Friday, December 31, 2010

Happy New Year

and good riddance to 2010 - way too many good friends and relatives left us this year.
Meanwhile, Xmas was a success - the turkeys were very delicious and everyone behaved nicely, except for after lunch when I missed out on a spot to sleep... oh well.
Australia did very poorly in the cricket, which was a shame as I was looking forward to blobbing out on the sofa and watching it all. Especially as we went to the Boxing day sales and bought an enormous LG HD, 3D internet etc everything TV and a Blu-ray PVR thing. I only wanted a new set top box! Now I have more gadgets than Joe The Gadget Man (I bet nobody remembers him), including a whizz bang remote control that can do everything except mow the lawn.
Good thing we don't live in Kathmandu with a TV like that as they now have 11 hours a day of power cut - what a total crock - and it is anticipated to climb to 20 hours a day in the next few months. Yuck.
I started back at work this week and we all survived OK. It will be good to get some $$$ rolling in again instead of it flooding out all the time.
Mum was moved to a rehab place this morning (without the hospital notifying us) so all the progress she made with her little brain has gone out the window as she is completely bamboozled about where she is and why she is there. The hospital were meant to call my sister so that one of us could go there with her. Consequently, my darling sister is at the hospital as I type, telling them exactly what she thinks of them. Happy New Year.
Sydney town is HOT and I am so glad I wasn't one of those poor silly sods heading to the waterfront with an esky of lukewarm Fanta at about 8 this morning, just to get a 'good spot' for the fireworks.
We are heading across the road for a barbie this evening and a few sparklers from the Indian party warehouse. Let's hope the sparklers are better than the Indian space rockets that keep blowing up.
And so without further ado, it's Happy New Year from us. Hope to see you in 2011 when there is much more excitement and logistic stuff happening. Have a great NYE and please stagger safely back home!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Pre Christmas mayhem

And my 100th post! Time for a drink...
Well my goodness we have been flat out. After the PP got admitted to hospital last Friday we have been trying to sort out options for the future, meeting with her doctor and trying to deal with everything that has been thrown up in our faces. It's almost as though she has given up now and it is a very sad thing to watch. I hope it never happens to me. Or anyone else I know. Add to that her severe osteoporosis (which results in her fracturing bones with a sneezing fit - news to us as well) and you can see it may not be a fun-filled Christmas in the Boustead-Smythe residence this year. Oh well, we must try our best. And keep eating dairy. More cheese please. But I did manage, after going to about twenty shops, to find Christmas crackers (or bonbons if you are that way inclined) which almost sent me bloody crackers!
On a more jolly note, I visited the old workplace the other day and have been invited back for some time, starting next week! Excellent, and the bank manager WILL be pleased! It was great to catch up with everyone there too. And Peter, enjoy the trip to Bagdogra!
Today we're off for lunch with Geoff of the Jungle in town. Sydney is manic right now and I shall try to avoid the shops. Tomorrow I have to take PP to a plastic surgeon in Westfield Parramatta (ghastly thing to do on xmas eve) after which I will definitely require rum. In large quantities. Meanwhile Brave Sir Robin will be going to the butchers and the bakers to collect the last of the Christmas fare for me to cook.
Looking forward to the Boxing Day cricket from Melbourne, and of course the sales - time for new undies. Speaking of which, I took all the PP's dirty clothes out of the basket at her place yesterday and brought them home to wash. While I was out disposing of her old recliner at the Salvo's Robin kindly pegged out mum's clothes - 11 pairs of Cottontails (if you don't know what they are google it) and 5 bone coloured shirts. He has made me promise that if I ever consider underwear like that I must shoot myself, and if he isn't at home I can just leave a note saying "tempted by Cottontails. Time to end it." Not a problem. Oh no, my toothbrush just fell into the kitty litter which I had moved while I was mopping the floor. DISASTER!
So I leave you now to hang out laundry and get ready for lunch. And sterilise my toothbrush...
Here is a video of one of my favourite intersections in Kathmandu - Tri Devi Marg and Kantipath, right outside the former Royal Palace which you can see in the top right corner (now the infamous urine filled Ministry of Foreign Affairs). I do hope you enjoy it.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Home again, home again, jiggedy jig

