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Asia Nepal

When You Flee India via Mount Everest

Everest Base Camp



I was completely blown away with the response I got from my last blog. I’ve never had so many shares, comments, and views. In three days I had over 600 people from 25 different countries read my blog. Yes! This is the most exciting thing to happen to me in months. Seriously, I check my blog stats like a crazy person and get really excited when anyone comments. I then wondered how I would ever top that, especially since yesterday my Indian visa expired so I had to flee the country.

No, I’m not back in the US. Despite how much I complain about India (sorry, Indian friends), I’m not ready to leave. Since I can’t convert my employment visa to a tourist visa while still in India, I’m currently sitting in Kathmandu, Nepal! I’m going to apply for the 30-day e-tourist visa which usually takes about 4 days to process. I considered just waiting a few days while my tourist visa processes and returning to Chandigarh to write full time. But then I thought, “why not make it a memorable visa run?”

So I’m climbing Mount Everest.

Ok, so not for real. But sort of. More or less, I am “climbing around Mount Everest.” A friend jokingly quoted this to me a few months ago (its from a movie, I have no idea which one). But now, reflecting, that’s basically what I am doing. To actually climb Mountain Everest (to the summit) you need about $100,000 USD, months of acclimatizing, and years of experience. Let’s be honest, I don’t want to spend $100,000 that way (if I had it). Also, I’m just not that in shape and I’m 100% fine with not being in “Climbing Mt. Everest shape.” I also don’t love heights. And I hate cold. So I don’t think it’s right for me.

But I am trekking to Everest Base Camp, so technically I’ll be at the base of Everest, which is (5,380 meters or 17,6000 feet). I’m pretty excited about the trek, though also questioning my own sanity. I did a trek to 3,600 meters last summer and thought I was dying. I’m extremely sensitive to altitude. Honestly, it’s probably going to be horrible. I’m expecting to complain most of the way.

But like I said in my last post, I spend a lot of time obsessed with my own mortality and in a month I could be 6-feet-under from a freak disease (I’ve had one), a gun/terrorist attack (see last blog post), or, let’s be honest, just crossing a street in Delhi (that many cars should not be in one place at one time going that fast). So I should take the opportunity now. And I tend to enjoy these things even when I hate these things (like scuba diving). Plus, it looks absolutely stunning and I love the idea of actually getting to stand on Everest, even if just a little bit.

The best part of EBC is that there are tea houses (little lodges) all the way up since people actually live in the area, which means I don’t have to camp. It also means I don’t have to hire a porter or a guide. This sounds riskier than it actually is. I visited Nepal in April and everyone I spoke to told me the same thing: there is no point in hiring a guide, there are so many people on the trek that you won’t get lost. Also, my colleague from Jaipur, April, put me in touch with a guy she met traveling in Northern India from the Netherlands. We met up yesterday and are going to go together (for at least some of the trek). So I won’t even be alone as I originally thought.

Most people fly to Lukla from Kathmandu. Instead, we are waking up and leaving at 4:30am in order to take a shared van to Salleri and we will walk a few extra days than required in order to better acclimatize. I found an itinerary from a travel company and we basically decided to just follow what they do (except not pay them or have a guide and just rough it on our own). It looks a bit like this:

Day 1: Drive to Salleri (9-10 hours)
Day 2: Salleri to Taksindo (5-6 hours)
Day 3: Taksindo to Kharikhola (5-6 hours)
Day 4: Kharikhola to Paiya (5-6 hours)
Day 5: Paiya to Phakding (5-6 hours)
Day 6: Phakding to Namache Bazaar (5-6 hours)
Day 7: Acclimatization Day
Day 8: Namache Bazaar to Tengbuche, 3870m (5-6 hours)
Day 9: Tengbuche to Dingbuche, 4350m (5-6 hours)
Day 10: Dingbuche to Loboche, 4950m (4-5 hours)
Day 11: Loboche to Gorakshep and to Everest Base Camp, 5365m (8-9 hours)
Day 12: Kalapatthar, 5545m to Pheriche, 4200m (6-7 hours)
Day 13: Pheriche to Namache Bazaar (5-6 hours)
Day 14: Namache Bazaar to Lukla (5-6 hours)
Day 15: Fly from Lukla to Kathmandu
Day 16: Return to India

You can see the actually itinerary here. Also, I booked a flight back to Lukla for September 17th instead of September 15th just to work in a few extra rest days/exploration day. I think my trekking partner wants to spent more time in the mountains than I do, so at some point we may split off. Let’s see.

