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  • Before we moved to London we thought it would be a good idea to break up the 24 hour flight. We stopped over at Beijing for a few days and what a good idea it was! I had reached dumpling heaven! Not only was Beijing an interesting city with a fabulous cuisine it was easy to get around despite only knowing hello and thank you in Mandarin.

    We planned a day trip to the Great Wall & took a coach conveniently from our hotel. Once we arrived people sold us bananas and water bottles to hydrate us from the searing heat. I looked skeptically at the map - the wall snaked for miles and we had to be back at the parking lot in only a few hours.

    A sprightly little lady bounced up to us wearing pink, asking if we wanted a guide as we stepped onto the cable car. We refused - we rarely used the services of guides & thought we would benefit more without them. However, once we got to the top there she was, a brim of sweat shining on her forehead.
    'How did you get up so fast?' we asked.
    'I climbed.' she responded simply. Interesting we thought, glancing down at the descent we had come up by cable car. And then we started to walk.

    She accompanied us & we made small talk, unsure and wary of her presence. She told us her name was Xuli and that she had lived on a farm nearby. She made a living being a tour guide and we were impressed to learn she was in her forties, especially as she looked twenty years younger. She was light on her feet & when she told us she climbed the wall every day, sometimes twice a day, we believed her.

    As we huffed and sweated at the climb and in the heat we grew used to her companionship. There were some parts of the wall which had crumbled with age and she gripped my hand, assisting me as if it were the most natural thing in the world.

    After a time I tired and wanted a rest so my husband and Xuli continued onto three more towers. He loves running and they jogged along the age old stones. He marveled at her nimble steps and effortless speed.

    Soon it was time to go back. We chatted happily with our adopted guide, complimenting her on her English which she learnt from speaking with tourists. When we rested for some water she pulled out some books from a seemingly bottomless bag. We knew what she was up to but we didn't mind; we bought one, adding a tip, and made her very happy.

    As we said goodbye, I thanked her by name. She was so happy I remembered & told us we were nice people. We waved as she ran back to the wall to do it all over again. She was nothing short of remarkable. We spent the rest of the day smiling.

    Sometimes it's those unexpected moments that make an already amazing experience more memorable.
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