Sunday, August 24, 2008

Concerto: Basan Part 7

The mountainpeak pierces the clouds - through the small round window of this airplane, these peaks are like icebergs in the Atlantic, hiding their weight and power under the water blanket. I wonder if any of these peaks is Everest. The plane has rows of empty seats. I find a row without any passengers and stretch out, sleeping out the last half hour before arriving in Lhasa.
When I got back to Chengdu before I left for Jiuzhaigou, my guesthouse service attendant, Mary, informed me that the Tibetan travel bureau approved our residence permits as acceptable visas to travel in Tibet. During the Olympics, the Chinese government revised all of the original rules to limit the amount of foreigners entering Tibet. Had the Chinese government not approved my residence permit, I would probably be on a bus right now, heading south to the Tiger Leaping Gorge and Lijiang. I will have to save Yunnan province for later.
The first breath off the plane catches me off guard - the dry cabin conditions and the oxygen-deficient air makes my nose bleed. I roll a tissue and shove it into my nose. The white clouds swirl in the clear blue sky like oil colors on a painter's palette. Brown-tanned guards stand with hands behind their backs, black sunglasses reflecting the sun and my tissue-stuffed nose. I feel my breathing rate increasing. I still don't feel like I'm in a place called Tibet.
Outside, a middle-aged man with a yellow shirt, gray pants and jacket, and a younger looking woman with a red hat and striped-shirt stand holding a sign bearing our names. Enter Laba, our driver, and Tsekey, our travel guide. We toss our all of our luggage into the trunk of Laba's Toyota 4500, and head towards Lhasa. Aside from the basic introductions of "My name is" and "Where did you study your English" and "Your Chinese is nice," the ride is silent. I sit with my mouth half open as we drive through this world of blue skies, green fields and black mountains.

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