Okay so Sara and I are here in Beijing getting ready to start a two week stint at the Western Academy of Beijing and the International School of Beijing. we’ve come in early a couple days ahead of time in order to get our brains accustomed to the 12 hour time change.
I don’t want to jinx things by saying that we are getting used to this long distance international travel – but I think we are getting used to this long distance international travel. Of course being greeted by a hostess as gracious as Trish McNair – the middle school librarian at WAB and her intrepid driver Mr. Tsi makes things a whole lot easier.
We arrive with no drama, I wander off and find a sim card for our travel phone and Trish (bearing Starbuck Lattes) finds Sara. Nothing to it. Boom shaka laka we are cruising down the road headed to the city. Beijing is much flatter than a lot of the major cities I have visited in Asia, at least so far in my experience here. It reminds of a Midwestern city in the states more than a coaster metropolis with skyscrapers and neon. The streets are wide and there is no sense of claustrophobia that one might experience in New York City, Hong Kong, or Singapore.
We visit the teachers we are going to be working with the next week for a couple hours. A luxury that we find invaluable. It is so nice to have the opportunity to speak with the folks whose classrooms we are are going to be sharing beforehand – kudos Trish, this was a brilliant idea.
After we are settled with the crew at school we jump in Mr. Tsi’s car and he drives us out to the great wall of China. We speed along the Changjin highway for a bit then navigate onto smaller roads, through orchards and stone masonries, beeping at cycle carts and mopeds as we pass. We enjoy reading the Chinglish signs, my favorite showing a crossed out cigarette reading “Fobit the Flame” Sara favored one which spelled the word closely as clowsley.
Mr. Tsi drops us off at the foot of the great wall where we have lunch at a converted school house that now is a restaurant and art studio. We have a wonderful repast of pumpkin soup, pasta and lamb curry while our driver goes to the back of the joint where he picks up his lunch which he takes back to the car. I pass this driver/guide part of the restaurant as I head to restroom and I see several seated around wood tables and benches eating giant bowls of what looks to be some pretty delicious soup. I overheard a guide seated at a table near us tell her clients that the restaurant provided free food to those who dropped their charges there for meals. She said it was simple food – I was kind of wishing I had ordered it, but those of you who know me know I am a soup head.
After filling our bellies we take the two-seater ski lift type cable car up to the wall ( a bit harrowing) and slide back down on a toboggan. The slide down was rather disappointing because of a lady in front of us who road her brakes the whole way down so that by time we reached the bottom there were 26 grumbling folks piled behind her.
Even though the ride down from the wall was not as exciting as I had hoped I still have great wall height hopes for the rest of our visit here. I’ll post a video of our excursion once I find a way around the other great wall here in china – that great firewall that blocks YouTube.