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Wednesday, June 16, 2004

Sunday: Everything turns to Dust!

Arising to the early morning sun and the sounds of
trains passing by, my day started off well as I
watched a travel program on C.C.T.V. Seeing one of the
souvenirs on the show, it was interesting to see what
it was used for. They call it a love ball, and it is
brightly decorated with many colors. The women of the
area sing to the boy that they like while swinging it
by a rope. When they are finished, they throw it to
the young man. If he lives her, he slips a note into
the ball and throws it back to her. After watching the
show, my day started with a sink shower before going
to meet with Lisa and Jenny. Heading down stares. They
were a little slow to come down, but when they
arrived, we went and had a fantastic breakfast of
noodles and bread. They made the noodles from scratch
right there. Quite amazing. After a hearty meal, we
headed down stares and caught our taxi out to the
great wall. Datong is such an ugly and disgusting
city, but after we got into the countryside, it began
to look more beautiful. The trees made it a little
cooler. Driving for about thirty minutes, we quickly
arrived at our destination when the driver stopped in
front of this old crumbling gate and wall that
surrounded a tiny village. Looking around, we were all
impressed but realized that it was not the Great Wall
as we were told, but an ancient fort that had guarded
the Great Wall. As we wondered around the structure,
it was quite large. Three times the size of the
Castillo de San Marcos in St. Augustine. Trying to
figure out where the Wall was located, we looked
around and saw some structures way off in the
distance. Walking through some very large fields, some
farmers came to help us. After walking about a mile,
we came to another old fort with a tiny village
located inside. It was quite impressive. Many of the
children began to follow us after Lisa gave them some
candy. They were quite adorable. Climbing to the top
of the wall, we looked around and finally saw the wall
and two other very large forts. Both of those
structures were empty though as villagers had yet to
build inside the gates. On our way down the wall, part
of the structure began to crumble under my feet.
Getting down quickly where I had placed my hand simply
turned into dust and sand. It was crazy. What was once
brick was now dust. We left the area quickly and
walked along what was left of the wall. Much of it had
been turned into dirt. There were only a few towers
that still maintained some semblance to their form.
Walking to the two other forts, we then headed back to
the taxi. After five hours of walking in fields and
climbing on the walls, we were quite ready to eat. Our
driver took us back into the city, and we ate sub
flower seeds and we went to three temples and many
shops. Some of the structures were quite beautiful.
The Budas and their court were simply stunning. The
architecture resembled that of the Tang Dynast, but I
am not quite sure. It started to rain after we
arrived, and the weather turned cold quite quickly, so
we wondered from temple to temple and shop to shop.
These girls really loved to shop. They drug me from
one store to another. By seven o¡¯clock, my feet hurt,
and my stomach was growling loudly for some food. We
ate some Jowza for dinner along with egg plant and
flat bread. It was delicious, but not as good as in
Chengde. Leaving the restaurant, we headed to the
hotel and picked up baggage then went to the train
station. Running to the train, Jenny managed to get
our names on the waiting list for sleepers and with
luck, she managed to get three of them. Journeying
through the different cars, I was never so happy to
see a bunk bed in my life. Within five minutes, I was
asleep.

Monday: The Welcome Wagon!

Today has done much to convince me that the bus is
simply not a feasible way to travel when there is the
possibility of taking a train. Waking up to the touch
of the conductor returning my ticket, I went and
talked with Jenny and Lisa and thank them for sharing
the weekend with me then said good bye. Finding a
taxi, it took me to the subway stop. Traveling to
Tiananmen Square, my priority was to shop in order to
send packages home when I arrived. Wandering through
the street market and stores, I was able to pick up a
few things then headed to the bus station. Arriving a
little late, the bus was already filled including the
coveted front seat. We left soon afterwards, but it
was not long before all of the stopping began in order
to fill up the entire seats. The isle quickly
disappeared and not long afterwards, so did the door
way as people were sitting in the open spaces next to
the driver. After this, one hoped that they would
speed up, but no they kept stopping to ask if anyone
was going to Chengde despite the fact that there was
no room. On the T.V., an annoying Chinese Hee Haw
played to the delight of the people on the bus, but it
was quite loud and obnoxious. I do not get the slap
stick humor that the Chinese find so funny. It reminds
me of Jerry Lewis. On top of all of this, the bus was
miserable hot, so when we finally made it back to
Chengde, I was not so nice to all of the hotel people
who kept grabbing at me. After taking number seven and
arriving back at my apartment, the phone rang at the
moment that I entered. It was toy man, and he wanted
to know where I had been. Apparently, he had made
plans for a video this weekend, but it was not on my
top priority. After hanging up, he arrived soon
afterwards to insist that we make the Video the next
morning. Wanting him to leave, I quickly agreed.
Thinking that I did not understand though, he went and
got his son to explain it to me. After explaining
everything, he finally left just in time for me to
rush to my first class. Many students had arrived, and
the place was packed. We had wonderful conversations.
My second class also went well. They took me to dinner
in the dinning hall. Had some Tofu and Egg Plant.
Quite delicious. We then went o their Dorm Room and
talked. They showed me some beautiful crafts that they
had made. Feeling tired, they told me to come home at
which point, I collapsed in bed.

Christopher

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