Day 19: One Day Too Many in Tibet

Where yesterday I didn’t take any photos worth posting here, today I didn’t take any photos.  Period.  Carriage Return.

The Battered Leather Journal says we went shopping today, but I don’t remember it.

In the afternoon, we took one last ride with Sijila (and his little son – it was fun to see Sijila as a caring father) to the airport – an hour and a half backtracking on the route we took to Everest.  This all looks verrry familiar.  Sijila laughed at one of our jokes before we could even respond to it ourselves, reinforcing our suspicion that he is full of lies about not speaking English.  He is the type that would pretend so he wouldn’t have to interact with annoying tourists.  We hand Sijila his and Choedak’s tips, Sam hands his son an authentic American dollar bill, and we are off on the next leg of the trip: Qingdao (think: CHING-dow), via Beijing.

But the frantic crowd destroying all sense of order in my universe seems to be hinting that maybe we should be flexible about this flight to Beijing.  It appears the flight has been cancelled.  I suppose the airport official screaming into the megaphone could be informing us why, but in this moment I don’t care why.  Standing in a crush of agitated travelers who are all demanding to know what is going to happen, for the first time on this trip everyone else looked as confused as I felt.  When you are in Tibet and the Tibetan faces betray the frustration and worry of their owners, it is a touch harder to maintain that cool, detached, I’m-sure-Sam-can-take-care-of-it demeanor.  But really, what the hell am I going to do to help?  Kristy and I will just stand here by Sam on the off chance the person she’s talking to thinks we are some kind of Scandinavian movie stars.

We finally confront an available airline employee to learn that the next flight is in the morning and we are going to be bused to a hotel back in Lhasa.

And don’t worry, they say, your luggage will be here when you get back.  Not the most comforting promise, given the level of organization that we experienced next.

The mob migrates outside, where nobody knows which bus to get on.  More yelling.  Finally, back on the road to Lhasa, the same ninety minute stretch we’ve been on three times in the last three days.

When the buses stop at the business hotel, the doors open and people rush out like it is on fire.  Apparently they know something we don’t.  And this becomes clear when we get to the lobby and it is packed, everyone shoving their way to the registration desk where two harried workers are considering suicide.  So we dive into the crowd, my height apparently intimidating people just enough for those few inches of space needed to squeeze through; Sam summons the blood of her Chinese ancestors to bully her way to the desk (I don’t understand – everyone is doing this, but she is just so much better at it . . . ); and Kristy trails in Sam’s wake before the people crash back together behind them.

And then a new challenge – getting the workers’ attention.

We’re like Odysseus, managing to escape the sirens only to thwarted by the cyclops.  People are screaming.  There are forty arms thrust over the counter, each holding a stack of passports to be copied before being assigned to rooms.  It looks like they are randomly putting people together, and the crowd has separated me from the girls, so now I’m expecting to spend this night in a room with an unknown Chinese man.  Sam manages to get someone’s attention, passports are being passed around, I think a worker took mine, Sam is yelling something to the employee, pointing at me, I hope someone has my passport, and apparently it is done.  Sam and Kristy back out of the chaos.

But I don’t have my passport, the girls can’t hear me, and I don’t want to leave until I’m sure because more buses have arrived and I’ll never get back to the counter.  I handed the passport to someone.  Hopefully one of the girls was able to get it back.

Result: Sam has the passports, got a room for her and Kristy, and a single room for me a few doors down.  I don’t know how she managed it.  She’s the magic man.

Still, all of this hasn’t really inspired a ton of confidence about the luggage.

Sam and I go out to buy some necessary alcohol while Kristy waits for some complementary meals to be delivered.  Back in my room, there is a knock on the door and it is a hotel employee delivering some sort of take-out food to all the stranded travelers.  He asks “how many?” and I say “three” and receive three meals in styrofoam.

Hopefully that is soy sauce filling the bottom of the plastic bags.  I point down the hall, indicate the other two meals are for my friends, and bring the girls their food.

The food is awful.  Are these putrid fish balls?  What is that smell??!  How can Chinese people ruin steamed rice?  And then, a worker comes by with two more meals for the girls.  Now we have five!  Even the wine we bought is gross.

Rather than gag down this shite, and despite the fact that we have to be up in a few hours to get back to the airport, we have a very nice dinner somewhere down the street.

When I get back my room smells terrible.  Did it smell this bad before?  What the hell happened?  And then I spot it – on the corner desk, three plastic bags, bottoms heavy with dark liquid.  They brought three more meals and left them here, like some demented Santa Claus.  And the “food” has been sitting here, filling my room with their evil stench.  So I open a window, I show the girls how lucky I was to get even more food (eight meals in total!!), we have a laugh, we snap a pic, and it is bedtime.  Well, it has been bedtime for quite a while, since we have to be up at four in the morning.  Sure wish I had a change of clothes for tomorrow.

Bad food, bad wine.  So lucky!


6 Responses to “Day 19: One Day Too Many in Tibet”

  1. May 17, 2010 at 1:00 pm

    Oh, you poor things!!! At least you seemed to have kept your sense of humor through it all (including the 8 horrible meals) and how great that you thought to take a photo (pic is worth a thousand words, right?). Right here is the part where I would have been moaning, “I wanna go hoooommmmmmeeee.”

    Looking forward to reading what happened come morning… 😉

  2. 3 hooty hooo
    May 17, 2010 at 2:28 pm

    by the power of my Chinese ancestors!!!!!! or greyskull. take your pick.

  3. 5 Kristy
    May 17, 2010 at 8:46 pm

    Exciting news: best beer at the west coast brew fest in sac was definitely Lhasa Beer! and for some reason, it had the shortest line. 🙂

    • May 18, 2010 at 9:41 am

      this after my “necessary alcohol” line and now ALLLLL my avid readers will think we are boozehounds.

      surprising they had lhasa beer at the west coast brew fest! doesn’t really compare to drinking it at everest base camp, though.

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