And what a FUN few days it has been - not. First of all the hoo-haa at the stupid airport in Katty where there were about 5 international flights leaving at the same time, so the teensy weensy departures 'cell' was crammed - it wasn't even standing room only. Total mayhem but we finally got onto the full flight with a large bunch of Buddhist pilgrims. The flight crew announced that because they had 131 special meals to serve, the meal service may take longer than usual. And it did.
We were late getting to Bangers but no problem as we had plenty of time to catch our midnight connection - which was also chockers.  Thank goodness for sleeping tablets or we would have spent a miserable night sitting up. Shame Robin managed to leave his neck cushion on the previous flight.
We got home in pretty good time and after a quick shower and cuppa we were at Gus the butchers collecting some long awaited chicken bacon and shallot sausages and other meaty items. A few groceries, some wine and fruit and veg and we were set to go home and veg out on the lounge. And play with Lakshmi the wondercat who was exceptionally pleased to see us.
A quick phone call confirmed that the perturbed parent is still confused about many things. Poor darling. We visited her on Friday and ended up taking her into hospital for unexplained back pain which seems to have been the result of an old fracture that none of us knew about. But her mind is now doing some very odd things so we are just waiting to see where we go from here. She does have a very nice geriatrician, Dr Nagaratnam, who we had a chat with this morning.
Sterling Club Santa
Most people we know are in full swing for Xmas but we are still kinda making it up as we go along. The turkeys are ordered, my sister made the cake and I have a pudding and some mince pies to collect. So it's just a matter of veges, brandy butter and alcohol I guess.
Now that the cricket has finished I have no excuse for sitting in front of the TV, so I will just have to find other things to do. I'm off to the former workplace on Tuesday to seal the deal for more work next year, and I also have to take PP to a surgeon on Xmas Eve (wonderful) to get a skin cancer thing cut out. Ouch.
Enjoy the week before Xmas and don't drink and drive!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

I just saw Santa!

That's right - here in the Hindu land of Nepal we have Santa too. The Sterling Club at the British Embassy had their Xmas lunch buffet party today so off we went with our mixed bunch of friends for turkey buffet, strawberries, bread and butter pudding and mince pies. YUM. And here is Santa in his lovely tinsel bedecked rickshaw being driven by what I think is a gingerbread man - Robin reckons it's a reindeer but I can't see any antlers. Anyway, all us 'grownups' were chasing the rickshaw yelling out hi to Santa. Because we are all dags.

And here are a couple of kiddies in Santa's Grotto getting a present from the big fella. Boy it was crowded in there! I suppose you're wondering what else we are up to. Well, most of our friends have either left town or are on their way out in the next few days. The weather is getting much colder now and everyone can feel it's time to go. Unless of course you are going to Europe where it is a whole lot colder - but at least they have gas, electricity and hot water!
Flying back home on Tuesday so you may not hear from me till we make it back to Sydney - when I hope to be able to upload some video clips on a more reliable internet connection.
See ya later!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Krazy krazy krazy

This was in this morning's op-ed section of the Rising Nepal (Rinsing Nepal, Rising Nipple and many less flattering names). If I live to be 100 (unlikely) I will not work out what this person is talking about. I've read it 3 times. So surely you can manage just one. It isn't very long...
Well I have been busy the last few days down at Tilganga eye hospital having the Grand Tour and interviewing doctors, nurses, patients and administrators getting the lowdown on the place. And what an interesting story it is. They train doctors and nurses from all over the world, and they have even sent training teams to North Korea. I had the pleasure of meeting two eyecare specialists from Bangladesh yesterday and what delightful men they were. More Tilganga stuff later.

This is just WRONG. But kinda funny. In a sick way. These folks don't know any different.  We've had more protests in town from the infamous students because the price of petrol products was increased by Rs 3 per litre yesterday. So I guess we'll have some more strikes soon. Robin's giant map is almost finished printing and so we hope to have one in our hands in the next few hours. He is busy checking the topo trekking maps and I am trying to get some articles written about the hospital but my brain has frozen.
This is Dinesh, from Tilganga reception, and Datong Tulku, a Rinpoche from Bhutan who is visiting with the Bhutanese Queen Mother. He was getting his eyesight checked as well. Rinpoche is 55 and had laser surgery to correct his eyesight and has been getting treated for swelling in his eyes. A delightful man who lives in a monastery about an hour's drive from Punakha and is busy restoring the 300 year old building with 47 assistants. He clearly doesn't feel the cold like the rest of us mere mortals.
Right then time for tea and biscuits.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Permanently Polartec'd

Seems every day is just a bit colder than the one before. I am now permanently in fleece except if I can sit in the sun all day - which I usually can't. This is the fire at Sams which keeps us warm on the terrace if it is too crowded or smoky inside by the kerosene heater. The best fire though is at Mandap Indian across the road - and the tandoori is pretty good too.
As you can see, flying has many hazards over here - some before you have even left the ground! I suppose it makes a change from pilots having to sacrifice goats in front of planes because the maintenance crew can't find out why the plane doesn't work properly. I SO wouldn't be getting on that flight.

