August 22, 2008

Beijing, Day 6 – Shuang, rhymes with Hmong

First, more from Wednesday. Another favorite at the athletics was the German pole vaulter Spank, who did just that to himself while doing high-kicks after clearing a vault. Also, the guy sitting in the row behind us was apparently in Officers’ Club with Dad (small world). Finally, we figured out what the little remote-control cars driving around the field were for – they brought the discus/hammer/javelin back to the thrower. They’re quite cute, but so far we’ve been too far away to get a good picture.

Thursday we woke up early to go to the Great Wall. We hired a guide, Sammi, who was friendly and informative and answered all our questions about Chinese culture. One thing that had puzzled us was how everyone here does V for Victory with both hands for all photos – we’ve even seen little kids do it. Apparently it is V for Victory, but there’s no reason behind it. Sammi also told us about the One Child Per Family rule. They started it in 1978, so she’s one of the first generation of Chinese people to not have siblings. There’s an overstock of men nowadays, and she said to get a girlfriend they have to have “the C’s – cash. credit card, car, condo, and cleaning and cooking”. And there’s a loophole – couples who are both only children can have two children. There are also apparently a bunch of very spoiled children (the guidebook calls it “Little Emperor Syndrome”). However, at the time we forgot to ask what happens to twins.

By the time we got to the Great Wall it was lightly drizzling and very foggy. Of course, we decided to climb it anyway. It has some of the steepest, most uneven steps I’ve every seen. Some were one brick high, some were four; the walls were tilted to match the grade of the hill; some parts were so steep that they looked like a sudden drop. Again, there were no signs telling us what we were looking at – all there was to do was climb up and down (Sammi said we probably climbed 700 steps). The mountains around were very beautiful – steep, pointy, and dark green, mossy-looking from far away, and shrouded in mist. I took some nice scenery pictures. The climb is supposed to take an hour and a half, but we finished in forty minutes – no idea if we walked quicker than most people or what. I wanted to climb up the other (steeper) side from the entrance, but our legs were shaking so we decided not to.


Here’s China’s biggest obsession: size. People say America is the land of big things – Hummers, super-size, vast open spaces – but in a country of 1.3 billion people, things are just… bigger. I had no idea of the vastness just of the city of Beijing. The subway system is huge. The Forbidden City is a kilometer from end to end, not including the outer courtyard and Tiananmen Square. The streets are all huge. The reason so many people died in the recent earthquake is because that city was even bigger than Beijing. And then there are the giant pandas. The Great Wall. The Olympic Green is probably a few kilometers across, and is absolutely packed with people. SO MANY. SO BIG. (Not the people though. The people aren’t that big, unless you’re counting the Dutch spectators.)

Thursday evening we went to the Coca-Cola Live Positively award. We didn’t have tickets for Thursday, so we got special day passes (and VIP passes to the Coke building) that expired at 6. We got there just after 6, prepared to argue with them to get in, but they didn’t even look at the time stamp. When we arrived, we found that we had missed the speech, but still got to see Shawn Johnson up close. We were even interviewed by Women’s Wear Daily since we were just standing around, awkwardly eating the free almond cookies and drinking the free Coke. We attempted to make a reservation for a Peking duck place, but they were full, so we left and went to Morel’s, a Belgian restaurant where I had quite a good pepper steak.


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