The week of visitors

I’m currently on hour one of a six-hour layover in Shanghai en route to Hong Kong, so I figured what better time to write another blog post. It also gives me an excuse to look busy while I not-so-secretly listen in on the conversation of a business group from Seattle sitting next to me. I haven’t been terribly starved for English though…in the past week, I’ve met up with FOUR people from home!!! As I’m nearing the one-month mark, and recently experienced my first dose of homesickness after seeing one too many beach pictures from home, it was the perfect time for some familiar faces.

First up was the one and only Gilly Hicks. Gil recently graduated from Columbia (wooooo!) and is traveling around Asia for a month with his friend Ariel. Lucky for me, they stopped in Beijing for a few days. I had to work Thursday and Friday, but I was more than happy to tag along with them to the Great Wall Saturday. I went before with JinSha back in 2009, but Gil was going to a different section and I had wanted to go back anyway. We went with a small tour group – just the three of us, a woman from Australia in China on business, and a man from England doing the same. I had to be at Gil’s hotel on the other side of town at 7:20, so I started my day early – beginning with a 5:30 alarm. I got there a little early and to my delight found a Starbucks across from the hotel. It’s not quite the same taste-wise, but it’s coffee nonetheless.

During the day, we went to the Ming Tombs, a jade factory, lunch, then to the Wall. It was a LOT steeper than the section I visited before, and the uneven stairs made it a struggle, but we made it up to our goal peak! I gained a lot of respect for the vendors along the way who must trek up there every day. You could see beautiful views of the hills and mountains and the trail of the wall cutting through them. Who would’ve thought I’d be at the Great Wall twice in my life?

That evening, Gil and the rest of the group decided to go see an acrobat show. I had plans already, but was excited for them. When we were here with JinSha one of our friends got pulled up on stage during a show and was put into a giant cone balanced on someone’s feet! The image has never left my mind.

This brings me to meet-up number two…Wilson!!! Wilson is a friend from Semester at Sea who is studying abroad at Tsinghau University (known as the MIT of China!) this semester, which runs from February to July. He took me to his school (my first time on a Beijing bus) and we biked around the enormous campus. It’s at least three times the size of UNC, it was nuts. There’s a whole section of dorms for international students which speaks to how globally minded they are, as Wilson was telling me about.

On our tour Wilson pointed out a building named “School of Marxist Thought” and laughed when my jaw dropped. “Of course, this is a communist country!” He also showed me the “original Facebook,” a sculpture of a face emerging from a book, and the main green, so to speak, that looked an awful lot like University of Virginia. We also went through an area that looked straight out of The Notebook – ponds and moss and bridges and waterlilies. I was in love…I would sit there and read every day if I was living at the university.

Wednesday, after work, I met a family friend, Brent, who is also interning in Beijing. He leaves Saturday, and is on to do more traveling in Asia. We meant to get dinner, but wound up just walking around and attempting to find the building he needed to be at for work…that’s Beijing as a non-Chinese speaker for ya. It was cool to get a peers’ perspective on working and living in China as an American.

Last but not least, I met up with Uncle Dietmar for dinner on Thursday. He happened to be in town on business and was gracious enough to not only take me out to dinner but to bring me a resupply of Luna Bars and Honest Company sunscreen…I could not be more thankful! He was staying on the east side of town, in a very businessy-international area. We joked when we walked outside surrounded by skyscrapers that based on our view, we could be anywhere in the world at that moment. It was my first Western meal in nearly a month, and I was in heaven. Fun little six degrees of separation…Dietmar knows Brent’s mom, and has been on the MV Explorer before it was a SAS ship. I can’t explain how comforting it was to see all of these guys’ big smiles, feel their hugs and have full conversations without having to choose my words carefully in order to be understood…it’s the little things.

This weekend I’ll be in Hong Kong along with Gil and Ariel and then back to Beijing for work.

Highlights of the week:

The good: Familiar faces, celebrating Jason’s birthday, white wine at dinner

The bad: Burning my arm with oil splatter in an attempt to cook (I’m learning!), breaking the outer layer of the family ball I bought on the Great Wall

The foreign: “No naked flames” and “no scribbling” signs on the Great Wall, a baby with a diaper over his buttless onesie, a hand dryer that looked like a paper towel dispenser (fakeout)

Highlight of the day:

After writing this post, I decided to take a stroll down the other side of the airport to look around. Who do I find? MIRANDA KERR, in all her beauty. She was sweet and obviously gorgeous and a pro at selfies.

*I forgot to send this to my WordPress fairies, so it’s a little old. I’ll have another one up on Hong Kong soon!

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