We arrived in China late Wednesday night May 2nd. Even at night, as we drove through the streets of Beijing, I couldn’t help but think, “This is Communism?” Someone forgot to tell the Chinese. Where are all the oppressed people wearing Mandarin collars and grey dentist tops? I actually asked one of the locals if China was still Communist because Beijing is nothing like Russia or North Korea. There were no long lines of people waiting for their toilet paper ration. In some ways, it took me back to college, when Communism sort of made sense.
Our first day in Beijing ended up being sunny and in the 90′s. So of course our plans included touring The Ming Tombs and the Great Wall. Strange how the first vacation I take after my mom’s death is visiting tombs everyday.
This area is the preserved land of the Ming Dynasty Emperors. Our guide Lilly was a tremendous wealth of information. I’m not going to reiterate historical facts you all can Google yourselves. I’m just going to describe our journey. It is really amazing when you see in person all the amazing structures that the Chinese created without the help of internet. Chase drove us crazy with his constant desire to buy a rice paddy hat. You know, the large straw hats you always see in oriental paintings? I don’t know why, but he was obsessed. I finally told him if he asked one more time the final answer was going to be “no”. Walking the grounds and listening to Lilly talk to us about the afterlife, it was hard not to think about my mom. It was nice to talk with someone who was so convinced in an afterlife that was supposedly so beautiful and peaceful. She told me that after a person dies, you’re supposed to burn their favorite things so they can have them.
Our next stop was the Great Wall. I honestly should have turned around at this point, but you see, that’s how the Chinese are so smart…. They posted this sign halfway through the climb. I was stuck clutching the stone walls trying to catch my breath as senior citizens with canes hobbled past me.
We passed an interesting section of the Wall, popular amongst newlyweds. Evidently, it’s sort of a ritual to climb the wall, attach a lock together and literally throw the key over. Our guide said she brought 2 keys and threw the fake one over. I knew there was something I liked about Lilly. I call this picture “Wedlock”:
In the end, we made it to 5 pagodas (which in Chinese must mean “pee in the corner”). 4,000 miles and no portoJohns, so plan your fluids. Chase ended up Christening the Wall at one point with Cliff’s blessing. I was still huffing and puffing a few flights back.
After the Wall, we had lunch at a local restaurant and ate dumplings, a corn dish, bok choy, and crispy chicken dishes. When picking restaurants, high-end restaurants are easy. They are high-end. Outside of this, you have “local” restaurants and “local-local” restaurants. Local restaurants are good food, clean, and reasonable prices. Local-local restaurants may have tasty food, but are questionable in the clean department and are dirt cheap.
Once our bellies were full, our last stop for the day was at the Jade Market.
It was very eye-opening to see all the Jade and how it is produced and finished. The Olympic Medals from the Beijing Olympics are actually the only medals which had Jade incorporated into each medallion. We ended up picking several pieces which are amazing and had a lot of fun haggling. Piece of advice: try not to negotiate with a 10-year-old boy who thinks he has money, but, if he has to be around, make sure he knows to stay in the back and just look tough and not say anything.
We ended our day at the China Club for dinner. Before we were seated the host showed us some of the accommodations also available. Cliff thought it was just a restaurant, but there are actually amazing rooms that you can stay in when you come visit. I highly recommend it.
We arrived in Tokyo Sunday Night and it is Tuesday. Every time I see a staircase now, I start to sweat and feel dizzy. I don’t think it is jet lag necessarily, maybe PTSD from the Great Wall. I swear, my legs get weak very quickly now. I am doing a lot of yoga, trying to find my breath again. But besides that, I am going to the grocery store and making “salad dinners” every night. Sometimes I feel guilty but it usually passes. Most of the time I just feel like I’m in one of those Public Service Announcements for Depression. Walking around in my robe aimlessly. Today on my way to yoga, I fell off my bike on a busy street and thank God there wasn’t a car behind me. I got up and looked at all the road rash on my butt and my bleeding feet and shoulders, but you know what? I just re-rolled that damn yoga mat and biked on. I probably grossed out the other people in the class with my bloody prints on my mat, but I don’t care. It felt good to hurt physically. Felt good to move forward.
Until next time…