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That Sinking Feeling

It was the eve of my first post-Work-For-Da-Man trip. I’d spent two years in a kind of purgatory, required to bill 30 hours a week, haunted with ever-changing business processes and a persistent feeling that I wasn’t good enough, would never be good enough, was too old to be good enough.

As soon as I handed in my resignation, JF and I took off to start a pilgrimage through France, ten days of walking El Camino. We frolicked in freedom the whole summer. But I knew I wanted to leverage what I’d learned at The For-Profit for my overseas clients, particularly RCRD/CBR, the folks I’ve been working with since 2004.

What follows is the journal entry I wrote just before that trip was supposed to begin. It chronicles the panic and self-doubt that plagued me– that possibly plagues all of us when we are not comfortably at home where everything makes sense.

Sometime in October or early November, 2014

By Friday, I was getting frantic about my trip to Nepal. I’ve been trying to connect with the folks there for about a month– and have heard nary a word. Oh, Hari Shyam has sent friendly greetings, left his cell phone number and proposed a rousing game of badminton as soon as I arrive. He even offered to book a hotel for me. That right there sent my danger-warning-red-flag antennae up to Red Alert.

Have they not replied because they are embarrassed because they really don’t want me to come, I’ve offended them in some way, I’ve made some cultural faux pas that will screw up the whole deal? They used to like me but now they don’t? I asked if somebody could pick me up at the airport because I arrive at nearly 8pm, normally too late to get into the hostel, if there is even anybody staying there at all these days. No word.

We discussed the situation in depth with our Nepali friends. They thought it was not normal– that it would be rude in Nepal, as it would be here, to have agreed to receive a guest and then not to respond to emails or Facebook messages or Skype. Maybe they expect you to be raising money for them, and since you are not coming with funding, they are ignoring you, my friend speculated. Then, most kindly, he offered to call his brother and to arrange somebody to pick me up and put me up at their house for a couple of days until I could get the picture of reality more in focus.

Finally, I sent an “a little bit nervous,” “a little bit worried” email off to my principal contact there, Surya. And JF and I started brainstorming for a Plan B. He pointed out, and of course he was right, that we don’t actually KNOW that any of those fears are indeed reality. That even if they ARE, that doesn’t mean I couldn’t patch things up once I am face to face with them. That what I actually do, while seeming to be all about technology, is to create and maintain intercultural relationships– to bridge those gulfs that appear because we are actually not totally all alike.

Even so, the black cloud that passed over me was formidable. I took deep breaths to relieve a constriction in my chest and that horrible sinking feeling that all our plans– not just mine but the plans of the two friends I have encouraged to come with me– could very well be nothing but air, a puff of smoke that could dissipate into the void.

JF and I got takeout from our favorite restaurant, the Turkish place on Main St. We took it over to our next-door neighbor’s house and ate and chattered about the whole situation. By that time, I had– like one of those dolls with a weighted bottom that you smack and it bobs over and then bobs right back up– righted myself. I’d seen that there were at least two possible directions to go, even if my client there has completely abandoned the project of working with me. I’d seen that flying into the unknown is an integral part of what I do, what all of us who work internationally and on the ground, do. That I’d get my phone set up, and start finding lodging and start working on my Nepali and even if the worst came to the worst, I could handle it.

That night, while I slept fitfully, I got two emails from Surya. Short but clear: Yes, we are expecting you. Yes, we will pick you up at the airport. Yes, we have a place for you to stay that first night. Yes, we are looking forward to your visit.

I stopped sinking. I also realized, to my chagrin, that at least part of my panic had to do with the fact that I had PUBLICIZED this project. This is the first international project for WorldsTouch in 4 years. I’ve told EVERYBODY about it. I was, at least part of me, totally afraid of WHAT PEOPLE WOULD THINK. Gosh, me. Who thinks she is immune to the approvals or disapprovals of the crowd. Is not immune at all. I was, as much as chagrined at my possible cultural clumsiness, embarrassed to have presented myself as somebody with a client in Nepal, where I was going on a plane to realize a collaboration. To have presented myself as a professional at this, and then…what? turned into a tourist like everybody else. Destined to sink like a fraudulent nobody…in front of my professional tribe.

