Utilising the new rule that bringing an item that was ‘on the shelf’ into proper use count towards the total, I am inching my way towards 100 items. And today I finally framed and hung my mandala, purchased in Nepal in 2014. Nepal was a bit of a horror show in terms of travelling; I’ve never really had any issues on any trip before, but in the space of 2 weeks I got:
- Massive swollen tendonitis thing in my right ankle on the flight out – lasted just up until…
- Food poisoning halfway through the first week from eating cooked rat – lasted 7 days, 4 days before I could eat anything, and I still cannot see dal bhat without wanting to vom everywhere.
- Horrific head cold/chest infection – started at the end of 1st week, overlapping with food poisoning and lasted for 2 weeks solid, with a constant barking cough**
- Lost my passport – 10 hour before we were due to leave for the airport to fly home, and then have to pay $200 to get it couriered back from the town you left it in
I truly don’t understand how my close friend, who had to try and sleep through my incessant coughing for 7 nights, didn’t push me off a mountainous ledger. Because throughout all of the second week, I had to actually exert myself as well, trekking in the foothills of the Himalayas.
BUT thank god for that trek. As the first week had been a build with Action Aid in the flat border lands near India. It was hard work, and hard living, and combined with the illness I can’t honestly say I massively enjoyed it. Unlike Cambodia the previous year, I also wondered as to the effectiveness of our intervention; we were supporting a section of Nepalese population who had recently been freed from indentured servitude. Whilst building them secure housing was great, the problem was spelt out to me by the local guide – the plots given to the people were too small to do anything above subsistence farming, and Nepal, like India, continues to run a caste system. So whilst the people were now free, which was excellent, the chance of improving their lives and the lives of their family was severely impeded by the society they lived in. And no amount of foreign aid can really resolve that.
Anyway, by the time we got back to Kathmandu at the end of the 1st week I was pretty ready to leave Nepal. But, after some amazing sights in Kathmandu (and the purchase of said mandala picture), we arrived in the Himalayas and everything got a bit better. Sure, I still felt sick, couldn’t breathe through my nose, coughed every 5 seconds, and hadn’t eaten anything, but even the foothills of those mountains are worth all that and more.
And honestly, I have to go back and see more. And that is why the mandala is so important to get up; to remind me that you can be horribly ill, have to live in a tent and shower under a bucket, lose your passport and $200, but that some things are so spectacular, so incredible, that they will blow that all away and in the end, you’ll only really remember the good times.
** This cold thing re-occurred (I’m not even kidding) for 5 months. I seriously thought I had either – early onset menopause, TB (despite being vaccinated) or some kind of cancer. For 2 months I woke up drenched in sweat each night, like wet through t-shirt. The cough came back 4 separate times, and it didn’t truly do away until I took 2 week off work for a ‘holiday’, and which I spent 1.5 weeks lying on the sofa feeling pitiful. So hopefully when the next plague strikes, I’ve already had a mild version of it, because that’s what it felt like.