Saturday was an odd day, but I won’t go into any detail here. Things occurred which I have yet to deal with both emotionally and logistically, and I know this sounds really cryptic, but once I’ve wrapped my brain around it, I’ll probably have enough word count to fill a book.
What I will talk about though is Olesia’s pre-birthday birthday dinner on Saturday night. We went to a restaurant in Lakeside called “Once Upon a Time” (quite a few places here have really inventive names; the language school which Prem, our Nepali teacher, runs is an easy winner with “Cosmic Brontosaurus”). We had dinner, and I got to catch up with George and Daniela who had both spent the previous week in Nalma treating patients in the remote village. Then after dinner Olesia went to the toilet, and Claire and George ran over once she got inside and essentially locked her inside by holding the handle shut, whilst her surprise birthday cake was adorned with candles. Not many people get held hostage on their pretend birthday in Nepal, I’m sure, but now I know of at least one person who has. Unfortunately when she was released from the loo, the fan did a great job of blowing all the candles out so a quick reset was required, but I think this all just added to the charm of the evening. Afterwards we went to the downstairs area of the restaurant where they have a TV and semi-decent DVD collection, but due to Nepal’s licensing laws, we were kicked out of the bar just as Ocean and his 11 were about to break into the casino’s vault. It was nice only having a 5 minute walk back to the hotel rather than having to argue with taxi drivers over the fare back to Srijana Chowk (where the house is) and it was even nicer to have my second hot shower of the day.
I slept really well as not only was the bed quite comfy but the fan kept the room at a perfect temperature, and even without a mosquito net (there was nowhere to hang it from) I only got bitten a couple of times, and with the state of my legs at the moment it’s not like you’d notice. They’re still recovering from that night up on the roof watching the eclipse when I forgot to apply any DEET.
On Sunday I washed my underwear in the sink with a bar of soap (omg glamour) and took the rest of my clothes to a “laundry service” nearby. I’ve not had my laundry done by someone else in many many years, and I kind of have a hang-up about it from using the launderette when I first moved to Portsmouth. Some of my underwear went missing, I acquired some that wasn’t mine, and on a couple of occasions pubic hair belonging to a redhead was discovered on my bra, and while I doubt that’ll happen out here, it’s not fair to expect someone else to scrub my pants.
But enough about that. I spent my last full day in Pokhara down by the lake; I was going to rent a canoe and head over to the peace pagoda but it was swarming with tourists and I really didn’t fancy it. I’m sure it’s beautiful and I know I’ve missed out, but this is not my only trip to Nepal, I will be back; if only to implement a draconian infection control regimen in the hospitals here, because this place is heading face first into an anti-biotics crisis without one.
I also visited the Destitute Children’s Home to drop off the donations I’d brought from home. There was nothing fancy, just some ASDA toothbrushes, toothpaste, colouring pencils and exercise books, but those kids made such an impression on me that instead of giving a handful of stuff to a few different places I decided to give it all to them. I think I should also write a letter to Dipti and Hazi encouraging them to continue with their aspirations of teaching and engineering as I was so pleased to hear of their ambitions.
Speaking of donations, in the first week at the hospital I signed up to donate blood (I’m O negative which can be given to anyone in an emergency) as I won’t be able to donate for 6 months after returning home. They don’t have any storage facilities though so they took my phone number and address and told me they’d get in touch as soon as they needed me. We were also joking in the house that in the event of any of them requiring a transfusion, I’d be cannulated in seconds, although after all the mossie bites I got in Chitwan it’s a good job that I never got the call. What are the symptoms of malaria again?
In the evening a few of us met up to trawl the shops where I bought some paintings and some tea- don’t expect much in the way of gifts when I get back, I had to sacrifice a pair of shoes and a towel in order to make room for the stuff. Then Anna and I went to the Olive Cafe for dinner, which was wonderful; I had a delicious carbonara and they even cooked Anna a breakfast omelette. It was my first meal there and it’s just typical that I found a really good restaurant on my last night in town (now I’ve got Ben Folds Five in my head…). Afterwards a load of us met up at the infamous Busy Bee bar, where I got to meet the two new guys in the house who were really nice so I’m sure they’ll fit in perfectly. I also met a guy called Tom who just happened to be passing through, and told me that he was starting a Radiography degree this September.
I hope I didn’t scare him too much with talk of Year 2 hell, but at least he’s got a while before he has to endure it, and if I survived anyone can. It was weird talking about home stuff while in a Nepalese bar, but even weirder when I got chatting to Stephanie, a chemistry teacher from the states who, after seeing my tattoo, told me about her friend who has mathematical integers tattooed on both his arms, because I’m almost certain that there’s someone fitting that description who’s also in Carl Zimmer’s Science Ink book coming out this year.
For those who are unaware, last year I was on my way out of the houses of parliament after the Libel Lobby when a guy commented on my tattoo and asked if it was on the Science Tattoo Emporium website, it wasn’t, but I sent a photo in shortly after and now there’s a book coming out in Autumn which I’ll be in along with hundreds of other inked geeks.
So there were two weird coincidences in one evening which was more than enough for me so a few of us went to play pool for a bit. I should add here that I am terrible at pool. In fact, anything requiring a degree of hand-eye coordination tends to be out of my skill set, but we played three’s up and the other two on my team managed to kick arse and we emerged victorious, which was a perfect end to my last night in Pokhara. Although as my friends started leaving that annoying dust must have been in the air again because my eyes got all leaky, so I may have given them all the impression that I’m a human being capable of emotions rather than an unfeeling robot. I’ll see about changing that impression when we meet up for a reunion in Manchester.
I genuinely hadn’t expected to make such good friends during my time here- I knew I was going to be sharing amazing experiences with people as we’d be in the same house and hospital, but I feel like there was more to it than that and I hope we can stay in contact as I know that they’re going to have really interesting lives and careers ahead of them.
I walked back in the rainy darkness skilfully avoiding cow shit and puddles with my newly acquired night vision (IT WASN’T LUCK) and thinking about what is yet to come. I had been hoping to avoid Kathmandu as much as possible, but it would be shame to miss it, and at least this way I don’t have to endure it again when I return. Also this way there is a much more reduced risk of missing my flight home as I’ll have 36 hours between returning from the Last Resort and the plane taking off.
Shit. My time really is running out here.