I don't think of myself as a Calamity Jane, but my guardian angel does get a good workout. On our first trip to China, I left my passport on a bus. On our second trip to China, I "lost" a huge stack of US money... in my backpack. (Poor Paul walked back to the hotel and tore our room apart looking for it, when I had it with me the whole time.) So it seems only fitting that I should find myself with a story to tell about this most recent China trip, as well.
I already mentioned our Wall Day here on the blog, but that was only with cell phone pictures, since I had technology challenges this trip. Now I can share more details.
The lady in the purple hoodie, carrying Leo's "stay with me" panda is Jasmine. She's leading us to our meeting spot while Leo buys tickets. Tickets for what, you ask?
Tickets for the cable car! It takes you up, up, up. We were told, "Meet back here in 2 hours, 1 o'clock," before we got on the cable car. We were handed our return tickets. I still have mine, in fact.
Here's our group. We shared the bus with the folks from CHI. Jasmine and Leo took about 20 pictures with all our different cameras and then told us, "Up, hard way. Down, easy way." Well, that was an easy choice. Down, I went.
View from one of the towers.
The Wall is not a straight line. It meanders all over the place and has many different sections branching off. Which explains how you can be standing on the Wall and take pictures of it looking almost parallel to you.
There was a nice little vista for viewing, taking pictures, having lunch, etc. I snarfed some peanut M&Ms here. The weather was *gorgeous* this day, and I stuffed my coat in my backpack and walked in just long sleeves.
I came to a sign that said "Sliding Cars." And I thought to myself, "That sounds like fun!"
Now, Last time we were in China, there was an opportunity to hold a koala, but I didn't have the correct cash, and they couldn't make change. I'm still kicking myself for not just giving them the money I had and insisting the change was a tip. So this time, I decided, "Heck yeah, I'm going to ride the sliding cars at the Great Wall!"
By the way, I really liked the "easy way" they added, where you can walk along the outside of the Wall. Some of it was steps, of course, but much of it was nice and flat.
Every so often were these little doorways where you could pop up onto the Wall and peer around.
Hey look, what are those? I bet that's where the sliding cars go!
The views were amazing. Last time I was at the Wall, it was also November, but it was late November, and it was cold and the leaves had all dropped. We saw snow then. This time, it was still beautiful autumn.
Is it just me, or does that look like mini golf?
This must be it. Turn left for sliding cars.
I love signs in China! Reading the English on this one made me chuckle. But I qualified, so I bought my ticket and got in line.
The line reminded me of Pirates of the Caribbean at Disneyland. You get to the front of the line, and they say a number and you go stand on it. I got "wu" so I went over and stood on 5, glad that I can count to 10 in Mandarin.
And away we went!
The views were spectacular. No smog or fog, so you could see the mountains.
It wasn't crazy like a roller coaster, which was nice.
Again with the amusing signs. Whizzing past, "Don't of seat belts!"
Soon, the ride was over, and like Disneyland, you get dumped into a shopping area when you get off the ride. I might have brought home swords for the boys, but I wasn't impressed with the quality of these.
One of the vendors was engraving these Great Wall medals. For 5 RMB, which is less than a buck, I have my name and the date on the back of this. It's my Christmas ornament to myself this year. To remember my adventures on the Great Wall. The pink and purple will be Katie and Hannah's ornaments this year. I also bought a couple dresses for the girls, and a t-shirt for Paul. I asked the friendly guy with the engraving tool, "Parking lot that way?" pantomiming driving a car and pointing. He said yes.
My boys were annoyed with me that I didn't bring home crossbows for them. What could go wrong here, right?
So I'm walking along, thinking, "Any minute now, I'll pop out back where we started."
What the heck? Is that a... bear?
Yup, that's a bear!
A rather hilarious bear, actually. This shot was my favorite.
You could pay to feed the bears, and they'd catch the food you threw to them.
So after I'd taken several shots of the pit full of bears, (there were like 8 of them in there!) I wandered on, thinking, "Surely the parking lot is near by."
Instead I came to... another pit full of bears!
Wow, interesting. 2 pits full of bears at the Great Wall. Who knew? Never in all my years of hanging out online with other adoptive families have I heard of anyone encountering bears at the Great Wall. I wonder if this is a fairly new thing?
Well fed bears.
I wander on, and come to more vendors. At this point, I'm starting to look at the clock and think, I hope this path gets back to the beginning soon, I've got about 20 minutes until I meet my group. But I wasn't worried yet.
For the people who get to the Wall and realize it's freezing up there (which it totally wasn't this day--I'm still in just a long sleeve shirt and jeans here) you can buy jackets and hats and scarves.
