Saturday, 28 April 2012

Nepal (April 13-26, 2012) An empty office, a zoo and a hospital!

Hello from Kathmandu...

...and not from the retreat! If you've been loitering facebook you may have noticed that I didn't end up volunteering at the Vipassana retreat. I packed up my bags on the morning of the 13th, checked out of my hostel, walked to the office and it was closed for Nepali New Year! I stood and stared at the locked door for a good 5 minutes trying to decide what to do next. In the end I just walked back to my hostel and explained that I would need my room back, lol. I emailed the Vipassana people, but I never heard back from them (which is just as well I suppose because my banking situation and my intestines then proceeded to fall apart).

After checking back into the hostel I went to email Mom to let her know what had happened and I had an email from her saying that my bank had called to say my debit card was compromised. Now, if you've been following along you will remember that my Visa card was compromised a few weeks back and I've not been able to use it since. Back to the phone booth for Vicki! I was able to get in touch with Scotiabank, who assured me that there had been no bizarre activity on my card and that they didn't know what I was talking about. This made sense after some confusing emails back and forth with Mom where I realized it was CIBC that had called. Back to the phone booth! The confusion had been that Mom had tried to wire me money from my CIBC account to my Scotia account and CIBC had flipped their lids. In all my great wisdom, I explained this to the CIBC lady:
CIBC lady: "So your Mom wired you money from her CIBC account?"
Vicki: "No, from my account."
CIBC lady: "How did she access your CIBC account?"
Vicki: "I gave her the password."
[in hindsight I should not have said this]
CIBC lady: reprimands Vicki
Vicki: ...
CIBC lady: "Why didn't you just do the transfer yourself?"
Vicki: "Because I haven't wanted to access my CIBC accounts or online banking from Nepal in case they are compromised."
CIBC lady: "Well, that's not a problem, you are protected from internet fraud. Simply download our software protection program before you access your online banking."
Vicki: "I am using public computers. I can't download anything."
CIBC lady: "Oh."
Vicki: "THAT'S RIGHT!"

I didn't say this last bit, but I wanted to. In any case, my CIBC accounts are now of little use to me and I am down to a single debit card, lol. It was at this point that I realized I was not going to be able to withdraw enough money daily to make it through Jordan, and I would have had no way to book an emergency flight or pay for a large hospital bill in Jordan (here at least I have friends and know where the nearest Western Union is, lol). After a few days of deliberation I decided to cancel the Jordan leg and book a flight straight to London (and by "book" I really mean "get my Mom to book" as the airline only accepts Visa cards, lol). So now I am in Kathmandu until May 8th and go straight to London to stay with a fellow volunteer I met in Pokhara

The next day I spent the day at the Patan Zoo, which was actually pretty awesome, considering I'm in Nepal. My favourites were the massive griffons and the sloth bears. To the first, I always thought that griffons were fairytale creatures, so it was exciting for me to discover that they actually exist (and are huge and ferocious looking). And sloth bears had become celebrities among the other volunteers and I. Before we went to Chitwan, we had read that these were the most feared creatures in the jungle, that they had large claws and always attack the genitals and the eyes. We didn't see any in Chitwan (mercifully), so it was super exciting to see them at the zoo (and yes, their claws are impressively long... though I did not see them used on any genitalia that particular day). After leaving the sloth bear exhibit I watched the zoo keepers bring out an elephant to wander through the park. The Nepali mothers dress up their children and take pictures of them with the elephants ("because the elephant is their God" the zoo keeper whispered to me, lol). By the end of the day I had a pretty bad fever and after returning to Kathmandu passed out with dreams of sloth bear attacks (not really). It was time for my small intestine to strike!

