I decided to change my flight to one day sooner and travel back to Hong Kong with Martha to take advantage of an 8 hour lay-over to see the city. Martha lives in Hong-Kong and graciously offered to be my personal tour-guide. Before heading to the airport, the three trekkers met for our final meal together: breakfast. Martha and I bid Daniel farewell as he was getting excited for a day touring Kathmandu and visiting a music festival that evening. I was eating bread and water, and still not doing so hot in the absorption aspect of my GI system. I was feeling weak, but knew I had a 24 hour journey home ahead of me, where most of it I could sit and rest and let the airplane take me.
Checking-in at the Kathmandu airport felt very “normal”. It had ticket counters and conveyor belts, and airline representatives with make-up and uniforms; the most “order” I’d seen in the country. We were upgraded to first class, boarded the plane, and stepped out of an emerging country and into the luxuries of our first world lifestyles. I tried to stomach the gourmet food on the short flight to Hong Kong, but ended up losing my cookies as we descended to land in Hong Kong. Apparently flying out of Hong Kong to Kathmandu or from Kathmandu to Hong Kong doesn’t agree with me. I’ve never been sick on an airplane before, but both of these legs I was grabbing for the motion-sickness bags and seeking the toilets. Not due to motion sickness, but I think exhaustion (in my unexperienced physical being) setting in.
Despite feeling weak and tired I went along with the 8 hour tour of Hong Kong, with motion sickness bags within easy grab off the side pockets of my backpack. We walked the financial district, went to the top of the finance buildings, looked out over the bay and appreciated all the land that has been expanded to put more skyscrapers on land, took a double decker bus to the “beach town” of Hong Kong and dipped my toes in the South China Sea, sat at a cafe, and made it back to the airport for take-off. As soon as I boarded my flight back to the USA, I was no longer nauseous
or vomiting. I guess me and Hong Kong just don’t agree. I slept a good majority of my flight back to the States. Ate very little and drank water. Once landing at LAX I called my Aunt and went to stand at the curb with my big duffle bag and day pack. Getting picked up at the airport by my Aunt was such an exciting feeling. I was home. And someone was waiting for me!
I spent the first 3 days at my Aunt and Uncle’s house resting, trying to eat food, rehydrating. It was great to be wrapped safely in their arms and home after being out on the trail. I enjoyed catching back up where I left off with Natalie and sharing a meal with her family.
Then I did what I do best. I went home to the mountains. I drove up to Mammoth for the rest of the week and snowboarded, slept, ran, relaxed, let the trip sink in, embraced the pending return to western societal structures and procedures, and again tried to work on eating. I will tell you it took more than 2 weeks for me to start absorbing food, I lost more weight during my travel back to the States and adjustment back into work than I had in the Khumbu. Happy to say, all is well now.
It was amazing how my tongue had changed it’s preference in food. I didn’t want meat. I wasn’t hungry or thirsty. I could go on very little water, where normally I’m a >100 oz/day water drinker. When I returned to the candy jar at work, it didn’t taste good :(. The food in the Khumbu was not “healthy”. It was processed white bread, American “cheese”, high preservative food for storage on shelves. But we were eating to sustain our activity level, and the body craves what the body needs in my opinion when you are day-in-day-out expending large amounts of calories. Your body feels what you eat. So you tend to make smarter choices. Or I guess, I do. That’s the runner in me coming out. I never was one who restricted what I ate, but I would feel it on my tempo run if I ate greasy fries the night before. You start craving the foods that fuel your workout, fuels your lifestyle.
The dynamics among the trekking group, our porters, our nepalese guide, and the local people who housed us along the trek demonstrated to me how important clear communication is; and leaving passive emotions out of situations to minimize charge and needless escalation. The trekking group was composed of strong personalities, great characters. It was important to keep perspective, understand where each person was coming from and the experiences that have shaped them prior to stepping on the trail in Nepal. I focused on staying calm, not feeding the fire; trying to re-establish objectivity, goal, and intent, in order to move past any situation or disagreement. My goal: keep the amazing experience for all it was close at heart.
I embraced myself as an observer and gained insight by seeing peoples’ behaviors. It helped me identify my own insecurities and anxieties, and embrace them for what they are, and not discount them as irrationale or obstructive.