So all of that was, for the most part, just pre-trip nerves. Even so, I want to document the whole range of emotions and thought processes that accompanied it. They need to be part of the record– possibly transformed into a paragraph warning my future self and my colleagues that flying low to the ground and within the spirit of the Unknown that these moments of doubt are normal.

Into the Real Place, Slowly

It’s always good to experience the real life of a place, even if you are not good at it.

I was looking at the load-shedding schedule for today: 6am – 11am, 4pm -8pm. Nine hours without electricity. My laptop is charged; my phone has enough juice to get to 11am. My thinking is here, in the rhythm of here. My clients provide me with a room and meals (when there is a cook who comes in.) This keeps me from being utterly out of touch with what it is to be FROM here, to be of this place, with its own reality and hardships. People find ways to avoid the hardships. The capital city of this country can’t supply its citizens with clean water, or any water? Here, they circumvent that, if they can afford it, with the water trucks. If you can’t afford it, ah…what to do? Here in Bhaktapur, there are water taps, known as hitis, where people bring buckets, wash their hair, take a bath, wash dishes, and get water for the house.

Some years back, I remember, they tried to get everybody to harvest rainwater. I’ve seen in Bermuda, where there REALLY isn’t any water, the sparkling white stepped roofs leading to the pipes, leading to the barrels. Here, the “they” were probably some international NGO or the UN. It didn’t take on the widespread— the rain is perhaps too unpredictable except during the monsoon, and water requirements are on a more demanding schedule. So people buy water like we all buy electricity. Only here the electricity forces us into a schedule, published in the newspaper, the Load-Shedding Schedule. I watched at night from the roof terrace as the lights of the valley marched across, coming on in swaths, going out in swaths. The roof terrace is part of the normal architecture of this real life. It’s where you hang clothes to dry, to grow plants in pots, to escape for a cigarette so everyone can pretend they don’t know you smoke.

This “here” has no air-conditioning or heat— not that both are unavailable; of course, the major hotels have both. I can deal with the lack of air-conditioning. It’s not that hot here at 3,500 feet in the biosphere; and there’s always a bucket I can fill with water. If the water trucks have come. The lack of heat drove me out of the room and into a hotel the winter of 2015. I continued to sleep here, dressed in every piece of clothing I owned. But I worked at Shiva Guest House, where they provided propane heaters around the dining room. The hotel’s job is to protect people like me from this specific real life. The hotel provides a bubble that feels more like the life we usually live, an expensive undertaking, except of course we can afford it because we have powerful money.

That’s just a fact, our powerful money— one that brings its own inconveniences that annoy and often baffle us. Why do I attract more touts, would-be guides, beggars, rapacious “holy” men, purveyors of rugs, paintings, bells, gadgets, bangles and do-dads? Simple: my powerful money is visible and apparent to everybody, including me. So, sometimes, I just hide. In the warmth of Shiva’s dining room. In a hotel. In my own room. David Whyte, in this morning’s reading, talks about the usefulness of hiding. “Hiding,” he says, “is a way of staying alive…a way of holding ourselves until we are ready to come into the light.” In fact, it may be the only way we can gradually slip into the real life of a place, with hardships we aren’t any good at. The real life of here:

