Thursday, September 20, 2007
It was cool and drizzling the morning we arrived at the Great Wall. From the bus window we would glimpse the ancient stone through the tree break and mist winding its way through the valleys and hills, ragged, broken, twisting, sentinel towers standing as punctuation marks, lonely stone buildings inviting us to explore. Rather, we made our way to Tourist Central and queued up with a throng of other buses waiting to discharge their crowds. Hundreds of people milled about a central courtyard lined with shops and food courts. Hawkers aggressively touted their wares. Most of the tourists were Chinese, so I was able to maintain some illusions, and after walking uphill for twenty or thirty minutes, the crowd had thinned considerably. And then, seemingly, I was alone walking through those Chinese mountains atop the greatest structure ever built, marching across the bones of those laborers who were buried there.