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SKATEBOARDING THROUGH TIME ON THE GREAT WALL OF CHINA
Between 1995 and 2002, I studied abroad during five summers at Peking University. Hiking – and skateboarding – on the Great Wall quickly became my favorite activity, outside of attending lectures in Chinese philosophy on campus.
Each time I traveled to the Wall, I learned something new, and the more I visited different areas, the more I wanted to learn about the history and culture behind this amazing symbol of the Chinese people.
I hope you will enjoy my story.
Skate the Wall
Our sleek private taxi wove its way between big trucks and buses, tiny cars and vans, zooming motorcycles and buzzing scooters. The silent bikes and carts yielded without stress, smoothly avoiding us as if doing Tai Chi.
Radiating from Beijing, the traffic faded into tranquility. We, students from the University of Hawaii, headed due north with our driver, a kind-hearted Chinese man with dark glasses and a love for classic Western rock music.
We gave him a thumbs-up and nodded when his stereo played Pink Floyd’s Another Brick in the Wall.
Around us wheat and corn formed a checkerboard landscape, as hills graduated to small mountains with riverbanks planted with weeping willows, walnut and peach trees, thriving under deep blue sky. Slender poplar trees cast zebra-striped shadows which flickered on our faces while we blazed on.
It was a perfect day to skate the Wall.
Just as philosophical attitudes of Chinese and Americans may differ, so too have their reactions to my skating on the Wall.
Photos from my early trips in 1995 shocked some Western friends to contend, “You mean they allow you to do that?” In contrast, responses from Chinese people were more positive and light-hearted.
The first time I skated the Wall, a guard stationed at the Wall shouted in Mandarin and took my board. To my surprise, he traded me his rifle for my skateboard and tried to ride it, shooting down the hill out of control, skidding to a halt, and tearing holes in his clothes.
Bruised and bleeding, he reacted with a smile, and raced up the hill for another try.