  • The sun is out this monsoon season morning, so I should throw my clothes in a bucket with laundry powder I bought the second day, cover the clothes with water and get them washed, rinsed, wrung out and up on the line while the sun shines.
  • I escape the persistent annoying people because I can speak enough of this language to tell them that I don’t want a taxi, I’m staying here in town. I don’t want a guide because I spent six months here before they were even born.
  • I know the price of a taxi to Kathmandu is $8, but I pay $10 because I have powerful money. I try to think in Rupees, though. That’s more of being here.
  • Breakfast is a dish of some kind of peas, a boiled egg (but the salt shaker is empty), a slice of square, American-style white bread, a tiny banana. The white bread has an ultra-thin layer of some kind of apple jelly.
  • Lunch will be dal-bhat-tarkari, always lentils in a soup, rice and vegetables, heavily coated with various spices that I would not recognize except for having tasted them so often here. There might be meat, but then I’ve walked through the market and…meat…ehhhh. Even chicken looks unhappy dead in the stalls. Real life definitely has limits.
  • I can call America with my Nepali SIM card in my iPhone, which costs about $10 an hour, but it’s better than Skype’s dropped calls and garbled crackling sounds. But everybody here is on Viber.
  • Everything takes three times longer to get done, from figuring out what the client really needs to simply signing up for a free trial of the Nonprofit Starter Pack in Salesforce.
  • People do not schedule or plan the way I’m used to.
  • People are not on top of their email every day.
  • In short: Communication is a puzzle that must be solved, but is surprisingly elusive.
  • I can ride without a helmet on the back of a motorcycle, but the driver always has to have one on. Go figure that one.

I walk and drive past the temporary shelters that have housed the earthquake-made-homeless people for over a year. It seems that, as usual, the hardship was not evenly distributed. Not everyone lost their home. Not everyone can afford to rebuild. Over 73,000 people have lodged complaints that they were excluded from the re-building grants that were supposed to be for everyone who found themselves looking at a pile of rubble that used to be where they lived. Mainly it was poor people with older houses, people already in greater deprivation. The very real question for me everywhere I travel, about them, about the middle class, about the rich here: “How do they manage?” Because we all manage, even with our great wealth, even without our great wealth. I’ll tell you: Here, we sit in the dark, faces illuminated by two or three cell phones where fingers are messaging someone not here, and sing. We make jokes that my poor Nepali can’t begin to understand and we laugh. Even I laugh, because laughter is universal, and contagious.

International Work: Success story

OH! YES! I had a HUGE HUGE milestone yesterday! I’m at Hayden Hall, where I’ve built a medical records system for a group of paramedics working with pregnant women and mothers with kids under 5 years old to improve health outcomes. I built the system last year as a pilot project involving just the paramedics around the office here.  I’ve trained two staffers in the Poor-Internet system I devised, and supported them through a year of trial and error.
They are now able to log all the health visits the paramedics made, enter new mothers and children with medical records on time for monthly reports. And together we’ve created a Monthly Report dashboard the hits the key data points for paramedic supervisors.
But yesterday, I got the payback for this year’s work:
Binita, one of the staffers I’ve trained, came to me to tell me that they REALLY need to extend the Salesforce coverage outside of Darjeeling itself into the remote villages too far from the office to bring their health visit reports to a weekly meeting. And then Binita went on to describe exactly how this would get done: the paramedics would fill up paper sheets, the way the Darjeeling paramedics do, and then they would submit them to the area supervisors (“Centres in Charge”)  in the towns that serve as hubs for the village workers. The CICs would enter that data to Excel templates that Hayden Hall would have created for them, and submit them to the data import guy here who uses Apsona to zip them into Hayden Hall’s Salesforce!!!
Can you believe it!? She sees what we’re doing, and has moved to the next step, “How can we make this work beyond what we’re doing now?” Her argument to the ruling priests of Hayden Hall? “We’re working blind right now. We don’t know what’s going on in the remote villages. If we can’t cover ALL the work we’re doing, then it doesn’t make sense to just Salesforce at all!”
Wow. Just wow. This was the vision, and I’m seeing it happen.

