Mountains from the Great Wall
Originally uploaded by quiet.eye.
The Great Wall was touristy, and dirty, and buggy, and hot. But this view made it all worth it.

We drove through the countryside for a while on our way back to Beijing. The land is -- or so it seems -- incredibly fertile and it is cultivated intensively. I saw enormous squashes hanging from trellises, huge pumpkins growing in backyard gardens, peaches the size of grapefruits, apple trees loaded with fruit, endless bushels of gourds, and enormous ears of corn in piles on the road. "For the pigs," I was told.

I also saw field laborers sleeping in tents, and hotels that did not have plumbing. The tap water here, as everywhere in China, is not potable. There were factories next to corn fields next to perfectly square lakes where people were fishing. At many attractions, you could get a discount for having a "deformity". It seemed like just about everyone in Beijing was coughing, sniffling, sneezing. A national investment in spittoons would not go amiss. I don't even want to talk about the airport, where it is necessary, upon arrival, to join a crowd of hundreds of other nervous travelers trying to squeeze through a single entryway -- this is "customs" -- before getting to the airline check-in counters. You do this while you are still in view of the road, where cars and trucks are pulling up all the time. Naturally, no one's been checked for weapons or explosives...