Lesson 7: When Life Gives You Walls, Climb Them

We discussed it for weeks and finally decided that Saturday would be the day we climbed the Great Wall. Subconsciously, I think my body was trying to avoid it, but with four of my co-workers and Lauren joining me, I could not back out. We traveled to Dongzhimen station and were enthusiastically greeted by a man who assured us we were heading in the right direction. He also said that he could take us to the Great Wall once we reached our stop. Looking back, I’m embarrassed by how excited we were by his gesture. As stated in a previous post, EQ is an important trait in China, and being able to discern who wants to help and wants to take advantage of your ignorance is difficult. We made the decision to turn down the man’s offer and soon found that he was not the only person offering rides to the Wall. However, despite desperate marketing tactics, like jumping on the bus and shouting prices at us, there was one man who genuinely cared about us and told us to just take the bus. Not only did he give us the right bus number but he also tried to get to know where we were from and showed us pictures of when his foreign friends came to visit.

To avoid large crowds and take a more scenic route, we traveled to the water section of the Great Wall. 水管(Shuiguan) is about 7.5 miles east of the famous Badaling section of the Wall and was created to protect China from Mongol invasions. Shuiguan has four watchtowers standing at 700m above sea level. Even though water surrounds the Wall, climbing the Wall is another obstacle. Unlike Badaling, where there are hundreds and hundreds of little steps, Shuiguan is a mix of small and steep steps that makes climbing the Wall’s 1.5 km stretch feel like an aerobic boot camp. I was grateful for the power of music and travel friends to push me.

Before climbing the wall, we took a short boat ride to the eastern end of Shuiguan. Looking up at the wall from the water below was amazing. Honestly, pictures and words and cannot even express how peaceful and breathtaking the scene was. It’s funny how a wall used to keep people out can be so beautiful. After the boat trip, we started our hike up the wall. Although there weren’t many tourists, there were many Chinese families. At one point, I was competing with five and six-year-olds to climb the Wall. However, the competition ended quickly as the heat and depth of the stairs began to change. While climbing the wall, all I could think about was how bad my quads hurt and the sweat dripping down my face, but from the top of the wall it was a different story. Looking at the winding wall below, I was glad I took the risk to climb the wall.  

Not to be too emotional or reflective, but, like most things in life getting to the top or where you want to be is challenging. It may be challenging because others make it challenging or may be challenging because you have to exert a lot of energy to reach it. However, after you put in the work, in most cases it is worth it. Yes, this was just a wall. Yes, all I did was go up and down it. However, the joy of the climb comes from the view and perspective at the top. It comes from that sense of fulfillment when you finish. Life has not been easy for me these past few years. I have had a lot of obstacles both personally and professionally, however, instead of avoiding walls that block my path, I must work to overcome them.

High of the Week: Dorronda climbed the Great Wall of China!!!!!

Delta of the Week: Let’s stay positive when faced with obstacles. They are just walls to climb.

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