Wednesday, July 28, 2010

China, and an experience of a lifetime

It all started when my brother, Brandon Taylor, was given the opportunity to take an internship with a Chinese newspaper called the China Daily. It came as a bit of a surprise to my family and me, but we were very excited for him. This meant that he might have a job right out of college, which has become increasingly unlikely in the United States with the current economic problems.

Just before his internship ran out at the newspaper, a newsmagazine called the Beijing Review offered him a one-year contract as a foreign expert/editorial consultant. My mother was naturally upset that he would not be coming home, but my father explained to her that if he were to come home, he would most likely have trouble finding a job in the states. To that she agreed.

My mother told both my father and me that we were going to visit Brandon soon. Indeed she was right. My mom and I went to China for a visit in April 2010, and it was a trip to remember. My dad visited Brandon in the summer.

We boarded the plane March 31 and didn’t arrive in Beijing until April 1. I got sick, I am thinking, because of the airplane food, and I was not really in the mood to be traveling around a lot soon after we arrived. However, we went out to eat that first evening at the first unique Chinese restaurant I was ever at. My brother had warned my mom and me to be prepared to use chopsticks for almost every time we ate, and he did not lie. I had a pair of chopsticks at home so I knew the basic concept of using them. My mother, on the other hand, was not so fortunate. Watching my mother use chopsticks at first was a good laugh for both my brother and me. In some cases, she had to use a fork.

The next day, we visited Tian Na Men Square and the mausoleum of Mao Zedong, We stood in line with the Chinese who bought flowers to place in an area just before entering the actual room to view the preserved body of the former premier of the People’s Republic of China. After that, we visited the Forbidden City, where the emperor and his family had lived.

Saturday came around and I was still a little queasy from the day before, but we arranged for a driver to take us to the Great Wall of China and so I would have to put my sickness in the back seat. The driver’s name was John Ping, and my mom and I highly recommend this man for anyone who plans on going to Beijing.

The drive to the Wall was an interesting one. On the way, we passed villages that seemed very poor. My brother had explained to us that farmers and others living outside the city villagers were very poor because they had not been introduced to the technology that the cities have, and so, they do the basic things to survive.

When we arrived at the bottom of the Wall, we noticed that there were a lot of stands that were offering hats, shirts, and basically every kind of souvenir. On the way up, my brother bought me a hat that a lot of the local people wore. It had a red star right in the middle of the front, which symbolizes communism. We had to ride a chairlift to get to the point where we would start our trek.

When we finally landed on the wall, Mom and I were amazed at how much of the land we were able to see. We started walking and we came to a point where Mom said, “I’m not even going to attempt to climb that. So pick me up on the way back down.” So that’s what Brandon and I did. While we were climbing this incline of steps, we had to stop at least three times to catch our breath.

These steps were not to be taken lightly. They scaled the hill at a 45-degree angle. We made it to the top, or least as far as they would allow tourists to go. Some parts of the wall are blocked off because they are perhaps too high or they have not been fully restored like the other parts that are open to the public. The way down was even worse. Going down is a killer on the knees, which I felt the next day.

As promised, we met up with Mom on the way back. We told her that she was lucky she did not attempt the climb. When we looked at the map, we realized that we had quite a walk till to reach the lift to get down . (We had already walked about two miles.) The way we had to walk was even longer than the way we started. There was, however, no other way to get down than the other lift.

We did some walking, and some walking, and some more walking, and on our journey, we noticed how the wall was built following the peaks of the mountain and it hugged the mountain even on the most vicious curves. To that, we were amazed.

When we finally reached the ending point, Brandon and I saw that they had a toboggan ride for going down. We quickly decided that that was what we were going to do. Mom did not want to be daring and just rode the chairlift down.

The toboggan ride down was pretty intense. The little cart-like things that you rode down on had brake levers which allowed you to control your speed. Of course, I wanted to blaze a trail down the toboggan pipe, but I was unable to because my brother was going too slow in front of me. He was going slowly because someone in front of him was also going slowly. I was kind of irritated because I did not want to sightsee on the way down. I had already done that on the wall. I just wanted to fly down the mountain.

We reached the end of the run and decided to visit some stands to see if there was anything that we wanted to buy. Brandon ended up buying me a winter hat that had earflaps. You probably seen these type hats on Russian soldiers during the wintertime. My brother had insisted that I buy a real sword, but I told him that I would have no way of getting it back to the states. Can you imnagine trying to get something that that on an airplane? Thus concluded the long and tiring journey to the Great Wall.

Later on that night, we went out to a fancy restaurant. It was there that I first experienced eating duck. I was still a little sick at the time, so I was unable to eat to my full capacity. However, the duck that I was able to eat was tender and oh so delicious. After that long day, I was able to sleep like a rock.