Dan’s friend Derek (who everyone calls “Fro”) came into town last week and stayed with us for about three days before he and Dan took off on a trip to Tibet on Monday night. We all had a fun time together.
On Saturday, while Tian was working (another story), Dan, Fro, and I made our way to the Great Wall. It was a test for us as we were heading out about an hour from the city without our trusty language guide to help us. Basically, Tian had only found the bus route (#919) beforehand, and from there we were on our own.
Things went well until we got to the main bus terminal. We soon learned that there were more types of 919 buses than we had expected and that each went different ways and charged different amounts. All of the first buses we saw were charging way too much money from what Tian had told us, and the drivers were a bit pushy. After about 25 minutes of asking around, we found our way to another parking lot and to the correct line. Later we learned that there are some companies whose strategy is to pose as public city buses in an attempt to fool visitors. They charge about 10 times as much for the same ride.
While we were at the bus terminal, a couple of other confused Americans with less language skill sought us out in the craziness and came with us as well. On the bus, we learned that one of them was leaving Beijing the next day and was trying to figure out what to do with his Chinese cell phone. He generously offered to leave it for us as his hotel so that we could use it when our family comes over for the wedding this summer. Serendipity for sure.
When we got to the wall, the bus attendant rushed everyone into a line that seemed only to be selling gondola rides up to the wall and back. We tried asking her if it was the only way up, and she kept saying yes and pushing us forward. Again feeling like we might be getting the stupid foreigner treatment, we left the line and walked around the corner. We realized that you could just walk up the stairs and pay the normal entrance fee to get in, which we did. Dan and Fro even got student discounts.
One memorable moment on the wall was when we met up with a random Chinese fan club for a popular singer named Stephanie. We had no idea who she was, but we asked if we could join the group for a fan video they were shooting. As foreigners we got a VIP closeup and interview, and Dan and I yelled something in Chinese like “We are your fans! We love your music!” as the Chinese people laughed and cheered behind us. A fun memory for sure.