I made Robin take this photo at a butcher we walked past yesterday in Asan. Can't work out why there weren't any flies on it though. I'll post the picture of the rest of it another day.
And I think I told you about the lack of over we have here - well the street jewellery vendors are now approaching people in pitch black dark asking them to 'look this jewellery - very nice madam'. Frankly my dear I wouldn't know!
We had a friend from Bardia come up yesterday on the night bus - our jungle guide Sitaram who came up so we could buy him a camera. a lovely 13 hour bus trip (so not Greyhound!) followed by a walk though the crazy streets to New Road to the camera emporia. We found a great little Canon Powershot with 14x zoom which will be ideal for wildlife photos. Poor Sitaram nearly got run over many times just wandering around the Big Smoke and by 2pm (he arrived at 7am) he was ready to get back on the next bus home. Katty can be a very intimidating place.
Robin has already done an interview this morning for a newspaper here, and we are relaxing in front of the cricket on telly before heading off for lunch with a friend, followed by dinner with another. I need to lie down!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Greetings from frosty Kathmandu

Gee I hardly know which services to avail myself of.. Needless to say this ISN'T Miss Juni's hair do emporium where I go for my lovely coiffure!
Well winter has certainly hit with a vengeance here in Kathmandu (as well as most of Europe) though we don't have snow. We had a fireside breakfast this morning and I am now in Polartec all day. If you sit in the sun it is very pleasant, but all buildings are very cold and of course the lack of heating and power doesn't help.

Fortunately I'm not going here for lunch any time soon. Robin and I have had a few great meals lately - at the Sterling Club (British embassy) we had great chicken and avocado and last night we went to a French place run by a real French person who has heaters and classy food (classy prices too!) but it was so delicious who cares. And I now have our tickets for the Sterling club Xmas party lunch (with Santa) just a few days before we leave. Taking some friends along to that so it should be fun.

This is a lime green hotel. It has matching green curtains. And dark blue and yellow ceilings. It's horrible. But easy to use as a landmark. Don't know how much rooms are - sorry.
Robin is as usual out at the maphouse finalising his marvellous map collection, to be released soon. Do stay tuned. 

Monday, November 29, 2010

38.5 hours a week and rising...

That's how many hours a week of Bhatti chhaina (power cut) we now have. What fun. This is a pic of Robin's BIG map of Nepal that he has spent 2 years trying to get made - it's being checked by our crack inspection team who are all making sure they can find their village on it!
As you can see it is a terrifically popular thing to look at. We have just spent most of today designing map covers - you have NO IDEA how much that makes your brain hurt.

So what else is happening? Well it's wedding season AGAIN. And what electricity there is in town is clearly not safe.....
click to read

click to read
And as for the passport office - what a disaster. There is only one place in all of Nepal to issue passports (around a thousand people or so a day apply) and they have installed ONE toilet. It is so charming going past the office and seeing the pee dribbles along the outer walls of the office - which used to be the Royal Palace. Not so many trekkers around now and for a few days we were even able to see the mountains from the 'du, which is a rare thing these days.
Time for a hot shower before the cold sets in.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Mainly fine throughout the country

or so the weather report invariably states. 'with occasional rain showers in some parts'. Very useful.

So I now have the sinus disease that's going round town, and spent yesterday in bed watching High Grant movies - that made me feel MUCH better.

Robin is trying to get the world's largest map of Nepal printed today for our do at the embassy tonight. We thought it was just a small dinner party but it has now turned into a huge occasion where there isn't enough room for us all inside, so warm clothing is the order of the day (or night) since it now gets below 10 after dark.
Love it!
All the angry trekkers have been airlifted from Lukla now, and Katty has quietened down considerably since they have all gone home. The trekking season is now pretty much over except for the few diehards who love the cold clear air of December, when you get probably the best views of the mountains and nowhere is crowded.

Ooh I forgot to tell you that last Friday night the caretaker treasurer was trying to table to budget which is about 3 months late, and as he made his way to the table with the red ribbon wrapped briefcase some Maoist parliamentarians 'manhandled' him, punches were thrown and the briefcase was wrecked. What a dignified performance.

Got a few more weeks here before we head for home and the joys of Xmas cooking. Hopefully we can avoid most of the poxy xmas tunes in the supermarket...I think next year we'll xmas here to avoid it completely. And I can save my pennies to come back next year to get the other eye done...

Monday, November 22, 2010

my goodness liquid meals are BAD for you

must try solids one day.

Since we last met I have received the all clear from the eye doctor - which was nice! I just have to come back next year and get the other eye done which I knew was going to happen anyway. Shame I can't manage it now but he is running out of time as he is off to some conferences next week. It's a good reason to come back though...

Thought you might like to know the state of crime and punishment in this krazy place. Click to enlarge and enjoy.
 I think I would have to be really busting big time to consider going in there....
So yesterday we attended an exhibition of Balgo art from Australia thanks to my new BFF the Aussie ambassador. Lovely paintings, wine and snacks followed by an outing to Sams with her and her entourage. Oh dear. Probably the funniest thing was as she was leaving our friend Uttam (who is 65 and very old school) bowed to her (and almost fell over) swept his arm and said 'Excellency'. Ha ha too funny. Felt a little tired this morning. I wonder why.

