June 9, Friday, Day 23, 7:47 a.m. Beijing time, Shigatse, altitude 4000 m.
Well, I just watched the cook leave, again. He left early on Wednesday to get back to Lhasa but we kept running into him. I think he must like traveling with Jinpa and Mr. Lee. He was really a character. Every morning he’d get up, do his daily business and take his toilet kit to the stream. Then he would cook. By that time Jinpa would have the hot water ready for coffee and half the dishes washed. And Jinpa brought about ten pounds of vegetables that the cook never cooked.
It occurred to me as I looked out the hotel window that this is our next to last day in Tibet. It will take me a long time to process this trip, but I am now very glad I came. I’ve learned so much–and been so challenged, basically by my own demons.
I have frequented the Shigatse market today, going back several times after coming to the hotel to unload. I thought the bargaining would be hard for me but I managed to get into it. It is exhausting, though, and even if I realized tonight that I didn’t have enough souvenirs I’d have to fake it because I can’t go back one more time.
Tibetans are very friendly but I still haven’t figured out what to do about beggars. There are those in the market, too. I relented today and gave a boy one yuan and I was accosted by another boy half his size, [and then others]. Maybe I’ll look for a Tibetan charity when I get home.
I probably should take pictures of the Shigatse Market but I hate taking that kind of picture. [So I’m including a link to someone else’s photos of the market.] It seems so intrusive. I look enough like a tourist without a camera around my neck. But I can describe it. The Tibetan part which I was in this morning, but then could not find it again, is arranged along two sides of one street. There’s food–whole sheep, killed gutted and skinned but the fat is left on. I wonder if that helps it to keep. Lots of yak butter–large circles of yak butter. It smells like cow butter but more so. Also packages of ghee. And barrels of foods I can’t identify. I’d like to get some tsampa to take home. Maybe I’ll see if Jinpa would go with me to pick some out.
In addition to the food, there are many tables of beads, pendants, small Buddhas, prayer flags. The Tibetan women are very aggressive salespeople. One grabbed my jacket. I wasn’t sure how I would get her to let go.
There are also lots of little stalls where you can go and order a banner and they’ll sew it so you can come back for it. Also some furniture places. I did buy four brooms today. They are sixty cents apiece, about 5 yuan. The problem with the sixty cent brooms is getting them home. I’ll look for string tomorrow and maybe I can wrap them and tie string around them.
The way the market and bargaining worked: the sellers had pocket calculators. They would put in their price, then I would counter with my offer and back and forth until we both were satisfied. I’m not a very hard bargainer and I didn’t need to think I had extracted every extra cent from the price. In fact, after one round of bargaining, the woman embraced me and gave me a bracelet. I’m pretty sure I paid a lot for whatever I bought in that transaction. But I smiled thinking about the gift of “found money” for her.
Writing about the Shigatse Market makes me want to go back. If only it weren’t a two-day flight to China, one day flight to Tibet, and a day’s drive away. But even if I did it wouldn’t be the same. Whoever said we never step in the same river twice was right.