On my first Saturday in Beijing, I decided to hit the ground running and hopped on a bus with the Beijing Hikers club as they hiked to the Nine Eyes Tower. An old lookout tower of the Great Wall, the Nine Eyes Tower hike is about a two-hour bus ride outside of the city. Heavy rains meant that our course for the hike (which even under the best weather conditions apparently can be a little hairy) had to be improvised a little, which meant that we didn’t make it all the way to the intended tower. Instead, we stayed a bit lower to avoid the steeper sections of the mountain.
Even so, the hike was spectacular and far surpassed even my highest expectations. We scrambled up the country led by a local village guide and spent the afternoon on a foggy mountainside where the Great Wall of China sprawled out before us, chasing the horizon up and down each vaulting hillside. Built over 500 years ago, this section of the Great Wall had fallen into disrepair, but was no less magnificent. The cracked and beaten stones clearly could not be undone – not by attack, weather, or its greatest enemy now, the test of time – and it was absolutely incredible to walk along the fortress and imagine it as it had been when it stood as one of the mightiest military precipices the world had seen.
Standing on the Great Wall, amidst the clouds and mountains of the rural Chinese countryside, I felt all over again how very extraordinary my opportunity is here in Beijing. It really is amazing to live in a whole different country, on the other side of the world – amidst a people with an entirely different culture and way of life – and still feel apart of a family. My host family and the staff at Lotus have done exactly that for me. Both continue to encourage my Chinese and my exploration of Beijing, making me feel right at home, even half a world a way.
My host brother on the Great Wall…