Wednesday, March 09, 2005

ok - so back to basics...

Having totally failed with my advanced gadgetry-based previous couple of posts, I am now returning to basics and typing this live – the only ‘cyber’ I have found where I can plug in my laptop and browse with that seems totally unable to log me onto my blog page to upload things. L

Since I last posted – I am sure most of you haven’t made it through all that dribble yet? – I have been in to the hospital everyday from about half nine till 3. I have seen quite a bit more minor trauma now, and had the opportunity not only to practice suturing, but also to teach some basics to the local interns, who, while being far brighter than me in a book-sense, are rather inexperienced and subsequently lack confidence and clinical skills.

Yesterday was a national festival and all the kids were off school. On the way to the hospital first thing, we were stopped twice by children – some as young as three or four – who were holding up the roads with bits off string tied together and pulled across the carriageway! The little tykes were demanding money to allow vehicles to pass! Suspecting them of having little else to keep them busy while they were off school (though this doesn’t go on at the weekend…) I gave them a few rupees and made my way. On the way home, however, by the fifth or sixth time the taxi was stopped the driver was getting a little frustrated and started just honking and accelerating towards the small kids. I am amazed noone was injured!

I have subsequently read in my lonely planet/rough guide that it is part of the national holiday and the children are collecting money for firewood for their celebratory bonfires later in the evening! If I had known this at the time, I may have been a little more supportive, but I imagine they made themselves a small fortune anyway…

We decided to go and observe some of the celebrations seeing as the center of it all was only ten minutes away by cab… Needless to say, the streets were jam-packed and we made little headway in the taxi. It only being about 30-40mins walks, we paid and abandoned the driver and wandered off against the throngs of people coming the other way. There was much jubilation with some singing and drums amongst small groups; and some groups of young men were lunging around as if drunk…

We arrived at the Pushpatinath, which was heralded by a brilliant lighted gateway, with thousands of bright, flickering lights. Obligatory photos out of the way, we continued through the gates and down towards considerable crowds. At the bottom of the hill, a huge queue snaked its way away from us, and while tempted to join, we thought it wise to at least find out what we were letting ourselves in for.

Having muscled our way towards the front, and still unable to see what the queue was for, we estimated it might take three or four hours to reach the front! So we instead decided to find somewhere for a spot of dinner. We ended up in a restaurant called “Rinky and Dinky”, which I had spotted on the way. We experimented with ‘Buff’, which is local water buffalo – obviously they don’t eat beef over here – in various dishes. It is rather like beef jerky, I guess – quite bland and very dry and chewy – even in a chili sauce!

Film with the sherpas and millet whiskey
We were invited down to watch a film with Rita Sherpa family the other night, and, mostly because we felt it rude to refuse, we accepted. The film was about a sherpa community and was, obviously, set in the Himalayas. I actually really enjoyed it, despite having to read the whole thing; the cinematography and scenery were particularly impressive!

During the brief interlude caused by changing discs, we were offered a drink. Thinking coke or perhaps an Everest beer, I agreed. Ang Rita’s wife brought a red sigg bottle (usually used to contain stove fuel) and some glasses, while he explained that she had made some “millet whisky”! I couldn’t get past the idea of it being stove fuel and so that is all I could taste. Not particularly strong as whisky goes, this still brought tears to the eyes, and with the understandable reflex heartburn came a wave of nausea. “hmm, interesting!”, I said, and put the glass back on the table. Nish actually said he liked it (he has a cold atm), so I guessed we had to finish it! I waited for the nausea to pass and had another sip. This went on for some time until, eventually, just as the credits were rolling, I finished the last bit. Immediately, as if by sixth sense, Mrs Rita Sherpa jumped to her feet and started to offer more. It is very rude to refuse Nepali hospitality, but I thought it more polite than ruining her meticulously clean carpets…

Planned mountain flight
I have also arranged with Ang Rita a Himalayan Mountain flight for this Saturday morning – apparently this involves an hour’s early morning viewing of THE big hills from above, in a tiny, poorly maintained aeroplane (only joking mum – they’re quite big actually!). Really looking forward to it, and the photographic opportunities it will hopefully offer.

Local peak expedition
Nish and I are also planning a mini trek of our own for one weekend: we plan on conquering one of the small peaks on the west of the city, from whence, apparently, there are wonderful views of the Himalayas. They are about 2600m so will require an overnight at the summit. We still have to negotiate the logistics of this, but I am confident my new sleeping bag will be adequate! More about this later.



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