So I was mistaken in my last blog about the site visit trip I had this past weekend. We didn’t visit the Forbidden City, but don’t worry, the Great Wall of China was an excellent substitute! We had an early Saturday morning start to beat the traffic (8:30 “on the dot” because people don’t know what on the dot means). I had actually gotten up earlier to try out a western style restaurant called Hollywood for breakfast where I got an omelet and bacon (it wasn’t as good as Pitzer brunch tbh)! I was really pleased to find out that my Chinese Language teacher, Yao laoshi, would be leading us on this trip. She seemed anxious to get on the road, hinting at horror stories of 4-hour long traffic jams (our bus ride didn’t take nearly that long), so we were quickly ferried onto the bus and set sail for the Great Wall at Mutianyu.
When we arrived at the tourist center, I was amazed to see the Wall in the distance lining the top of the hills almost like spikes on the top of a fence. Also, carved into the side of the mountains were characters that I later discovered read “Loyalty to Chairman Mao” (this is still China, remember). After jostled our way past all the vendors beckoning us to buy their ridiculously overpriced, made in China souvenirs (I got ripped off buying a Great Wall magnet), we were shuttled to the base of the mountains and chose to climb the stairs to reach the Wall. Trust me, if I had known the ordeal we had to go through to reach the Wall climbing those infinitely many steep steps, I would have broken the bank just to ride the chairlift up. I was so impressed by my teacher because she just kept trooping up those steps along with us.
When we finally made it to the top, and after slumping to the ground to catch our breaths, we had plenty of opportunities to walk along the Wall, climb up into some of the Watch Towers, and marvel at the views of China below (again, they don’t advertise the physical effort it takes to do all that in the brochures). It was hot, we had brought limited water, and there were more stairs everywhere you walked on the wall, some steeper than the last, and all of them always going upwards. The Wall seemed to go on endlessly, and I couldn’t fathom the struggle it must have been for the peasants who built such a large structure so high up in the hills. Looking out northward, there seemed to be a second segment of wall just as large and stretching just as far. It really was an intriguing sight.
Some friends and I decided we were going to trek as far as we could until we got to end of the restored wall segment and reached the ruined part of the Wall. At the end we were a little disappointed to find that the path moving forward had been blocked off. But ever the crafty ones, we Mudd students decided to climb out one of the windows and shimmy our way towards the ruined segment. It was quite the adventure! We marched through the overgrown jungle on the top of the wall, which had many chunks knocked out of it and debris strewn everywhere, until we reached the first ruined Watch tower. I was still very amazed at how massive and sturdy the structure felt after hundreds of years of neglect, a testament to those hardworking peasants. After hanging out for awhile admiring both the Great Wall and the great view, we tiredly, hungrily, and sweatily slunk back to our starting point, smartly took the chairlifts down the mountain, promptly hopped onto the shuttle to ride back to the tourist center, and slept on the bus ride all the way back to the campus.
My trip to the Great Wall was a thrill! The structure was impressive to see from a distance and became even more so with every step I took along it. The segment we went to was very tourist friendly (but not super crowded), I thoroughly enjoyed the hike (which they should seriously give people a heads up about), and I am so glad to have visited one of the great wonders of the world! Until next time (which will for sure be the Forbidden City)!
– Jakim Johnson, 纪家盛