Here are a few notes from Sarah from the last couple of days:
Wednesday morning we all got up very early (5) to leave Beijing for the Great Wall before the crowds and the heat of the day. We drove through villages with gardens, orchards, donkeys, goats and many Pekinese dogs. In one place the road was covered with grain, we assume rice, which we think was being winnowed wth firecrackers popping all around. We got to the Wall by 7 and in true Dublin spirit, forsook the cablecars to climb up to the Wall along steep stairs through the woods: Mountain Day in China. We got to the wall, fairly drenched in swaet but feelling victorious and imagined Mongols on the other side. Peter Peng, our guide, was fairly begging to go down but we marched along. It was really beautiful to look out over the trees (oaks, apricots, varieties of cherry and mulberry) and watch the Wall unwind in both directions. It feels like walking amongst ghosts.
The vegetation of northern China is surprisingly simimlar to that of New Hampshire: we recognize most plants, from trees to weeds.
Later we spent the afternoon shopping and strolling around a mall area before boarding the night train for Shanghai. We had four beds to a compartment, air conditioning, slippers, and hot water provided for tea: it was marvellous. Each bed had its own TV screen too. We sped through China sound asleep and arrived in Shanghai this morning. Here we are in the Courtyard Marriott and have already been otu to see beautiful avenures and the old city, filled with art galleries and boutiques. Tonight we'll explore the Bund and visit a temple. Tomorrow we go to the countryside to see a school and the land. Shanghai is exciting and beautiful, cooler and cleaner than Beijing.