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Well, today was a whirlwind! My day started at 3 a.m. this morning since I awoke in the middle of the night and could not get back to sleep. So what does any typical American do at 3 a.m.? We watch TV, well typically infomercials, so I was curious to see what Chinese infomercials I could catch this early in the morning. Man, was I bummed! All I could find on TV were newscasts, a show on Cheetahs and the Bruce Lee story on HBO. I opted to watch Dragon: The Bruce Lee story, which honestly turned out to be a very good movie. It did leave me thinking all day, I will get to that in a little while!

After the movie ended, my alarm went off. Ha-ha…. Thought it was funny since I had already been up for 4 hours! I got ready and went downstairs to check out the Chinese breakfast buffet. The buffet here, like any other Chinese hote,l offers a wide variety of Chinese breakfast items, like Congee and Dim Sum and their version of an American breakfast, which is a far cry from the pancakes and scrambled eggs. I settled for some fruit and a chocolate muffin. I met the group at 8 a.m., and we went on our way.

The first stop was a Jade Factory. This place was interesting since we learned how they create and carve jade items. The pieces were phenomenal, and they were all done by hand. In fact, it can take up to four months to create a large jade sculpture, and this place actually made all of the Jade lining for the medals when Beijing hosted the Olympics in 2008.

After we bought some jade items, we went on our merry way and headed up the mountain to the Badaling section of the Great Wall of China. Now, this was the moment I was waiting for! I wanted to see the Great Wall of China my whole life, and now I was able to see it in person. We passed several sections of the Great Wall but went to the Badaling section because it was not supposed to be as steep as the rest of the wall.  We left the bus and began our trek up the mountain until we got to the entrance. I was expecting this grand and glorious entrance, but it was just a bunch of bricks. Grey bricks, to be honest. I was expecting a light shade of yellow! We went through security, and when I got to the top of the steps I began looking around and realized that this wall is something great. It was steep and the steps and bricks were all uneven, but the size was massive. This wall stretched as far as the eye could see. It was cloudy today, so I was bummed that we really didn’t get to the see the full scope of the land that the Great Wall once protected, but I filled in the blanks in my mind.

As I began climbing, I had to stop just to turn back around to check out the view. It was incredible, but what was even more incredible was that elderly men and women were climbing this wall with pride. They managed to climb the uneven steps and maneuver themselves through the obstacle course that the bricks created, but they did it with a smile and amazing dedication. People from all over the world were walking around. I walked as much as I could, but I wanted to go back down to the other side since it was the less steep side. After I got to the bottom of the steps, I just didn’t have it in me to start all over again, so I waited 20 minutes for the rest of the group to come back down.

While I was waiting I sat in the courtyard and watched people stare at me and the knee brace I was wearing for support. It seemed as if they had never seen something like that before and it got me thinking of the Bruce Lee movie. In the movie this morning, Bruce Lee came to America with great aspirations of becoming an American hero. He tried his entire life to fit in to the American culture, but he made his living by making movies in Asia. He only lived in the United States for 10 years and then went back to Asia after the first year of his original series was cancelled. He felt like a failure, because he didn’t have the success that he wanted. So, this brings me to the topic of conformity. Do people in China choose to conform to the Chinese culture or are they forced to conform due to outside pressures? I am not your average American woman and yes when I come to China I get a lot of stares, but I always wonder why. In some ways I know I have chosen not to conform to society in America, but in other ways I have. What we think is right or considered normal is completely different than what is considered to be right or different in the rest of the world.  I always say perception is reality, and the people in China don’t see an American woman wearing a knee brace walking the Great Wall in China everyday, although for us it seems normal. Who makes up the rules of what is right and why do we listen to them?

Anyway… moving on! After this great epiphany, I found the rest of the group. Actually they found me and we went back down the mountain and got in the bus. Once we started down the mountain, the headache and the wheezy stomach started in. I don’t know if it was the altitude or the driving, but I will tell you, the drivers are incredible here. Watching people cross the road, is like playing a game of Frogger. No rules, just dodge the traffic and guess what? The driving is the exact same way for everyone. It’s an adventure every time you get in a vehicle!

For lunch, we had some sweet and sour shrimp, Kung Pao chicken, stir-fried vegetables, fried rice and lots of other unidentified items. There was some type of congealed soup and another dish with stir-fried vegetable and some form of protein.

After lunch we then went to the Thirteen Ming’s Tomb. This was interesting, but I could have done without all of the extra steps, after we just climbed the Great Wall. This place has thirteen tombs, hence the name, but  we only visited one of them. The Ding Ling tomb was placed in a large temple structure in which we walked up a very large hill and then down 6 flights of steps. After we saw the tombs, we realized they were only replicas. It was neat to see how much the Chinese people adored their emperors and paid respect by throwing money on their tombs. This is supposed to bring them good luck and money in their life.

After this adventure, we went to another part of the Thirteen Ming’s Tomb Park. This section was called the main sacred way of the Ming’s Tomb. We took a cart ride through a long road filled with stone animal structure,s which included a camel, an elephant and a dragon. They were pretty ornate structures that stood at least 6 feet all.  It was very impressive to the see the level of detail on each one. After we finished that, we began our way back to the hotel. On the way back, we stopped to see the Birds Nest Stadium which was used in the 2008 Olympics and right next door was the Dragon Hotel which is one of two seven-star hotels in the world. I remembered reading about this hotel.  We finally made it back to the hotel around 6:45 pm tonight. Wow it was a long day!  I’m signing off and hopefully I will sleep better tonight! Until tomorrow…

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