“Why, oh why, did I choose Nepal?” I was asking myself when stranded in the airport.
I can’t trek — or as I say to those who ask if I’m doing the Anna Purna Circuit— “My trekking days are over.” Makes me sound a little less feeble with these gimpy knees that actually have trekked for 40 years.
Well, my good friend Elwood in Florida had stated he was going to Nepal, sharing part of his time there with a friend, but that he’d enjoy having me along. Since he and I are both independent, I doubted if we’d spend the whole month doing the same things, but he made it a possibility in my mind. Initially Kathmandu sounded too foreign and a little scary. But knowing he’d be in the same country allayed my fears. Plus, every Nepali I’d met in the States was just so nice! Sort of like my reason for going to Portugal. Full of nice people.
Then when he had to cancel because of some minor surgery, it was already a done deal. Plus I had an air ticket, a hotel in Kathmandu and a promise from Govinda Sharma at Hasera Farm that I could volunteer there. It was a beginning.
But first to get there.
When people complain about long flights I just glibly reply, “Well, it’s easier than a stage coach.” This one promised to be an ordeal — three airplanes— but if you want to go to Kathmandu you just suck it up and go.
But where exactly were we exchanging planes? Yes, I got the Lisbon to Madrid connection. But the next leg said DOHA. I assumed that was an abbreviation for an airport but which city, which country? I really didn’t care when I booked it as long as I got to Nepal. So, as intelligently as I could, I asked the gentleman next to me — Where are we going? To Doha. OK, and what is Doha? It is the capital of Qatar. And what is Qatar? A country. At this point I had no shame in my ignorance…
I read the Qatar flight magazine and was looking forward to meeting a Sheik. Or seeing desert or the beach. We couldn’t see much in the dark and no sheiks! But I did meet Nepali’s working in the airport. And yes they were nice.
The big tip-off that I wasn’t in Europe anymore were these lines from the Koran scrolling behind security.
Then the flight to Nepal was made absolutely wonderful by my companion Sanjeev Pandey, a Nepali who had spent a lot of time in the US and patiently answered my questions about their culture, religion etc… even inviting me to call to if there were problems.
And here are the impressive Himalayas!
Then the loud speaker asked if there was a Dr. in the house. There was, me, but 16 years out of practice! The first class patient was sweating profusely and having seizures with her eyes open. A little atypical. No medical ID. The medical resident who also showed up opened the carry-on luggage and found insulin. Hypoglycemic seizures! And fortunately a vial of glucagon for bringing the sugar back to normal. I injected it and the lady recovered, embarrassed, promising to wear her ID and not fall asleep and miss breakfast again.
Evidently Qatar Airlines wanted to show their appreciation (a ticket would have been nice) so my companion asked for some fresh fruit from first class. Upon landing he did look out for me through customs but left when I said the hotel would have a driver out front for me.
Here is Nepal welcoming us!
Well, Nepal is not Portugal. And Portugal is not Norway.
I was working my way down the reliability qualities of countries. All nice but Nepal is not always reliable. Was there a driver waiting for me, my name on a placard. Nope. After awhile the line of drivers started feeling sorry for me as I wandered back and forth muttering, “Nobody wants me,” and advised me to call the hotel. My fancy Google Project Fi phone didn’t work in Nepal. First time in five months. Then I was advised by these sincere men to pay for a taxi myself. I didn’t have money! And the ATM didn’t work!!! I was close to tears at this point. I’d just saved a woman’s life and the hotel couldn’t honor their email? Someone called the hotel for me, speaking to the hotel driver, who was away at his village for festival and said he’d call the hotel. But the line of drivers just shook their heads, knowing Nepal better than I did, invited a taxi friend to drive me, and told me to tell the hotel to just pay up.
They did. And when I gave the hotel just a little bit of heck they gave me the best room and treated me with profound respect the three times I stayed there. You can’t count on anything during festival!
First meal in Nepal at Hotel Encounter Nepal.
An inauspicious beginning? Nope just Nepal — exotic, different, and yes, kind.
I took my companion up on his offer. They invited me to dinner at their lovely apartment with his extended family. Introduced me to yak cheese.
And here is their nine year old, Samvavi Pandey, proudly attending a Catholic school, reading Maya Angelou and learning English. She had been disturbed by reports of female infanticide in India and wrote this as a response, spoken from the fears of a little girl fetus. Quoting the attributes of the female Hindu goddesses. She says it is anonymous, but I think she means the child is anonymous. She wrote it!
Yes, this child will go far— the new Nepal. (This video deserves to go viral, don’t you think.)
I had arrived! And I was ready to explore, even if I couldn’t understand this amazing country of Nepal. Thank you Elwood!