I wandered down to Basantapur Durbar Square for a meeting with the map guys, and took an artistic black and white shot for you. They really do have the most wonderful wood carvings in this town. Shame they now prefer cement.
The weather is starting to turn quite cold now, so I have been head down bum up in the clothing stash finding nice warm things to wear. We have a dinner at the embassy on Wednesday which has a dress code of 'warm and casual' since we might be outside. Brrr.

We're now back to powercuts every day except Sunday (although we didn't have any on Saturday when we should have), and the fires are going in the restaurants and in Sams. We also have Thankgsgiving dinner turkey buffet on Thursday night, and I believe on Friday we are meeting a French glacial cave explorer for wine. For the life of me I can't recall what happens on Saturday but I know there is something.

See how busy and glam our life is here?

Thursday, November 18, 2010

back to the busy social whirl

Kathmandu - where the phone never stops! At least it means people are thinking of us....

Right now though Robin has the Katty Koff which is doing a great job of keeping us awake.

Now that winter has officially arrived - on the Nepali calendar it is now Mangsir, the first month of winter - the fire at the famous Chimney restaurant at the Yak and Yeti has been lit, and the load shedding has ramped up to 29 hours a week for the moment. That will of course increase over the next few months.

The Lukla flights have once again failed to fly for 3 or 4 days - which means that loads of p'd off people are stuck in the mountains after their Everest treks, unable to make their connections home.  Because they never leave enough days in the itinerary in case of bad weather. Which is what we have at the moment. And hilariously, on Tuesday, a Saudi prince was leaving here after a 3 day visit in his private jet. Which meant that 50 domestic flights were cancelled and international flights got redirected to Delhi. How stupid. Don't ask me how this place plans to accommodate the million tourists it wants to attract next year. Or fly them around. Or feed them. Or anything.

Here's a delightful item from the paper:
I'm not sure I understand.....     
 Click to read it in all its glory.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Back from the jungle

Buddha mandala from tihar festival

And what an interesting time it was. The night before I was leaving I had a pizza for dinner - same pizza I've had for ages here - and about 2am I realised I needed NOT to be in bed, but in the loo, where I spent the next few hours. For some reason I didn't have any Cipro in my room, so I had to send one of the hotel boys to the hospital round the corner to get some before I headed to the airport. The one hour plane trip and the 2 hour bouncy jeep drive were sensational with the runs!!!

And poor brave Sir Robin and the boys did have to fly to Surkhet then 5 hr drive in a falling apart bus to get to me in the jungle - not happy.

Didn't see any tiger, but had a fun elephant ride and a bit of a jungle walk. 
The rhino that used to live in the army camp next door

Here's our accommodation at Bardia Jungle Cottage. Very relaxing. And right next to the park entrance. Geoff and the boys really enjoyed it, and they flew home yesterday after 4 weeks of fun and frolic. And Luke never wants to get on a horse again. Elephants are a different matter.

Monday, November 8, 2010

off to the jungle

Now the festivals have finished for a while, and I am off to Nepalganj tomorrow to meet the boys and go to Bardia National Park in the far west of Nepal. It should be hot in the day and cold at night which makes packing a nightmare. Oh well.
I got a lovely pashmina and some money from my bhai Puru yesterday on the occasion of bhai tikka. Can never have too many pashminas - or earrings.
Meanwhile we are having problems with the flights from Simikot to Nepalganj for the lads - the word today is that the pilot/airline whoever wants to take the flight to Surkhet instead. Which isn't the same place. And isn't where I will be arriving. Nor is it where we are going....
I am heartily sick and tired of the way the airlines here just redirect flights at the last minute. I just heard that the 'issue' today is because the World Food Program (don't get me started!!!@#@) have their rice stores at Surkhet and the airline doesn't want to fly to 2 destinations. But surely, I hear you scream they charge WFP for the cost? And it is a fully ticketed scheduled flight!!!! Like I said, DON'T GET ME STARTED.
So now I have 2 phones ringing and a man banging on the door with my tray tea as I have missed lunch as I am too busy trying to find someone to shout at.
In view of the fact (laughable as it may seem) that Nepal is hoping to attract a million tourists next year, and get some of them to remote destinations, I can see a few letters to the editor etc on this one from 'Ticked off of Thamel' (that's me BTW). How wonderful that Robin is doing a series of newspaper interviews next week. Mmmwaaahaahaa!
And I didn't mention that all the hotels are full to overflowing right now, and restaurants are taking an hour some nights to get meals out because they are so crowded. What also hinders efficiency is that unlike 15 or so years ago, most tourists here are in groups - often 12 or more - and it is much ore difficult for the kitchen to get 12 meals all ready at the same time instead of individual or 2 meals. Which can be good for me as I am easy to serve and get out the door again, but I sure get some nasty stares from large groups from certain European countries who didn't do so well in WW1 WW2. If you know what I mean. But I really dislike hearing the staff being yelled at when they are doing their utmost - especially recently when it is festival time and many places have only half or so of their staff - just like Xmas people like to be with their family for the festivals here as well. Chill out you lot and have another drink!
In fact I should try chilling out as there is nothing much I can do about this stupid plane situation - except that Robin keeps ringing me up and telling me to ring this that and the other person and get something happening - afraid that it's seeming impossible right now but the travel agent bless him is having a go.
Right now there isn't enough internet juice to post a pic I had for you, but hopefully I can manage it when we get back from the jungle. So you won't see me till the weekend.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Happy Diwali!

