June 10, Day 24, Shigatse, 9:14 a.m. Beijing time, Alt. 4000 m.
We leave for Lhasa in about 20 minutes. That which seemed endless in the wide-open Aru Basin is now quickly ending. Even now before it is quite over the difficult experiences are turning into good memories–not that I won’t enjoy a hot shower or won’t always be appreciative of indoor private toilets that you can sit on but this has been a unique time for me and I am grateful to have had the chance to be here.
I’m afraid Jinpa and Mr. Lee went out on the town last night. I should have kept the tip money for another day. Jinpa looked pretty rough at breakfast. I can sympathize. Also, they are both ready to be home. [Even so, they will stay at the hotel with us until we leave.] I did not realize that.
5:37 p.m. Beijing time, Lhasa Airport Hotel, Alt. 3600 m.
It is so odd being back at the airport. In some ways it seems a brief time since we were last here. In some ways it seems a very long time. I can now walk easily without being short of breath, which feels good. This afternoon is like Auden’s time between Christmas and New Years–a time in between, a time when one adventure is over but we haven’t quite got back to our other lives yet. A hard time. I am not actually sorry the trip is over–except in the sense that I am always sorry at the passage of time. But I think the lessoon of the Aru Basin is to take what I took, relish it, and not regret what I did not get. I got out and did something every day that I could, saw much, took many pictures. The fatigue, the loneliness were also part of my trip (not for Heinrich probably, but for me). But I did figure out some strategies. And on the way back I did figure out I could stay wherever we planned to stay. Doesn’t seem like much, but it was something.
Tibet is incredibly beautiful–all the way across. I want to get a few of our photographs framed and put up in our house.
It’s interesting now to look back on how apprehensive I was before the trip. I guess that’s an indication of what a stretch it was for me. I had butterflies in my stomach for days. So many things I worried about never came to pass–no violent nomad dogs, no missing any planes–at least one way. I guess I’d better not get too relaxed. I still have to get back to Iowa with two duffle, bags, a backpack, a purse, and four brooms!
So we have come to it: our last night in Tibet. How many times did I look at this notebook and count the remaining days? I don’t know what I think.
We ate supper with Jinpa and Mr. Lee and had tiny shot glasses of fortified wine. Mr. Lee toasted us and wished us well. I wish I could speak more with him. He is/was a very thoughtful man. Jinpa told us about the Tibetan calendar, which I only vaguely understood. [He also told us they had taken six canisters of oxygen and a satellite phone to the Aru Basin–in case I got sick.]
The airport is bare. Parking lot empty. There’s a growth of restaurants, maybe six or eight and small grocery stores just outside the entrance ot the airport. We ate at the same place for lunch and supper. The food was fine. And the woman loaned us tape to tape my 4 brooms together. We need to remember to return it.
Three weeks or more, 26 days, seemed like a long time many times but I now think shorter would not have been good. I think I had to be sad and bored and lonely. That was part of the trip. And the difficult days may be the days I remember most fondly. Jinpa reminded us that we camped by a stream one night and I actually wrote about it in this journal. I have no, zero, recollection of that night. Between the ear patch and the altitude I must have zoned out that night.
I haven’t talked much about food. One of my favorite meals, when we were eating out, was momo, steamed dumplings. I tried to make them when I got home and was not very successful, but I did not have this recipe. This looks much more do-able. I am not cooking today, but I am eating steamed dumplings. I am in Maine with my Mom and two sisters and we are ordering Chinese take-out. (Girls go crazy!)
My other favorite food was from our camping days. Breakfast most always included a fried egg with sriracha sauce. That is still my favorite way to eat fried eggs. Try it.