The only thing rarer than oxygen and hamburgers in the TAR is Internet access, so apologies for these necessarily post-facto posts.
Tibet Day 1
From the instant you step off the plane onto the gangplank, it’s clear something is not quite right with your lungs or your head. You notice you’re taking two breaths for every step, and everyone seems to be moving faster than you. A guy on the plane who has been traveling in and out of the TAR for the past year offers this wisdom: Say little, move slowly, expect to feel uncomfortable in the middle of the night. Most importantly, don’t panic.
We meet our guide who welcomes us with hada, long white scarves that he says, I’m not supposed to step on. I step on it three times as I stumble to the van with my backpack, which suddenly feels ridicuously oversized and overstuffed. I realize I should not have packed a copy of Endless Feasts: Sixty Years of Writing from Gourmet Magazine along with my collection of Chinese and Tibetan language books. I also suddenly realize all I want to do is sleep. The only thing I notice on the way to the hotel is the ring of enormous, charcoal gray mountains encircling us. They are so sharp they are like the jagged teeth of a giant, charred beast. We enter a tunnel that cuts through one of the largest peaks, and we don’t see daylight for a full five minutes. On the other side, the mountains are not gray, but bright white, red or green. All along their bases, countless people have painted criss-crossing forms, white lines that look like ladders. They are prayers climbing up to the bluest sky I have ever seen.