And another Happy New Year (Newari Sambhat this time).Nepal has 5 New Years: The 'western' one on Jan 1, Lhosar (Tibetan) on about 14 Feb, Nepali on about 15 April, this one today and another that we can't remember. All the non western ones are ruled by the phases of the moon so are a little hard to predict. So now it is either: 2010, 2137, 2067, or 1130. So I am either very old, the same age, or not born yet.

 Last night was Lakshmi puja, so everyone washed their shops/houses, hung malas (garlands) of marigolds and made mandala and offerings out the front at dusk with a line of coloured powder and tiny clay lamps or candles to guide the goddess Lakshmi into their houses to bring wealth and happiness for the next year. Here's some pics to demonstrate.
And just like Christmas lights on houses at home, everyone wanders around to see what everyone else has done.
And although this is a shop which sells Tibetan Buddhist paintings, they don't take the chance of ignoring the Hindu goddess and missing out on good luck and business. i like that.
Tomorrow is Bhai tikka, when I go to my brothers house and get the powder on my forehead, maybe a present and then lunch. Just like Christmas without the turkey.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

more festival fotos

This man is smiling because I bought 2 bangles from him for Rs100. Everyone likes to have some shiny new jewellery for the festival, and I'm no exception!
This is yet another jewellery emporium tizzied up for the festival. I certainly can't afford to shop in these places, but like they say over here, looking is free!
Here's the powder we'll be sticking on each other's foreheads on Sunday. A colour to go with every outfit. I just have to make sure I don't get any in my eyes. And yes, it is hard to wash off.

And what, I hear you ask, of brave Sir Robin and co? Well they endured 2 days of horseriding to get to the pass camp, but they did get to enjoy a cultural evening in the village which hopefully took their minds off their sore bums. They should have made it over the pass by now and will be headed down to Simikot and a reunion next week in Nepalganj airport, followed by jungle hijinks and lost of yummy things transported by yours truly.

I have NO idea...

I just love it when people think that using lots of big words makes them sound intelligent. Click on the pic to make it large enough to decipher - I promise you it's worth it!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Tihar Time

 Today is the first day of the 5 day celebration Diwali/Tihar. The animal worshipped today is the crow, but I'm not having any of that caper. I did however go to Asan, the famous local market for a wander around and bought a few things - everyone has to shop in this festival. I took a lot of pics for those of you who haven't experienced the festival - all the shops gaily decorated and every shopkeeper has branched out into the flashing light business. Funny when the country has powercuts but anyway... My hotel has the lights hanging for 5 floors so it will look lovely at night.

And here is a flashing picture of the great goddess herself. If you are all very good I'll post the movie of it another day.
Jewellery shops are especially OTT 
Stay tuned there will be more photos tomorrow - the connection here is a little off and on - well more off than on actually!

Monday, November 1, 2010

time for festival shopping

Yesterday morning I went to Tilganga again for another check up and  got the thumbs up. I am now seeing better out of my left eye than I have for decades and I am now back to roaming the streets as carelessly as ever.This is a pic of some of the shoes of people who were waiting for attention while I was there - another pile was further up the stairs.

Tihar is coming in a few days so I have been busy buying myself a present - well I'm worth it! This time of year everyone also does work on their house to make it pleasing for the goddess Lakshmi to enter. In honour of this I purchased a new shower curtain for the hotel room - how glamorous is that for only Rs350! I also need to start thinking about a present for my bhai for the bhai tikka day on Sunday - we have to exchange gifts and eat lots of sweets - I think I can manage that one OK.

Meanwhile Kathmandu has been swamped by tourists in the last few days - all the hotels were full and people were being sent out of town to get rooms. How crazy. And yet the government (if you could call it that) is hoping a million tourists will come next year. God help us. The airport won't cope, there aren't enough hotels, and we already have rations of electricity and water. So I don't think it will be a grand success. But I could be wrong - I was once before!

Robin and the boys are now in the Limi Valley and heading for a pass to get back to Simikot - they've had fine weather and all is well. Their menagerie of horses, donkeys, dzopkios and yaks is also doing well.

Today I went shoe shopping and had to take some photos for you girls - just tell me which ones you want!

