It seems like there has been an almost Pynchonian conspiracy trying to prevent me from getting my story out. My journal got completely waterlogged on my hike up Emei Shan, but thankfully was still vaguely legible. When I got back to Beijing, I typed up a large part of it (about 10 pages single-spaced in Word) and uploaded it to the student server. The computer at home wouldn't boot up, so I used a friend's computer, downloaded it from the server and continued typing it up. I got it up to about 18 pages single-spaced. However his parents were gone for a week and apparently the computer was supposed to be off-limits, so in a fit of panic, he claims to have stuck my documents in the Recycle Bin to hide them from his parents. When I went to his computer, the Recycle Bin was empty. I wasn't that pissed off since I still had 10 pages on the server.

A week later, the server crashed. Everything posted on the server after July 20th, including that page, was gone forever.

I think that the most appropriate way to preface the magnum opus before you would be to summarize the lessons that I learned along the Qinghai-Tibetan grasslands, the lack of oxygen at 5,000+ m serving as an inspirational aid.

General lessons that I can apply to my daily life:

  1. The only valuable, enriching experiences I’ll ever have will only come after enduring discomfort and/or suffering. Regular mountain hikers know this well. A sunrise from the top of a mountain is only beautiful if I have hiked to the top with a backpack packed with a tent to sleep in, clothes for every permutation of possible weather patterns, and I've been eating mushy bananas and stale bagels for the past two days. If I had gotten to the top of the mountain by cable car and stayed at a medium-grade hotel at the top (with which most Chinese mountains are equipped), even the most spectacular sunrise would bore me. Thus, you can say what I did this summer was extremely valuable and enriching.
  2. A corollary of the first rule is that the only way to truly appreciate life is to have the outlook of a masochist. Welcome the pain. Savor it. I might whine and scream but that’s only to heighten the thrill of having to sit next to a bunch of smelly yak herders on a bus for three days (but I get ahead of myself…)
  3. About 99.8% of all Han Chinese people in the PRC are utterly devoid of spirituality and unable to function outside the worldly temptations of cheap cigarettes, mah-jongg, baijiu, and karaoke.
  4. It is essential to learn how to say in Tibetan, "No, I don’t want any."
  5. Happiness is a lamb kebab lathered in chili sauce.

Without further adieu, go on into the first chapter…