Saturday, September 06, 2008

Scenes from Badaling

There's this great book, Insider's Guide to Beijing, that we have been using to negotiate our way around the city. It's not really for tourists, but I would definitely recommend it to anyone who is living here for a significant period of time. Here's how the book describes the Badaling Great Wall: "This, the mother of all tourist sites, will give an empirical sense of what it means to be in a country of 1.4 billion people." With such a high density collection of people, a day at Badaling is bound to produce some funny and mystifying moments. Here are a couple of scenes we observed and participated in...

(1) No matter how far away from the entrance you walk, there are speakers all over the place. Some blast your ears with announcements (We now know that there is a movie, 17 minutes long, that is shown continuously all day. Why be on the Wall when you can sit back and look at videos, most likely shot on days when the skies were clearer than today?) Others play, over and over again, Olympic songs like Beijing Huan Ying Ni and One World, One Dream. (Kinda like going on that "It's a Small World" ride over and over and over...)

(2) At one point, we came upon this dad and small kid, toting a small cage, which we've by now figured out is where one keeps their pet cricket. (Stores all over town have these little wooden cages hanging outside their doors. So you can be in the middle of Beijing and hear chirping everywhere you go.) What a cool father-son outing! Why settle for any old cricket when you can have a pet that came from the Great Wall!?

(3) There really is no escape from the "Hordes of Badaling." Just when we thought we were beginning to get "out there," there suddenly appeared a police officer and a barrier. Although we could see the Wall stretching out tantalizingly over mountain after mountain, there was definitely no way we could go any further. We're not ready to get detained yet!

(4) There is this roller coaster-ish ride that can take you from a high point on the Wall, back toward the entrance down below. Falling into the trap, we handed over 30 kuai each (like 5 bucks) and enjoyed a low-speed, low-thrill trip back to the bottom. It really is starting to sound more and more like Disney, isn't it?

(5) Where does the tram-ish thing drop you off? At the area where everyone in China who isn't visiting the Wall is working at the Wall. It's like running this gauntlet of trinket sales men and women. I tried various strategies in response. The ever-present bu yao (don't want) to off-the-wall things like, Ni yingwen shuo de ting hao (your English is really good). If nothing else, that one really puzzles them (and makes Desi roll her eyes at me). At one point, I made a low offer for this "I climbed the Great Wall" shirt. Not getting a positive response, I kept sauntering down trinket alley. (Oh, did I mention that you can also pay, right in the middle of this tourist trap, a few kuai to feed these bears who are kept in this little area between all the salespeople?) A few moments later, one of the merchants came running down the path, searching for me, ready to make a deal. The only thing is that she ran after the wrong foreigner! Eventually, she figured her mistake out, and I walked away with my three dollar shirt. (Even though it was labeled as a 5X, it's too small for me. Julie, you're in luck!)

No real moments of solitude, as you can see. But that's not why you go to Badaling...

~Steve

2 Comments:

At 8:43 PM, Blogger Amanda said...

Desi!

I just wanted to let you know that we all miss you at Blair and that everyone talks about loving being able to read about your family's adventure through your blog! I had my students fill out a survey and one question asked to describe a favorite teacher...I can't tell you how many wrote down "Mrs. Balla.":-)

Take care!

Amanda

 
At 9:16 PM, Blogger The Balla Family said...

Hi Amanda!

So glad you can "join" us!!!!

Thank you for your kind words. It is always nice to hear positive feedback from the kids!

I miss you all as well! Please send my best to everyone back at Blair and tell my students I say "nihao." You are welcome to give them the blog site if they ask. Hope all is well for you and that "Hannah" didn't cause you too much trouble.

Love, Desi

 

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