It probably should not be a mild case.
Falling down the Great Wall of China probably warrants a more severe phobia.
I began that day full of confidence and purpose. I was weeks away from finishing my one year contract teaching English in Korea. During that time I had travelled in Korea, Guam, Thailand, Japan and now China. Life was one giant possibility.
The sky is overcast. From weather or pollution is unclear. It does not matter. We are boarding the bus to go see one of the great wonders of this world. The Great Wall of China.
Clearly we are not visiting one of the lesser visited spots as we had hoped. Our bus pulls in to a gigantic parking lot full of vendors hawking everything tacky: Mao lighters that sing the Chinese anthem, Mao alarm clocks in full salute, and the ironic mini Great Wall replicas.
After our guide advises the time to meet back at the bus, my friends and I are off to explore. We are as carefree as children running up and down the narrow steps, in and out of the watchtowers and barracks, playing bows and arrows and duck n’ cover.
Eventually we hit an incredibly steep section headed down. A perfect time to take a photo. One friend heads down the steps. The other 3 of us stay up top.
“Okay,” yells my friend from below “On the count of 3, take a step down and I’ll get an action shot of you guys coming down the wall!”
We agree, hoping the steepness is evident in the picture so we can show all of our friends.
“One. Two. Three!”
And, well, you know what happens next.
I decide it will be a better picture if I am looking at the camera smiling, forgetting that the ancient Chinese, while incredibly strong, also had tiny, barely-there feet. The steps are narrow. And uneven. I neglect to check either of these possibilities.
On three I take a step. Only there is no step where I have stepped. So I fall. Hard. And once I fall, the sharp angle propels me downward. I don’t really remember this part. I fall and I roll. I do vividly remember the faces looking down on me once I have stopped. Chinese faces speaking Mandarin in sharp, tonal fluctuations. Then my friends. Making sure I’m okay and then trying to hold back their tears of laughter.
I am laughing myself, so hard that I can not breathe. Tears are falling so fast from my eyes that my fellow tourists are worried that I am injured. I suffer from a few scrapes and bruises but it is only my pride that is broken.
I can not believe I have fallen down the Great Wall of China. “Only me.” I sigh shaking my head and picking my battered self up and back to our awaiting bus.
I remember this today as I march up and down these steps with Kaya in hand. “I will not fall with my daughter. I will not fall with my daughter. I will not fall with my daughter.” becomes my mantra as I finish all the required reps.
Am I nervous about dropping or falling with her? Sure.
But the mantra has more to do with Kaya not baring witness to the all too common reality of her mother making a fool of herself. Can we at least wait for her to turn one before crushing her ideal of the perfect mom?
Let it be known, I will be trying my damndest to protect her from that knowledge.
Unfortunately, my friend did not catch the fall. Here is just before my humiliation.
That’s me, arms flailing, in the white tshirt.