People are living in all of these places, except for Everest Base Camp. But even there, the Everest mountaineers are essentially living there for a few months as they slowly ascend and descend Everest in order to get used to the altitude. Altitude is the biggest danger. I even bought travel insurance (which I NEVER do) just because one blog I read said that they saw 12 people airlifted off the mountain in 15 days from altitude sickness. Essentially, I paid $90 so that if this happens I won’t owe $25,000 to the Nepalese rescue services. Also, I read that the next biggest danger is yaks. People have been herded off the mountain by yaks passing on narrow paths. That sounds absolutely terrifying so I’ll try not to die by yak or altitude. Both sound like pretty obnoxiously strange and preventable ways to go out.

So, how does one prepare for trekking to EBC?

I spent a large chunk of the day buying supplies from a nice lady who gave us pretty decent discounts on everything in the store. I’m going to put the costs of everything for the trip so people can get a good sense of how much a trip would cost:

Kathmandu:
Hotel stay in Kathmandu for 2 nights: 800 rupees ($7.50)
Taxi from the airport: 1000 rupees ($9.30)
3 (nice) meals in Kathmandu: 1400 ($13)

Supplies:
Trekking Boots: 3800 rupees ($35.45)
Sleeping Bag rental: 65 rupees/day + 2000 rupee deposit ($18.65, which I will get back)
Coat +rain jacket with hood: 2500 rupees ($23)
Socks: 150 rupees ($1.40)
Sunglasses: 250 rupees ($2.33)
2 boxes of water purifying tablets (50 tablets/box): 400 rupees ($3.73)
Snacks (including medicinal lip ointment): 1900 rupees ($17.72)
Walking sticks: 750 rupees ($7)
Transportation:
Jeep from Kathmandu to Salleri: 2500 rupees ($23.32)
Permit: 3390 rupees ($31.62)

Total so far: 20,840 rupees ($194)

 

Everest Base Camp
New Equipment

 

Everest Camp Camp
More Important Equipment
Everest Base Camp
Apparently I’m assuming there will be no food for the next 15 days

Then we will be paying for places to stay, food, charging our phones, showers, etc… I’m planning to bring about 50,000 rupees with me (though I’ve read that people get by with much less). Since I’m not sure I will have internet for the next 12-20 days, keep a look out for my future stories which will (hopefully) be entertaining and not disastrous.

*Featured Photo from Kasol, India. It is NOT of Everest. But I’ll have plenty of those soon 😀

Asia India

Full Circle: One Year in India



One year and one week ago today, I stumbled sleep-deprived out of my plane and navigated my first 24 hours in India. It consisted of walking out of the Delhi airport into a cloud of polluted heat and finding out from my IIC-sponsored taxi at 2:30 in the morning that I did not, in fact, have my own hotel room for the first two weeks of training in Delhi, but I actually would have a roommate. Something IIC failed to notify me about. I then met said roommate (Priya) when I entered the hotel at 3am (luckily she was awake and we had a nice chat), slept for literally two hours, and then woke up for training. I remember really enjoying the two first weeks (mostly because I liked the hotel and my colleagues and India thus far). I also remember sitting in my room thinking about what things would be like a year from now.

I predicted that our project would run seamlessly. I envisioned myself succeeding brilliantly in the work, hopefully getting a job with MDSF or BCG, and being in the works of moving somewhere new. Everything would line up just right. I’d go to Rachel’s wedding, get a new visa, and be off somewhere exotic like South Africa. The only thing I was nervous about was living in Chandigarh. It sounded boring.

