I arrived back in Beijing at the Beijing Sports University exhausted after delayed flights and bad airline “food.” The true delay was that some of my classmates decided to bring much of Tibet back with them in their luggage and so the group had to wait and help with the lugging of luggage.

Classes started bright and early this morning, so the short breaks between sessions were filled with frantic errands like buying mops, toilet paper, bottled water, pencils, pens, and mao bi (paint brushes for Chinese characters and brush stroke practice). I also spent time washing the yak smell out of my underwear and socks and generally catching my breath after the umpteen hours of bumpy van rides and the altitude adjustment.

Tibetan Villagers by Eileen Moran for In The Know TravelerI was surprised by the amount of development in Tibet. I discovered Tibet occupies one fourth of the landmass of greater China but has only one fifty fifth of the population. Most of Tibet is mountains and plains, but here and there they have bustling cities! The Tibet that I think most Americans tend to visualize only exists in films or in life from fifty years ago. Honestly, Xi Ning and other cities are similar to most cities, dirty and crowded. They are also a bit behind the times in technology and in food (non-yak food).

I learned a lot on the trip. I mostly studied Buddhism and cultural issues, but also learned about human endurance and what kinds of roads, meat, housing, transportation, and dairy products should be avoided. I also learned to be flexible as almost no one in my group had everything they needed for the trip: warm enough jackets, boots, Internet for contact with people, umbrellas, and tissues. I must say that I was not prepared for what I was in store for when I packed for the 10-day trip – it was quite an adventure.

Back in Beijing, I am getting into the swing of things, slowly. This university is famous, but is VERY slow with the details. Things like getting our student ID cards, laundry keys, Internet access, and housing arrangements is a painfully slow processes. I am in dorms in the International Student building now, but will probably move to little apartments on the other side of the campus next week. This makes it inconvenient to unpack fully. My classes have started and I enjoy them. There are three hours of language study in the morning, then seminars in the afternoon. My internship will be arranged next week (fingers crossed), so for now I have a few free hours in the evening- but I am thankful for time. It is the first time in ten days.

I got a converter today so that I can plug in my laptop, and can finally get some work done. It will be so nice tonight to sleep in a nice clean bed with a pillow and get full nights sleep.

Written and photography by Eileen Moran

For more on China at ITKT