June 11, Day 25 Sino Swiss Hotel, Beijing 11:10 pm
It’s odd being back here–our Tibetan adventure sandwiched in three weeks between these definitely Western stays at this hotel.
As we flew out of Lhasa this afternoon Tibet seemed to disappear in the clouds, something like the closing of a dream.
Our last day in Lhasa was poignant. We went back to the same place for breakfast–hardboiled eggs cooked in tea, momo, and coffee. Mr. Lee brought in our box of supplies (instant coffee, powdered milk, Tang) and mixed the drinks. I will miss his attentiveness and his smile. We ate. Then he and Jinpa went to another table to smoke. Heinrich left but I stayed for another glass of hot water on my coffee. And Jinpa kept saying, “Take your time. Take your time.” Because I am so fond of him and Mr. Lee I like to think they wanted me to stay, but I know that it’s work. I’m work. And I’m also a rich American to them.
I had decided not to bring back the water sandals I got for the trip because they don’t fit my feet [and I didn’t have any extra space]. Jinpa found them as he went over my room to be sure I left nothing behind that I would need. I said, “They don’t fit me. Do you know anyone who could use them?” He said, “My wife would like them.” I hope they fit her. In any case, I’m sure it’s hard for him to imagine leaving behind a decent pair of shoes.
Jinpa and Mr. Lee wrapped my brooms. I got my ski poles and walked back to the Lhasa Airport Hotel. Heinrich laughs out loud at the Lhasa Airport Hotel. It’s huge from the front and has five large Greek-style columns, a broad tiled area, and looks quite fancy. The lobby is also tiled. The rooms came from a different catalog.
At 11:30 Jinpa and Mr. Lee walked our (my) stuff–my two huge “yaks” of duffle bags to the airport. We said goodbye. I promised to send photos and asked for a hug from each. I actually do not know what hugging means in Tibetan culture, but I grew very fond of both of them. And I loved thinking that Jinpa would be with his family by the afternoon. The flight from Lhasa to Beijing was pretty uneventful. Heinrich and I managed to stumble onto the van for the Sino-Swiss Hotel, though a Chinese guy told us it wasn’t running.
After we checked in and deposited our bags in our rooms (and I called Rich–what a treat after 25 days to actually hear his voice, even though briefly) Heinrich and I each had a Sprite and talked a bit about what a great trip it had been. It was. We both agreed that High Asia Travel Company is the best. And I’m even becoming fond of the parts that were hard for me.
That’s it. I flew out of Beijing, to Tokyo, wrestled my yaks and my brooms through the airport, back to O’Hare, and then finally to Cedar Rapids, Iowa. It has been a wonderful experience to relive this trip so intensely. And has reminded me–once again–to be present in the present.