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Sunday, June 20, 2010

The Climb

I was in Beijing, China. The week before I didn't think I would even last in the country long enough to travel to Beijing. It was a struggle for me to adjust to a new country, a new culture. Sure, I'm Chinese, but that may have been my disadvantage. I'm a "twinkie," yellow on the outside and white on the inside. You read about China all the time in your history books, newspapers, and see it on television. It's not the same.

I went with my dad. My mother decided to stay back in Enping, China. She went to Beijing two years ago, and she wanted to avoid the stress of the big city. This was my first trip with just my dad, and it didn't hit me at the time. I have always been close to my dad, but this experience brought us that much closer. We were both in this unfamiliar place, even for him. Language was a barrier, and we both spoke English to get by. We lamented over how horrible our tour guide was, and we endured the typical tour procedures together. On our bus ride to different parts of Beijing, my dad and I would talk about everything from politics to life back at home. It was refreshing.

One of the highlights of the trip was being able to walk up the Great Wall of China together. I'll include an excerpt of a letter I wrote to H about the experience:

We were buddies on a mission to climb until we got tired. My dad noted how there is a lot less people this time compared to last. I agree that it’s kind of empty. The first set of stairs was killer. Each step was so freaking high. That alone was challenging just to get our short legs to work. Luckily the rest of the steps were not as challenging. One person from our group past us, and we just took our time. Every 10-15 steps we took a break and made sure to catch our breath. At one point early on we decide to take a picture. We ask this very American family if they could take a picture for us, and we strike a conversation with them. They’re from New Jersey, and this is their third time climbing the wall. It is very nice to talk to other Americans when you’re in a foreign country. Not sure why… just very comforting. That’s when we see the Enping family, and we decide to keep walking. Each time the goal is to get to the next tower. We keep thinking we’re near the top when we’re not. I see this place where you can get a certificate for making it up the Great wall, but I am confuddled. There’s still more steps. My dad later tells me that he walked up to that point and bought himself a certificate. That used to be the end, and the rest was closed off since it wasn’t restored to make it tourist friendly. Two years later, and here we are conquering the Great Wall all the way up to the top. We see the girl from our group who first passed us. We assume she reached the top, and we keep going. Of course it’s not that easy, and we’re still far from the top. Eventually we see what we believe is the top. I was exhausted at this point and wanted to stop, but my dad convinced me that we’re just so close. By so close, I mean pretty far. It’s just that when you’re walking up the Great Wall, you can’t see how much further you have to walk. You might see the next tower, but you can’t see beyond that. Since my dad convinced me, I had to be a trooper. Eventually we made it to the top with a small handful of others, and boy are we excited. My dad says, “This is it. We’re up to the highest point possible.” I don’t believe him, and I find the stairs to go up to the top of the tower. The stairs are not made for climbing up by any means. They are destroyed, and it’s a very dangerous climb up. We did it anyways, and we take our victory pictures. It takes us approximately an hour and forty minutes to make the climb with plenty of breaks and picture opportunities. Phew the hard work is over, and then we descend for the next 40 minutes.

I have to say that we were so pumped after the climb, and all we could talk about was how amazing that was. Not many people can say that they climbed the Great Wall all the way up to the top, and come on, my dad is 78 this year. That is so brag worthy! Of course we were 10 minutes late to our meeting time, but you can’t blame us for climbing the wall up and going back down. Everyone had to wait for us, but who cares? We climbed all the way to the top!!! Seriously though, my dad and I had no clue that we would ever be able to climb to the top. Our goal was to climb as much as we could and make a day of it. You have to give my dad kudos for climbing up there too. He’s not a young fella, and as a team we did it. I’m really proud of him. He can tell all of his friends that he made it to the top, and of course this is his first and probably last time. He wasn’t even sure if he could climb it when we talked yesterday. I’m still on a huge high from the climb. It probably won’t wear off any time soon

Taking a photo before our climb -- the "start"

Photo taken by the friendly American family we met. Too bad my eyes were closed.

Check out those stairs!

Wow, are we really that high up?

My dad amazed at my super skill to aim the camera to take a photo of us.

Woah... did we just walk all of that? Yes we did, and there is so much more that you just can't see from that high up.

Victory!! We did it!! Yippee! At the very top with my dad. =)

P.S. Happy Father's Day!


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