After falling asleep within minutes of lying down last night I found myself awake bright and early at 6:30 am. We were meeting Liliana and Jane from The Asia Institute at 8:00 am in the lobby to head to our program orientation at another hotel. I showered and headed downstairs to grab breakfast. I was unsure of what to expect and was surprised to find rice and noodles. These weren’t the only options as they also had bacon, cereal, fruit, and pastries. I was even more surprised to find that I could eat my breakfast with a fork, which I very much appreciated. After breakfast, Liliana took some of us across the street to the bank to exchange our USD for Yuan. She was kind enough to take care of the time-consuming process for all of us by exchanging all of our money at once. this prevented us from having to fill out forms and waste time by each having to wait to do it with the one employee at the exchange desk.
After exchanging our USD for Yuan, we headed to our group orientation where we went over the itinerary and Dr. Li explained our assignment to us more in-depth. We then got on a bus that would take us to lunch and the Great Wall. We were introduced to our guide, Joe, or as he would say, “Uncle Joe”. Joe had a great sense of humor and made the ride enjoyable by telling us about the city of Beijing and himself. I knew that Beijing was one of the most populated cities in the world, but I learned that it is home to 23 million people. I was even more surprised to find out that the city itself is as big as New Jersey. Uncle Joe finished talking to us and told us we could use the last 30 minutes of the drive for a quick power nap. I took the time to listen to music and look out of my window. Before I knew it it was time to get off the bus for lunch.
The lunch was very similar to last night’s dinner. We sat at large tables together and many dishes were brought out for us to share. We, of course, had to use chopsticks, but I’m already getting better. I really enjoy these family-style meals because it’s something we don’t typically have in the US. Here in China, a variety of dishes are brought out and you share them with everyone at the table using a spinning serving plate on the table. By doing so, everyone gets to have some of each dish, whereas in the US you are limited to the one thing you order; unless someone shares with you directly from their plate.
After lunch, the bus drove for about 10 more minutes before we arrived at the Great Wall. We had to walk to a shuttle that would take us to the bottom of the mountain. On the way to the shuttle, we walked past at least 15 different vendors who offered to sell us beer, water, t-shirts, and other souvenirs. We shuttled to the base of the mountain and then were left with a choice: walk up the stairs or take the cable car to the top. I knew I wanted to walk. How many people can say that they walked up the stairs to the Great Wall of China? I figured that if I would ever be lucky enough to return that I’d take the cable car then. After walking up thousands of steps my legs were super sore and I felt exhausted. It was well worth it though because once getting to the top I saw the best view I’ve ever seen in my life. The wall looked like it just continued on forever (about 13,000 miles to be precise). The first thing that came to my mind was how hard this must’ve been to build. I thought about how terrible the walk up was and that made me unable to imagine the struggle of building the wall and bringing all the materials to the top. We to walk along one of the 7 wonders of the world for a few hours and take it all in. I was able to take tons of pictures to savor the memories I made. We met up and took a group picture and then tobogganed down the mountain from the Great Wall. This whole experience was something I’ll never forget and I can’t wait to share with my family and friends that I got to toboggan down from the Great Wall of China after walking on it for hours!
Once we got back to the hotel a few us went to McDonald’s to check out the menu differences and ended up getting a quick dinner there before walking around. We ended up finding the Olympic athlete and some government official housing by accident and both were very heavily guarded. I’m excited to visit the Central University of Finance and Economics tomorrow!