Needless to say literally none of that happened. Yesterday I finished my final presentation for my year-long project in India. The project was okay. I can’t stress how much I do not want to work with MSDF or BCG. Not that I am harboring negative feelings for the organizations, I just simply don’t want to pursue that line of work anymore. And to top off how bad I am at playing Ms. Cleo, I’m also staying in India. In Chandigarh, for that matter. Who would have thought?

I originally wrote a post attempting to articulate the top 5 things I’ve learned from living here. It was vomit-worthy. Entirely too sentimental. Not the type of writing I pride myself on. I’m not really a big fan of blogs where people talk about how much they have grown through traveling. Honestly, I generally sort of roll my eyes because I don’t like publicly talking about my feelings and it seems a bit self-indulgent. Like, really, a sunset in Spain made you feel like a more complete person? But I shouldn’t judge. Sunsets in Spain are pretty spectacular (so I assume). I’ll summarize the warm-fuzzies blog by saying that it’s made me rethink work culture, sex & dating, friendship, family, the meaning of “innovation,” and why/how people travel. But I’m not going to elaborate on those things on a blog. Instead, I’m going to share some anecdotes and some “very Indian” photos from the last year:

 

  • I recently return from Croatia and I am showing Rohit the three dresses I bought:
    Me: “So, I went in Mango in this nice mall in Zagreb and saw this beautiful red dress but they didn’t have it in my size. So I went to another mall and found it but then I liked it in green and purple too so I bought all of them. And, guess what? I got all three for the price of one!”
    Rohit: “How? By Bargaining?”
  • Priya is in the kitchen with her maid and a monkey jumps on her balcony, runs into the kitchen, opens the refrigerator door, takes out a package, and runs out again.
    Priya’s Maid: Did, what do you do about monkeys in America?
  • In a fancy hotel in Delhi the phone rings in the room. Kathy answers it.
    Kathy: “yes?”
    Pause
    Kathy: “What?”
    Pause
    Kathy: “….They are….very good?” *hangs up*
    Us: What was that about?
    Kathy: I think they called asking me for feedback on the hotel slippers….
  • After a conversation about the power of the dollar versus the rupee, I was trying to explain that there is begging in the US but not as much as in India. I was telling my friend here (who is a doctor) that you never see children begging and adults are begging primarily in the urban centers.
    Her: “Oh….Do they pay in dollars?”
  • It’s monsoon season. It literally has rained everyday for the entire summer. Today, Rohit looked out my window and said, “Oh! It’s raining!” and then ran screaming “bluhblahlalalala” through my house and out the door.
  • On the train from Chandigarh to Delhi, after getting our snacks and waiting for our ice cream, a man walked down the aisle handing out instant oatmeal. No hot water, no bowls, just the oatmeal packages.
  • Me: “I went tanning this morning.”
    Rohit: “How? The sun wasn’t working today.”

Now, some photos for your amusement:

The most efficient sink

 

cycle-bike-funny-india
(2) Vroom
Shimla
Monkeys everywhere stealing your stuff

 

bathroms India
Entering a creepy underground public toilet with a snoozing bathroom attendant

 

India Photos
Tourists flocked for photos

 

Indian School Bus
School bus walla (3)

 

Indian Innovation
This is just smart (4)
Child Labor India
Outside of KFC in Chandigarh

 

India Streets
This is pretty common (1)

 

Photo References:
1) http://www.bajiroo.com/
2) http://fun2video.in/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/cycle-bike-funny-india.jpg
3) http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-rZ9dFzNRRa4/Vac9SCfbI2I/AAAAAAAAA0w/TZlXuI3jRSg/s1600/1_1435984786.jpg
4) http://www.oddee.com/item_96471.aspx

 

 

 

India

How to Set Your House on Fire Abroad

So, I finally set my house on fire…

It was only a matter of time, really. At this point, I’m more surprised that I haven’t caught something on fire sooner. (And, no, unfortunately this blog doesn’t end with a truck of sexy Sikh firefighters coming to rescue me).

