Precursor: Let’s go back roughly a year when I was still undecided about where I was going to be studying in college. I had options, but never expected that I was going to be visiting the Great Wall of China as a result of studying abroad through the University of Pittsburgh.
Anyways, today was such a special, unique day. Woke at 5:00 AM local time feeling completely refreshed and ready for the day which was excellent after going through the blur that the previous three days were. To begin my day I went and got some of the “continental” breakfast made available for us. This, on the other hand, was nothing like the continental breakfasts that I had began to know so well in the states through traveling all over for AAU basketball tournaments. This continental breakfast was all being cooked in a see through kitchen across from the buffet style set up. It was a mix of familiar breakfasts (eggs, bacon, cereal, toast, et cetera) and cultural staples (fried rice, noodles, and a plethora of foods I had not recognized). I settled for a mix of both including eggs, bacon, rice, and noodles, all of which was excellent. After breakfast, I was able to squeeze in a make shift workout with the available resources in the gym. All in all, a great way to start a great day.
Then it was off to our program orientation with the Asia Institute which went well and answered some of the questions I and the rest of my peers had had. From there, we hopped on a bus and were off to the Great Wall. The trip lasted about an hour and a half but our guide kept us entertained and laughing for about two-thirds of that time. Before we got there, we stopped for lunch in seemingly the middle of nowhere. Despite the uncertainty of location, we had an excellent meal consisting of about 20 different dishes. Speaking about the meals, all of our group meals had been served family style in groups of 8 or 9 where we are brought 15-20 dishes and everyone shares and tastes different amounts of each dish. It is quite comical how some of us only ate the fairly recognizable food and some of us tried everything they had in front of us. Personally, I would say I resided somewhere in the middle of trying all the new foods and being conservative. After this meal, I was beginning to feel better about my chop stick skills. Pro-tip: wood chop sticks work better than the reusable chop sticks.
Then we had a short ride to the Great Wall. Once we arrived, we had two options, either hike up to the top or take a ski lift-like trip to the top. A group of friends and I decided that we were going to do the 35 minute-ish hike to the top because first we could say we hiked to the Great Wall of China and second we may never have the opportunity to make the hike again. It should be noted that when I say “hike,” it consisted of about 90% stairs and 10% paths. Of course, worried we would not have as much time to take in the sights we tried our best to sprint up as much of it as we could only taking breaks to catch a whiff of air. Once we only had to conquer one last flight of stairs, the Wall was almost like a mirage, it was crazy finally get be done. To be honest, we made great time only taking about 15-20 minutes. Being on the Wall is nothing like anything I have ever experienced before. We visited four watchtowers, each of which offered their own breathtaking views and photo opportunities. In retrospect, thinking about the shear feasibility to construct such an object in the time period in was constructed is just jaw dropping. The neatest thing, to me, across all the mountains and endless views was being able to see the rest of the Wall weaving up, down, and all throughout the rest of visible mountain range with no regard to difficult landscape and other potential barriers. Even with some of the parts that we had scaled, we were climbing stairs that had a steep 75%ish grade upwards. Like I said, nothing I have ever experienced had compared to this. Once it was all said and done, we took an awesome self controlled tobogganing trip down the mountain, which had its own unique views. After we had collected ourselves and began heading home, someone mentioned their steps that they had found on the Health app. That of course prompted me and just about everyone else to check out their stats. I clocked in at about 20,000 steps, just under a 100 flights of stairs, and roughly 9 miles walked. I wonder how my legs will feel tomorrow.
After such an eventful day, me and my friends freshened up and grabbed some food at a McDonalds. The McDonald’s menu featured a split of the typical menu items us Americans are used to and also some more cultural specific items. We then proceeded to explore the surrounding areas until we were all about dead and ready for sleep. When we made back to the hotel I felt as if I feel right into a deep sleep the moment I touched my bed.
Tomorrow brings a visit to the Central University of Finance and Economics.