Tales From the Orient: Cashew Thief/Great Wall Climber
At the end of our trip, we spent three days in Beijing so that we could do things like go to The Great Wall. Wouldn't it suck to go all the way to China and not see The Great Wall? We stayed in a hotel called The Park Plaza. It's in downtown Beijing and it's very nice. Right across from the hotel is a Starbucks. We had to wake up fairly early to go to the Great Wall because it takes about 90 minutes to drive there not to mention we wanted to try to beat the crowds and the heat. Before it was time to load up in the vans, several of us went over to Starbucks to get some drinks for the road.
I ordered a java chip frappuccino something or other and while I was waiting in line to pay I noticed a bag of cashews at the register. I decided I'd get those too since I'd only had some fruit for breakfast. so I grabbed the bag. I got up to the register and told the barista I'd ordered the grande frap and then I held up the bag of cashews and said, "And these, too." She looked at the bag and nodded. So I paid the bill (my Starbucks gold card does not work in China, just in case you were curious) and went over to wait with my friends.
I was trying to open the tiny bag of cashews, which had apparently been child-proofed for my safety when I saw the baristas looking at me, pointing and whispering. I assumed they were making fun of me for not being able to open the bag. "Oh crap, there's probably some ancient Chinese secret to opening the freaking cashew bag and I'm going to spill them all over the place or something," I thought. I turned away from them so they wouldn't see me struggling. That's when one of them came up to me and told me that I had not paid for the cashews.
"Oh, I showed them to her and said that I wanted them. I guess she didn't hear me." It was no big deal, I went and paid for them (and was eventually able to open and eat them). It was certainly a curious event. I know that she saw me hold up the cashews because we made eye contact. What did she think I was doing?
- "Hey, look at this bag. I can pick it up. Now I shall set it back down."
- "These are called cashews, barista. That's your English word of the day. You're welcome. Love, American girl.
- "Hmm, what an interesting counter display you have here. I like it. I also like that it is about 95 degrees in your store. Well done, Beijing Starbucks."
And that's how the entire staff of a Beijing Starbucks thought I was some sort of criminal mastermind who specialized in cashew theft. Let's face it, it would be the perfect crime. Except for the whole struggling to open the stolen merchandise and attempting to eat it in the store in front of the victims.
On to the Wall. I tell you what, they weren't joking when they named that thing The Great Wall. It is pretty great. It's breathtakingly beautiful. I can't believe that it was built hundreds of years ago without any sort of technology and it's still standing today. It's a real testament to human ingenuity and strength. I took well over 100 pictures; and I put them all on Facebook rather than decide which to put up and which to leave out. In my opinion they're all amazing so I just stuck all of them up there!
You take a chair lift to get up to The Wall and then you can walk wherever you want. Actually hike would be a more appropriate word. I'm pretty sure I climbed at least a million miles. And it was (no joke) 100 degrees outside. I don't even know how much water I drank! I drank all of the water I bought and then I bought some more when I was up there. It wasn't marked up as much as it would be in America, which was nice. I was so thirsty I would've paid whatever they wanted though. "What's that? You'll give me a bottle of water if I let you punch me in the face? Bring it on." Carrie and I walked back to the meeting place together and we were both exhausted! We took the walk so slow because our legs were shaking and we were dizzy; it was unreal. I don't think I've ever done anything that physically taxing.
To get down from The Great Wall you can either take the chair lift or you can take the toboggan. We opted for the toboggan. You sit on this little scooter/sled type thing and you're on a metal slide that makes me think of a bobsled track. You have a little handle to control your scooter. Although it sounds like a deathtrap it's actually not scary at all and it's a lot of fun! The one crappy part was that we had a few people in front of us who were scared and/or taking pictures and video so they were going slow which made us run into them several times. If people in front of you are going slow then it keeps you from going really fast. Those jerks! We were yelling at them, too!
We were so hungry when we got off The Wall. Luckily, the ancient Chinese had enough sense to put a Subway and Baskin Robbins there at the bottom so we were able to get some food.
Later that evening (after we relaxed and regained feeling in our legs), Andy called my room and said that no one could decide what they wanted for dinner. I said that I have a need to eat at McDonald's in every country that I visit. So, we went to McDonald's in the mall! Let that be a lesson to all of you: if you don't speak up, you'll end up doing whatever someone else wants to do and you'll have no one to blame but yourself. In education we call that a "teachable moment". And then we stumbled upon a Coldstone Creamery so we ate there, too. I've never been much of a Coldstone fan, but it was OK. So yes, for those of you keeping track I had ice cream twice that day; but remember, I walked a million miles so I earned it.