Cheng Du is a wonderful city.
When we first returned, I was sick. Sim's Guesthouse was absolutely teeming with travelers waiting for the permit suspension to end. 'Tibet' was the word on every lip and the place was bustling.
I stayed in my dormitory bunk for at least 30 straight hours. I drank Robitussin, chugged water, and listened to my mp3 player (mostly Impeccable Blahs by Say Hi To Your Mom...."Sweet Sweet Heartkiller" is exceptional).
Thomas was a determined man. He wanted nothing more than to book our Tibet trip and get the f*@k out of dodge A.S.A.P. So, while I was laid up, he had his mission to pursue.
About eight in the evening, Thomas came excitedly to my bunk side and said, "I found two people that want the same tour as us. Come down and talk to them if you can."
I managed to rouse myself, get dressed and go downstairs. I was still fairly ill. I sat on a wicker couch in the lobby and was promptly introduced to what would become our Tibetan tour group.
First was Kiril. Kiril is a Bulgarian mountain-climbing guru. His entire life up to this point had been to see Mt. Everest, up close and personal (for reasons unknown to me at this point). He had also read a few books on Tibetan Buddhism and was eager, at any given prompt, to share his vast knowledge on the subject. Genuinely kind and respectful, I thought him to be a likable guy.
Second was Mihail. Mihail is a Russian-born Jewish girl who had immigrated to Israel and was now, for all intents and purposes, Israeli. In my never-ending ignorance, I was was unaware that any nationality can instantly immigrate to Israel if they can prove Jewish heritage. Mihail had done this in her late teens. Therefore, Mihail was fluent in Russian, Hebrew and English. I have a sick jealousy and admiration for people with this kind of ability. She seemed quiet, but approachable. I did notice that she had a way of staring with an unusually intense glare of the eyes while being totally quiet. The kind of glare that can make one feel a little uncomfortable. However, when I spoke to her, she smiled and was sincerely sweet.
After the introductions were made and we lightly discussed what we all hoped to achieve during our trip in Tibet, it was agreed that we would book it as soon as possible. We all wanted an eleven day tour and see all of the same spots. It was settled.
Once we arose from the lobby sofas, I did take Thomas aside and nonchalantly say, "You know, we could wait until tomorrow. There are plenty of other people who are looking for tours. You want to do this now?"
Thomas' immediate answer was "Yes!"