I’ve been asked if I had a big revelation or spiritual awakening experience while in Nepal. I would consider myself a pretty spiritual person. In my normal day-to-day, I spend a lot of time by myself and working out, which allows time for my mind to explore thoughts and opinions. I didn’t have a huge ah-ha moment or calling in any direction. But my steps along the trail firmed my stance of my own two feet underneath me. It calmed my worries of “where I am in my life vs. where I think I should be.” I put false time-dependent expectations on myself about at what age I should have been married, have kids, own a house, be financially informed with investing. And I was much more comfortable with where I am and who I am. That these expectations have little to do with age, but rather to the timing of when my path crosses these milestones. My insecurities of friends, family, patients asking me if I am married, if I have kids, if I’m where “I should be for my age”, dissipated and washed away with the passing clouds in the Khumbu. It felt good to let them go and let the air carry them away from my conscience. It will all happen when the time is right as long as I keep the doors open to the aspects of life I value.
Moments of culture shock:
My Aunt said my car needed to be washed, so I took my car to the carwash in the valley. I sat down on the bench to wait for the attendant to clean my windows, vaccuum my car’s inside, and dry the exterior. I watched an elder couple come sit next to me, barely engage in conversation with each other, and then do a full walk around their vehicle before pointing out spots along the car exterior to the attendant, expecting him to rub away the spots their eyes noticed. I watched, I didn’t feel much emotion about it. I just thought, ‘how silly.’ And made a note to myself to never walk around my car and point out the imperfections of someone else’s work. Go home, get a towel, rub away the spots yourself. Plus there will probably be more spots by the time you get home, so it will fill your time. Ha!
Returning to work. My first day back at work I walked in thinking I’d blend in. I walked into my work’s pod and excited voices and faces met mine. It made me happy to hear that I was missed. I didn’t think my coworkers would be so expressionable. I have to say it made me feel happy to return to my workplace. It was a fresh feeling. Then my work-day kicked off, where my last minute with one patient is the first minute with the next patient. How can I be at two places at once? When can I have a quiet moment to let my mind resolve my thoughts? How can I do 3 things at once? These are things I enjoyed riding on before my trip. Now I was feeling like I was floundering to keep up. I was distracted by the noise level in the gym, the number of people talking at once, and how conversation was moving very quickly and questions were phrased very directly. It felt offensive. It made me want to run away. This was my culture shock. My own workplace. In Nepal conversations flowed in the direction people offered. Questions were often indirect or about an experience, not about the person specifically. In my line of work, all questions are patient-centered: asking personal details to understand a patient’s situation. The questions are direct, quick, and structured to get a colorful picture in a short amount of time. I struggled to talk quick enough, to think quick enough, to be willing to be structured by the ticking minute-hand
on the clock. I vow’ed to keep the warmth of conversation in the Khumbu alive in my workplace and be willing to sit and listen without directing another question. Let the patient take the conversation in their direction, instead of sticking to my professional line of questioning. It has been very enjoyable to give patients more room to breathe. AND, to give myself to breathe 🙂
Well I put in a full snowboarding season with many long weekends up in Mammoth and
travelled to Sun Valley, Idaho and Whistler, BC this season. I tackled terrain that last year was unthinkable and have made my home mountain more accessible. I overcame some self-limiting fears. I returned to being escorted on Chair 23 to being able to ride it solo without any anxiety attacks. I went off the top chutes of Mammoth and each weekend went back to the same scary spots to go down them again and learn their turns. I Go-Pro’ed many runs and incorporated them into vision desensitization rehab for patients. I recorded a podcast for the professional association of my occupation. I travelled to meet my best friend’s baby girl for the first time. I jumped back in.
Now snowboarding season is coming to a close. I am 6 weeks into training for my first half ironman triathlon. 9/11/2016: Santa Cruz 70.3. Come on down to the race course and cheer on all the athletes. It is a distance that feels big. Mentally I need to be disciplined with my physical training, structured to balance work, sport, and play. It feels great to be back on a training schedule. I thrive in the discipline. Right now my body is responding really well. It feels like each day I’m on “fresh legs” as the workouts switch among swim, bike, and
run. The training philosophy is similar to hiking: do the workout, but save some energy in the tank as another work follows a few hours later. This is a new way to train for me. Yes, my sciatica is still there, but it is very mild and localized. My goal is to complete this race injury free. So I am listening to my body. Stretching. Food prepping. Listening to my body during workouts and before/after workouts. Training to compete, training to push on another day.
Stay tuned to the theme of this blog: when a runner swims. On a chillier note: Confirmed shark attack 5/30/2016 where I do my open water swim training. A 52 year old ironwoman was training for an upcoming ironman race 7/2016 in Canada, she is lucky and survived…the mental game in open water just got a little more twisted….for now I’m sticking to the pool.
Keep the challenges coming, make sure they fulfill my values.