After nearly 24 hours of travel and not nearly enough sleep we made it to China! That first night we had a fantastic banquet style dinner finishing off with the Beijing special of Peking duck. The dinner itself was served on what are essentially massive lazy Susan’s in which you spin the food around and everyone serves themselves. These was a strange break from American ways where generally everyone orders their own food and there is not much sharing.
To start off the day we got the hotel breakfast which included fried rice, which felt strange at first for breakfast but is far superior to just eggs. Breakfast brought up a strange difference from America: the bacon was very wide and thin as opposed to thinner and thick like American bacon. It was fatty and had a fantastic flavor. At some point a random man just sat down at one of our tables which seemed to be just a part of the cultural difference but, he ended up being out tour guide!
Next, we were on to the Great Wall. Our tour guide was great, a fun mix of jovial of cynical whilst still being incredibly informative. Uncle Joe as we called him told great stories and managed to keep the history interesting and engaging. At the great wall itself, Professor Li and Uncle Joe offered a chairlift to the top which would cost 20 RWB more instead of the twenty-minute climb to the top. What I, and everyone else, failed to consider is that the options were really 3 dollars for a chair lift or twenty minutes’ worth of old stone stairs not including breaks. I still think I made the right decision but it is certainly a close call. The stairs were a lot. Every bend looked like the end only to reveal more and more stairs. Worse yet half way up some of us sat down for a break and I lost my phone. I checked my bag all, of my pockets, asked everyone around, used Prof. Li’s phone to ask the group chat, all to no avail. It became apparent that I would have to walk down all of these stairs I had just struggled up to look for it and then climb back up again so I put down my pack and turned to go down only for one of the other students to spy it sticking it out of my back waistband! Oh well these things happen. The wall itself was amazing but the views of the mountain ranges were downright gorgeous. To get back down we took the toboggan! The sights were amazing but left us all hungry and looking forward to lunch.
Lunch was similar to the diner the night we arrived, we were served on a giant spinning table and served ourselves. It differed from the dinner in that it was much less fancy. Being cheaper it was slightly lower quality but still delicious and I ate so very much of it. Filled up I was looking to the next visit with Uncle Joe: The Summer palace.
Just as we had been warned we had a lot of pictures taken of us by random people in the Summer Palace. Apparently, the larger tourist spots attract rural Chinese people who have not seen many (or any) white people, especially tall white people, which we have quite a few of. Even when we first arrived Jake got “drive-by-pet” and there were many staring. The palace was beautiful but Joe made sure to explain the effects of imperialism on the place. One of the 2 massive “Chinese Unicorn” statues was stolen by the British and one of the sections of the compound had been burned to the ground during British control. This interestingly brought up the recent fire in Notre Dame as quite a few Chinese had been happy to see it after what Europeans had done to the Chinese. One detail of note from the summer palace was the preservation techniques. The summer palace has the world’s longest corridor which is still the original wood from its construction. To make it so people could still sit on the sides and to protect the wood the entire length had metal covers painted the same color as the original wood. I personally found this interesting because if this had been in the states it would have just been entirely roped off. This shows a clear cultural difference in how the United States and China approach their history and education.