So spring break has come and gone in Shanghai. Where did the members of Team Erickson spend their holiday time? We had a plan to visit Vietnam. This plan, predictably, fell through. Apparently, Mark needed to work! Ridiculous. I was very excited about the Vietnam trip and reacted badly to the realization that it was not going to happen. I reacted very, very badly. This had the effect of frightening Mark into agreeing to come with the rest of us on our second choice trip—Beijing.
Mark and I have been to Beijing and for us it wasn’t the trip of a lifetime. But since we are living in China it would seem reasonable that the kids should see a few things outside of Shanghai. That famous wall, for example. Tiananmen Square. And who are we not to share our whining with the general Chinese population? Why should the Shanghainese get all the good stuff? Sometimes we have to take our unique blend of irritation on the road. Poor, poor Beijing.
The trip started out with a bang once Lucas realized that many of his friends would be returning to our neighborhood from their trips just as we would be flying out. Oh the injustice! This after he had spent so much time earlier in the week moaning on the couch about his boredom. Life is truly not fair. So we began our trip out of Shanghai with at least one less than happy traveler. But this would not stop us! No! We had some historical stuff to see.
The one thing that was sustaining any interest in this trip was the promise of riding the big slide down from the Great Wall. Yes, the Wall is a marvel, wonderful and amazing to behold, blah, blah, blah. Who cares about that? What we really cared about was the slide. Yes, there is a section of the Wall that has more than one option for going up (cable car, chair lift, hiking) and the most awesome option ever for coming back down– a long metal slide that snakes down from the Wall to the bottom of the hill. It gets hot as Hell in the sun and the brakes on the little sleds you sit in are basically doorstops, but no matter! All the Erickson kids could think about was that slide. Everyone else had ridden the slide! The slide was the most awesome part! There was no end to the magnificence of the slide. If the early Chinese had any sense at all they would have saved all that time they spent building that giant wall and just built a giant slide instead.
Mark has already experienced the slide and can vouch for its awesomeness. I, unfortunately, have never had the chance to ride down on the slide. The last time we went to the Wall I was about six months pregnant. Apparently pregnant women are not allowed to sit on a tiny toboggan and hurtle themselves down a molten metal chute using a doorstop for brakes. At least not visibly pregnant ones. There are rules, you know. There are safety concerns and even the Chinese have to draw the line somewhere. This was also the trip where Mark’s Chinese colleagues insisted that I never take the stairs and scurried around hunting elevators in every building we ever entered. I am surprised they even let me look at the Wall. The slide? No way. Even if I was too stupid to know I should never have left the house the workers at the slide were never going to be a part of some foolhardy scheme. I stood a safe distance away and was in charge of photos.
So we really talked up the slide. It was all the kids would get out of bed for once we were cocooned at the hotel. I had hired a driver and from the forecast had decided that Thursday was the best day for reasonable weather. We headed out for what should have been a 90 minute ride but instead participated in a 3 hour trek on back roads. We were trying to get to the Wall on Qingming—Tomb Sweeping Day—and every other Chinese person was trying to get somewhere as well. We arrived, and rode the cable car up to the top. We actually rode in the same cable car that brought President Clinton up on his visit. I thought that this was maybe a decal they had attached inside all the cable cars, but when we got out it turned out we were in THE actual car that had transported Bubba. Of course, my enthusiasm was matched by no one. You guys?! President Clinton! I might as well have been talking to myself.
I should add here that from the time we left the hotel, it had been cloudy. But it wasn’t raining. Once the kids were actually touching the Wall, they did the required amount of looking in “awe” before attempting to run directly to the slide. There is no running on the Wall and as parents we had been hoping for a bit more interest. About 5 minutes later it began to rain. Mark whispered that he thought they might not let people take the slide down in the rain. I immediately turned him to stone with my icy glare. Then it began to hail. It wasn’t golf ball sized or anything, but it was difficult to ignore. Suffice it to say that by the time we reached the slide (a mere 20 minutes later) it was pouring. The slide was most certainly closed and, we were later told, would stay that way all day. Certain members of our party reacted badly. For once it wasn’t me! Mark and I passed the time taking videos of Lucas’ meltdown and waiting for it to stop raining. Both the meltdown and the rain continued unabated so we decided to take the chair lift down.
There was much tooth gnashing and eye rolling as Lucas decided he would only ride the chair lift ALONE. One of the guys working at the chair lift pretended he was going to ride with Lucas and all the other workers laughed and laughed. Oh, China. How I love it when you help contribute to the parental hazing. Lucas managed to crack a small smile followed by a scowl directed at me and his younger sister. Ava and I rode in the car behind him and heckled him until we were back on the ground. We were wonderful representatives of our country. And this was only our first day! America, you are welcome. Beijing, we apologize.