Much smaller crowd for Taiji this morning, unsurprisingly, but everyone was on time for the bus to the Great Wall.
Once we got there, one student seemed shocked that there would be a lot of stairs to climb.Sshe had been in a car accident and had very bad ankles. The day before, she had told me we were walking too fast for her, so somehow it was my fault that I hadn't reorganized the whole visit to accommodate her -- you know, by going to the small, flat part of the Great Wall. I tried to organize something for her for a little while, before I decided I wasn't going to spend any more of MY limited Great Wall time on someone who didn't bother to do any research (the fact that she was sucking down cigarettes while whining that we weren't taking her medical needs into consideration didn't win her much sympathy from me). Eventually Carl got her a cab to a chair-lift section of the wall.
That aside, the wall was great. An exhausting climb, yes, but an amazing sight, and a great sense of history. The hawkers Amanda encountered in 2005 weren't there.Some students had a "Hello Amanda sign for a friend of theirs, so I posed with it for my Amanda. I feel like I should say more about the experience of the climb, but, even though it took two hours, up and back, and it was a great experience, I can't say much with words, other than "I climbed and climbed some more, the stairs were erratically sized, and if I was glad I wasn't an ancient Chinese soldier wearing heavy armor. If I were a Hun, I probably would have given up on my invasion plans."
The energetic and hazardous climb made me think that if this, or something like it, were in the US there would be hundred of warning signs, medical stations and whatever else it would take to avoid lawsuits from idiots. Chalk one up for communism.
Again, we got little to no background info on the wall, so I jotted down noted from Phil's book and some postcards I'd bought to share with my bus. According to Lonely Planet, you can't see the Wall from the Moon, just from Low-Earth orbit, but you can see a lot of man-made stuff from there.
Another Lazy Susan lunch (think they bring out "tourist food" for us) at a restaurant next to a Friendship Store. Then we headed back to the university. A few students wanted to skip this to go shopping. This was highly obnoxious, since meeting Chinese students was the whole point of this trip. Nut then, if they weren't being selfish, rude, and obsessed with material acquisition, they would hardly be SAS students. They're still WAY better than the kids on my India trip.
It was a little lame that it took us this long to meet the students. It was a holiday weekend, but I'm told that other university trips didn't have this problem.
We entered a building which happened to have a UMass seal on it -- some sort of branch office for continuing ed. Inside, students made presentations about traditional instruments, opera, and calligraphy. This bored some of our students, who believe the world had an obligation to entertain them. By way of response, Carl brought up Big Tom to sing Gilbert and Sullivan, Grant and Thomas to perform "I'll Make a Man out of You" from Mulan, and Phil to juggle. I would have liked to tell jokes to see if they translated, but this wasn't about me. For some reason.
We got to know the students better when they gave us a campus tour. They all had Western names -- Leo, Marie, and some odd ones, like "Waters" -- well, they introduced themselves with those names. I asked if they would give us Chinese names, but no go. The campus was very beautiful and surprisingly western. We saw a small zoo with white peacocks, a famous gate and a statue with a Latin motto inscribed. It was supposed to say "facta non verba" -- "actions, not words" -- but somehow came out "fagta."
I found myself more interested in telling them about the US rather than hearing them talk about China. This is a bad habit of mine and I will try to be better about it during our homestay in Japan.
Our group had dwindled by dinner, with many sneaking off to shop and some leaving with students, some to bowl at the university's bowling alley. Those of us who remained had dinner in the cafeteria (not bad) and went to the campus store where I bought an "extra large" t-shirt that was still a little snug.
Carl had a trip planned to an area with a lot of bars for karaoke. I considered joining, but it was far away, it was getting late, and I'm sure they would have had more fun without me, so I called it a night.