Have you ever touched the sky or embraced the heavens? Well, I have, on my recent climb up the Great Wall of China.
Considered one of the greatest construction feats in history, the Great Wall is the longest wall in the world. Built more than 2000 years ago between the 7th century BC and 1664, the beginning of the Qing Dynasty, the wall cuts across eight provinces in Northern China.
This incredible fortification was not just created to protect China from invaders, it was, and still is a symbol of China’s power, culture, and economic prowess. The great stones that created this serpentine path of steep and uneven steps through monumental mountains stands today as a testament and memorial to many who lost their lives as they crafted this symbol of profound influence.
The drive to Badaling, the mountainous region of Beijing, was a glorious hint of what we were about to experience. The vertical rock faces, striped beige, gray, and a slight pink, got more colossal the higher we went. Then when our ears ‘popped’ we knew we were way above sea level. It is said that the section in Badaling is more than 1000 metres above sea level.
Me and my Jamaican posse, Kerry-Ann and Loinel, jumped out of the taxi we took from the train station to the Badaling section of the wall. With a broad smile, the taximan waved goodbye after we paid him 330 RMB, about $52, for the long circuitous mountain ride, making us wonder if indeed we did negotiate a good fare. Yuh haffi bargain inna China, a jus soh it goh. It nevva matta anyway, cause wih did glad fi dehdeh.
The air at this height was so clean and crisp, it was like soaking in one hundred percent pure oxygen. We were giddy!
Of course, we chose a holiday weekend for this climbing adventure, soh it did well crowded. But, a China wih deh an nuff people deh yah, so why not experience the real deal.
Well my dears, unuuh betta be in shape fi tek on dis yah activity. To put it mildly, is a rahtid steep climb just about the whole way up, down, circulah, an kinpuppalick! Because the steps are uneven, some high and some low but mostly high, it is like lunging every step of the way. Mek a tell yuh, we climbed up and down and sideways for more than three hours and nevva buss a sweat! A lie yaah. We eventually fling off the jackets…even though it was relatively chilly on the way up, half way up we were sweating. Well, Loinel was cool though; him a big time runner so im nevva feel it, at least soh im did sey.
We had the most wonderfully invigorating time on China’s Great Wall. And, we made friends too. The Chinese love taking pictures, especially with new found Black farin friends. So, our climb was interrupted for some pickcha tek. We big bout yah yuh nuh. Jamaicans tek over di Great Wall…and we proudly flaunted our nationality! We also connected with several Americans now residing in this culture-filled country.
Not only did we go to the ‘edge’ of the world, coming down was quite interesting. Some areas were so steep it forced us to run while leaning far backwards. But hey, we were up for the challenge. When we finally reached level ground again, our thighs were screaming… a weh di %$%^&… a wah yuh jus duh to me, yuh mad or somting. My gams, abs, and butt are firmer for the experience though…yeah!
Jamaicans really are thrill seekers. The very next day we headed to Beijing’s Summer Palace, the country’s largest royal park which has been named a World Heritage Site. Built in the 18th century, this imperial architectural masterpiece of buildings, pavilions, and beautiful landscape design was home to the Qianlong Emperor of the Qing Dynasty.
With an expanse of almost 3 square kilometres, gardens, and hills that rise to about 60 metres high, we thought, oh this will be easy after yesterday’s wall climb. Yes you guessed it, there were more steps to climb. But it was all worth it as we took in the palace complex, the temples, the towers, the wide pavilions, the curved bridges, the cherry blossoms, the calm, the meditative beauty.
April 21, 2013 2 Comments
Exploring on your own can be fun, but guess what, if you have a ‘partner in crime’ that is just as adventurous as you are, then the search and discover missions will be that much better. Well, I found a kindred spirit, a fellow Jamaican at that, here in China who also waah soak up the culcha.
Kerry-Ann lives near Beijing, so it was the perfect excuse for me to jump on the bullet train (high speed train)…for the first time. What a sweet ride! When you enter the train it feels like you have just walked onto a plane with spacious seats. The seats are cushy and you have nuff leg room. Even stewardesses walk the aisles answering questions or extending help, and offering items for purchase just like duty-free shopping aboard a flight.
I was caught up in the niceties, not really thinking that we could be going at a maximum speed of 205 miles per hour…and next ting yuh know wi reach Beijing. Mih nevvah even feel di movement. I guess it’s like flying, after all the plane a go real faas but yuh wudda tink seh yuh naah move.