Saturday, October 30, 2010

back from the convalescent home

and what a relaxing time that was. Beautiful weather, great company and delicious food. I was kept pretty busy on the sunlounger. As I'm sure you can imagine.
Robin and the boys also had a day off yesterday and slaughtered a goat for lunch. MMM. I talked to Luke who told me that he had some of the liver but he didn't really sound too impressed and I can't blame him for that.
Next weekend is Tihar(Diwali) the festival which kinda brings in a new year, and there will be lots of drinking, gambling and maybe firecrackers.
Nepal still doesn't have a Prime Minister - there was another useless vote in the Umpteenth PM Election ( UP ME) but the place still seems to be running just the same as ever.
Meeting a few friends this evening - as opposed to hanging out at Jazzmandu which frankly doesn't do it for me.
Doctors again tomorrow and then roast Sunday lunch at the British club.
Bye for now

Thursday, October 28, 2010

I CAN SEE!!!!!

I am thrilled to the back teeth (fillings included) to report that the operation was a success. And not scary. The scary part was the local anaesthetic injections in/around the eye. Well the first one anyway. Lucky I made them give me some diazepam or I would have run a mile. Actually I probably couldn't have considering I didn't have my glasses on and was wearing the Nepali version of a hospital gown - purple baggy too short trousers and a short kurta top with fetching hat thing like the North Korean nuclear scientist sport. Lovely. And no, I didn't have a photo. The doctor did 52 cataracts yesterday morning, and I was of course the only foreigner so I made lots of new friends who I got to see again this morning at the clinic. We were all smiling from ear to ear today, instead of looking scared like yesterday.
Dr Ruit  told me he would only take 6 or 7 minutes to do the op and that was true. My friends who came with me got to watch it on the big telly outside the theatre and they were pretty impressed. They were also glad it wasn't happening to them! I didn't feel a thing and it was rather fascinating to see through the murk what was happening. And I am a WUSS so anyone can do it. Really! I have another eyepatch till Sunday - I have to boil it every morning for 15 mins to stave off infection, and of course I have some more stinging eye drops 5 times a day. But the care I received was second to none. And a bargain compared to home.

Just after the op when I got home
yo ho ho and a bottle of rum
Here's how stupid reading glasses look over an eye patch

So now I'm relaxing at my friend's place in Budhanilkantha, overlooking the valley and the smog, lazing in the sun drinking cups of tea and supervising the pets. It's tough.
2 nights here then back to the mayhem for more clinic visits and social engagements. It's a wonder I have time for anything these days.

On a serious note, if any of you are ever thinking of donating to a worthy cause but can't think which one, please consider the Fred Hollows Foundation. They help people with sight problems all over the world, and they make the intra ocular lenses that will one day replace yours if you get cataracts. And you are helping a person with no income get their eyesight and livelihood back.
Time to go back into the sun and maybe put some more eyedrops in. Robin is somewhere near Yari today - I wasn't really paying attention when he called yesterday as I was too excited about ME!
Of course I have to thank everyone at Tilganga who looked after me (and all the other patients there) as well as my friends and family here: my excellent bhai Puru and niece Yashu who came with me to the hospital and held my hand, Uttam for walking me out for dinner and drinks last night, Rafi and Petra for being seen in public with me, and Sam, Stephen Darling, Verena, Clare and all the others who offered help. And Robin, next time you have to come with me!
bye for now

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

here we go again

Poor old half blind and stressed logistics has to pull out all stops again.
Yesterday I got several calls from Robin about problems he was going to have with the trek he was planning after Geoff and the boys fly to meet me in Bardia National Park. He was told by locals that he would need to get a China permit (even though he would still be in Nepal - don't ask) which of course they don't have, and Robin somehow managed not to have a sunhat or buff - I have no idea where they are - but he was unable to buy a hat for his big boofhead in Simikot. Since the sun has been beating down on them he has decided best not to keep trekking. So I am now trying to arrange 3 flight tickets from Simikot for him and the staff, tickets back to Kathmandu with me and Geoff and the boys, and extra accommodation in the jungle.  At least it's stopping me from thinking about the op tomorrow.
So we'll all be together in Bardia which will be good. Dr Ruit said it's fine for me to fly 2 weeks after the op, and by then my eye should have healed sufficiently for me not to be too paranoid about it. I still won't be allowed to do too much so I might be doing a lot of relaxing in the sun, as I will only be able to walk a few kms - and I certainly won't be going rafting!
A friend who has a place up the hills behind Kathmandu has invited me to stay with her for a few days after the op - the air is clean and she has a lovely garden and a nice little man to make me cups of tea, so I reckon I'll take her up on the offer. I believe I have to go back to the hospital the day after the op to get the eye checked and the patch hopefully removed, then I could go up to her place and enjoy the flowers and a cute puppy. And if I could ever get my email to work I could reply to her invitation!
No pic today as the internet is not happy about uploading - very fickle. But I do have an excellent quote from a newspaper article I read over brekky: This quote was from Mr Amrit Man Tuladhar, National Programme Manager of Earthquake Risk and Recovery Preparedness Programme for Nepal (Ministry of Physical Planning and Works) PHEW. "The preparation of preparedness during the time of disaster is very poor." Much like his English and his waffly job title.
Wish me luck for tomorrow - no, on second thoughts just wish me bravery!

