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!

Friday, October 8, 2010

Another strange week

complete with changes of plan....
Tuesday I went off to the eye specialist to hear what I already knew - I've got a cataract and I need to get rid of it. Shame that it is gonna cost about $5000 (all my savings - well, tax refund actually) but at least I can get it done before Xmas. 2 problems though - I can't wear my contact lenses now because my eye needs to straighten out or settle down or something, so I am reduced to wearing a pair of specs on an old prescription (somewhat hampering my already poor eyesight) and I have to come back early from the Nepal trip for some hideously expensive tests before the op. So now I can't go trekking (as I would probably fall over a cliff I couldn't see) but I still get to go to the jungle with Geoff and the boys. Even if there is a tiger I seriously doubt that I would be able to see it.
Robin had another birthday on Wednesday, and last night he gave his final presentation for World Ex about the GHT trips next year.
I have spent most of the week peering at things and tripping over the cat. I managed to drive none too confidently, but the bright sun is killing me - I have the 'transition' lenses in my multifocals but they just don't go dark enough.
So after the op in December my left eye will be adjusted for distance (to match the right eye which will still need a contact lens) so I will still need reading glasses - so I have kept all my pairs of different strengths as I have no idea how well I will be able to see. It's kinda scary, but it will also be the first time I can see properly out of that eye since the Bronze Age!
And on a high note, remember I said how much I loved Bakewell tarts? Well I found a recipe on a blog called The Caked Crusader and made a batch for Robin's birthday. They didn't even last 24 hours. Must make some more. Soon!

Sunday, October 3, 2010

what a long trip home!

That would have to be the longest door-to-door flight home I've ever had. Best start at the beginning...
Nuts to you!
Where we stayed in Oxshott is about 12 miles from Heathrow. Our flight was due to leave at 12.30pm on 30 October, so we thought in view of the usually appalling traffic on the M25 we would leave early to make sure we weren't late. So off we drove at 7am in the fog expecting to be an hour or more, but it only took us 25 minutes! We dropped off the car and caught the bus to the terminal and waited till 9am to check in. While we were having some breakfast at a cafe, a mother and her 2 kids finished their meal and headed off, but the very smartly dressed little boy had forgotten his parka. I couldn't find any ID in it, so left it over the chair hoping he would come back. He didn't. When we wandered off I spotted him and his mum on some chairs, so did my Good Samaritan deed and told them where his jacket was - I saw him later clutching it very tightly!
Anyway, by 11.30 there was no sign of a gate or boarding, and then there was an announcement that the flight was delayed till 1.45. And could we all please head to the the THAI counter to get a meal voucher. OK no worries. 1.45 came and went, but we didn't. We were then told the flight would board at 3pm for a 4pm take off. Everyone headed down to the appointed gate at 3pm, and when we were all assembled there was an announcement that the toilets on the jumbo were defective and that 'if you need to use the lavatory please do so before you board the plane'. So, a 12 hour flight with dodgy/non-functioning dunnies? That ought to be fun.
Finally we got on to discover that about half the toilets were out of action. And we didn't leave till 4.45. Which meant that we were going to miss our connection for Sydney the next morning. So we tried to sit back and relax, but the man across the aisle had decided he was going to get drunk and pester everyone - all flight. What a dickhead.
When we eventually got to Bangkok about 9.30 am on 1 October (missing our flight which left at 8am) there was mayhem. Loads of THAI staff with cards for various flights that people had missed. There was about 16 people who missed the Sydney flight, and the THAI staff had managed to secure seats on a flight to Vietnam that evening and then transfer to Sydney on Vietnam Air. We didn't like the sound of that. Or Manila. Or Melbourne. So finally the very helpful lady said that we could get on the same flight the next day, which meant 20 hours in Bangkok. She arranged hotel accommodation with full board for the 4 of us who were left, and off we went to actually RELAX - you know the kind of thing: sit by the pool, swim, sauna, massage, sleep etc. Instead of being in a plane on the tarmac in Hanoi in a storm wondering if you will ever see your luggage again.
And to our delight when we went to check in yesterday we were upgraded to business class. Whacko! The 2 guys who were with us had never been in business class before, so all I heard from their seats was the whirring of the motor on their reclining seats, and little squeals of delight when the next lot of champers came past.
So we arrived feeling pretty good after about 50 hours of travelling to get here.
And to Puntamanut J of THAI ground staff - we LOVE YOU LONG TIME!