Beijing is a real metropolis with nuff tall buildings, shopping, restaurants, and things to do. In fact, there is no shortage of restaurants and food-filled avenues in China. KFC, McDonalds, Sizzlers, Starbucks, as well as Italian, French, German eateries are just a few of the western style establishments here. Of course, Chinese food is plentiful, full of flavour, and inexpensive, so people eat out regularly.
We decided to have lunch before exploring the city. But guess weh wi goh… Pizza Hut. Ok ok, no baddah scold wih for not having Chinese food. You know how it is, sometimes you just crave something familiar. Satiated, we walked down the busy pedestrian shopping area.
Chinese people certainly love to shop! And there are many US/European outlets besides the local shops and stalls. H&M, Zara, Forever 21, Apple, Tag Heuer, and even Walmart are just about in every major city here.
But, walking down the avenue we buck up on part of the ancient Imperial City, a section of Beijing that was ruled by the Ming and Qing Dynasties (starting from the early 15th century). This city surrounded the Forbidden City, or the Imperial Palace. What made the Imperial City so special were the lovely gardens and shrines that still exist today. Surrounded by high walls, visitors would have to go through one of six gates to enter the area that served as the first line of protection for the Imperial Palace.
Walking through parts of the Imperial City was like going back through time. Narrow streets and alleys dotted with tiny traditional courtyard homes harkened back to ancient times. Some of these neighbourhoods, called Hutongs, still exist today with their original buildings still standing, and inhabited by locals. Sadly though, they are fast being destroyed in the name of modern development. But, Kerry-Ann and I had a chance to enter one of these traditional homes.
Calligraphy artist San Yung welcomed us into his space, now a center for displaying his work and that of other artists keeping alive Chinese traditional art. Explaining his love of Chinese ink painting and his efforts to pass on the tradition to young artists, Yung gave us a lesson in Confucian philosophy. And before we left, he served us Chinese tea and wished us safe travels on our journey through life.
March 27, 2013 1 Comment
After two weeks in Tianjin, China, I think I will stay! Indeed, it is perhaps one of the most difficult cultures to adjust to. However, if you are open to experiences and ready to learn from some of the most respectful, curious, and resourceful people in the world, this is the place to be.
Tianjin, one of the four municipalities, is a flat city…no mountains. And unlike the capital city Beijing, it is not as crowded as one would expect. One thing is sure though, you better ‘walk good’ on the streets. Traffic lights are just decoration cause most drivers just ignore red signals, leaving pedestrians to hop, skip, and jump through traffic to get to the other side of the road. But, no problem man. The Chinese are experts at street crossing, and so nonchalantly, that it seems drivers, walkers, and cyclists are in tune in a curiously chaotic sort of way. It’s like watching a ballet. But guess wah, mi a learn ow fi dweet tuh… so that makes me almost Chinese.
But, my obvious difference makes me a curiosity as well, but a good one. Many Chinese stare and smile. Children will take the opportunity to practice their English when they see me. They wave and say hello, then I ask ‘how are you?’ and they answer ‘fine thank you’ with an broad smile of accomplishment. Then I clap them and I have made a friend.
There are only five of us (meaning black people) on the campus where I teach…three Jamaicans, and two African Americans, one is a student. And in fact, I haven’t seen another black face in Tianjin. However, I am sure there are many in Beijing. Laaks mi dear, I have already met a Jamaican working in Beijing.
Walking the streets of Tianjin is like bucking up on treasure every couple of blocks. Colourful, lively, and thriving street markets with exotic aromas, sounds, and surprises assault your senses. If you want sweet mango, coconut, and jackfruit, yeh mi seh jackfruit…a yah yuh fi deh. Of course, if you don’t speak the language, like me (not for long though), the buying process becomes an interesting game of body language.
And speaking of body, one thing unoo people from farin haffi get used to is the hole-in-the-ground toilet. So, you enter what looks like an ordinary bathroom. Then you push open the stall door and you are confronted with a tiled hole in the ground. So, a weh mih fi duh? Crouch like our ancestors used to do. Actually, it’s the natural way to ‘go’. You aught to try it sometime.
Till next time,
Black Mandarin pan di case
March 7, 2013 5 Comments
February 14, 2013 6 Comments