Lean in to the Forward Slope

Today I climbed the Great Wall and that was awesome, but probably the most important thing to know is that I am in the Japanese restaurant at the hotel and I ordered a roll that is called “Local Tyrants Volume,” and I have no idea what is in it. I also ordered what I thought was tea, but if you look closer at the caption, it’s a seafood soup. Which would explain the salty taste. And why there is a shrimp in the teapot. It’s also possible that I am drinking the soup out of my finger bowl.

The Great Wall has some steps that seem to be almost vertical grade and just to add to the fun they vary in height, so some are normal and others require a hands on push off or a major pull on the railing to make it up. I made it farther than I thought I would and at the point I decided it was time to turn back an entrepreneurial fellow offered to sell me a metal card saying I had climbed the Great Wall with my name engraved on it. I put him off at first, but as looked out over the scene it didn’t seem like a bad idea. It was the best purchase I made all day, far topping in satisfaction, the high pressure sales from the government run jade factory where we stopped along the way.

The walk back down is pretty hard on the legs too, but just as when you go up, the solution is to stop and admire the view while you recuperate to go on. On one of my pauses, a lady had her picture taken with me. This is the second time this has happened. Sarah says many people from the countryside have never seen a westerner, and like to have a picture to show the folks back home that they ran into one of these exotic creatures. My curly hair seems to be the attraction. It’s fun!

Along the way on the bus. Sarah explains things about culture and daily life. I’m quite baffled by the way things are here. They overthrew the feudal system, but still today if your father was a farmer you are labeled farmer and if your father was urban, you are labeled urban. Most of what I know about communism is from the book Animal Farm and since being a party member gets you a car clearly some animals are more equal than other animals.

The Sacred Way is a long path, guarded by stone animals and stone generals and court officials. (The last two stone officials are retired and their hats cover their ears because they don’t have to listen anymore.). It leads to the Ming Tombs where the emperors were buried. Most of the statues were destroyed in the Cultural Revolution of the 70s and the bodies were burned, but now things have been restored.

At this point everyone’s energy was about used up and some members of the group stayed back for a cool drink, but the rest of us pushed on. I can’t decide if the tour company thinks this is a good pace to go, or only that it’s necessary to fit it all in, but we are going dawn to dusk every day. The Great Wall and the nine flights down and five flights up of the Ming tombs were a rough combination. There was a warning sign before the tombs that said people who had heart conditions should take caution before “leaning into the forward slope.” So we leaned into the forward slope and were victorious seeing the marble thrones at the bottom of the tomb for the emperor and his two empresses.

For those who are curious “Local Tyrants Volume” was roll of shrimp wrapped in ham and fried, wrapped in rice and topped with more fried ham. It’s a good thing there is plenty of leaning into the forward slope on this trip. Maybe that’s the tour company’s motivation: keeping the calories balanced?

Tomorrow one more gigantic sight in Beijing to go, and then we fly to Xi’an.

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