Friday, October 26, 2007

The Most Annoying Lady in the World

Marie and I encountered her at Simatai, a semi-touristy town nestled up against the Great Wall of China. Actually, she encountered us. It wasn’t a casual encounter either. We were not special. She was looking for someone to follow, and as tourists, we qualified. She followed us as we hiked along the Great Wall for over an hour offering unwanted information and tourist trinkets. How can we get away from her? We wondered.

The Great Wall is precariously balanced along a steep ridge, with the original purpose of guarding China from… various enemies throughout history. While it had questionable success, its placement also makes for fundamentally amazing views, which are aggressively marketed at tourists all around the world. If we only had peace and no annoying ladies following us, we could imagine China back in the day, defending its territory. And, so long as we faced away from the snack bar, the tourist gondola that transported us three quarters of the way up the mountain, and the merchants selling plaques that said “Great Wall,” we could enjoy the beauty of the region.

“We want peace,” Marie very genuinely, yet assertively, explained with her outstanding Mandarin language skills. “We don’t have any money.” This was actually true. It wasn’t a miscalculation so much as we forgot to think about the funds before leaving Beijing. We had precisely the right amount of money to get us on the bus back to Beijing. No more, no less. No snacks. No trinkets. Our annoying follower had heard this before and it unfortunately just fueled the fire.

“Mongolia side,” she pointed to one side of the wall. “Chinese side,” she pointed to the other side (with the trinket tables and the snack bar). We happened to already know which side of the Wall was Chinese.

She was ANNOYING!! After over an hour of ignoring her/asking her to leave us alone my temper came through. “NO!” I yelled (in English). “I don’t want any postcards that say China is beautiful!” But then I was a little surprised (and I felt a little meaner than Marie) when she actually did leave us alone after that. Maybe it was because we were almost to the end of our walk along the Wall… and not because I’m so horribly mean that I was able to scare away even the most annoying lady in the world. Anyway, we had the last 20 minutes to ourselves to enjoy the tranquil beauty of Simatai.

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