Monday, May 25, 2009

5 years ago today, May 25

May 25, 2004, saw:

The Great Wall of China. (!!!)

I couldn't bear to go entirely photo-less from such an I bought a cheapo disposable camera from some tourist dump was covered in dust, and the film had expired, and I was skeptical that I would even be able to develop them...but I'm glad I pushed on anyway; I was able to and in the end I came away with some nice, if low-quality, shots, which is a lot more than nothing.  Below are scans of the prints I got from that camera...I'll put Phil's pics below them, since they're cleaner and sharper.  But even then it's hard to truly grasp the grandeur of this structure, this place.

Andrea, on the Great Wall, just outside of Beijing.

Yes, the window is crooked, not the's slanted to match the upward slope of the wall.

A note about me, my photo-taking, (and how anal I could be about it) and the related tragedy:

I have carried a camera around in my purse since at least high school.  I love taking photos, and sharing them...candids, poses, artsy shots...I'm all about it.  Before I had a digital camera, I would mail my film to kodak to get them developed, and I had this weird psychic connection with them and could always tell when they'd be in the mailbox, even if they were early or late.  (It actually creeped me out a little bit.  made me think that maybe there is something to the old native american superstition that it took a little piece of your soul to create an image of you.  Anyway:)

As soon as I got them back, I would immediately go through them, label each one with who was in it, where it was taken, when it was taken, and any other relevant info I felt it should have, and then put them into albums.  I started this largely after my grandmother passed away, and I watched my mom going through old photographs.  My grandmother had some albums labeled, and mom would look at them, see the labels, and it would trigger memories she'd totally forgotten, remember people who'd faded.  And then she'd look at an album she had from college, that she'd put together herself, but without labels, and she couldn't remember who many of these old friends were.  So, I decided, I'd make sure that I, or my children, or whoever went through them, would know who these folks were and why I had pictures of them.

Anyway, I kept up this practice with my first digital camera, using the included software.  I didn't print out and label physical copies anymore, but I was just as diligent about making sure the who when where and what were labeled.  Then, sometime in 2005, disaster struck.  I needed to reformat my hard drive, which was no biggie; I had backed everything up.  I even backed up the software associated with my pics, to be on the safe side.  I was so proud of myself.  Alas, perhaps that pride did me in; I discovered, much to my utter devastation and dismay, that the labels must have been specific to the install on my comp, and did not transfer with the back-ups of either the program or the data onto the external hard-drive.  I lost, in that instant, well over 3,000 carefully documented labels, including all the labels on my various overseas travels, of which I was particularly proud and grateful.  

The point to bringing all this up here is that, amazingly, the fact that these pics are from that cheap-o disposable is actually a smallish blessing in disguise; with the hard copies, I defaulted to my old habit of writing on the back!  Which means I have slightly more detail that I have had for any of the other pics I've posted to date.  [One annoying side-effect of which is that I am, in fact, a day off...these photos are all labeled by hand as 5/26/04.  bah!  I've decided to put them here anyway since this is the pattern I'm in, and really, time is relative, especially when dealing with the international date line.]

So, for instance, I have note on the back of the picture above noting that "the extra part goes to a certificate & water shop."  Did you need to know that?  Probably not...but if you'd been wondering why there was that little part branching off like that...there is your answer.  

The section of the wall we visited was not on level ground, and thus, was largely comprised of stairs.  And not nice, even stairs:  one step might have been barely worth moving your leg upwards for, just a mere inch, but the next one would be the entire length of my leg.  'climbing the stairs' was a very accurate description, as it was more like very easy rock climbing than walking up a modern staircase.

The note on the back of this one tells me that this is a picture of a butterfly, but it didn't show up.  This is actually a big note, since when I looked at it earlier today, I was like, 'oh, shadows.  neat.'  But seeing that note, I'm reminded:  the place is 'crawling' with butterflies.  There were butterflies everywhere. Local lore says that these butterflies are the ghosts of the people who died during the wall's construction.  

L-R:  Christine, Lulu, and Kir.  [The label saves the day again! I had, very sadly, forgotten Lulu's name.]

Christine and Lulu.  I love the way the wall curves and waves so smoothly at this junction.

Carlos and Che.

Kir & I on the Great Wall.

(Another tangent:  my hair is so overexposed in this makes me understand a bit more what Leon meant when  he told us that people thought we were strange because our hair matched our skin.)


This was taken on top of one of the watchtowers in the wall.  That hole that Kir is in is actually the stairwell (thank you label!).  Carlos, Che, and Lulu wait to greet her.

Kir on the wall.

Che on the wall.  (That sign says "do not climb in case of thunderstorms.")

Che and Carlos on the wall.

Oh Labels how I love you so!  I never knew who the guy on the far left is, but everyone else is at least partially labeled:  "L-R ???, Annie, Lulu, Caita, (Awam???)"  ...and Awam, I suddenly remember, was the teacher whose name I couldn't recall in the pics from Old Shanghai!  Amazing!

Che and a couple guys we didn't know.  Who kinda look like they're staring at him, rather than the scenery.  Interesting.  

I labeled this one "through a gun hole thing," though James pointed out that, it being the great wall of china, it really should say "through an arrow-hole thing."

Leon, Alan, and Lloyd. (Another name remembered!)

A look at how far we've come.  (I think we ended up traveling about a mile and a half, mostly uphill on those uneven stairs.)
This one bears the label:  "scary dead bug."  I'd forgotten it was dead.

Labeled: "flowers growing in the stones.  (& fire, evidently.)"

Lulu, on the great wall.

That is the last of my (happily labeled!) pictures.  Below are Phil's.  He and Laura pulled ahead of everyone else and walked about twice as far as the rest of us did:

Laura on the wall

Laura, taking in the sight.

Phil was a bit exhausted by the end.
I also found the journal I attempted to keep during the trip.  Here's what I wrote during this trip:

"Right now, I'm sitting on the Great Wall of China.  It really is a wonder-Breathtaking, amazing, and a hell-of-a-lot steeper than anyone makes it out to be in America.  The entire section that we visited is made up of uneven may be 6" high, the next, as long as my leg.   Even the "flat" parts are steep.  It feels great to be getting exercise again...I'm to the point where I could go all day...not everyone is though, I think I'm one of the few [if any, I don't see anyone else, but it doesn't mean they aren't here] that isn't dying of exhaustion.  I feel great, and ready to go.  The view is AMAZING. Really, really beautiful - unbelievable...This thing this wall, this incredible structure was built 3,000 years ago, stretches over 5,000 miles...Butterflies (ghosts of the dead) everywhere - spiritually,  I feel beautiful along with the balance here.  Can't do it justice at all.  I'm going to stop writing and take it all in."