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Scrubs in Beijing Fourth year medical student from Houston, traveling to Beijing to study Chinese medicine and Chinese beer

Friday: Xuanwu and Great Wall

CHINA | Friday, 11 April 2008 | Views [1336]

This morning, I woke up, ate breakfast, and tried to dress for the Great Wall. I put on jeans, tennis shoes (more "Fumas" from Hongxiao), a t-shirt, and pulled my hair back with a headband and ponytail. Then I put on a warm fleece, because it's supposed to be cold at Badaling. I packed my backpack with my remaining granola bars (from the community stash of food we all brought), wallet, cell phone, digital camera, and books for the bus ride. Then, I grabbed my white coat (on loan from Xuanwu) and headed out the door.

After arrival at Xuanwu, we headed to Stepping Classroom No. 2 for the last time. Today: Medical Massage. Unfortunately, it was not as exciting as I thought it might be. We watched yet another poorly made video in Chinese (these videos always end very abruptly, as do most of the Chinese doctors' PowerPoint presentations), then watched as the teacher demonstrated on one of his students. Finally, lines of our students went to the front for massage, but I didn't get one, so I sat down to read.

Eventually, this was over, and the closing ceremony began. Our itinerary for Xuanwu says "Meeting VP of XuanWu Hospital"; what actually happened was some lady came in, apologized that the VP could not attend, and then sat at a table in the front with Henry, our leader, and a student from Buffalo who has taken the leadership role for their group (since they do not have a professor with them). Some speeches were given, Henry gave them the signed photograph of all of us, they gave us folders full of stamps of Xuanwu, and we turned in our white coats. Then, we filled out the universally mandated evaluation form and lined up for lunch, which the hospital provided. It ended up being very good roasted chicken, rice, some kind of green vegetable, and thick, chewy biscuits, served with bottles of water. I tried to drink sparingly and save the water for the climb.

I started worrying during lunch, as a friend told me weather.com said the forecast was rainy for the climb. I had brought nothing for rain. Also, many people had hats and gloves; I had neither. Great.

Lunch over, out to the bus and on to Badaling, about an hour and a half northwest of Beijing. We arrived to a very touristy parking lot full of buses like ours and surrounded with tourist kitsch shops. The gullible must think you can buy Coach purses everywhere you go in China. Individual vendors surrounded us as we exited the bus, trying to hawk baseball caps, straw hats, postcards, and t-shirts. One guy in our group pulled off his several years old, worn and faded American Eagle cap and tried to sell it to any vendors who approached him: "Only 100 yuan, very cheap price." They usually cracked up and left him alone.

Out of the parking lot, you start climbing a narrow street lined with more souvenir shops and a Starbucks Coffee, then through a narrow tunnel (where cars still drive through!) and into the entry square. We milled around taking pictures of the garish "One World, One Dream" Hollywood-style sign placed on the hill while our assistant from CMU, Peter, bought our tickets. You could see the Wall winding into the hills on either side of us. We chose a steeper, less crowded route. I eyed it with trepidation. I get winded climbing to the 5th floor of our dorm, even after being here 2 weeks.

And then, my ticket was in my hand, I walked through the gate, and started climbing. Up to the division where you pick a side of the Wall to climb, and then on and on up. Soon, most of the group had left me behind. The stairs were uneven, some very tall and some very shallow. In between flights of stairs, sometimes the ground was flat, but often it was sloped at a steep angle, providing no rest for weary legs or lungs. If the ground was fairly flat, it was filled with vendors of t-shirts, postcards, chiseled rock art, or other junk, and you had to push through them. I took a few breaks for photos, but tried to just keep moving--I wasn't sure I'd make it if I sat down. At one point, the stairs became extremely steep, around a 60 degree angle rise. The stairs were also tall at this point, so I was clinging to the rail with one hand and using my other to balance myself on the stairs, so in essence, I crawled up the Great Wall. Eventually, I made it to the highest point, a guard tower, and proceeded a little farther to the end of the restored wall. We took pictures of the unrestored wall stretching beyond; pictures of each other on the wall; pictures of groups of us leaping into the air; pictures of us fending off the parasitic vendors at the top. I snapped a shot of a classmate casually text-messaging from the top of the wall, looking extremely blase. I couldn't believe I'd made it; my lungs were bursting with altitude and cold and exertion, and my legs were very tired.

Eventually, it was time to go back down. Someone told me that going down was the worst part, and I thought they were lying. They were not. My lungs didn't ache as much going down, but my legs started burning badly. My quads and my calves felt like they were on fire. Eventually, my Achilles tendons felt so tight I had to change how I walked down each step. When I eventually made it down, it had gotten very cold and windy, so most of the small shops were closing up. I still managed to get my obligatory "I Climbed the Great Wall" t-shirt, even though my legs were shaking unstoppably. It's called myoclonus, and both of my calves were doing St. Vitus' Dance while I tried to walk or stand. Not terribly comfortable.

We sat around until the appointed meeting time, then trudged back toward the bus area. I popped into every shop on the way down with Lindsey, as we were looking for a Hard Rock Cafe t-shirt for her dad. We had no luck, but apparently the shops just on the other side of the street had tons. Oh well.

Back to the bus, back to my book, and eventually the bus pulled into an unfamiliar restaurant in a part of Beijing I'd never seen before. The CMU people treated us to hot pot dinner as their way of apologizing for the Tourist Restaurant (one even joked about how we would be glad we weren't eating Muslim food again), but better than the hot pot (which to me, is just boiled meat) was the dishes which came after: a fajita-like vegetable dish (I bit into the wrong pepper, spit it out on the table, and was bright red and coughing for at least 10 minutes), shrimp, and other very delicious dishes.

After dinner came another surprise: the CMU people had rented us two karaoke rooms upstairs for an hour. We headed up to find very nice rooms with couches and large TV's, and we drank beer and sang until they kicked us out. Tanner did an excellent rendition of Justin Timberlake doing "Senorita", and some of the Buffalo students sang very well. I caught a brief glimpse of one of the CMU professors doing "Edelweiss" in the other room, but I was too busy fetching Anna to do "Dancing Queen" to pay much attention.

Unfortunately, the restaurant was a LONG way from the dorm, and we still had over an hour's drive to get back to bed. I just can't seem to sleep on the bus, so I stayed awake and watched the scenery as we drove home. I still felt slightly exhilarated--I'd made it to the top of the Great Wall! But I was definitely ready for bed.

Tags: great wall, hot pot, karaoke, second week, sightseeing, xuanwu hospital

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