Nihao! Today was an incredible day. Ten of us woke very early and walked down to Mao’s Mausoleum in Tiananmen Square to see Mao’s preserved body. What an experience! The Mausoleum opens at 8:00 a.m. and when we arrived at 7:55, the line stretched for ¾ of a mile. It wrapped all the way around the building and the people in line could have probably filled Fenway Park. Within 25 minutes we were going through security and entering the Mausoleum. A large marble statue of Mao sits just inside the entrance to the building and many people had purchased flowers outside to lay in front of the statue. A father was teaching his toddler to lay flowers in front of the statue and bow. A sign asked for complete silence. We formed two lines and filed past Mao’s body in indescribable silence. Once we were outside again, we had so many questions to ask each other and so many thoughts filling our heads. As the only non-Chinese people walking through the Mausoleum this morning we wondered who comes to see Mao’s body? Why do they come there? How do Chinese people feel when they visit Mao’s Mausoleum? What do they hope for their children when they bring them there?
Our next adventure was to the Great Wall of China at Mutianyu, a two-hour drive outside of Beijing. On the way, we stopped at a local grocery store and purchased bananas, pineapple, bread, jelly, and yogurt for a picnic lunch at the top of the Wall. While in the grocery store, we had a chance to see familiar brands of potato chips, sodas, and cookies, but in some very interesting flavors (Tomato Ketchup Lays anyone?).
Our hike up the wall was indeed quite a hike! We had stunning views at the top and more climbing to get to the 14th tower where our lunch awaited us. Many of us marveled at the immense construction of the Wall. At every turn, there was more of the wall in the distance. It seemed endless.
We were on our own for dinner tonight and took the opportunity to walk and eat along Wangfujing Avenue, the pedestrian mall just outside our hotel. Although tempted, no one ate a fried scorpion on a stick from a street vendor, but one group discovered a great Japanese restaurant while another enjoyed the Gourmet Street market, an underground prepared food market with lots of yummy Chinese foods.
Today’s interesting tidbit: It is 1,000 steps to the top of the Great Wall at Mutianyu. Those who make it to the top are considered heroes and heroines.
Tomorrow we are visiting the Dandelion School, a middle school for migrant worker’s children. The teachers on our trip will be participating in a teacher-to-teacher symposium, including leading training workshops for the Dandelion School teachers. Then we leave for our next destination—Xi’an. We will post more on Thursday about our day at the Dandelion School and our overnight train ride to Xi’an.
Photos: 1. scene outside the grocery store, 2. the group on the Great Wall, 3. the outdoor market of critters and other snack foods