Posted by Emily Block | 1 comments

Beijing to Tibet!

   Today was the moment of truth.  I had been greatly anticipating and greatly fearing Tibet since I signed up for this trip.  I was so excited to go to TIbet since I have learned about it all through school.  It was a place I always wanted to go.  At the same time, I was really afraid of the high altitude, particularly how I would handle that with my health issues.

   The flights there were easy.  Some turbulence as we flew over the mountains, but nothing too bad.

Then we landed in Tibet!  As soon as the cabin pressure was unregulated my heart rate soared and I started panting.  Uh-oh.  Still, I was able to get off the plane and make it part way through the airport before I collapsed.  I sent a guy who had hung back with me to get me a wheelchair and relaxed on the ground.  A few security guards started yelling at me in Mandarin so I drew a picture of a wheelchair on my hand and then pointed to myself.  Worked like a charm.  They let me stay collapsed where I was until I someone brought me my chair.  :0)

Behavior in Tibet is serious business.  We were lucky to be allowed there at all this time of year because of the uprisings at this time in 2008.  We had to stay with out guides at all times and the people in our group from different countries had to go with their own guides because the government didn't want too many different kinds of people in one place.  We couldn't go out past 10pm which wasn't really an issue because we couldn't go out on our own anyway.  No pictures of any government workers of buildings.  Even if a soldier walked into our picture as we were taking it, they would confiscate the camera.  We had to be extremely careful what we wrote or said.  One guy on a tour a few years ago yelled "Free Tibet" and was in jail for a few months before being sent home at his own expense.  For just two words!  It was likely, but unconfirmed that our rooms and busses were bugged and that our calls were monitored.  Many of us had skype shut off on us when we even said the word "China."  We also had to be careful of what we had on our computers.  It was common practice for government workers to go through tourists rooms when they weren't there and see if they had any pro-tibet freedom material.  So, I couldn't even start writing my blogs about China while I was there because they would have had to be 100% pro China.  It was really strange and a little scary.  It was that feeling of stress you get when you are avoiding saying anything wrong at an airport, except it was like that the whole time we were there.  And the people who live there deal with it all the time!

The information we received from our guides was also very regulated.  It was a China-based tour company, of course.  I did learn a lot, but nothing about any of the unrest in Tibet and little about what daily life was like for people there.  We weren't really supposed to talk to people we met or ask questions.  The guides were really nice, wonderful people, but they did make it out like China rescued Tibet and life is 110% better for everyone now.  And we had no opportunity to hear anything else than that.

Ok enough about the scary censorship.  Once I got past that (well I never got past it, I just got less distracted by it), Tibet was a beautiful place!  We were greeted on the bus with Khatas which are a white silk scarf signaling purity, friendship, and respect.  :0)  I spent the hour drive to the hotel splitting my attention between trying to breath and ogling at the beautiful sights.  

I finally figured out that my difficulty in breathing came from not only the dry air and low oxygen content, but also the fact that my cold allergy was making my airways swell.  Things went much better after I started breathing through my sweatshirt to warm up the air.  :0)

Our local guide, Dickee (pronounced DEE-KEE) demonstrated how to use the oxygen tanks we had in the bus and hotel, but I abstained.  Luckily being a POTSie makes me used to oxygen deprivation in my brain.  haha

Dinner (or was it lunch?) was a cold and delicious affair.  The restaurant was decorated in the brilliant colors that were common in Tibet.  

So this is one of my favorite dishes and I have no clue what it is called or how to make it.  Anyone know?  ^

After some traffic in the narrow side streets, we made it back to the hotel and I gladly retired to my bed.  I had a bit of a difficult time getting comfortable with the breathing problems, but I discovered I could breathe better if I slept with the covers over my head (sounds counter-intuitive, I know).  Once I got that settled, I was out in a second!  I barely had time to reflect that I was there, in Tibet, just like I dreamed, and I wasn't quite dead yet, in fact, I was feeling a bit better.  

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