Monday, October 25, 2010

sunshine and rickshaws

there's lots of both here right now. and also squillions of people - most of the hotels are full and I had to wait over an hour for a meal last night. Even the bar was full by 6.10 when I got there.
So where were we up to? I remember, I had been to the hospital. OK, so now I am putting eyedrops in 4 times a day to stave off infection (yes they sting too) and I am confining myself to a very small range of places as my eyesight seems to have clapped out completely now that I know I'm getting it fixed up. Typical. We have gorgeous weather 25-27 and bright sun (wish I could wear my sunnies) in the day, but the last few nights have been really cool at 11 degrees. So I have busied myself sorting out the clothes for cooler weather. And lounging around as I feel I should practice for after the op when I have been told to do nothing strenuous, don't go trekking, don't lift anything. Oh well if you insist doctor!
Robin and the boys have been enjoying the trek so far - they spent last night in a place called Timure - trouble is there are 2 of those in the same area so I'm not sure which one they are in - but they did go to a local hot springs to relax. The weather for them is also very good but I expect the clear skies make it very cold in a tent after dark. 
I have also been busy transferring movies from the enormous multi terrabyte hard drive Geoff brought over, so that I could be entertained in times of patheticness and no power. There's some great movies there that I've not seen for years. I have no idea where he gets all these things.
Sadly the internet here at home is crappy as ever, so I have taken Alvin the Apple out for a walk to the Korean restaurant that does great milk drinks. And has decent internet. Oh speaking of which there is a rumour that there is a NORTH KOREAN restaurant in town. I wonder what they serve - fermented gravel with dirt? Some of us are toying with going there for a laugh instead of for a meal.
The restaurant I'm in right now is directly opposite the spooky 'China's Tibet Bookstore' which seems to have been set up by the propaganda wing of the PLA of the PRC. If you know what I mean.  Very odd. Also odd is that I am here in Mandala Street, which had a fair on the weekend, and as I was walking through here yesterday I was accosted by a panda - which has nothing to do with Nepal but a lot to do with the aforementioned bookstore. I think. Weird.
And here's what I had for lunch yesterday: chocolate brownie sundae with 2 scoops of icecream. YUM Today it's an iced latte.
Later this week some friends will start coming back from the hills so there will be more people to gossip with. Till then I have maybe 4 or so friends here, plus family, and of course the shopkeepers I chat to and have tea in the sun with. It's a pleasant life.
I will also soon have to get cracking on some GHT things - once the eyes get sorted a bit more - and planning a book launch (the new Trailblazer trekking in Nepal and GHT book) in December. I must also remember to change our plane tickets home.
We've just had some electrical shenanigans here with the power going off and the generator needing to be set.
Right then I'm off to confidently predict some weather.....

Saturday, October 23, 2010

and it's hello again from Kathmandu

where as usual the internet is slow and unreliable, but at least since Dashain we only have 2 hours a day of powercuts (without a schedule as yet so it is always a surprise!).
Our flights here were fairly uneventful and we had the boys all primed for the sprint to the visa desk. Buying a visa here is much cheaper than at home - you just have to queue for a bit. Anyway, they all got through and there I was with my passport full of Nepal visas and a request for another. The man glared at the 90 day visa I had earlier this year (of which I used about 30 days!) and said "You can't have that visa I will only give you 15 days." Oh dear. I attempted to reason with him, and show him exactly how many days I had stayed as you are only allowed 150 days in a calendar year. He wasn't buying it and by now I was holding up about 50 people who were getting a bit cross. So he took me aside - "are you handling it dear?" asked Robin . Yes go away! - and said that he would take my passport and send it to Immigration. What a good idea I said - as I know that the people in the office are about 10 times smarter than this idiot appeared to be. So I got into the country but didn't have a passport or visa. Oh well.
We were flat chat from the moment we got out of the airport  with people coming to see Robin. Nobody comes to see me anymore :(
On Wednesday we sent the boys sightseeing while Robin had about a hundred meetings and I went to the Immigration office to see about my passport - the nice Mr Gautam was very busy as it was their first day of opening after the holidays, so he asked if I could come back on Thursday and of course I said yes. And when I did get there on Thursday after dropping the boys at the airport I got my passport and a visa for 90 days which takes me to the 10th of January - which is way more than I need. And my new BFF Mr Gautam and I agree that the people at the airport cannot think.
Meanwhile, yesterday I spent about 4 hours at the Tilganga Eye Hospital having tests and getting poked in the eye and having 3 lots of stinging drops put in. Ouch. Not only do they sting but they make your eyes sensitive to the light - and when you are walking from one building to another in the bright sun following someone in a crisp white coat it HURTS. Good thing Puru was with me to hold my hand and stop me crashing into some potted geraniums. He was also useful for distracting me when I had to have a blood test. And of course he speaks Nepali which came in handy once or twice.
Anyhow, I am booked in for next Wednesday (my goodness so fast) but unfortunately they can't restore my sight to 20/20 in that eye as it is now at -14 (so where is my white stick?!) but they will get it to -7 the same as the right eye, so at least my eyes will be balanced - unlike my brain. So soon it will be back to the world of contact lenses.
And emma chisit I hear you ask? Well, first of all, the current exchange rate is about 68 rupees to the Aussie dollar. So, I paid Rs 50 to register as a patient. I paid Rs 650 for all the tests I needed (which at home were going to be $755) and I paid Rs 25 for antibiotic eyedrops which I have to put in 4x a day from today. Oh, and then when I go on Wednesday for the op, with a private 'relaxing room' as Puru put it, I have to take Rs 10,500. Yes that's right about $150. For the best eye surgeon on the planet to treat me in a brand new hospital. Go figure.
So, today I am off to meet some friends at the markets at 1905 for chocolate croissants and other goodies.
 But just before I go, imagine if you will my surprise when I opened the door yesterday and saw this:
Don't try this at home

