happiness is...

happiness is...
kenya 2010

Friday, May 18, 2012

BYOT (bring your own toilet paper)

today has been quite a day!

i am going to start by saying that a lot of this wasn't my fault but i'll learn from it, anyway.

i woke up this morning to more of the same- confusion as to what continued to be affected by the strike, and whether or not i'd be able to travel to dadeldhura today. my host called up to TEAM hospital in dadeldhura (DDH) to see if doug, the medical director, had news but he didn't have a definitive answer at that point. what he did have was a bus accident on his hands, and 30 patients to care for as a result. it looked like we'd have to figure it out ourselves. the plan was to leave for the airport at 1045am to catch my 1230 flight. that changed. flora, the girl i went shopping and exploring with yesterday, called and said that she found a driver who would ignore the bandha and drive us to the airport but he wanted to leave right away when it was safer. evidently, the later the day the higher the tensions. instead of 1045, we were leaving at 9:15. did i mention we got the call at about 9:05? well, guess who waited until the last minute to pack so wasn't prepared for such a hasty departure? yep....me. i shoved everything i could into my suitcase and backpack and ran out the door. there wasn't time to purchase a cell phone so we put a SIM card we'd purchased the day before into an old phone my host had at the house, and programmed 3 numbers into it. flora's, my hosts (marcy) and doug in DDH. in the car, i took out the phone to play around with it and make sure i knew how to operate it. that's when i noticed it had one battery bar. i was hoping it would last since there are no outlets or charging stations at the kathmandu airport. oh- and i don't have a charger that fits that phone. :/

we arrived at the airport. no one there could tell me if the flight would go. flora wasn't allowed into the building, so the plan was for her to wait until 1130 in the taxi. i would text "okay" if the flight was going and "wait" if it wasn't, and i needed transport back to marcy's. there are no departure screens or electronic info available. there are two desks for yeti airlines (yes, you heard that right) and you know the flight you're checking in for because they tack up a printed piece of paper with the name of the destination on it. period. no departure time, no flight number. just white paper with a name. all i could do was wait and see if my paper got tacked up. at around 11:10, the guy behind one of the desks seemed to get enough of my english that i believed he knew what he was saying when he said the flight would go. i texted "okay" to flora and sent her off.

the plane was a 2 prop deal, with no overhead compartments so your carry-ons are on your lap, and the flight attendant's seat is literally in the bathroom. you fold up her jump seat and pull this knob that says "toilet". a small panel in the wall pulls away revealing a toilet. that panel swings past you to block the view of the toilet and you hold it shut while you pee. i made a mental note never again to drink fluids before or during the flight to or from dhanghadi.

when we landed, we landed in "strike zone".

the bandha was in full effect and there were no vehicles on the road and the airport was non-functional. we disembarked on the runway and 30+ machine gun wielding officers directed us around the building to a dirt patch where they dropped our bags and told us to start walking. a man came from the crowd and told me "there is someone coming for you." that was music to my ears. i grabbed my bags and headed the 1/4 mile to the security gate with the others. just inside the gate were rickshaws and men on motorcycles to take travelers the 1-2 miles into town. i didn't see my driver, so i waited. i was told that the hospital vehicle was going to take me to DDH so that is what i was looking for. after 15 or 20 minutes, i approached an ambulance to see if he was waiting for me. he wasn't. i went back to the gate and waited some more. i chanced my battery and called marcy who called doug for me. evidently, my rickshaw left with someone else aboard. i was told that another would come for me in 20-30 minutes. at this point, it was just me and the 30+ armed officers on a road in the desert. a couple of them kept pointing down the road and saying "go" but i took advantage of the language barrier and just stood my ground, pretending i didn't understand. there were no buildings except a few rundown shacks/homes as far as the eye could see. i wasn't about to head down that road with no destination and a nearly dead battery. about an hour after the second rickshaw was supposed to arrive, i talked to doug again. he had no idea what had happened but would find out and call back. i had to tell him that at any minute, my phone could die. we agreed that no matter what, i would stay put until someone arrived that was coming specificially for me and knew my name and where i was headed. even if my phone died, he said- stay put. someone will come.

at this point, the officers left. now, instead of me and 30+ armed officers, it was just me. periodically, an old nepali woman would come and sit across from me and watch me. i would say something in english. she would say something in nepali. we would both just smile...and i would continue reading and she would continue staring at me.

then a young boy joined the fun. he was bold enough to stand right next to me and stare down at me sitting on the side of the road. he, too, would wander away and then return on occasion to entertain himself. finally, doug called back. a guy was headed my way in a blue car and he was going to take me to a hotel where i'd stay overnight. the driver said it was too unsafe to travel today and especially at night- so we'd start in the morning and head up the mountain. in about 10 minutes (2 hours after landing), a silver car arrived. yep- silver. not blue. i asked the driver if he was there for me and guess what? no english. he sort of smiled, picked up my bags, and headed for the car. i had a decision to make. i decided i had enough of sitting on the side of the road in the terai. at least for today. i climbed in the car and thank god he brought me to a hotel. that's the upside... the hotel itself is the downside. ugh.

there are stains on the sheets, stains above the beds, a toilet that doesn't flush, a bucket to pour water down the toilet that doesn't flush, a showerhead right in the middle of the room (between the door and the toilet) so you just let the water run all over the floor in the bathroom...the cold water because there is no hot...and it is BYOT. Bring Your Own Toilet paper. it is, for nepal, probably a 5 star hotel. beware- that rating system isn't the same everywhere. haha. it beats sitting in the sun in the desert, though, so tonight it will be my palace. i will eat my turkey jerky and dry roasted almonds because the rest of my food melted (even the tiniest chocolate chips can make a monster mess) and the staff here speaks less english than my driver- who spoke none. i don't think i have the energy to pantomime food prep- so jerky it is. it'll be good for me. after yesterday's shopping spree, i'm determined to be more "nepali sized" when i return.

tomorrow, we try again.

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