AHH!!!!! Today, we were going to see the Great Wall of China! As I woke up to the beautiful morning light of Beijing, greeted by the plethora of cars and busses on the road and people on the streets, I was smiling from ear to ear as I got ready for the day. I was so excited to finally visit the cultural site that I had heard about for so many years in person, and get to know everyone in the group a little bit better as we all started out the journey together. I was freshly rested for the day, and made sure to eat the wonderful hotel breakfast for a good meal and just in case not much was vegetarian throughout the day. The hotel breakfast was a great mix of Chinese and Western breakfast menu items, and I had a great time trying out the different options that they had. After breakfast, most of us needed to convert our U.S. dollars to Chinese currency, so we quickly went with Liliana to the bank across the street to convert the money for the next few days of the trip. It was interesting to see comparisons between banks in the United States and in China-the banks in China were much more guarded I felt. Everything was extremely fast, which I would later realize was synonymous to the Chinese culture itself. Afterwards, we all hopped on the bus, did our first number count (I was number 1) and then went on our way towards Beijing.
On the bus ride, we met our first tour guide Joe. He was such a confident, smart man who kept us entertained and talked to us like we were his friends the entire day-something which I really liked! Asian countries are greatly known for their hospitability, and it was great to know that China was as well. During the bus ride, a few friends and I were still under the influence of jet lag, but we had a great time listening to Joe and looking outside the window at the daily lives of Beijing people. Joe compared Beijing to Washington D.C., as both are the political capitals of their respective countries. As I grew up in Washington D.C., it was very interesting to see the comparisons between Beijing and D.C. and how people treated their nation’s capital. As we approached the Wall, the area got much more rural and the view much more pretty. It was a nice shift between seeing extremely tall skyscrapers to beautiful mountains that draped the landscape. We stopped for a quick lunch in a restaurant on the roadside just 5 minutes before the Wall, and the food was so good! I greatly enjoyed the meal, and it proved to be much needed fuel before the hike.
The Wall greatly surprised me-it was so much hiking! Being an adventurous person, I enjoyed the hiking leg of the trip, and we quickly hiked to the top in small groups. When we got to the top, it was enthralling to say the least. It was breathtaking! The view was just incredible. The wall seemed to go on for miles and miles, and while I was there, all I could think about was the miraculous effort put forth by all of the soldiers to actually build this human feat. It was incredible how many years were spent building the wall, and the thought process behind constructing each of the posts the way that they did. On the Wall, I hiked to the top with Jane, and it was great to get to know her and her background better and talk to her about what I knew about China and about what she knew about the States! On our way back down, we went on a slide type thing, and it was so fun! It is always a treat getting to know people from other cultures, and that was one of my favorite parts of exploring the Wall, as I got to know many different insights from her experiences.
Truly, I can wholeheartedly say that the Wall is as breathtaking in real life as it is in pictures-even more so. Sometimes, I felt as if pictures could not really capture the true beauty of the wall. I struggled to really encapsulate the entire beauty of the wall in just a few pictures, and instead chose to take in the view and every sight by myself. The Wall was a beautiful and enriching experience, and I wish I one day have the opportunity to go again.
Next, we headed back to the hotel and a few friends and I explored Beijing for a bit before heading to bed. We needed to rest up for the university visit the next day!