Friday, October 15, 2010

Time to start packing - again!

all I ever seem to be doing is packing, unpacking or tidying up. 2010 Year of the Suitcase. Anyway, only 3 sleeps to go - don't tell Puss. Visited the Aged Parent yesterday to get her unique view on everything - poor thing sometimes she's really switched on and other times, well nothing really. But she seems happy enough in her own way.
And real progress has been made on the eyesight front - I now have an appointment with Dr Ruit at Tilganga Clinic next week to see what he can do for me. It's very exciting. I just want to be rid of these annoying specs that fog up, fall off and generally irritate the &**#^ out of me. 
Off to town this morning to see the gang at the old workplace for lunch, while Robin goes to World Ex for another meeting.
So we get to the 'du on Tuesday afternoon, and Robin flies out on Thursday to Neplaganj and then SImikot ? on Friday with Geoff and the boys, while I swan around in the 'du with my falling down specs and ill matched wardrobe. Soon I won't be able to blame my dress sense on eyesight.. just bad taste. Oh dear.
And in the stupidest news I have ever read from Kathmandu (and that's saying something) I offer you this: Lost Baggage Nightmare. I'm sure hoping this doesn't happen again on Tuesday.
 So you can all look forward to more excitement from the land that has had 10 or 11 attempts for parliament to vote for a PM - the last few times only one bloke stood but not enough people turned up to enable him to get the votes he needed. So after 4 months or more the guy who resigned is still in charge with no end in sight. Go figure. And I'll let you know what the story is with power cuts when I get there as I am too scared to ask.
And here's what our room will look like about 10 minutes after we arrive

Monday, October 11, 2010

Happy Dashain

yes it's HIndu festival time again. Dashain, the 10 day festival has begun in earnest - we will only get the tail end of it when we arrive next week in Nepal. All Hindu Nepalis take this time to spend their bonus on gambling, eating, shopping or visiting far flung family. It can be a nightmare as a visitor trying to get things done as many businesses are closed, and the banks always seem to run out of money. And everybody eats sweets like these....

Dashain is closely followed by Tihar/Diwali, The Festival of Lights, which usually involves dangerous fireworks,  alcohol and gambling. Tihar is the festival of good luck and incorporates the 'brother/sister' tikka where many years ago Robin and I got adopted into Puru's family. So it is good that I will be in town for it this year. It means I get a present.
Eyesight developments: I have decided to see if I can get my cataract surgery done at the Tilganga eye hospital in Kathmandu. It was set up by the Fred Hollows Foundation and has a very good reputation - and I'm sure it wil be cheaper than the price I was quoted here. And with the money I save I can make a donation to them to help others - I think they still quote $25 to make a person see again! It's a wonderful place with highly trained surgeons, and they actually have the lab that makes the Intra Ocular lenses there; these lenses are then sent worldwide and if you have had cataract surgery you probably have one of their products.
I'll check it out after the holiday season in Nepal and let you know.
Been busy watching the Commonwealth Games from Delhi - I'm somewhat astounded that they managed to get everything pretty well finished on time and think that the people who got "delhi belly' were just unlucky - it can happen to anyone. Rather a shame that nobody seems to be at any of the events...

So, we're looking forward to heading back to Nepal next week although it's a shame I cant go trekking. At least I still get to go to Bardia jungle for a few days - not that I will manage to spot anything with my rapidly deteriorating eyesight! I hope after that (all the festivals will be over) I can get the eye stuff done and get to see things. And stop falling over and crashing into stuff. And read books again.
Meanwhile there's always Sams and the fibre optic light we bought!