Navigating the Cultural Waters

Today was my first day of non-jet-lagged brain waves here in Ethiopia. Though much of the country adheres to a very ancient form of Christianity, from our building we can hear the Muslim call to prayer starting at about 5:30 am.
I’ve spent enough time in Muslim countries to have come to love the sound of “Allahu Akbar!” — strung out, over a loud speaker. I have understood that we Christians used to have that sort of spiritual presence in our lives when the church bells rang out the various prayer times of the day. It would not have had the same effect as hearing the human voice, perhaps, but it did mark the specific moments where prayer was invited and space made for it, when everyone, all at once, could turn their thoughts away from the day-to-day drudge to something higher.
Today was the first day I didn’t feel utterly gobsmacked with jet lag. I managed to function yesterday and I managed not to have a nap. I’m opposed to naps after long trans-Atlantic flights. I think they just prolong the agony.
I had my misgivings about doing this trip and getting involved in this project. I don’t usually accept gigs in developing countries under a month-long stay. Especially where I’m going into a culture that I am totally unfamiliar with. I believe you need time to catch the rhythms of the people, the kind of energy they have. I need time to learn my 100 words in their language, to figure out how they do dinner, to decide if what I brought to wear is appropriate or not.
I was worried that our four-woman team might be too task- and milestone-oriented. I thought they had expectations that might not be reflected in the reality on the ground, and that we needed time, time, time to make the connections with folks that would tell us what they really wanted to accomplish.
The soap-making team doesn’t stand to fail the way we Salesforce gurus can: Women will come to their workshop, if only to have some fun on a weekday when the kids are at school. They may or may not grab the initiative and start soap fair trade businesses and make money hand over fist. If we fail, though, to engage with our Ethiopian friends, to fully understand where they really are with their shiny, elegant database created for them by an American who is now a Salesforce employee– if we fail to get this puppy up and running… the consequences don’t even bear considering.
That may be a bit overblown. I mean, Salesforce is just a database, after all. And it’s online and we all seem to blithely feel that the Internet just works everywhere the way it just works for us. So we could fail here because the infrastructure forming the background grid just ain’t here.
From the vantage point of the States, there were just a whole lot of ways this might not work out. We are only two days into the experience now, so while the vibe is great and the feeling of connection with these folks strong, we could still fall on our faces. We are asking a lot: “Hey folks, here’s everything we could come up with to make your Salesforce work for you. Now we want you to embrace it the way we do. Learn to make rollup summaries. Figure cross-object formulas. And last but not least, create a nine-point dashboard that covers the most important data you’re tracking. Oh, and please don’t fall behind on the data entry, okay? And keep the data clean as a whistle, too, while you’re at it. Thanks.”
Somehow, while I can see the road ahead with some bumps and detours, I believe we can make this work. It comes down to a combination of a fundraising and marketing dynamo of an executive director with a deep love and passionate commitment to the project…AND…a local staff that takes a much more laid-back approach, using the multi-tasking central leader style, the guy who gets much of what he gets done through gentle persuasion, and appreciation and encouragement of his staff. I’ve seen this local type of NGO leadership in several organizations I’ve worked in outside the States. I had to learn it.
While we Westerners are more into scheduling, project management, agendas, daily check-in meetings, the local staff are just not in the business every day of filling the bucket of the current hour with as much as is humanly possible. They don’t sell what they do, they go about meeting the needs of children that would once have been “throw-aways,” orphans,  with a level of compassion that I’ve only seen among my friends the Nepalese.
And I code switch between the two of them all day long. Both work. And both respect the other’s style, at least that’s what it looks like on Day Two.
Add to this mix, a couple of Canadians who are willing (or at least too polite to express unwillingess) to take some cross-border ribbing and other visitors from the West who bring their own flavor of getting along while we all heal the world– the melange feels as though THIS, this, is a tiny nudge, a feather caress of a movement, a slight shift in the wind. It’s all we can do. It’s all we can ever actually do.

Project: Selamta in Ethiopia- We’re OFF!

Leaving in a few minutes for the first airplane. In DC, I’ll be meeting Marisa Stam, Executive Director of the Selamta Family Project, the organization I’ll be working with for the next two weeks. This is a joint project of the Nourish Collective, GirlForce and Worldstouch.

We will be offering workshops in soap-making, Salesforce assessment and training, and learning as much as possible about the ancient and venerable culture of Ethiopia.

I’m looking forward to meeting the staff at Selamta and getting to know them. Making friends, establishing connections, forming relationship is the most important thing we will do!

the stupa at Swayambunath

Punctuation

Dateline: New York City, Grad Student Apartment. Outside, 22 degrees F, -6 degrees C, with a wind chill factor that considerably reduces the effective temperature. In Kathmandu today, it was 50 degrees F. The deepest winter cold is over there.

