Coyote Poo and a Luge, or How We Conquered the Great Wall
Chinese has many strange idiomatic phrases. You can recognize them by the fact that they are made up of four characters which often have very little to do with one another. For example, there is apparently a phrase that goes, “Coyote-Smoke-Directions-Straight” which evidently refers to the fact that when the Wall was still in use as a defensive structure, soldiers would burn coyote poo as it would burn with a thick smoke that would go straight up, whereas bull dung would send smoke sort of out to the sides and maybe not in a straight column. This idiom means, more or less, that there are Mongolians attacking from all sides; in modern usage, the coyote poo is hitting the fan.
If you have never been to Great Wall, it’s actually hard to describe what an adventure it is. The Wall itself is built over the mountain range which separates Beijing from Inner Mongolia. We stalked maybe a kilometer of it today, but the whole of it stretches more than 6,000 kilometers, or almost 4,000 miles. The climb up to the structure itself is actually the most strenuous part– a 30 minute climb up the longest and probably steepest rock staircase you have ever seen in your life. And of course, as this was our first day off from teaching and class since our arrival in Beijing, many of us fine, upstanding English teachers went out clubbing the previous night. So we were perfect shape to walk straight up a hill onto a rocky fortress with worn out footholds. It was actually a wonderful day. We had truly beautiful weather, and once you’re a couple hours out of Beijing proper the sky is quite a bit more clear; it wasn’t too hot either, so while the exertion rendered us rather damp, the weather at the top was not at all unpleasant. Plus, the view at Mutianyu Pass is ridiculously picturesque. Photographs to follow at some point.
Oh, yeah, and we got to ride toboggans down from the top. What a hilarious method of transportation. Effective, though– the climb up took about half an hour; the ride down took less than 5 minutes.
Back to school tomorrow, with an historical site under our belts and a bit of a rest to perk us back up.