In 2003 my cousin who is only 6 months older than me was getting married. I really wanted to go back to Nanchung (China) and be at the wedding, but after making preparations there was the huge SARS outbreak and with great regret the trip was cancelled. Later watching the video, it was strange to see the streets deserted as the wedding procession moved from their home to the reception hall.
Later that year I went back and visited my cousin. It had been quite a number of years since I had been back to China, and my cousin and I took a trip to Beijing. It was the first time I had been to Beijing, even though I was born in China. Naturally we went to the great sites in the area – the forbidden palace, the great wall the summer palace.
This trip coincided with the first camera I had owned since a little Nikon film point and shoot from my youth. The camera was a Canon A70 (I have long since sold this camera). I went snap crazy and took well over two thousand pictures on my whole trip (these days as I easily take that many in two days on a shooting trip). One of the best pictures I took during the entire trip was at the great wall. The trip to Beijing was undertaken in the first week in October, which in China is one of the three busiest travel periods of the year. It is a time when almost everyone gets a week off work, and they all seemed to be visiting that particular section of the great wall on this day. This was one of the only pictures I managed to take which did not have the foreground filled with people.
The summer of 2008 was a great time for China. It was the Olympics and everyone seemed to have Olympic fever, and I had planned to be there in Beijing (this was not something I wanted to miss). After the closing ceremony, I decided to take another trip to the great wall. I had originally planned to visit a different section of the great wall than 5 years previous, but I fell asleep on the bus (as I usually do on public transportation) and ended up at the same location.
On this occasion there were not nearly as many people as during the October rush of 2003, and I could almost leisurely make my way along the undulating wall. Being by myself this time, I noticed a lot more things. Such as how some people made it a mission to rush and climb as much of the wall as they could in as short amount of time as they could. How the cell phone coverage was so great in China that it seemed almost every third person was on the phone. How even though the section of wall I was on was of modern construction built specifically for tourism, it was a wonder that something even remotely resembling it was build so many thousand years ago.
And then there were the memories of 2003 when I had a real chance to get to know my cousin. Someone who I had grown up with, gotten in trouble with, and whom I parted with when I was just 8 years old to go to a land down under. When I had left I was just a child who had yet to know the ways of the world, and then there we were, two young men with hopes and dreams. Standing on a testament to the great history of a country that I no-longer belonged to, that no-longer belonged to me.