Vicki wakes up. Oh man, I have to pee! What time is it? Only 5:30am?! I'm totally going back to sleep after this [Vicki is peeing]. Oh dear lord, what is happening?! [Vicki discovers that her intestines have just decided to loose themselves]. Well that was bizarre, I hope that doesn't happen again. Oh man, I have to fart. It wasn't a fart!!! It was NOT a fart!! Was it the bananas? I didn't notice any mould on them... was I really checking though? Oh no it is happening again! Repeat for 48 hours, lol (I think that was just enough detail!). On the third night I had the most debilitating bloating of life (small intestine is waging war), I expanded 5 inches in diameter, and that is no small feat! I lay (laid?) there feeling like a bloated balloon until midnight when I decided "enough of this, I am going to the hospital!" I did a quick check of my Lonely Planet Guide and found two hospitals in the Kathmadu Valley... there was the Patan Hospital and the Bir Hospital, the latter of which carried the description "Where terminally ill Nepalis come to die. Not recommended." Patan it is! I left the guesthouse and walked down to one of the other guesthouses with 24-hour desk service. Unfortunately the staff were incredibly high and unable to interpret "please call me a taxi!" Luckily there were a few taxis loitering around Thamel, so I was on my way. I would like to contest that taxi rides in Asia are more terrifying at night when there is no traffic around (this may run counter to intuition). At one point the spedometer hit 130 and I was acutely aware that neither one of us were wearing a seat belt... are there ever even seat belts to wear?! (Dear God, please keep the Nepali dogs and cows on the side of the road). Luckily we both made it alive!

I will note here that the description for the Patan Hospital in the guide was "Arguably the best hospital in the Kathmandu Valley." Mighty sneaky word play on the part of the authors. The reception area is connected to triage, where seas of stretchers are filled with groaning Nepali people. I was the only Western person there, and maybe the first they'd seen give that I was instantly THE most interesting thing to watch (what is this bald white lady doing here? I don't know, let's stare. Good idea.). Your brief consultation with the doctor takes place in the triage centre, so everyone knows what everyone else has. I believe most Nepali people there don't speak much English, but even they would have gathered that I had diarrhea and bloating given my strange waddle, lol. I was told to go to counter 13 and 20 and then left to fend for myself. The rest of the hospital was pitch black, so I wandered the dark corridors trying to find these rooms (made more difficult because all the numbers were written in Nepali, lol). Eventually I went back to triage and made one of the nurses take me to them. The pharmacy was first where they gave me rehydration salts, the laboratory I could have found if I had simply followed my nose. I will not relate the details of my stool sample, but I will say that it is a small miracle they didn't find anything there and if I ever decide to donate to the hospital I will suggest that they invest in a sink and soap, because how can you not have that?! The nurse then told me that the sample wouldn't be run for another 9 hours, but I could stay in the hospital and wait? That would have meant sleeping in the dark corridors filled with Nepali men, so I opted to taxi back and eat cookies all through the night (because if my intestines aren't going to function and I have to be bloated, I might as well take the opportunity to ingest delicious calories that won't be absorbed, am I right?).

The next morning I taxied back to the hospital (which is much more inviting in the daytime) and waited in the triage area for the nurse to tell me they didn't find anything, but would I like some medication for the bloating? At that point a motorcycle accident swept through the doors and I was quickly forgotten (which is just as well, because the amount of blood was about to add "nausea" to my list of symptoms). Back to Kathmandu! I wish I could add something interesting to the next week, but I basically sat on the toilet and ate cookies. Oh! I did move to a new hotel, because it seemed imperative that I move to a room with its own toilet (I'm sure the people sharing my bathroom were getting suspicious as to why the door was always locked and why when they could access it the floor was littered with plastic cookie box liners). I'm now staying at a place called Hotel Radiant and it's great, I even have a TV! (though it works only when the power is on, and if you've been to Nepal you know that that is rarely, lol). I even got to watch an episode of Dexter the other night (and if I leave the door open I can even see the TV from the toilet.WIN!). The owner of the hotel is this old Nepali man with the fattest dog I have ever seen (poor thing has cataracts and barks at anything that moves). The staff members are really nice and all my favourite restaurants are within 2 minutes walking distance!

A few days ago I went to watch Battleship in the cinema (throw some popcorn in there to mix up my cookie diet, eh), it was so deliciously terrible! The best part was that I found 2 other cinemas on the way to the right cinema, and I believe that's a talent. The other day someone in a cafe asked me if I knew anywhere good to see a movie; not only could I tell him where all 4 were, I could even name all the movies currently playing and the showtimes... by cinema. I am a walking Nepal encyclopedia. On the 25th a fellow volunteer got back from the Vipassana retreat, it's been so nice to share experiences! I signed Mariah and I up for the canyon swing at Last Resort, which took place yesterday, but I will dedicate a separate post to that! Stay tuned for my embarrassing footage... 

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