Saturday, June 9, 2012

­Smile Twice, Smile Often

Atlanta-Detroit-Beijing is how I was routed with only a 58 minute stop over in Detroit. I was a bit concerned if my luggage would transfer.  At no charge, Delta moved me to an earlier flight.  Great, time for a dinner and a leisurely walk across the terminal. 

All is super until I receive an email on my cell that there was fraud on my MasterCard and I am getting a new card mailed to my home.  What, all I charged was a $10.50 dinner in Detroit and I called & told you guys about my plans to travel abroad.

I called my .cc company but not enough time on hold to understand what’s gone wrong.  They’re boarding & I’m already late. A quick call home and as always, Garvin my husband to the rescue.  He picks it up from there.  4 hours of phone work later & he is told that a block of #’s were stolen at the credit card company, mine being one and there is nothing that I can do.  Ha, it wasn’t my dinner after all, ;-).  After traveling in Myanmar where you cannot get any $$$ from ATM’s or use charge cards, I had brought more cash & travelers checks this time and threw in another card at the last minute. Garvin will also be doing a lot of my inter-country logistics from the states, so he can charge my next flight and many of my hotel rooms. Looks like I dodged this bullet.

The flight was cool, so was my ride to my hotel in Beijing. Frank had done as promised.  We walked 1 block to a train ticked office & picked up my physical train ticket.  Next on my wish list: to go to the Peking Opera.  With the help of the Helen at Concierge I was able to secure a ticket to what turned out to be a once in a life time experience.  I sat in the front row, took many pics & loved every second of it.  Just awesome.

Three times since leaving home I was asked if I was one of the actresses on “Desperate Housewives”.  I have never watched the show so cannot personally say which character but for certain some Chinese women seem to be ardent followers.  Since you cannot secure a Chinese Visa if you are a photographer, I just assured everyone that I am a mere tourist.

After figuring out the internet at my Holiday Inn I learn from Namdon that Lhasa is being closed but no permit is needed for Amdo or Kham.  I’m OK with this since my original intention was to go to Kham.  Lumbum was traveling East on the train out of Lhasa to meet me so all systems a go. 

P.S. the Chinese government really does have Facebook and blogs blocked so any updates I make are written on my notepqad, transferred to email at an internet café and posted on my blog site by Garvin in the US.

Entering the train station in Beijing was wild.  It made Grand Central or Penn Station in NYC look like child’s play.  Felt like a billion people. We are channeled from the main entrance to waiting areas to the platform.  Lots of pushing but I manage to forge brief friendships along each step of the way and secure those tidbits of help I need.  My new friend a college kid in this mini stampede points out which train car to get on since it is written in Chinese on my ticket. 

My car on the train was assigned so I settled in for 24 hour home away from home with a very loud & overly zealous grandmother, adult daughter & baby family unit + 1.  Out come my earplugs from swimming and I spend much of the next 24 hrs. switching between reading and sleeping.  Nobody speaks the same language but lots of miming and smiling.  Grandma my new best friend makes certain that I eat & can find the toilet. Cool.

A day later, the Xining train station is a welcome site.  After negotiating many flights of steps with my 2 very heavy bags, another mini step is conquered.  Lumbum and driver Tashi are there to greet me and put a white Buddhist shawl around my neck to welcome me.  7 months of planning and I finally get to meet my new friend, Lumbum.

As it turns out, not only are foreigners not being given permits into Lhasa but non Lhasa natives have been told to leave.  Lumbum was born in Amdo, his wife Namdon is from Lhasa.  Lumbum must leave.  He takes their 2 year old baby on the train and leaves her with his parents in Labrang where she is safe.  Namdon stays in Lhasa for the time being but there is no tourism to manage so she too may be coming East.  What a great country the USA is.

In the early evening we find an internet café for email & Skype updates home to my co-pilot, Garvin, cover current events & politics. We make our 3 week plan for touring Tibet based on my preferences.  I’m really excited. Tomorrow includes a few monasteries, landscapes & sleeping at a nunnery. 

I’m psyched. 
Carpe Diem,