Two things strike me about this picture. 1) It looks like they're starting to build It's a Small World out of sand back there. 2) There's no more Great Wall nearby. Only I didn't notice the second thing at the time. I keep wandering along.
I stumble upon a third pit full of bears! It's starting to feel like the movie Groundhog Day.
You're actually really close to them, it's just there's a chasm between you. But when you can zoom in and take really detailed pictures with a point and shoot camera, you're close.
After leaving the third pit of bears, I came to an archway that was very obviously an entrance/exit type thing. I exit. I find myself looking at a lot full of buses. Okay, this is good, right? I'm close. Where is the parking lot for cars?
I end up playing charades with a nice Chinese lady for a while, showing her this picture on my camera:
"I need to go here!" This is where we're supposed to be meeting, in like 10 minutes. She looks at the camera and is like, "Oh, no no no!" and jabbers on, making big gestures around where I came from. Finally, *lightbulb* I whip out the translation app on my phone and say, "I need to get to my group." She grabs the phone, stabs the China flag, talks to the phone and shows it to me. "You wrong direction very far in your destination," it tells me. Well crap. More typing. "You need to do a private car to your destination, no buses go here." I must have looked unconvinced. I remember thinking, the car lot must be on the other side of the bus lot, right? "To crosses yam past trouble, you have to do far better in the past to find a private car to your car to find your ancestors." Then she points and says in English, "Tackshi."
Now I may be a little goofy sometimes, but I know better than to hop into a taxi in a foreign country with someone who speaks no English and just hope for the best. I thank her and march into the bus lot. Suddenly, it occurs to me that I could contact people from my group. I text D (who is not at The Wall, but in meetings at CCCWA) and ask if she has a cell phone number for our guide, Leo.
Then I remember that I have Leonette's cell phone number in my email. Leonette is on The Wall. So I call her. Voice mail. "Um, hi, this is Shecki, and um, I'm LOST." It was a few minutes before our meeting time, so when she saw the unfamiliar phone number, she didn't answer it, because she didn't want to pay international fees for a telemarketer or something silly like that. I wasn't late back to the group yet.
I walk to the other side of the bus lot, and another Chinese woman says, "Taxi?" I say no, and show her the picture above and tell her that I'm trying to get back there to meet my group. She speaks English, and tells me that I'm waaay off. She says, "30 minutes by car, 2 hours walking." She tries to convince me she can take me for $80 RMB, but again, I'm not thinking this is a good idea. I'll wait for my group to miss me. I thank her and wander off to find a squatty potty.
I'm still not panicking, but I did have an "I'm lost in a foreign country" moment at about this point. I try Leonette's cell phone again, and this time (it's after 1 now) she answers. I explain that I'm lost, and that I'm at "bus parking." She puts Leo on the phone. After he asks me where I am, and all I can answer is "bus parking" he asks me to put a real person on the phone. I hand the phone to a woman grilling meat in a stall, and she speaks rapid fire Mandarin to Leo for a couple minutes and hands the phone back to me. Leo tells me to stay put, he'll come find me.
Leo, who, up until this point, had never lost a tourist.
Less than 15 minutes later, Leo walks up and says, "How did you get here?!" So I told him about the sliding cars. He said, "Oh, we tell people not to go on those! Dangerous!" Yeah, well, you didn't tell me. Oops. He says I went down the wrong side of the mountain. We proceed to go through some shops, and up and down some stairs. I'm breathing pretty hard trying to keep up with him, so we stop and sit for a couple of minutes. Then we take off again, down a road (which is closed, so the bus couldn't have come and got me, which was what I had been hoping for), then through a shopping center that went on and on forever it seemed.
I'm gasping for breath, and Leo says, "You like to exercise at home?" I look at him like he's lost his last blessed marble and say, "No." He says, "I didn't think so." Thanks buddy. Thanks a lot.
We finally get close to the bus and they open the windows and start clapping. I was so embarrassed, but relieved that no one seemed annoyed with me. Lunch ended up being horribly late, but I didn't hear anybody complain. I hopped on the bus, and we took off, and of course, people asked where I had been, so I explained the sliding cars, and said, "And I saw bears!" I had to show them on my camera, because of course, none of them had seen bears where they went. One of the group members teased me, saying that I could have had bear pictures on my camera from before the trip, but most people were pretty impressed with my bears.
Turns out, some of our group got to see a camel, which I didn't get to see (photo swiped from our group dropbox).
So, long story short, it is possible to get lost at The Great Wall. I've done it. But I got to see bears!
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