Today, I stood in my daughter’s shower, in a warm bathroom, with the shower on “as hot as I can stand it” for at least 20 minutes. I had all the hot water I wanted. I soaped my hair twice. I just stood there, thinking about the way my life has been punctuated over the past two months, and the way those punctuations will change, and what that means.

In Bhaktapur and throughout Nepal, lives are punctuated by scarcity of electricity– the hours it’s on, the hours it’s off dictating all manner of things including whether I can get a Cappucino or have to make do with a Cafe Latte at Shiva Guest House. Electricity also dictates how I maintain my electronics– will it come on in the afternoon while I’m out and charge my computer, or do I need to bring the computer with me to Shiva for lunch, where they have battery-powered electrical sockets for charging iPads and iPhones and MacBook Pros.

My devices punctuate all my days– keeping the Nook, the battery pack, the other toys and tools charged requires daily care and attention.

I never did get the full rhythm of the scarce hot water at the training center where I had my room. The water was never hot in the morning or evening– but IF the sun had shone all day, I got a couple of good hot buckets out of the spigot, enough to wash me, my hair and my clothes without freezing my fingers (or the rest of me.)

Every excursion into the world is punctuated by mealtimes– frequently different from the mealtimes at home, often quite different foods. For the first month or so, I was content (and so was my friend Susan, after she arrived in mid-December) with the Nepali twice-a-day meal of rice, lentil soup, and some spicy vegetable. But once we started getting sick– she with typhoid, me with a version of E. coli, we moved out of the training center and started eating from the Shiva Guest House menu– yogurt with fruit, grilled cheese sandwiches, stir-fried vegetables with rice. We added tofu, experimented with various chicken and meat ball dishes.

Some travelers spend their extended visits in a place trying out different restaurants. Not us. And not me in general. Once I’ve found a place that has a varied and tasty menu, I’m loyal, especially if that place also has the Crossroads quality that Shiva has.

And that brings me to the final idea of punctuation– the way our traveling life is punctuated by the comings and goings of other travelers. When I’m staying and taking all my meals in the CBR/RCRD training center, I don’t meet very many other travelers. In the past, I’ve stopped in at Shiva in the mornings for a latte. I met one or two people on the stoop outside the restaurant, but not many.

On this trip, because Susan stayed on at Shiva after she had mostly recovered, I continued to take my meals up there with her. Mornings, the long-term guests — like Masa, the retired landscape architect who was staying for over a month– would come down for breakfast and we’d discuss the excursion plans of the day. Evenings, we’d all gather again for dinner, adding new and interesting people to our numbers.

Travelers stayed for months or for just a few days. Some we regretted when they left, some it was more of a relief– we didn’t have to be explicit about our shifting attitudes the way you do in real life. On the road, people just leave and that is the end of that, thank goodness. (I’m thinking of one particular guy we met who spent the afternoon caressing his Nepali knife blade and talking about everything he’d bought or wanted to buy.)

The Crossroads places– a town or a border crossing or a friendly atmosphere in a hostel or a cafe, where people on the road meet easily, where conversation flows, advice is given and taken– about the map, the road ahead or behind, the afflictions and their cures, the locals and their charms and foibles. Crossroads places are rarely entirely local, either in cuisine or clientele. They give travelers a kind of respite from and also a window out into the culture of the place.

Shiva was that kind of place for us on this trip. Ellen moved there because the internet was better there than anywhere else. Susan moved there because she needed to rest and eat well. I made it my place for meals and ate mashed potatoes and cheese and yogurt and fruit and French toast. We all made friends there– people we’ll see again, people we’ll always remember and tell stories about, people who punctuated our traveling lives.

 

Heat

I’ve acquired an entirely different perspective on heat, heating, and getting through the winter.

I have never thought about what winter is like in Nepal. There are places where it’s just warm all winter and everybody goes around as usual. There are others where it’s cold in the winter and they heat maybe even just one room at a time, usually the kitchen.

In Turkey, in the mountains overlooking the Black Sea, they have a hole in the floor that has fire and then coals. They bake bread on the sides of the hole, then put on the tea and cook the food for the day. And then they cover it up with metal and blankets and everyone sits in a circle with their feet pointing to the warm place.

