Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened

As I start to write this, which I did days ago, so I could capture thoughts, feelings, memories along the way, beyond what the blog itself was doing, the first thing that came to me was something from a tv show I used to watch, in high school I think, maybe middle school, im not sure.  but during that time, road rules was one of my favorite, cant miss shows, and its tag lines, ‘welcome to the ride of your life’, and ‘throw away your rules, these are road rules’, mean so much more now than they did then.

Because really, this has been the ride of my life.  The memories and photographs mean more to me than I could ever put into words.  Im actually not coming back with that much stuff…most of it isn’t for me anyway.  I wanted the experience, I wanted the days wandering Tokyo, the Shanghai nights, the Beijing history…everything from the foreign subways to the familiarity of mcdonalds.  I wanted the desire to experience it all and the thirst for more once it was done, and well, mission accomplished.

And, ‘throw away your rules, these are road rules’…this has totally been a way to let go of everything familiar and immerse myself in everything unknown.  Because, well, all the rules I once had are all of a sudden very different.

I am thankful for every minute…from getting to Tokyo and having to convince myself that I needed to shower and unpack before I went to explore, to the amazing time I had in Shanghai, to soul searching in Sanya, to my humbling trip to Beijing, to exploring there with friends and then not knowing quite what to do once I was dropped off at the hotel, and was once again alone.  To these last few days, realizing how far I had come, and how far I still have to go.  I’m surprisingly thankful for my ability to get lost, and even more thankful for my ability to always find myself.

And…I’m thankful for my ability to play charades.  Anyone up for a game?

So, what did I learn?  So much, and so much more than I could ever put into words, but to give it a shot…

  • Smile – it goes a long way
  • If you’re walking somewhere…strike that, if you need to go anywhere by a certain time, give yourself at least an hour to get lost – or find it beforehand
  • Brushing your teeth with the water will not kill you.  I’ve done it for 24 days…I haven’t gotten sick, not once.
  • Don’t be afraid to say no, and walk away quickly….otherwise you will end up with a purse, a watch, a bag, a bike ride, and god knows what else I was offered.  And don’t be afraid to scream if they actually grab you.
  • There is a magic chemical in Chinese sunscreen…it’s gross and runny, but somehow works like a charm.  I didn’t burn in Beijing, and I was the only one not to burn in Vegas.
  • Try anything, well, most anything – I did not try the street food and have not been sick.  But it’s amazing what you’ll find if you try everything else.
  • Take a deep breath and enjoy it.  All of it.  Because it’s such a ride…whether the trickshaw driver is like a salmon swimming upstream in traffic, or you’re at some random house, or taking a shot of Tabasco sauce, or wandering Tokyo to find the hotel.  Stop.  Smell the roses.  It’s amazing.  I’m not kidding.

Like I’ve said before, after all the preparation, I can’t believe it’s over.  But, I’m ready to get back to my regular life and where ever I go from here.  Will I do this again, most definitely.  This has been nothing short of amazing, and I don’t ever want to lose that.

Until next time….

wild, wild wall

Today’s adventure involved a return trip to the great wall.  I had considered trying to cancel since we went on Saturday, and there’s other stuff I haven’t seen yet, but – it was a different part of the wall, and well, given the choice, am I going to choose a museum or going to play outside?  This is me – of course I will choose to play outside.

After my experience on the bike tour, I will admit, I was slightly afraid of being with another guide on my own.  But, I got lucky in two ways…I got emails last night stating that two people had joined my tour, so not only would I not be alone, I was getting a refund for some of the cost.  And, the guide showed up this morning and was so professional and organized.  The other two on the tour were a couple about my age, also doing a tour through China.  It was great having a few other people along.

So we drove two hours or so outside the city to Jiankou, which is not officially open to the public, but the local people keep it open and have a toll.  The last bathroom before the hike, and Mutianyu over 6 miles away, was a public toilet in the middle of a completely rural area.  Half the squat toilets didn’t flush…my second experience with them was not nearly as scary as the first, but I will say it makes the wildflower bathrooms look like the four seasons.  Surprisingly, there was a working sink.  Saweet….especially since the hand sanitizer was at the hotel.  We drove a little further, and then stopped…literally in the middle of nowhere.  Had I not known better, I could have been in rural New York, or California.  Then the guide was like, ok, we’re off.  Really?  Where are we…this doesn’t look like the wall.

After 45 minutes or so of uphill on rocks, off rocks, by fields, through bugs and bushes, you name it, we crossed it, we made it to the wall.  And…well, it was amazing.  The restored part we saw on Saturday was pretty darn cool, but the unrestored, wild wall adds a whole new experience.  There were make-shift ladders, and stone steps, and we got to climb in towers…complete madness and I am so sore and bruised, but it was totally worth it.  And our guide and group, were fantastic.  We came up on another guide and lady, and she asked us if we were afraid coming through the woods.  We were like, no…we have a guide.  She said so did she, but he kept second guessing the right way to go….reassuring since our guide told us about someone who tried to hike there on their own and was never seen again.

It was so amazing and so crazy, just another level.  We’re walking on loose stone (one flew up and smashed my ankle – ouch!) and to the side of us is a cliff, god knows how far down.  Something that you’d never find in the states, but, its thousands of years old and has never been restored.  The fact that its still standing at all makes it that much more amazing.  It was such a relief to hit the restored part of the wall, yet a little sad as well.

We ended the hike at pretty much the same place we were on Saturday, and then went for lunch at a Chinese restaurant on the way back to town.  Sweet and sour pork and rice and something that looked like green beans, but was apparently some veggie that if it wasn’t cooked enough would kill us….that was hours ago, and I’m still alive, so I’m thinking I’m good.

After the hike and the two hours in traffic on the way home, I had the best intentions of going for a walk, but I was so sore, the bar and dinner just sounded more appealing.  Of course, it was raining, so I couldn’t sit on the roof deck…oh well, I did spend a ton of time up there.  While I was eating one of the waiters came over and talked with me for a while, then asked if we could take a photo…I kind of felt like a celebrity…or a spectacle.  I tried the last of the signature cocktails and went back and tried to remember my favorites.  One I got, the other, not so much.

Then came back to the room and packed up my stuff…I cant believe that my adventure in Asia is over and I’m flying back tomorrow, I’m ready to go home, but after all the planning and craziness, and whatnot, I can’t believe it’s over.  It doesn’t seem like that long ago I was checking in for my flight out here and panicking that I would get lost at the Hong Kong airport at SFO…if only I knew then what I do now. Now I’m checked in for my flights home…here’s to keeping my window seats.  Vegas is next, and that will be a blast, I’m sure.  And, hopefully a good way to get used to the time difference, or a good way to pass out by the pool….

Until next time…I have four hours in Korea tomorrow, perhaps I’ll be able to access the blog then…or gasp, facebook, and post some photos.