Friday I was working from home in the late afternoon, enjoying things the Haryana Department of Education lacks: AC next to my bed, high speed internet, and the leisures of not wearing pants. My laptop was safely plugged into the wall (it’s always good to keep it full, you never know when the power will go out).

When you straighten half your hair before work and then the power goes out
When you straighten half your hair before work and then the power goes out

Suddenly I heard the AC turn off followed by a deceptively innocent sounding “pop” from the outlet. I looked up to see smoke squeezing out of the socket. Naturally, I panicked, slapped off the power to the outlet, unplugged my laptop, and carefully removed the (hot) plug from the wall.  I decided it was nothing (mostly because I wanted to ignore how potentially bad this could be) and decided to leave my AC off for awhile.

Switches to turn the outlet on and off

 

So I turned the fan on.

Nothing.

Then I tried the light in my room.

Still nothing.

I hoped it was just a routine power outage. I tried the light in the living room.

It tried so hard. I could see tiny bits of light flickering around the corners. I almost pitied the pathetic little thing. Likewise, my router still had the one red light flickering.

That was it. Not a single other light/fan/or appliance worked. But since those two sort of worked, I knew it wasn’t a power outage. So I went to the breaker box and turned everything off and everything back on.

Still nothing.

I spent another ten minutes standing around hopelessly, plotting whether I could sleep at Priya’s house, not sure how to survive June in India without a fan, AC, or wifi. And then after ten minutes my lights all miraculously returned. For some reason my router only stayed on if the living room light stayed on but I assumed that was just “something Indian” and went back in my room to work. Crisis averted!

 

 

 

No.

 

 

 

Nothing can ever be that easy in this country.

After about ten minutes I smelled smoke so I reexamined the outlet. Then I realized smoke was billowing into my bedroom. I ran into the living room to see the living room light spewing smoke and blackening the wall behind it.

Indian buildings always have way more switches than appliances/lights associated with them
Indian buildings always have way more switches than appliances/lights associated with them
I literally only know what two of these switches do
I literally only know what two of these switches do

So I turned off all the lights, turned out everything on the broker box, and sweating from 3 minutes without AC, called my landlord. He told me he, and the entire family, would be gone until late the next day.

Shit.

He asked if it was an emergency. I calmly said, “yes. I believe your house is on fire.”

I explained the story two or three times to him but he was still unsure of the details. At some point he hung up and called back. He told me the handyman who lives at the house was also gone for another hour or so but he would call an electrician.

Yes. Anything. Bring him.

Of course, attempting to speak to the electrician was another matter. I sat outside on the stairs out of the sun reading To Kill A Mockingbird for about 30 minutes before the man came. I didn’t know how much the landlord had explained to him, so I used my best Hindi.

I pointed to the breaker box
“toh…sab atcha hai,” (so…everything is good) 

I pointed to the living room light
“lekin yuhuh dhuaan the,” (but here was smoke)

I pointed to the outlet in my bedroom
aur yuhuh dhuaan the,” (and here was smoke)

toh…..nehi atcha hai.” (So….not good)

He seemed to get the picture and started doing something. I just sat inside and watched sweat pool from my forehead onto the book. At some point he summed me outside and was saying something about a wire and so I nodded furiously as he spoke. Then I realized he was asking me a question, so admitted that I didn’t understand.

My Tardis: because it's bigger on the inside
My Tardis: because it’s bigger on the inside

After about thirty minutes he had everything working again and had me run around the house and test every light switch and every outlet. He spent some extra time on the AC and then kept asking me things in Hindi so I just kept saying, “sab tik hai” (everything is okay) “abhi sab atcha hai” (everything is good now).

Honestly, I have no idea what he did and if this is a long-term fix to the fact that I had a small electrical fire. But I sort of completed an emergency task in Hindi so I’m giving myself a gold star for adulting abroad today!

What is the verb “to adult” in Hindi?