It was my first full 24 hours in China, and I must say I am very glad to have spent the day with a small tour of Beijing, my second Chinese meal, and a trip to the Great Wall.
My morning started at 5:30 when I woke up fully rested because I passed out around 9 the night before, which is about 5 hours earlier than my average bed time. I got breakfast which included many typical breakfast foods such as scrambled eggs, bacon, and muffins. After eating, it was a trip to the bank to withdraw spending money. In China, the currency is called yuan. The conversion from U.S. dollars to yuan is 1 to 6, or in other words 1 dollar is 6 yuan.
Before departing the hotel for the wall, we gathered in the lobby to wait for everyone to get cash out of the atm across the street. It ended up taking longer than we expected so naturally, we started playing pool in the lobby. I was matched up against Dr. Li, one of our supervisors for the trip. Although it was a very close game, I ended up victorious (sorry Dr. Li).
Finally, it was time to leave for the Great Wall. We took roughly a 2 hour bus ride there through a large portion of Beijing. This is where our tour guide, lovingly named Uncle Joe, comes in. He is what I have been calling a stand up tour guide. He was a very funny man and loved to talk about his “chenglish.” He explained much of the historical importance of the area around us as well as some very interesting facts. Some of which were that there are 23 million people that are residents of Beijing, the city of Beijing is the same size as the state of New Jersey, and that the Great Wall is 6400 km long.
Upon arrival at the wall, we split into two groups. One took a lift up the mountain, and the better group hiked up about 70 flights of stairs to the top. In the blazing sun, this was extremely tiring, and we were all sweaty and panting before we were half way up. Once we actually saw the wall at the top, anticipation swept over making the last bunch of stairs almost non-existent. The Great Wall is the main reason why little me wanted to go to China so badly, so this experience overall was a dream come true.
After spending some time on the wall, we found out that we were going to take an alpine slide down the mountain. It struck me as funny because something like this would almost certainly be illegal in the states, especially because the only English on the instruction sign was “tobogganing is so simple,” but we did it anyway.
Now, we had our first free time of the trip. The first task was to find dinner somewhere. Being typical Americans, the first dinner we planned on our own was to the golden arches. We were curious to see how it differed from home, and I must say there were many strange options available that aren’t available in the states. Now that we ate, it was time to celebrate our friend’s birthday that happened to coincide with the trip to China. The initial plan was to go to a bar somewhere, but there were none to be found in our immediate area. So, the backup plan was to pick up a few beers at a convenience store and we sat outside in the middle of Beijing just talking for a while. Fret not, no laws were broken in the process of these events.
I conclude this with a quote from Uncle Joe.
“When I drink alcohol, people say to me Joe you’re an alcoholic. But when I drink Fanta, nobody tells me I’m fantastic.”