Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Wednesday's Walk Down Memory Lane

When I was 12 my Grandparents took me to China. It was at once, exciting and terrifying. We went to Hong Kong, and all over China. We flew in big jets and tiny little out board motor planes, the kind with the propellers on the wings. That one was thrilling to me! So loud that if the person next to you turned to say something, you could only see their mouth moving, but couldn't hear the words. We went to Thailand and Nepal. In Nepal there were TONS of red monkeys everywhere. They climbed around on the temples and followed you, hoping for a hand out. In Thailand we were in the city and there were men that drove these little three wheeled vehicles, whiping in and out of traffic at terrifying speeds. But to a 12 year old it was invigorating!

We climbed the Great Wall. I was 12 and could barely manage the "Women's Side" of the wall. At times you would be standing up straight and could darn near reach out in front of you and TOUCH the wall. The going was tough. We had a women with us, she was in her late 70's and her name was Myrtle. She climbed that wall like she was going on a Sunday stroll. Amazing. It was funny because to look at her you never would have guessed at her tenacity!

The "Woman's Side of the Great Wall." The "Man's Side" was amazingly steeper.

That is Myrtle there all the way to the right with her hand on the wall.

We were in the Tiananmen just before the great massacre. We signed autographs for the students. I remember they were so excited to be talking to "Free" Americans. They smiled HUGE smiles and were so talkative. Then the next day, they were dead. They showed it on the TV there. They showed some of the bodies still smoking. I remember my stomache rolled and I thought I would be sick. Coming from America, they don't show that kind of footage on our TV's, well they didn't used to anyway.

The Forbidden City. It's made all of wood, so was closed when we were there because of the demonstrations. This photo is looking out across Tiananmen Square.

The students were camped out in the Square. They had been living there for awhile. It didn't smell very good...

These were 'tents' they had made for shelters.

We rode Elephants. The man that handled our elephant was very attracted to my blonde hair. He allowed me to ride on the elephants neck, with my legs tucked in behind it's ears. If I squeezed too hard with one or the other leg, the elephant would do things, bow, nod it's head, turn. My Grandmother thought that he allowed me to sit up there so he could better see my hair. I had on short overalls and one of my straps kept slipping down my arm. He would gently reach forward and move the strap back up to my shoulder and then touch my hair. I got to feed the elephant bananas. You put the whole thing directly into their mouth!

We rode camels. At the Great Wall there was a double hump camel that we got to ride around. My Grandmother got stuck up there! She was wedged in between the humps (Mind you she is a little woman.) She was yelling "Jim! Jim!" to my Grandpa and he had to climb up there to get her down. I was standing on the ground laughing and laughing. As my Grandpa pulled her off, the camel opened it's mouth and let out a HUGE yawning groan. It was so funny!!

After the massacre, we had to be shuttled around under the cover of darkness because the Chinese people blamed Americans for the students death. Saying that if it wasn't for American's putting the idea of Freedom into their heads, the massacre would never have happened. If they saw us, riots would start. We were shot at, with real guns. We had to run from our vehicles to the hotels and they would take us to undisclosed airports at night, to fly us around.

I didn't know this at the time, but China had closed it's borders after the massacre. They were not allowing anyone in or out of their country. I hear that it was a terrifying time for my Mom and Dad back here in America. They didn't know if they would see us again. The president stepped in and got us out. And here I thought we were just having so much fun sneaking around that we decided to stay longer!

The best memory that I have of that time is when we were in a small village way out in the middle of nowhere. We had been to a tomb of an emporer and were now in this village to see an art gallery. I was bored, as were a few others in the tour and we headed back out to our bus. We were just standing around chatting, when we noticed that we had drawn quite a crowd. Many of the people in that village had never seen a white person and they were facinated. We figured that we weren't much to look at just standing around talking, so we gave them something to see... We did the Hokey Pokey! They LOVED it, clapping and trying to sing along. We even grabbed some of the elderly out of the crowd to do it with us. I will never forget that. It was amazing.

I also remember in Thailand, I think it was, we were at the airport and I saw one of the people from our group, hiding in a luggage rack, being wheeled out. I turned to my Grandmother and said something about it. She shushed me, then when we got back to the hotel she told me that he had been caught with drugs. They were smuggling him out of the country because if you where caught with drugs there you were executed. He was the second youngest of our group, probably 19 or 20. I was the youngest. I was astonished, as I thought these things only happened in the movies.

Typing about this keeps bringing up more and more memories! I will stop now as I never intended this to become a book. But maybe it should some day... I hope you enjoyed my little trip down Memory Lane!


CC said...

Wow. What amazing memories. Both good and not so good. My BIL was in China during Tienanmen Square as well. I know that he family and friends were horrified back in the states and didn't know how he was going to get home. Meanwhile, he barely knew what was going on.

Anonymous said...

What an amazing memory! How scary and wonderful that you were in a place that marked such a strong reaction around the world. Thank you for sharing.

Sally-Ann said...

At the end you had never intended your post to become a book, well, I could have kept reading and reading. All those experiences, even the bad, like the massacre, made a wonderful post

Paula said...

Wow What a trip that was. Thanks for sharing your memory

Abigail Kraft said...

Wow! That's got to be the most exciting trip I've read about yet! That would have been so scary, but you're the eyes of a 12 year old, it's totally less serious--almost like a game.

Thanks for sharing the story. It definitely kept me entertained!


DeenaL said...

I remember when you were in China. You told me how scared you were while you were in the hotel rooms because they made you all stay away from windows and to stay low in the room because of the chance of being shot. I don't remember seeing your pictures of the trip. Sometime you will have to show me more.
Aunt D

Linda said...

You should write all of this down and keep it altogether with your pictures. Are your grandparents still alive? I am sure they could tell it all in vivid detail and add to your stories.

I am glad that you got home safely and I know your parents were so relieved to hold you in their arms when they got you back!

You have lived through a serious situation in History.

Thanks for sharing.

Tanya said...

Wow! What a trip and I really enjoyed reading about it too. What memories you must have...

Becca said...

What an amazing trip, bad experiences and all! The pictures are beautiful!

Lynnette Kraft said...

Wow, what a trip for a 12 year old! I'm glad you didn't know that you weren't allowed out of China. That would have been horrifying for a child your age. But, it sounds scary anyway with what you were seeing.

Sounds like it was a trip to remember forever!

Lucy said...

wow, what an experience - and what incredible memories. That really is a fantastic story to tell!

Kristin said...

Wow! I was so captivated while reading your story! That is amazing.....I'm so glad that you made it home safely! Thanks for sharing that. I really enjoyed reading it.

Karabeth said...

Wonderful memories! Isn't it something how such serious things can be going on around us when we're young and it isn't until later that the full realization of it hits us.