I’m recovering from a bit of minor surgery and have invited some of my writing friends to share their stories with you. This post comes from Keryn Means, the publisher of Walkingon Travels. Keryn lives in Seattle, but she hails from the Philadelphia area and is an intrepid traveler. Visiting the Great Wall of China is certainly dream of mine, so I’m happy to bring you here post about how it was one of the places her son learned to walk. Thanks Keryn!
In early November 2010, my then 14-month-old son Dek walked more than two feet for the first time. No he didn’t walk three feet, he walked clear across a room. Up until then he had just stumbled from one chair to another. Very hesitant, very unsure of himself. My husband Mike and I generally had to carry Dek most places when we traveled.
I was so relieved the day Dek took that stroll. We were leaving on a three-week trip to China at the end of the month and I didn’t want to have to carry Dek through the major and minor sights of Asia. I charged into our 14-hour plane ride ready to do some pacing up and down the aisles as Dek got his sea legs, so to speak.
After nearly two weeks of work for me and walking practice for Dek in the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen, we headed to Beijing. Now most people would not recommend Beijing in early December. While the southern part of the country is enjoying pleasant t-shirt wearing weather after a hot and sticky summer, the north is already bundling up in their best winter gear. Dek was about to learn how to walk in multiple layers and mittens.
The benefit of traveling in Beijing in the winter months is that you avoid a lot of the crowds. We got to explore sections of the Forbidden City all by ourselves. And I actually have photos from a popular section of the Great Wall with no one in the background.
With Dek more confident in his walking every day, we were able to explore many of Beijing’s historic sights in ways we never had before. I’m a “got to get there now and see it” kind of girl. Dek slowed us down. He had to check out the engravings we hadn’t even noticed on the steps at the Temple of Heaven. He most certainly needed to walk on over to the tiny windows and stick his head out at the Great Wall at Mutianyu. He needed to peer down into the frozen lakes of the Summer Palace and say hi to the ducks at Jingshan (Coal Hill.)
We brought a stroller most places, but for the most part it was useless. Ancient cobblestones and strollers just don’t mix. Plus, with the newfound use of his legs, Dek was pretty hesitant to be rolled along when there was so much to explore. We were happy to let him do it. In a land of some of the happiest people I have ever met, we could let him wander a few feet, testing his freedom and ability to finally take a few steps away from mommy and daddy.
Walking wasn’t always the smoothest ride of course. Little legs tend to stumble and oh boy did he take a fall our first day exploring. We were halfway through the Forbidden City when we stopped for a snack. Dek was making his way over to me, caught his foot on a stone and smacked the underside of his eye on a ledge. Wails could be heard for miles around. People stopped what they were doing to see what was happening. We were standing outside of the restroom so I’m sure more than a few people were a bit disturbed. There was nothing to do but scoop him up, give him a lot of hugs and kisses and make sure he hadn’t taken his eye out. No sooner were his tears gone that a giant purple welt started to appear. My beautiful boy was now going to have a black eye for the rest of our trip. The photographer in me cringed, the mother in me was so thankful it wasn’t worse than that. I’m not sure I was ready to take on the Chinese hospital system.
As far as memorable trips go, this one sure tops our list. How many mothers can look back on pictures of the Great Wall of China, get a little weepy, and say “this is where my son really learned how to walk?”