Monday, January 21, 2008

Keeping The Peace With Grilled Corn


Zhong Wei is a security guard who managed a guard station on the Simatai portion of the Great Wall Of China, which happens to be one of the steepest, most visually striking, and downright dangerous parts of the ancient structure. It's about a 2 hour bus ride from China's capital, Beijing.

The Great Wall stretches more than 6500 kilometers (4000 miles) from the seaside town of Shanhaiguan in the east, to the desert town of Jiayuguan in the west. All along its length are regularly spaced guard stations where Chinese Empire sentries used to keep an eye out for Mongol invaders and beat back their advances, sometimes showering their foes with boiling oil and/or chopping off the hands of those who succeeded in clawing their way to the top of the wall.

Today, guards are still positioned at the stations, but in the absence of enemy invaders, they're able to focus on other, less violent activities -- like cooking corn on the cob over a fire and sharing it with tourists. In the summertime, when the heat and humidity builds, Zhong Wei often brings a bucket of ice cold beers to his post and sells them to very grateful hikers passing through his station.

Frankly, there isn't much excitement along this part of the Great Wall nowadays, but that's OK with Zhong Wei. In his opinion, grilling corn and talking with tourists is far more redeeming than chopping off the hands of enemy invaders.

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