Saturday, March 24, 2012

Day 13: And the gold medal for bravery goes to H... or Help! how did I get stuck with these crazy people?!

If you noticed I skipped day 12, it's because all we really did was travel. It was a two hour plane flight from Guangzhou to Beijing, so it should have been a simple matter. To borrow one of TM's phrases from when he was four, "But it not". I don't think that China believes in jet ways. They have them, they just don't use them.  At least they don't use them as I am used to them being used. Recently, flying in and out of Chinese airports goes something like this. Sit at gate and wait until called to board. Exit door to tarmac where airport employees are constantly trying to break current world records for number of people in airport bus. Ride bus in incredibly uncomfortable manner to what seems like your flight destination. Exit bus. Climb steps into jet way connected to airport building. Wait in line in jet way. Board plane. Then we got to add sit in the plane on the tarmac for an hour and half because the plane in delayed. (You know bad news is coming when the Mandarin announcement is made and the entire plane audibly groans.) When the plane lands, you get to repeat the exercise except you are exiting down the side stairs (you know the ones you see in the US, but never see anyone use them) of the jet way which is connected to the airport.  When you claim your bags and find your driver you then get to ride an hour and half into your destination city.  It's been the one thing in China I really haven't enjoyed.  Yesterday I was constantly blessing the mother who left her supply of dramamine with us because it turns out that TM gets rather motion sick on airplanes. 

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.

After the wall, our guide took us to a small farmhouse restaurant where we ate some of the best food (and possibly some of the cheapest) that we've had here.

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.

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

Oh beautiful--family, great wall, mountains, all! What an amazing day (weeks!). I'm sure you have heard this, and don't know whether you'll get this in time but if a. Wants good shopping, tell her to go to "si Lu" or silk alley. Enjoy Beijing! And getting to know h....with love, the bartons.

Anonymous said...

Great post. The Great Wall photos are so cool. They are not the typical view I have seen. I liked your description of all the events. J going backwards - awesome dad. And then her first piggy back ride. I hope you got a photo of that.

Good luck to A on all her shopping. Sounds like a lot of fun.

We are headed to PA and will be gone the first week you are home, so I hope you can post somr photos of the reunion at the airport and other things you haven't yet posted. I'll be checking your blog.

You have a wonderful friend in M. She is even p-training K while you are away.

Thanks for all your posts. Lots of thoughts and p for your night coming up and saying goodbye. I hope you can get a lot of photos for H there for later.

Big hugs, EL

Stevens Family said...

Wow, looks like such a great adventure. What a climb! Love all the pics :)

Day2DayPrinting.com said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Tehseen hasan bajwa said...

Great post. The Great Wall photos are so cool. They are not the typical view I have seen. I liked your description of all the events. J going backwards - awesome dad. And then her first piggy back ride. I hope you got a photo of that.Watch World TV OnlineNepal radio Online

Related Posts with Thumbnails
Pin It