes, that's after the 1100 stairs to get here.) Later on we will show you pictures from that guard house.
Here is a shot of some of the stairs we just came up. Emphasis on some.
J. played sherpa for the way up. You'll notice that everyone has shed their coats. We started out having each child carry his or her own coat. You can see how long that lasted.
On the wall. On this section it is still relatively well paved and quite easy to walk on. But look at that section just up ahead... the one with all the scrub growing on it. That's where we're going and it is not so easy.
Here are TM and A. still on part of the good section. They must be part mountain goat because they just seemed to scamper up without any difficulty. This doesn't look terribly impressive because I was using the telephoto feature.
But here is what it looked like from where I was standing.
This is the view of the wall behind us which we didn't climb.
That section that A. and TM were on is pretty steep. So steep chains have been added to aid climbers.
Here's a view of J. helping H. down one of the better sections. I have mentioned about H.'s eyesight and lack of depth perception, so this would be challenging enough. What we have also noticed is that she has no muscles. There is no strength in her thighs which makes going down very difficult. She won't even jump off something without help. (I don't think it's something to be concerned about, I think it's just from lack of use.) Climbing the wall was very challenging for her. Since she has such difficulty on the 'easy' section, we were really not sure about taking her on the harder one. I was willing to sit with her and wait for the others to go and come back and we told H. she could sit and wait for Ba Ba (Daddy in Mandarin). H. would have none of it. TM and A. had already gone on and were out of sight and she was keeping up with them no matter what. No matter what we did, we couldn't convince her to stop. (I really was concerned about her getting back down... I wasn't sure she could do it.) But, I think she has a strong competitive streak (she'll fit right in), and she was going on. With or without us. So on we went.
We all made it to the top of the guard tower. The views were pretty impressive. And so was the drop. Remember my panic in the lighthouse? I don't like edges and my children near each other. J. made me turn around while he took this picture.
See? It's a long way down. I don't think I'm being unreasonable.
A Swedish family was also with us and they took this picture of the five of us.
But then it was time to go down. Once again TM and A. had no difficulty. This is a pretty good view of the rougher section, except it doesn't really communicate its steepness.
We got down with H., though we didn't move quickly. I shouldered all the luggage because the way it worked best was for J. to go down backwards (yes he did it all backwards!), holding H.'s hands while I came up behind and gave encouraging pushes (J. was holding her arms and supporting her) when she balked and wanted to turn around. She did become more and more confident in both herself and in J.'s ability to keep her safe. You know those trust exercises that are used for group building? This turned out to be like one of those, but times 100. By the end of the wall, when it was time to descend those 1100 steps, H. was confident enough in J. that she allowed him to carry her piggyback for the first time. (He has tried to before when she has been exhausted, but she has most emphatically refused.) I think she was darn proud of herself when we made it down the roughest section of the wall. See that smile? Our guide took this. If only we had the other seven children, it would be the ultimate Christmas card picture.
I think most of us fell asleep in the van on the way back to Beijing, but we woke up enough to visit a tea house where we got to learn about how the Chinese brew tea and try several different kinds. I love tea and all things related to tea. For our bank account's sake we probably shouldn't have stopped, but we may never be back, right? I needed some things from my daughter's country, right? Humor me.
We're back at the hotel and feeling happily tired and not too hungry, so I think we'll go upstairs and enjoy the free happy hour that comes with the room. (That will be a post for another day.) Tomorrow we go to see the Forbidden City and Tienanmen Square and A. is hoping to do just a little bit of shopping. Then in the afternoon we head to Shepherd's Field Children's Village so we can visit it and H. can say her last good-byes. I don't know what to expect from that visit... prayers are appreciated.
We may not have internet from this point onward. I don't know what to expect at Shepherd's Field where we'll spend the night, so this could be my last post from China. We arrive in Chicago on Monday afternoon. We are happy for people to meet us at the airport, contact our friends who are watching the children for details. It's a United flight and I think it is due in about 4:20pm.
Thank you for all of your comments and prayers. They are much appreciated and our trip has gone so well I know your prayers were heard.