Quarantine On The Friendship Highway, Part V

Quarantine On The Friendship Highway, Part V.

Happy days are here again
The skies above are clear again
Let us sing a song of cheer again
Happy days are here again

It was day five, and today we would gain our freedom.  The government officials returned in the morning and called the group to the sparse lobby.  They informed us that the Italian woman, which we had traveled with over the border into China, was not infected with H1N1.  She was enroute to finally join us after five days of quarantine at the hospital.  We danced and yelled, hugged each other, and smiled.  Even the Yetis got into the action.  I am sure they were happy to see us go.  But nonetheless hugs and high-fives were passed out liberally.  Half us ran to our rooms to maddeningly pack our bags while the other half whipped open the glass doors to smell freedom. 

Quarantine On The Friendship Highway, Part V.     

The Italian woman, we hardly knew ya! photo credit: Leonard

If you need to catch up from the beginning, click here to read Part I.  

But here comes the curve ball, the monkey wrench, and the spoke in the wheel.  We were free to go, but just not yet.  There was going to be an official ceremony sending us on our way. 

This delay was actually a major problem.  We now had less than 3 days to get to Lhasa, the capital of Tibet.  So every hour counted. We had to travel 800 plus km.  That might not sound like much but these are not your friendly, local interstates where you are cruising at 130 kph. This tour of Tibet was originally going to be an eight days.  Our flight was scheduled for eight days in synch with our Tibetan visa.  So there was no wiggle room.  We needed to leave Tibet on the 8th day. 

We rolled into the narrow, winding street and we explored the world that was so near but unknown to us.  We mingled with the townspeople, bumped into our kitchen staff, and joked with the yetis.  The ceremony kept on getting pushed back, and our frustration began to grow.  Was this another head fake? Maybe we were not going to be released after all.   

Quarantine On The Friendship Highway, Part V.     

Anxious to leave, yet waiting for the ceremony 

Quarantine On The Friendship Highway, Part V.     

The kitchen staff sans mask with PJ Pants

Quarantine On The Friendship Highway, Part V.     

The ladies and Shin Shin plant a kiss on a Yeti.

Finally, in the afternoon, the group stood on the five steps of the entry to the hotel lobby.  And this is when things became real surreal.

As we stood on the stairs … the locals gathered around us.  In fact, it looked like the entire town.  And did I mention there were TV crews.  Even the road was blocked.  What we learned was this ceremony was being used as a PR vehicle to demonstrate how well the Chinese government safeguarded the foreigners in their care.   

Quarantine On The Friendship Highway, Part V.     

Big excitement in the small town

Quarantine On The Friendship Highway, Part V.     

Pre-interviews before the big event

And I was soon to learn what a Khata was.  A Khata is a traditional ceremonial scarf often used in Tibetan culture.  It is given on many occasions bestowing good will on the recipient  

The kitchen staff readies the Khatas

One by one, one of the officials presented the captives with the white ceremonial scarf.  I bowed my head as she draped the scarf around my neck.  In a moment of levity, after she placed the scarf around my neck, I grabbed the official, hugged her and picked up in the air.  This elicited some laughter and smiles in the crowds. 

Quarantine On The Friendship Highway, Part V.     

photo credit: Leonard

Quarantine On The Friendship Highway, Part V.     

photo credit: Leonard

We even presented our main Yeti (seen below, the Yeti not clothed in his Hazmat suit) with the DVD player as a parting gift that was purchased to view Weeds during our detention. 

Quarantine On The Friendship Highway, Part V.     

One of our favorite (uncovered) Yetis with his new DVD player

The ceremony came to a close.  I said my final farewells to Zhangmu.  We headed to the cars to leave town.  The officials informed us that it was clear sailing ahead of us.  There are many check points in Tibet.  The officials informed us that they had sent word out to the checkpoints allowing us to pass without delay. 

Quarantine On The Friendship Highway, Part V.     

Quarantine On The Friendship Highway, Part V.     

Quarantine On The Friendship Highway, Part V.     

photo credit: Leonard

My quarantine in Tibet ranks as one of my most memorable travel experiences.  Even today I still feel short changed that I did not get to explore Tibet as the originally intended.  Yet, the experiences over my five days of quarantine will stay with me forever.  Some of the people I met during those days are still my good friends today.  I have had reunions with some of them on three different continents over the ensuing years.       

Quarantine On The Friendship Highway, Part V.     

Quarantine On The Friendship Highway, Part V.     

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One thought on “Quarantine On The Friendship Highway, Part V

  1. Pingback: Quarantine On The Friendship Highway, Part IVGlobalGaz

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