Monday, December 8, 2008
The day after my lecture I took off to go and visit the Great Wall, in company with three musicians, a lecturer, and a lecturer's spouse. We left before dawn, to avoid the rush. Before leaving I asked at the hotel desk whether it would be possible to get something from the kitchen to take with us. The girl at the desk told me that breakfast wouldn't be served until 8. I asked again if we could take something, bread rolls, apples, anything, that wouldn't need cooking or serving, and she told me that there was a shop around the corner, but it wouldn't be open. I asked at the desk rather than at the kitchen because my Chinese was hardly up to the task, but having met such stubborn unhelpfulness at the desk I ventured my Chinese in the kitchen, and left laden with slices of cake and a plastic bucket of cherry tomatoes. The cooks wouldn't let guests go hungry, whatever the night clerk might say. The Great Wall just after dawn, with no one else about, and in a blaze of autumnal scenery, is quite a sight.