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Monday, June 6, 2011


Today, Monday (the 6th), is my day-off. So me and Lauren decided to, at long last, take a daytrip and visit the most famous tourist attraction in the whole of China… yes, it was THE GREAT WALL OF CHINA! I’d always known just how close it was to Jinzhou – when taking into account just how huge China is - but I never actually took it upon myself to bite the bullet and make my way there, to see what all the hype was about. Not until today that is.

I was more excited about the journey we had to take to get there, instead of what was waiting for us once we arrived. This was probably because I hadn’t left the city since first arriving nearly 4 months ago. So I desperately wanted to be sitting on a moving bus or a moving train that was moving away from Jinzhou… towards nowhere in particular, just somewhere other than here.

And what can I say about the train journey and the scenery? Hummm… Well, the train was NOTHING like I’d expected it to be. And what had I expected? Something of an exciting adventure! Yes…and instead it was… CONVENIENT and EASY… with the inevitable language challenges of course (but Lauren can speak basic Chinese, so that meant there was less hassle). But man oh man, if I were to travel in China, it would be a breeze! I’d just need to know a few basic words, phrases and sentences and it would be like travelling through Australia or anywhere in Europe – just with 2 billion Chinese people staring at me, instead of a few million westerners getting on with their lives and not being phased or shocked by seeing… niamh!

Anyhow, the train was clean, everything was so well organized. There was no chaos, no fuss, no commotion, no delays and no extreme harassment from taxi drivers or tour companies trying to sell the ‘lost tourists’ their services. It was all so normal. I’d honestly hoped that venturing out of the city would bring up the feelings I’ve had before when travelling through other parts of Asia. But it didn’t.

Probably a good thing because I wouldn’t have wanted to come back to Jinzhou so soon without properly ‘fixing’ the travel-bug that could have been brought to life today. It’s the bug that’s always in need of more attention. So, not being tempted too much, kept that traveller slightly inspired to able to contain herself and return happily to Jinzhou to get on with work!

The 3 hours we spent at THE WALL, were brilliant! Seeing it, brought home the reality of where I am. I realized I’ve truly made it in China! Walking along one of the wonders of the world, on my day-off and knowing that 5 or 6 hours later I’d be back at home in my own little apartment… was so strange! And it was probably the location of the wall that sparked-off the inspired reflective mood I had today. Because it was by the sea!!! This was the surprise I hadn’t expected. I didn’t realize the part of the wall we were visiting was the end of the wall, and thus the part that ‘tumbles’ into the ocean.

After an hour or 2 of walking, sightseeing and taking pictures, I was delighted to say to Lauren that I was going for a walk down the (tiny but very clean) beach by myself. I found a little secluded spot, away from the tourists and sat there for maybe 20 minutes. I was facing east; my back was facing the wall and my front was facing the sea. Millions of people travel across the world, year after year, to see this wall, and here I was, more eager and impressed by the sight and sound of the waves! Very odd 

I didn’t care though. Instead of caring, I wished in that moment to pick up my apartment and place it right there on the beach – so I could be in the fresh air and write and use the sea for whatever purpose it could serve. Or I wished to bring some of the sea back with me to the chaos that Jinzhou suddenly felt to represent, in my mind. Could I bring back the sea instead of the pictures I’d taken of me and the Great Wall of China? Impossible! But what I could do was make a promise to myself instead. And that’s what I did, in those precious 20 minutes on the beach today – the minutes for which I felt to have sat for 6 hours in total on a ‘luxurious’ Chinese train for the first time in my life. I promised that, one day, I’ll own a little hut by the sea and no matter where I travel or what I do, I’ll have that little hut to retreat to and it will be where I can write in peace with the sea just at my front door. I don’t care what inconveniences this hut will have. If the climate is warm and there’s some electricity to connect my laptop to (!!!) then I’ll happily sleep on bamboo mats and ‘shower’ with buckets of cold water everyday. It doesn’t matter. Not when the sea is always on hand.

That’s my little dream and that’s what visiting this ‘must see’ wonder of the world gave me today. Afterwards I left the beach, headed back to Lauren and we made our way to the train. It may have been a short outing, but it was oh oh oh so sweet! This made me happy to return to Jinzhou with the nicely contained travel-bug sitting inside. It’s patiently waiting for the time to come when the search for that hut can start – or maybe it already has started, I just need more travels to put it into practise!

Okay, I’m gonna lay-off on the dreaming for now! Because, there’s a life here to be lived – says she who’s sitting at her desk again, writing and STILL dreaming (7 hours after those 20 minutes of sitting by the sea!). Yes, there’s a life right here, there’s a book to be edited and there are little kids that need to learn English! So, on that note, I’ll be signing off… What an adventure is this life! 

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