Sunday, April 19, 2009

The Great Wall, Take II

Today we went to the Great Wall. We went to the Mutianyu section (there are three sections in Beijing), the same one that I went to with my host family a few weeks ago. This time, however, I went with the Americans and the kids from Newton North who are here on a chorus trip. The North kids got here on Friday afternoon, and are staying with host families for the week, at which point they'll go back to America. Barely enough time to get over jet lag.

We met at Jingshan at 9am, hopped on a tour bus and were on our way. At one point our guide started talking about the history of the Great Wall and such, but I didn't pay much attention. I love history, I really do, but I'm getting kind of sick of ancient Chinese history. It's so far away that it doesn't really mean anything to me anyways, but I'm also currently living modern Chinese history. It just seems irrelevant to me to learn about Emperor Qin Shihuangdi for the 1000th time.

Anyways, when we got there we took the stairs up, the same as last time. It didn't take long to reach the Wall, but I've come to despise stairs since I've been to China. I think I was traumatized when we were on Huangshan.

I took some pictures, although it was so cloudy you couldn't see very far. We did go further than I did when I came with my host family, to a section that hasn't been restored. It was overgrown with small trees and grass, and the tower was crumbling. According to Gao laoshi, it was built during the Ming Dynasty, so about 500 years old give or take a century or two. Carolyn, Rebecca, Becky, and I took a "let's defeat the huns" (Mulan reference) picture. It was pretty cool. We went down on the slide like I did last time. It's literally a metal slide that winds down the mountain and you ride a little plastic thing with a handle on it to control your speed. It's really fun.

When we got down, we shopped. At the parking lot area, there are tons of little shops where tourists can buy souvenirs. I bought several things, but the fun part of it was bargaining. In many of the places I've been shopping, you can't really bargain. I'll try, and they tell me I can't. Here, however, you could bargain to your heart's content. I got a set of really pretty chopsticks in a nice box with a village scene on the front. The lady's starting price was 385 yuan. That's about $55, for something that is probably worth only a few dollars. I told her I'd pay 10 yuan for it. She didn't like that, but she lowered the price by 20 yuan. I raised my price to 20 yuan. She lowered again, but I insisted on 20. She kept lowering and lowering, while I stayed at 20 yuan. Eventually she agreed to 20, and that's what I paid. I lowered the price 365 yuan, or from $55 to about $3. It felt cool to have lowered it by that much, even though I knew that she didn't expect me to actually pay 385 yuan. I also got two magnets, an "I heart 北京" shirt, and a PLA hat. All in all, I spent about 20 US dollars. Bargaining for the magnets was funny. They guy said 25 yuan, to which I said 5. He lowered and lowered, and when he got down to 10 yuan he went "10. 9. 8. 7. 6. Ok, 5." So I paid $.73 for each magnet, which I think is a reasonable price.

The way home was interesting. The bus ride was nothing special, but the journey home was. When we were back in the city, I noticed that the surroundings looked familiar. I realized that we were passing by what I see everyday on my way to school, which meant that we were near my house. I told Gao laoshi, and she proceeded to ask the bus driver to stop and let me off. Before I knew it, I was off the bus walking on some random street. I knew generally where I was, and which direction was home, just not really how to get there without getting hit by cars. Luckily, I soon found a subway stop and took that to my house. All in all, an eventful day.

A classmate of mine tells me there will be a flea market at school tomorrow during lunch, so that should be an interesting experience...

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