Okay, so today I went to the Great Wall – which was awesome. It was beautiful out – finally a cool day. We road lifts up (like ski lifts) to the wall and hiked as much of the wall as we could in the amount of time that we had (we almost made it to the top, but had to turn back to be on the bus, but I say we WOULD have made it!). It sure felt good to be in shape for that one (thank you boot camp, zumba, walking, and tennis!). We slid down from the wall to the bottom where the bus was (it was an alpine slide!). I drove my slide like a grandma and had about 15 people backed up behind me. The signs kept saying “slow down” and the guides along the way kept shouting “faster”. I erred on the side of signage. After the Great Wall we had our last Chinese meal – a farmers meal at a really cool restaurant in the village (I have to give our Beijing tour guide, Jack, props for the meals he has arranged – they have been less touristy). Everything tasted fresh and delicious. My stomach is almost back to normal (about 80%).
After lunch we went to a shopping village where they sell all kinds of knock offs and junk. It was the funniest thing I have ever experienced. The building was 7 stories high and each floor specialized in selling a few things (like luggage or clothes or souvenirs). Booths were crammed together with narrow walkways (like a flea market). The vendors all stood outside their booths and you had to walk the gauntlet… “Hey Lady, you need wallet – gucchi” “Hey Lady, you need scarf””Hey Lady, you need nice shirt” We were dying laughing – twenty Chinese vendors all yelling “Hey Lady” to us at once and then we would turn the corner and go through it all again. I couldn’t stop thinking of Jerry Lewis. They also started out trying to charge you $100 for everything (I had to buy a duffle bag – $100 was the quote and then you have to talk them down – I paid $20 which was still probably way too much). When you walk away is when they give in. It was funny and fun, but after awhile you get sick of haggling over everything.
Tonight me and Gari, Jessica, Mary, and Brian went and got foot massages (he says he knows they were saying in Chinese something about the four women and the gay man – which he is not). After that we ate at Outback by our hotel and then hit the local streets. What a blast (I’ve been too sick or tired to do that the other nights). We ate scorpions on a stick (which started out live!) and haggled over t-shirts. Now I am going to pack and go to bed because tomorrow I start my long flight home. This has been the trip of a lifetime. I cannot believe all the amazing things that I have gotten to do. I have tried to be as adventurous as possible and not turn down any opportunities to taste, touch, feel, explore, etc… I crawled through an infiltration tunnel in the DMZ, experienced the life of a Buddhist for a day, visit schools, met the Ambassador to Korea and had cocktails in her garden, participated in the fever that swept Seoul in their knockout game vs. Uruguay in the World Cup, visit an old and dear friend, stretched silk fibers into a sheet, practiced calligraphy with an 89 year old master – who during the Cultural Revolution was sent to a farm to cut grass, visit the World Expo, explored the grounds of the Terracotta Warriors, walked in Tiananmen Square (which Jack said is a symbol of China to the rest of the world, but not for the reason he thinks), stood where Emperors have stood, climbed the Great Wall, and climbed countless steps to ancient temples and historic sites. I have eaten everything that can be fermented imaginable, fish, chicken, lamb, beef, scorpions, dried squid, raw octopus, noodles, rice, Mongolian hot pot, Korean BBQ, bibimbap – you name it. I have made awesome friends – Gari, Wendy, Kay, Cindy, Su, Dr. Clark, Franke, Mary, Jessica. We all pushed each other to try more and more and keep it interesting – who can get the most outrageous picture. Gari, Jessica, Mary and I volunteered to try everything and I am grateful for hanging around with such a fun group. I know I have left a lot out and will be reminded when I see the pictures. Thanks to all of you who read my blog – it really keeps it fresh and real to write about it daily – and your comments have kept me going. See you all in a couple days!