We've had two jam-packed days in Beijing so far.  We've seen some pretty interesting things, a few of which I'll elaborate about here for your reading pleasure!

Yesterday we went to Tianamen Square (or however you spell it) and the Forbidden City, which is basically the palace where most of the emperors of ancient China lived.  Regular citizens were "forbidden" to go there, and it is huge, like a small "city" so, clever name, huh?  It was pretty impressive seeing all of that stuff, especially when you realize that there are centuries and centuries of history that have happened right there.  To be very honest, I'm not super knowledgeable about most of that history (although I've learned a lot over the past few days) but it was impressive nonetheless.

Today we went to the Olympic Park in Beijing that was built for the 2008 Summer Olympics.  It's a huge park, that you probably remember seeing a few years ago on TV.  The "bird's nest" stadium where the opening ceremonies were, the "water cube" where all of the swimming events were, and lots of other cool buildings and places that were built for the Olympics.  A lot of it looked familiar when I saw it, and even the parts that didn't, they were cool.  

We also went to the Great Wall of China!  That was by far the coolest thing that we've done so far.  All of the walls that are currently standing have been there for at least 4 or 5 centuries, and all together, stretch approximately 4,000 miles!  We went to a small section of it that has been renovated for tourists to walk through; a lot of it is not in good enough shape for people to safely walk on it since it's so old and isn't really used for anything any more.  

But we got there and we had a couple of hours to go and walk on it.  There were two different paths that we could take, one was a little shorter/easier, and the other was a little longer/steeper.  I chose to walk on the harder path because, well, when am I ever going to get another chance to climb the Great Wall?!  Each side goes up across the top of this mountain that it's on, to a point where you can't really walk any more because beyond those towers hasn't been renovated yet.  The longer path reaches that peak and then actually goes down in another direction for a little while before it stops and you have to walk all the way back.

The Chinese believe that everyone in their country has to at least climb up to the top of the wall at some point in their life.  Those that do are considered "heroes" because they are honoring their ancestors and traditions, as well as doing something symbolically great in their own life.  Well, my friends, today I was a hero!  I made it up to the top of the "harder" path, and then climbed all the way back down.  I didn't get a good number on it from anyone, but a few of us were trying to do some quick math and came up with the theory that we walked approximately 5k on our round trip up and down the wall?  Maybe a little more or a little less, but that's probably pretty accurate.  And it was full of very steep ramps, steps, and walkways, and we did take a few breaks in there so we could catch our breath, but it took us about an hour and a half or so to complete that.  I was an exhausted, sweaty mess afterward, but it was really awesome to stand at the "top" of a section of the Great Wall.  And we couldn't have possibly gotten better weather for our Great climb: it was about 75 degrees, blue skies, low humidity, and a very nice, refreshing breeze blowing the whole time.  From what I've been told, that is NOT typical weather for Beijing, so we were very lucky today!

We've done a few other things, and eaten at a few restaurants.  I'll talk more about some of that in another post, but everything has been really great in Beijing.  The city is obviously gigantic - it has 19 million people who live there!  So it's a little crowded and the traffic is pretty rough, but the streets are clean, it seems to be very safe, and the people are incredibly friendly and accommodating.  Some of that is because we're Americans, I'm sure.  They LOVE Americans.  I know our governments have some tension or whatever, but the citizens of Beijing truly love us.  When we were walking around the city and the different places, the local people would stare at us, and literally come up to us with cameras sometimes and ask if they could have their picture taken with us.  It's a pretty bizarre feeling.  And there are a few African American teachers on the trip with us, and Troy King (who is a 6'7 white guy) who get it even worse than the rest of us do.  The Chinese people who see them, literally stop what they're doing,  sometimes stopping mid-sentence in their conversations, and stare.  With their mouths literally hanging open, trying to fathom what they are looking at and gather their courage to ask to be photographed with them.  It's the craziest thing.  But even with the unapologetic staring, giggling, and photography, there's something about the way they carry themselves that doesn't make it feel rude or condescending really.  Their culture is obviously a lot different than ours, and I don't think they are being impolite.  They're truly just excited to see people who look different, who look American, and they want to meet us and have a digital proof of their meeting with us for the future.  So it's weird and uncomfortable, but also there's something kind of exciting, or at least interesting about it all!

Well, this was quite a long post, but I had a lot to say.  There's tons of stuff that I've left out, and I want to get back to some of it later for sure.  Like our trip to the Chinese flea market, our experiences with the "real" Chinese food, and some of the other interesting things that I've learned about the culture, the history, and the language.  But tomorrow I've got to get up early to check out of the hotel, go and see the Emperor's Summer Palace, and then catch the bullet train to Nanjing - the city where I'll be teaching for two weeks starting on the 4th!  So I have a busy day tomorrow and need to get some sleep.  I do have tons of pictures of the things we've seen and done here, and I'm definitely going to be posting some of them soon.  But I've had a very interesting time with the computer and connecting to the internet, so that will have to wait for another day.  I think all of that stuff is going to be a lot easier once I'm in Nanjing, so you'll be able to see a little better what I'm talking about!  So I'll have another update in a day or two, hopefully with pictures, and definitely with some more exciting Chinese adventures!
 


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    I'm Dan.  I'm a teacher.  And this is my blog about my trip to China.

    Wŏ jiào Dan.  Wŏ shì laŏ shī.  Zhè ge wŏ blog dù wŏ jià zhōng guó.

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