I was nervous of the Chinese military. Early in the trip a Jeep had pulled up to our base camp with a rush of dust and urgency. Four men exited the vehicle, 3 with military camouflage and one in civilian dress. Two of them had cameras with huge zoom lenses and even though they stopped 15 feet from our tent they were right in our face. I approached friendly with an open hand as the 2 with the cameras fired away a flurry of 20 to 30 shots. One shook hands while the others were searching our surroundings with wondering eyes and lenses, looking in our tents and cameras clicking. I asked there names and asked if I could take there photo. I really did not want there photo but was curious how they would react. They all said a strict "NO" to my offer of a photograph, smiled jumped in the jeep and quickly drove off.
Now in the back of a seemingly abandoned administrative building surrounded by high walls thoughts of the four curious military men flowed through my mind. What would be my last request as they lined us up? Before anyone arrived I searched for possible exit strategies. Then minutes later a Chinese soldier arrived with an attache case cupped in hands clad in white gloves. He rushed toward the glass doors of the empty building and with a friendly nervous smile waved us in. His movements were stiff and nervous like. Within seconds 3 other soldiers appeared from within the building entering from a dark hallway. They inspected our baggage in an x-ray machine and we were on our way. Obviously I have been watching to many hollywood movies.
The nervous soldier with the white gloves sat in the front seat of one of our land rovers and escorted us to the border. When the vehicles came to a stop we were at the end of a gravel road. Nothing but dust, stone, and a raging river. We started to unpack the vehicles and I stood next to the soldier who cupped the attache case and nervously rubbed his white gloves together. I asked his name and began a conversation. During the course of which I realized that this Chinese soldier was as nervous as I. It is funny how Media from both my American media and his Chinese Media had us both nervous about each other. As I spoke with this gentleman I wondered where or how my thoughts had been formed and now, how those thoughts were so untrue as far as the individual standing in front of me.
I introduced him to my wife and he smiled and said "I am sorry but I am little nervous". We all laughed and said it is all OK. Apparently he had not been around many Americans and he was nervous about speaking English well. Just as I was nervous about him because of Media influence he must have been nervous about us because of his media influence. After introducing my wife I asked if he was married or had a girl friend. He said no and in a poetic Rumi deliverance said "Love brakes the heart, painful, very painful. The conversation went on for a few minutes and just as I would remember the old Tibetan pilgrim on the Kailash Kora I would remember this Chinese soldier with his friendly open heart. At the end of the conversation he told the group that it was his pleasure to meet us all. He opened the attache which he had been carrying diligently since leaving the administration building. The contents were all of our passports. He went through the names and handed us each our passport with a gentle bow.