Sunday, July 29, 2012

great wall

i took the subway to the long distance bus station. when i got there a little old woman came up to me and kept pointing at my journal. she was correct in assuming it contained a list of where i needed to get. i showed her my journal. i had written the city i needed to take the bus to, and then the village i needed to hire a mini-bus to take me to. before i left my hostel that morning i had gotten one of the receptionists to write my directions in mandarian so i could point if necessary. i also wrote the mandarian pronounciation down too, just in case.
after i showed it to her she pointed down the bus station to the very end of the tunnel, where it started to get dark. she followed me as i walked speedily down the tunnel. she guided me into the right line up and everything. then when i got to the front of the line she was there to meet me again. she told the ticket lady where i was going, and then before i got on the bus she shouted at me.
"fire station! FIRE STATION!"
what the heck? she held up a flat palm at my and kept saying fiiiiieeeeer station.
i smiled, nodded and got on the bus. she was still shouting.
the bus started up and i was off! about an hour later we hit my first stop, miyun. miyun is a small city...i would compare it to a chinese windsor, ns. i was half asleep when we got into miyun and wasn't really paying attention. i could feel the bus come to a stop and then i heard shouting and someone grabbing and tapping my shoulder.
'miyun here, MIYUN NOW!'
well i rushed and grabbed my pack and hopped off the bus. i assumed the person shouting at me was the driver, who had overheard the kind bus station angel telling me where to go. but as i walked off the bus, i saw the driver sitting in his seat. when everything clicked it was too late. i was now standing at a bus stopped surrounded by vulture-like cabbies.
'where you go?'
'how much?'
'lady come me!'
'you go wall? i take now, gooda gooda price rewe cheap just fo you'
i was infuriated. they had seen me on the bus, i was white, they made the connection.
then i saw another bus drive by, same number as the one i was on. same bus line. so after i thoroughly reemed out the cabbies i waited for the next bus to come by. i flagged it down. it stopped and the cabbies pushed past me and onto the bus. they were talking to the bus driver...presumably about me. i pushed past them and showed the driver my ticket. he said something and pointed to the stop outside. i started rambling back to him. they hate the language barrier. i sounded like an idiot, but they didnt know what i was saying.
'im not getting off, these men are assholes. take me further into town and then ill get off. you can just start driving. im not going anywhere dude. im stubborn and sweaty. im DRIVE!'
it worked. he got flustered at my talking, or annoyed or something...and he started up the bus.
then all of a sudden 'FI-ER STATION' made sense. one hour and then fire station...five stations....five stops. i needed to wait until the fifth stop in town. and i did.
when i got off at the right stop it went much smoother. i was still surrounded by cabbies, but they were nicer. not as rude. the one that i settled with even flagged down some girls around my age to do the translating for us. i bartered until i got him to agree on driving me to hexi village, one hour down the road, for 100Y. which is about sixteen dollars.
when i got to hexi village the minibus dropped me off at this staircase and the driver pointed to a ticket booth style looking window and then drove off. i walked up to this completely run down ticket booth and pointed to my journal where it read 'entrance to wall?'
the old man shook his head and started to get up. when he did that i started to walk over to where the stairs were. that is when his wife appeared and also when he started to limp/chase after me. this is also when the charades began.
he got chased up the stairs after me shouting. grabbed my pack and then my jacket, still shouting. he got in front of me and pointed at me and shook his head and finger. i acted out walking - sleepy - tent - wake up - more walking. he countered with rain hands - big arms x's - and more head shaking. he was also adding sounds. rain hands came with a thunder and lightening auditory add-on.
so so yummy. tiny village dinner.
this continued for a while before i gave up. i had gathered from our interaction that i couldnt go on the wall tonight because it was supposed to be bad weather that night, that i would be going to stay with a woman who lived down the road, i would be giving her 100Y for the accomodation and dinner and breakfast and that i could meet old man guard guy at 9am tomorrow morning to see if the weather was better and then i could go on the wall.
i felt defeated. not being on the wall on my first night. but im all about the journey not the destination. so if this was part of it all, then so be it. i enjoyed the most delisious meal so far that night. the woman cooked me up a feast! and in the morning i had a great breakfast too. as i was getting ready to leave the woman sent her son over to me with a piece of paper that read 60Y food. i was pissed. she was trying to rip me off. i laughed at the boy, wrote 100Y on the paper and then circled food and sleep beside it. he ran it back to his mom, who then came over to try and explain further. i got what she wanted. what she didnt get was that im not a push over. i pulled out my 'babble english till they fold' card, and it worked again.
'no im not paying that much. i already gave you 100, and we agreed that it included food. im not an idiot, 100 is already far more than enough. i dont like being ripped off. i was having a pleasent time up until now, and it's too bad you had to spoil it'
i picked up my bag and left immediately. it was only 7am but after that unpleasent morning encounter i didnt want to chance the old guy not letting me on the wall again, so i headed straight there. when i got there i was pleased to see he wasnt at his post yet. so i started up the steps. there was a man at a bus stop on the same road. he started shouting at me as i started going up the steps. i didnt turn around. the shouts got louder. i kept thinking 'dont turn around, if he wants to stop me enough he'll come after me'. he didn't. and at last, i was on the great wall of china!
the next two days and nights were spent keeping watch on fellow great wall explorers as they approached my tower, reading a novel, sleeping through massive thunder storms and exploring the surrounding watchtowers.

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