Who is Chuck and why does he like to travel?
I was born to be a writer and when I wrote my novel Wild Point Island, Chuck, my orange and white recently rescued feral tabby, got it in his head that he wanted to travel to the island and see the place for himself. Well, of course, Wild Point Island, can only be seen by revenants (you'll have to read the book to find out who they are) and Chuck is no revenant so instead, I concocted a plan to take Chuck with me when I travel around the world, which I do frequently. Not an easy task. First, I have to deflate the poor kid of all air, stuff him in my carry-on bag, remember to bring my portable pump, and when I arrive, I pump him back up. Ouch. But he's used to it by now and given the choice to either stay home in his comfy cat bed or get deflated, he pulls out his passport, ready to travel, every time.
Monday, June 18, 2012
Chuck Climbs Great Wall of China (with a little help)
Visiting the Great Wall of China was not Chuck’s idea.
It was mine.
Chuck came to China to see the Panda Bear eat bamboo.
But since we were in Beijing, AND since the Great Wall is considered one of the Eight Wonders of the World AND since it’s been claimed that the Great Wall can be seen even from outer space (the moon, to be exact), I managed to convince Chuck the Castronaut that the Great Wall was worth seeing.
But was it true? Can you see the Great Wall from the moon?
I digress, I know, but this claim was first made in 1754 and repeated several times over the years until in 1932 it even appeared in Ripley’s Believe It Or Not. The truth is that--despite the immensity of the Great Wall--it cannot be seen from outer space. According to Wikipedia, trying to see the Great Wall from the moon would be like trying to see a single shaft of human hair from two miles away.
As we hike the stairs to reach the Great Wall, I share what I know about the Great Wall with my intrepid rascal traveler:
1. The Great Wall was built to protect the Chinese Empire from invasions from nomadic tribes and military groups.
2. Several walls were built as early as the 7th century and later joined together to form the Great Wall.
3. The Great Wall stretches 3,889 miles long.
4. Before the use of bricks, the Chinese used earth, stones and wood to construct the wall.
If you’ve ever been to the Great Wall, it’s like any other tourist attraction. You have to buy a ticket. And then walk, walk, walk to what appears to be a gigantic stone staircase where you have to begin to climb. You notice that the place is mobbed. There are people everywhere. And basically what everyone is doing is climbing steps to reach the Wall, which is more steps.
There is more than one access point to reach the Wall. When I was last in China, eight years ago without Chuck, I climbed and climbed steps and never technically made it to “the wall.” This time I climbed for approximately an hour, with Chuck, of course, in my smart bag, peeking out, and did make it to the wall.
It wasn’t easy. The steps are uneven. It is hot. You are part of a line of people all climbing upward. It is very slow going. Some people are climbing up the middle of the steps, attempting to move more quicky, but if you choose that path, you have nothing to hold onto.
The view is fantastic. The wall was built along the highest ridge of mountains which is why you must climb upwards to reach it.
When we finally reach “the wall,” we come to a kind of landing with an enclosed building of sorts, with windows that look out over the magnificent views. At least there’s some degree of shade. We celebrate briefly and take photos. We’re totally exhausted. And people are pushing past us. There is no place to sit and order a cool drink of anything. The water I’m carrying is warm and almost depleted.
We have the option of continuing to walk along the wall, and I actually thought that once we reached the wall, it would even out and become like some fantastic walkway with lemonade stands and souvenir shops, etc. But I’m wrong.
Perhaps, way far up, the stairs will even out to a walkway, but that is miles away. Someone tells me that if I climb to the next landing, it will look exactly the same as this one.
I’m feeling exhilarated because I made it to “the wall,” but disheartened too.
Should I turn around and go back down?
Chuck is nodding “yes.”
Bob wants to continue onward. His ego is at stake.
But, of course, with guys that is what it’s always all about--the competition. I didn’t want it to be about that.
It’s then that something magical happens.
I spy a group of two couples posing for pictures on the landing where we’ve stopped. The two women are obviously sisters, and they're standing together and posing in such a way that they lean into each other with their one arm reaching up to form half a heart. Together the two arms, one from each sister, form a whole heart.
I’ve never seen that before. It’s so sweet.
I speak no Chinese but I motion--asking if I can take their picture.
They nod. Then Bob and I strike the same pose, and they take our photo.
They spy Chuck. They are enthralled that we have our cat with us.
In China, each Chinese household is limited to only one dog. Thankfully, there is no limit on cats.
We smile. Then we all laugh together, start down the steps, and I know I’ll always remember the Great Wall, our trek up the stairs and the two sisters who made the heart with their arms entwined together.
PS That photo of Chuck--he was not posed on the Great Wall, but rather on our couch in the Great Room. Ha. Ha. Chuck is very vain and would allow no photos of himself on the wall. Rather he needed to "over groom" as usual and look his best. The handsome kid!