Some way to get warm.

When I stayed in Nepal in the late 70s, I made it through probably December with a thick quilt stuffed with wool and sleeping in the room with the fire pit. I woke up to Maya, my hostess, making me bed tea and Helbadhur, her husband, squatting on the water basin flicking water in all nine mother goddess directions.

Early on this trip– winter 2015– I went out and bought a gas heater, thinking, “Well, that settles it for staying warm.” But I was wrong about that. The heater malfunctioned, the gas shortage became acute and then critical, and everyone else just wore more layers.

I felt like a spoiled Westerner. And indeed was more or less gently reminded that nobody else had heat in their houses, not even the rich. The concept of central heating is a kind of strange fantasy– the people here know we have houses with central heat, but it seems like really such a waste of money to them.

The gas cylinder I paid for cost about 3/4 of a teacher’s salary for a month. Okay, not a full-time teacher, but somebody I know living in a rented apartment with his wife and child.

When Ramesh, my Nepali cohort here, told me that the government shortened the number of hours people work from 10-5 to 10-4, I had a momentary thought – “How the heck do people get anything done around here anyway? If it isn’t a festival or a family obligation, it’s a shortened workweek!” But then when the cold gets truly bone-chilling, who can think straight anyway?

I wonder if the old architecture and the old ways weren’t actually warmer? The animals lived inside the houses, on the ground floor, and the kitchen had an open fire, even if all the fuel they had to burn was shocks of hay.

I’m often surprised at the local festivals, and how they correspond to what people have to live through. During the monsoon, when the water coursed through the back alleys that people used as toilets before the arrival of bathrooms, and flowed into the rivers where they washed their clothes and took their drinking water, people said that the mother goddesses protecting the city had gone away. And then, when the rain stopped and the harvest was in, they celebrate the return of the mother goddesses.

Likewise, in Swasthani Purnima, a monthlong festival through the coldest month, people seem to be deliberately seeking cold, almost challenging it to get to them. They leave their houses, are required to go barefoot, are allowed only very bland rice and vegetables without spices once a day. They take cold baths in the river.

In a procession dedicated the god who oversees this festival, one man dressed only in a loin cloth rolled sideways through the streets, doing penance of some sort, showing his willingness to sacrifice for his need and desire.

So even if you feel you are not quite up to the sacrifice of these devotees, their example is inspirational. If they can brave the cold without shoes and sleeping outside on a concrete floor, surely I can put on another layer, drink a glass of hot water and stop my complaining.

And the days are not really cold. The average daytime temperature during the coldest months is 66. The nights are all above freezing. It’s the nightly lows and the average humidity – above 80% in November, December and January – that make the cold so chilling.

I’ll be happy to get back to my central heating– and hot running water at all hours of the day and night, and pizza, and fast internet that works just about all the time. I need, though, to carry this new awareness with me: that people live through, they accomodate weather, they deal with gas shortages and electricity that stays off 8-10 hours a day. They manage. I stand in awe, really.

Living in Two (or more) Time Zones

[Background sound effects: The group across the that meets for loudspeaker yoga and chanting in the mornings is making tiger screaming noises.]

JF mentioned last night how strange it was for me to be heading off to bed on a day that, for him, was just beginning. And this morning, I’m struck by how Time feels as though it is lagging, lagging when I realize that I’m up and thinking about my new day, and he’s still slowly ending yesterday.

I have written before about it a little, but it is difficult to articulate. When did this strange sensation first occur? Telegraph? Telephone? It’s as though Time is tugging at me from both ends– yesterday lingers and lingers because, even though I was done with it, JF whose being in time I spend a lot of my mental energy with, was just beginning it. Having his coffee. Doing his morning exercise routine.

And today pulls away at me from the other side. It IS my morning, after all. It is MY Thanksgiving Day, all foggy and filled with, now, the sound of OM over the loudspeaker. I’m hearing the nurses-in-training in the hostel splashing water in their bathrooms and talking to one another. Doors opening and feet headed upstairs to the roof terrace and breakfast.

