Well, this is it: last night in China. Feels weird, yet... not. I haven't processed it, I don't think, and I don't think I will until about a week from now.
I was thinking of trying to stay up, and then sleep on the plane... but I don't think I can do it. My best bet is to go to sleep and wake up early. Otherwise I could wake up late tomorrow, and that would be ruinous as I need to somewhat re-organize my junk and leave by 11:30 to get to the airport for 12:30 or so, check in, and read the Count of Monte Cristo while I wait. I'm still unsure of my luggage weights, and that has me somewhat concerned, which is another reason for being early. Guess I'll see what happens tomorrow when the stuff is weighed when I go to check it.
I hit the Great Wall today at Mutianyu. I had wanted to go on the Secret Great Wall tour, but no go. Mutianyu ended up being a good spot. I didn't see tonnes of it, having only had 2.5 hours to wander. However, I'm happy that I was able to enjoy both the restored sections, as well as the unrestored areas (which I wasn't supposed to be on). I thoroughly enjoyed the unrestored, completely people-devoid areas. They just had a greater impact on me, for reasons I can't pinpoint. Something about trees and grass having taken over what is supposedly one of the largest human-work projects in history just struck me as meaningful. Seeing the other portions was just... well... it was a wall. It wasn't all that great. I think it's better in Chinese "Chang Cheng" - long wall. Long it most certainly is. Great? Well... yeah, I guess. But it's hard to feel that. It was like seeing the Forbidden City. Yeah, okay, it's cool to see the imperial home and seat of the old empire, but it's just not there anymore. It's empty. That's how the Great Wall felt. Empty, yet full of people huffing and puffing as they struggled up those bastardly steps.
The abandoned portions, however, were far more... hmmmm... emotionally profound? It was easier to get a sense of its former greatness. And I'll be honest: I feel it's only formerly great. While it is still amazing, a big part of why it's great is the grandeur of its creation, which was a horrific undertaking when it began 1800 years ago. Seeing those sections "gone to seed" in a very literal sense gave me a feeling of its time, and gave it a more haunted and lost atmosphere. It was also more peaceful, as if it was resting. The restored sections were... well, restored. Meh. And crawling with people bitching about the stairs and pushing for good picture opp spots. I couldn't care less. I just wanted my own experience of it, which I had, in the company of an equally motivated woman from L.A.
The fact that it had a freakin' tobaggan slide down was... well, like dressing the Guanyin statue in Chengde up as Ronald McDonald. I walked up... and walked down. All this cable-car and slide business is silly. Yeah, I have no doubt it's fun, but it's like dancing on the bones of hundreds of thousands of workers who were little better than slaves. "I can't be assed to work for so little as to even get to the top under my own steam." is what is says to me. People just don't work for things anymore. If they can pay a bit extra and enjoy an easy ride, rock-'n'-roll! I say booo to that. I understand not everyone is in good enough shape, but seeing my entire tour group (7 others) take the cable-car up and tobaggan down... it sort of made me sad. Not sure I can explain it, to be honest.
Maybe I'm just being a prick but it made me feel as I felt on Wudang Shan. I climbed and climbed, slowly approaching the summit, enjoying the scenary and quiet around me. No one else about. What do I see at the summit? Hundreds if not thousands of tourists who took a 10-minute cable-car up so they could throw coins on a roof and snap some pictures. I suppose people want the end-game score and don't care about playing. What the fuck's the point of that?
Anyhoo... overall, it was a remarkable trip, and I didn't have to put up with anyone around me except Lucienne, who was good company. Got some nice pictures, more or less. I despise my camera, however. It's such a junker. It's so horribly light-sensitive that if it wasn't for iPhoto's Enhance feature, many of my shots would be been shite. While pictures aren't important compared to remembering the experience itself, I still would like to be able to share this with my friends and family. It seems as though all my attempts to capture "the moment"s fall short of reality. A camera is supposed to capture what you see. Mine seems to just taunt me.
At 19:30, I met up with Andrew, Lili and Wendy (DoS from Qinhuangdao EF) and we had coffee, then went for supper at a place called Bellegio (I think). The food was fantastic, though I felt bad for poor Lili. Andrew and Wendy talked shop for 3 hours, and I have to admit I did also at times, though I tried to talk to Lili about whatever and joke around with her. It's no fun to be with a group of folks who have the same common pre-occupation (or occupation) if they aren't making the conversation accessible. Aw well.
Went for supper with Ema last night. Well, went for a drink, I guess. I had supper. We hit Hou Hai, and as per a blog post sometime in the past, I took more pictures, but they came out just as shit as the one when I was there with Jon. Anyway, the evening was nice, though the conversation seemed slightly hesistant or at least not very fluid. Such is life.
Tomorrow... I find it hard to think about tomorrow. (woops... TODAY!) May the 4th be with you! (and with me, since I will have a very very long May 4th due to time-zones) I just want to be landing in Ottawa, to feel that anticipation of waiting for the plane to halt and everyone to stand up. I'll be racing up the gate and through the terminal. Just need to get to that point. It's only 35 hours away. Alrighty... see a bunch of you folks back in Canada!