The Great Wall / by Simmon Li

Today, I was at the Great Wall with my cousin and a few other people. I haven't been here since I was 2, so it was really nice to bring it full circle after 21 years. And this time, be able to walk it all on my own. It was certainly an experience I won't forget. The scenery itself is beautiful and the wall has such a great scale to it. We took the cable car up to 14th and hiked the wall all the way to the 25th turret. They have the area beyond the 23rd one open, but it's one of those "press on at your own risk" areas. Very beautiful, though the wall itself was starting to crumble. After that many years, it's really no wonder. I would have loved to press on to the real end of the wall (I could see at least 3 more turrets from 25), but we had people waiting for us so I decided that the 25th was far enough.

It was really cool walking along the restored wall, kind of makes you wonder how they built the damn thing in the first place. The one thing that struck me was the scale of it all. Climbing up a particularly steep section, it took a lot of effort to get to the top. I'm amazed that they used to build the wall, and that soldiers would patrol it. Truly a marvel of human ingenuity. At the highest points of the wall, it was amazing to look back out and see the other parts of it. It was nice because we went early and avoided the tourist areas, which meant that there weren't a lot of people. We could really take our time and enjoy the wall.

One thing that really amazed me (and sort of put me to shame) was the fact that all the people selling drinks and what not walk the wall every day. I don't know if I could walk the wall more than once a week. It was really something to catch on to. These people climb the Great Wall every day to make a living. It's a little crazy, considering that I was pooped just doing my little bit.

After, we went to one of the surrounding hamlets and had a nice meal together with those that came. It's funny, in Beijing, they don't often eat rice. They usually just have bread or noodles. So of course, being Cantonese, me and my cousin need rice to accompany the meal. Every time we order rice, it always comes in the middle of the meal, because they never have a batch of it cooked up. It's one of those small cultural things that is really interesting. To me, it speaks to the massive diversity that is the Chinese people. It's also funny, because we were eating the other day at a fancy restaurant (my aunt knew the chef), and he was talking about how in Shanghai things have to be sweeter than in Beijing, where things have to be more savory. Just small things like that, I had never really thought about. In North America, we segment our markets based on bigger geographical areas. It was just something amusing to think about.

I still pine for coffee in the mornings, but I'm slowly getting used to the idea of waking up at 7pm and forgoing coffee. It does help that I've been sleeping at 9 or 10 because there's nothing to do that keeps me awake. I've been putting off starting Plato's Republic, so I might start that once I'm out of the hotel.