Ah, they’re back to the Tiger Screaming again. And then the all practicing Laughing. This is my morning. The ringing of the temple bells. The Invocation of Peace.

Meanwhile, my friends at home are going over their grocery shopping lists…everything all set? Possibly some pumpkin pies are already cooling on the stove or the back deck. Maybe a last glass of wine, someone asks someone else.

I wonder, thinking about it, whether this could be one of the reasons that people find it so difficult to keep in touch when I’m off on a long trip. This time, with Facebook, it seems easier (damn it for being the tool we need and love and also evil) but could it be that the dim awareness of this Time-disconnect has a kind of unsettling feel to it?

It does to me when I’m not actively LIVING in both places at once. It does when I’m not talking daily on Skype or going back and forth with emails in “your morning, my evening.”

But perhaps that isn’t it exactly. Perhaps we just instinctively and naturally live in the PLACE we’re in, and when somebody leaves that place, they functionally de-materialize. Even when Judy goes down to the beach for a week, I immediately lose track of when she’s supposed to come back. It’s as though she gets all fuzzy, even though she’s in the same time zone.

I think we’ve entered the Time and Space Are The Same Thing discussion. Not truly a philosopher, and hearing the voices upstairs having breakfast and feeling my stomach telling me loudly that I need to be there as well… I will put off THAT rumination. Consider this the beginning of a conversation.

Bus Trip Back from Pokhara

[Email to Jean-Francois] It was a grueling ordeal from beginning to end, but I kept repeating that the difference between an ordeal and an adventure is attitude. The road is really bad and you know what the driving is like, passing passing, even when you can’t see around the corner. So my insides were sloshed all around in my body as the bus jolted along the potholes. I couldn’t decide whether that was making me sicker or not.

I finally went to the back of the bus and took up the whole big back seat. That seemed to help the most. I dozed a bit, and sort of meditated on my insides sloshing up and down. I woke up feeling better. I’m still coughing some and I have that diarrhea that feels like pissing out the butt. I am having black tea with sugar, but I was so hungry from having one piece of toast this morning that I poured myself a helping of those hot Indian snacks. It may make me sicker too, but what the hell.

I sat next to this young Israeli guy who totally agreed with me that it’s all about attitude. I said, “It’s harder to have a good attitude when you’re sick.” And he said,”I was on a 17 hour van ride in Mongolia and spent the whole time puking. I look back on that as an adventure.” He said he sat in a window seat, but when he was throwing up, they would stop the van for a few minutes for him. Don’t you just love travelers! You feel like shit, but they puked for 17 hours in Mongolia. Just perfect.

I spent right around $100 altogether for this four-day trip to Pokhara. The plane was going to cost $119, but the bus was about $9 instead. If I could have gotten out of Pokhara before next Thursday, I’d have stayed just to avoid the bus. But nothing to do but just put my head down and get through it. I have apparently survived.

The Mobile Office

What’s in my mobile office? Here’s the list:

  • 13” MacBook Pro
  • Charge cord for the Mac
  • Foam/Cloth case for the Mac
  • Big heavy book: Switching to the Mac: The Missing Manual
  • Lightweight second screen.
  • Foam/cloth case for the 2nd screen
  • Connection cord for 2nd screen that has two other USB ports
  • 1TB Backup unit with (theoretically) all my computer files from all my computers
  • iPad
  • Charge cord with USB and plug
  • iPhone
  • Charge cord with USB and plug
  • Battery pack for charging iPhone and iPad with four USB ports— can be used with an electrical outlet to recharge the pack, or be plugged into a computer
  • Cord for plugging battery pack into a computer. Same cord also charges my Nook
  • Nook with 12 books to read
  • Charge cord and plug for the Nook.
  • Multi-USB charging station for charging four USB-using devices.
  • Two adapter plugs for Nepal

Two sets of earplugs, one with mic near the mouth

  • One set of headphones
  • Reading glasses
  • Notebook/Journal
  • Pens
  • Kanban mini white board
  • Kanban kit with stickies, dry erase pen.