In my collection of photos from a cultural trip to China in 2004, there’s one that’s most important to me. A single shot amongst 578. Shot on the Great Wall of China, it’s of five young Chinese students, four girls and one boy, playing a hand of 31’s. This photo was my alibi while a crime against the national monument occurred.

While we were learning how to gamble, a young man whose name escapes me pulled a brick off the Great Wall and said, “you want a real souvenir of China? Watch this.” (As I was later told by one of the Canadian girls on the bus.) Then smashed the brick on the path. After the destruction, the students near him decided to increase the scope of their crimes by taking pieces, thereby violating antiquity laws.

Each of us were escorted off the bus and our bags searched for the pieces stolen. My lack of bag and the timestamp on my photo had been enough to clear me. Those who had stolen pieces were to write formal apology letters; the boy who did the deed was sent back to Canada that night.

With this incident under my belt I began to snap photos obsessively for the remainder of the trip, resulting in the aforementioned 578 total.

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