Since I last wrote I have had almost two weeks of rest. We hijacked the holiday of some friends to have some out-of-country time in Malaysia. We stayed in hotels with flushing toilets and room service. On the first day in the Shangri La Zoe came running out of the bathroom in a panic because she couldn’t find the bin for the toilet paper!
We spent some time on an island, where we snorkelled every day, and Luke and I got to do some scuba diving – a special holiday treat. We also had the liberty to sit around and relax without the feeling of being under observation. We are conspicuously foreign in Nepal and in such a small town it is clear that we are from the hospital, so our behaviour always reflects on the hospital. It was nice to lie by the pool for a day without worrying what people would think.
On the way home, we were happy to arrive in Kathmandu, where our verbal habits – the nepali thankyous (dhanyabaad), greetings (namaste) and fillers (huncha, has, la) made more sense again. It has become a habit to spend time with one dominant language, and somehow my brain now believes that every non-english speaking person should understand Nepali.
We stayed in Kathmandu to celebrate Jacob’s eighth birthday. He had long told us he wanted to go to the Zoo, which we thought we would never manage, as Kathmandu is 10 hours travel by car away. But we happened to be flying through at the right time, so he was excited to see Rhinos and Tigers in the rain, but also emus and cockatoos, of all things. We were lucky to visit the Zoo on a working day, so there were not too many nepali families. Those that were there kept grabbing the kids for a photo with them, as foreign children, particularly blonde ones are a novelty even in Kathmandu. With only a few families there, the kids were not overwhelmed and able to be gracious. I am so proud of them when they step up in situations like that and behave with politeness and understanding.
Our trip this time was plagued by Nepal monsoon travel stories. The roads in Nepal are sort of terrible. Its easy to think that is about the poverty, but it is also due to the destructive power of nature. On the day we left Tansen, a major bridge was destroyed by the river it crosses, swollen with monsoon rain. My nepali tutor, who knows all the news, couldn’t find our number, and walked across Tansen to meet us as we were leaving to make sure we knew. So we took a longer route via Pokhara, which is the curviest road in the world. Three kids were vomiting by the time we reached Pokhara and the youngest was asking to stay the night in a hotel. We kept going and arrived in Kathmandu later that evening, two hours later than we normally would, and much worse for wear.
So on the way home we thought we’d brave the internal flight, to avoid the vomit drive. Nepal is a bad country for internal flights. The countryside is so hilly, with sudden fogs and thunderstorms, that it is legitimately difficult to fly. And also Nepal is not excellent with safety checks. There is one airline which the bideshis (foreigners) tend to choose, so we bought our tickets. So we left Kathmandu for the 20 minute flight to the base of our hill (a drive that takes 7-8 hours due to indirect roads). Before hopping on the flight we heard the drivers weren’t sure they could get to us because of a major landslide on the Tansen road. Ke garne (What can you do). So after 30mins in the air, they report that the airport has actually been closed due to heavy storms. We know this means the airport will be closed for at least an hour because the staff would have to all stop for chiya before opening it again. However, the pilot decides to fly in holding pattern, scooting around major thunderheads before returning to Kathmandu again.
So after rebooking our flights for the next day and finding a hotel that could accommodate us, we had to stay in Kathmandu for one more night. The hospital had to rearrange shifts to cover Josh (our GP friend) and I who were both rostered to work the next day. This happens quite a lot – things change quickly here, and we just have to adapt. So the next day’s flights went smoothly, and we arrived home, exhausted to daal bhaat and a familiar house. Immediately, we all slept better and felt more settled. It’s ok to need a break, but it’s nice to be home again.