Well, what a tiring day today was! Our morning began in the Great Wall of China! This wall is over 4,000 miles (8,000 km) long! That’s 1,000 miles longer than the entire United States! The wall was originally built to defend China against barbarian invaders. The Wall runs along the top of the mountains. At it’s lowest point (where we entered) it was about 2,500 ft above sea level. The Wall is extremely steep and a climb not for the feint of heart. Every 500 meters, there rests a guard post (a good way to track one’s progress). The section we were in is an almost continuous steep vertical climb of about 2.5 kilometers to what is known as Hero’s Peak. Most of our group turned back about half a kilometer or at the 1 kilometer point. But fellow FSC-er Laura Reed and I braved the elements (hurricane force winds blowing right on us and sub-zero temps) and the climb so steep we, at times, had to crawl on our hands and knees, to make it to the top! I tell you, despite the cold and the wind, the view was amazing. Laura took beautiful pictures, which you all will see as soon as I can get them. At the top, I took of my jacket and sweatshirt to reveal my FSU t-shirt. So, a bit of FSU reached the top of the Great Wall!
The weather has been cold here. I am talking face-numbing, nose-freezing, eyes-burning cold. While the temp has hovered around 32 degrees, both days thus far have been extremely windy.
After our long, tiring but wonderfully fun Great Wall experience, we went to lunch at a small buffet near by. If I have one complaint about this trip, it is this: the restaurant that the tour-group brings us to are so bland. They are not real Chinese restaurant, but rather Chinese restaurant that cater to what Westerners want. Basically, they serve the stuff you would find in the West. However, after voicing our concerns to Simon, our tour leader, he promised he’d have a surprise for us for dinner.
After lunch, we had a truly wonderful experience: a tea ceremony! This involves the real brewing of tea, that is, brewing the tea with the leaves right in the water. Then, we were given tea to drink in small little cups. You drink the tea in 3 sips (once for happiness, once for good luck, and once for health). Men hold the tea cup with the first three fingers and the last two fingers tucked into the palm to symbolize the dragon, the male symbol of power. The females hold the tea cup with the first three fingers, but the last two out to symbolize the phoenix, the female symbol of power. It was a beautiful, spiritual process.
Finally, we had our dinner surprise. Simon took us to the restaurant of a friend of his; it was a Muslim-Chinese restaurant. The food was amazing, as was the atmosphere. China has a fairly substantial Muslim minority. While this minority is concentrated in the western part of the country, it does have representation in Beijing.