SOMEWHERE IN TIME BETWEEN QIN AND MING DYNASTIES -- I blogged from the Great Wall on Thursday, sent the text via BlackBerry and stood beside the structure that is more than 2,000 years old in some places while watching people order Starbucks.
I can only imagine what that Qin Shi Huang fellow would have thought about a few caramel frappuccinos being spilled along his famous path.
The brochures that were handed out around Olympic venues the past few weeks touting Beijing's historic locations all listed Tiananmen Square as the one visitors should see first.
For a reminder about how thousands were willing to die with the hopes of overturning communism, yes.
For a cardio workout that might test Usain Bolt, not a chance.
One thought after climbing sections of a wall that stretches some 4,000 miles: I arrived in China curious and will depart nervous.
If the Chinese were able to construct this type of barrier up and down and around and through mountains that long ago, can you imagine what more than a billion people are capable of today?
A second thought: What in the world were they thinking?
I don't want to suggest Emperor Qin and those leaders who followed were a bit paranoid, but I'm guessing that part about protecting the empire from invaders could have been handled in a smaller fashion.
Wouldn't 2,000 miles worth of stone, rocks and packed earth have done the trick?
Then again, Qin is the guy who built an army of more than 8,000 terra-cotta soldiers, 30 chariots and upward of 700 horses to help rule another empire in his afterlife. Qin had issues.
He obviously thought in big terms, and there is no getting around the extraordinary size of the Great Wall. They say it was built with "wisdom, dedication, blood, sweat and tears." It also took the lives of about 2 million to 3 million workers during a fairly lengthy construction phase (see centuries, several).
You have to think those toiling in dust didn't have large sections of brick airlifted in along with pre-ordered meals and power bars for energy snacks.
Were they even human? Was this marvel really built by the Chinese, or is it possible imported Kenyan marathoners did the work?
Did they ever get tired?
It's obvious now why a countless number of soldiers placed around Beijing during these Games do little but stand at attention. They undoubtedly are making up rest time for their military brethren, the main labor force in building the wall.
Qin, however, took care of those protecting the homeland. During a 10-year stretch of the building process, it was arranged for widows to marry the working soldiers, an interesting perk in ancient collective bargaining agreements.
I arrived at the Badaling section of the wall, about 50 miles north of Beijing, in the rain.
The precipitation remained fairly steady throughout the morning, but dark skies and wet roads didn't stop hundreds of people from making the trip and walking up and down and along a portion of the wall shaped to resemble a dragon. It is incredibly steep in some places. If there was a treadmill made with an elevated level of 40, this matches it.
On one hand, you can't take a step and not sense the profound history. You can't peer from an ancient watchtower built during the Ming Dynasty and not wonder whether you are around an area where battles were fought.
On the other hand, there are the hawkers.
I suppose if your Great Wall experience is going to come with a decision between grande or tall, you also have to expect someone to offer you a paper-thin T-shirt with an asking price of $54 American.
Ten minutes later, I was handing over 40 yuan for the keepsake, or just over $5. By the look of my disgruntled shopkeeper, I don't think this is how some Chinese expected the whole capitalism concept to play out.
The finish line of these Games is in sight, and Beijing already has seen some spectacular and surprising and sobering moments.
Michael Phelps. Bolt and his contingent of Jamaican rockets. The U.S. softball team losing gold. The U.S. women's soccer team winning it. The senseless killing of the father-in-law of a U.S. volleyball coach.
It also has reminded the world about the vast history of China, a large part of it being the Great Wall.
Large being the operative word.
Ed Graney can be reached at 383-4618 or firstname.lastname@example.org.