March 5, 2012

A Rough Start: Day ONE, Back in My Beloved Nepal. Slow Down, You Move Too Fast!

The Kantipur Temple House, my home in Kathmandu.
When I arrived, the panic was kicking into high gear.

Slow down! Stop and think! Easy does it!

I've been repeating these mantras for years. At age 82, I need to practice – not just say -- them. But a lifetime of “act first, think later” is tough to reverse.

The start of my return to Nepal for Nimesh's wedding was a classic example of the trouble I cause for myself. Fortunately, I'm also usually very well-organized. Days before the trip -- whenever I thought of something to take -- I'd toss it on the bed in the guest bedroom. The day before the trip, I went through the pile, discarding anything that wasn't really essential, and sorting the rest into separate piles – underwear, socks, handkerchiefs, pants, shirts, etc.

Organizing my important medications for the trip was important, so I bought a pill organizer with 28 compartments. It offers four compartments (morning, noon, evening, and bedtime) for each day of the week. This arrangement is perfect for me, since I take my key Parkinson’s med (levadopa/carbidopa) four times a day, every six hours. That med helps keep me steady, so staying on schedule is important.

My planning was good, but I didn’t allow enough time on Wednesday for an easy, smooth packing process.  A friend picked me up at 6:30 for the drive to the airport. When we got there, I realized I'd forgotten the sport coat I'd planned to wear to the wedding and on the plane. In the pocket of the missing jacket, I had an envelope with Nepali rupees to use for tips, until I could get to an ATM. OK, not the end of the world….

Qatar Airline's business class on the 12-hour Dulles-Doha flight was excellent. It had two business-class compartments, but all of us were in the first cabin. After dinner, I moved to the empty second cabin, took a window seat in the back row, and had the place to myself. Nice!

The plane landed in Doha at 6pm on Thursday, and the Doha-Kathmandu flight didn't leave until 4 o’clock Friday morning. So an airline rep drove me to a fancy hotel in downtown Doha, where I enjoyed a huge buffet supper, a shower, and five hours of sleep. Business class on the smaller plane for this second leg wasn't as fancy. But the three and a half hour trip went quckly, thanks to a good conversation with my seatmate -- an Indian employee at the World Bank who’s been working on projects in Nepal for several years. She offered some interesting insights about Nepal today.
So far, so good, aside from the forgotten coat. Maybe even my best-ever flight to Nepal… except for the trouble I was about to cause for myself. Why couldn’t I heed my mantras? Slow down! Stop and think! If only I had!

I started getting anxious on the plane when I discovered I’d under-supplied the Parkinson's pills I needed to take on the flight. As a result, I needed to stretch out the interval between the last couple of pills to nine hours rather than the usual six. This mistake made me that much more anxious to get my suitcase and my fancy new pill container. I started thinking, “Suppose, in my rush to pack, I completely forgot the pill container?” Blood pressure rising....

Having successfully set this panic attack in motion, I then decided that my luggage had been lost when I didn't see it on the conveyor belt at the KTM airport. I rushed over to the Qatar Air agent, who advised that the luggage might be on the next flight, which would arrive about 4pm. More panic! Briefly composing myself, I checked the area around the conveyor belt to see if someone else had offloaded my suitcase. Sure enough, there it was, tucked among some large shipping crates Major meltdown averted. Had I learned my lesson about over-reacting and panicking?

I finally checked in at Kathmandu’s Kantipur Temple House, where I always stay, feeling shaky from the long interval since my last Parkinson's med. Inside my comfortable room, I tore open the suitcase and dumped out the contents to find the pill container. It wasn't there. My first reaction was to call Nimesh, because his brother and sister-in-law were both med school graduates who had practiced in KTM hospitals. Surely, they could quickly get the meds for me. But the only place I had Nimesh’s telephone number was in my iPhone, which – NO! – had a dead battery. (In my haste back home, I had packed the cord that attaches the phone to the computer, but not the charger.)

The hotel staff referred me to a health clinic, which advised me that they could get me an emergency supply of the crucial Parkinson's meds. At 7pm, the clinic rep called to advise the pills were ready for me to pick up. I hailed a cab, drove to the clinic, and paid only $10 for 40 pills – an unthinkable bargain in the U.S. On the cab ride back to my hotel, the driver got lost (in my pill panic, I’d neglected to take the hotel card with info and directions with me) so I asked him to drop me off instead at the well-known Kathmandu Guest House in the heart of the Thamel tourist district -- familiar territory to me.

It was a pleasant evening, I had finally taken my long-delayed evening pill, and decided to have supper at the Northfield Cafe. Then I strolled down the street -- crowded with people, motorbikes, bicycle-rickshaws, cars and taxis -- to the bookstore owned by Nimesh's family, and where our friendship began ten years ago. After a good chat with Nimesh's parents (and picking up my formal wedding invitation), I grabbed a cab back to the hotel.

At 11pm, I was ready to hit the sack after my anxiety-filled first day back in Nepal – troubles I had caused all by myself. But first, I had to take my bedtime pill from the clinic's supply. I turned around to put the remaining` pills in my toiletry kit and… THERE WAS MY “LOST” PILL CONTAINER, with its four-week supply of all my meds. (I always put the toiletry kit on the top layer when  I pack. So in my panicked arrival in the room, I had grabbed the kit and hung  it in it`s usual place on the back of`the bathroom door before dumping the suitcase's contents out in my frantic search for the meds.)

Is it true that all’s well that ends well? YES! It’s now a couple days since my arrival debacle, and I feel great!

Slow down! Stop and think! Easy does it!


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Kathy Muller said...

May I add my voice to your internal chorus?  Yes, slow down and enjoy every minute.  And cut yourself a little slack;  everyone misplaces these items in the disorientation of travel.  So long as you haven't misplaced your mascara or your dental night guard...

John said...

I worry about misplacing my dentures (remember your advice years ago?) not my dental night guard. As long as I retain my ability to laugh at myself, I'll survive.