Life after a trip of a lifetime…ha. I hadn’t thought about that aspect.
I returned to work on Tuesday. I can’t say I was thrilled to be stepping back into the 9-5 routine, but it was inevitable. At least for now. I was moving slowly getting out of Mammoth Monday, snoozing the Tuesday alarm, and the lack of emotion felt Tuesday morning. I was pleasantly surprised by the warm hugs I received stepping back into the gym. It felt welcoming and home-y and reminded me that the people are who bring you back to work day after day.
I noticed myself being less aware of the content of surrounding conversations in the gym, across the desks in our PODs, and my coworkers conversations with their patients, on the phone, or to each other. I noticed sound and words, but not the content of them. I usually can’t tune out conversations and am aware of many things going on around me. Now I was tuned into my conversation, but hearing sounds around me, seeing people walking in multiple directions, and the volume of people around me. I was sensory overloaded! Walking one foot in front of the other, often alone for HOURS on the trail, occasionally smiling at a hiker going the other way or saying Namaste to the passing porter…and when meeting back up with fellow hikers sharing our sentiment about the trail. It was a simple way of life…and I enjoyed it and was now seeking it!
- The busyness of my visual and auditory surround at work
The second aspect that hit me was how quickly and direct people were talking: patients, caretakers, families, coworkers. The questions were very matter-of-fact, almost cold seeming. Much of the language had an accusatory tone. EEK….it felt ugly. I sat in on a meeting my first day back to work and I was shocked at how quickly each person was presenting his/her point. How each sentence never was completed, but rather rushed into the next sentence…so the thought had to be concluded instead of heard. Each person’s viewpoint was already concluded before the conversation began…the conversation was to each other, not with each other. A check mark was completed.
2. The speed of conversation, thoughts, and being 3 steps ahead of the current moment
This environment used to energize me, I would strive to be on top of it all. Now I want to back away, look people in the eye and listen to their sentences, enjoy how they are expressing themselves, and support the space to finish a thought. That’s my idealistic moment.
I am sure somewhere between my sensitivity walking in Tuesday morning and my demeanor leaving on October 16th, I’ll settle back in. But I hope I can encourage the expression of thought and talk with my patients, coworkers, and families and not revert back to talking to them. The nature of health-care is always more work than there is time for…but I’m going to try and dig my heels into the longer side of 8 minutes instead of rushing through 8 minutes :)
Each day this week I felt myself falling back into “routine”. But conscious awareness will hopefully keep me from falling back into all of my routines or all of the routines of the “culture at work”.
I came home to a few letters in the mailbox intended for Nepal. So I let my mind hop back across the pond and read the letters and quotes. I did this daily in Nepal. I brought over 70 letters with me to Nepal from friends and family, who I promised I wouldn’t open them until on my journey. Each day I embraced the familiarity of the names on these letters, the thoughts of the people I care about swimming in my head and applying their quotes to my current day. I used the quotes and words of encouragement to shape my daily journal. Commenting on the day’s hike took on a growth opportunity personally by exploring how each quote applied to my perception of the day and larger to life.
So, let’s start in the beginning!
My car was packed with my belongings traveling to Nepal and also up to Mammoth after my return to LA. I drove up to my Aunt and Uncle’s house in LA, dropped off my car and loaded my bags into Natalie’s car. We headed off to dinner to catch up before she dropped me off at the airport. I was grateful for a send-off from a good friend, it was a few hours of laughs, talking about life and love, and altogether taking my mind of the pending journey. This was welcomed after weeks of to-do lists and concentrated errands, to stop and enjoy conversation with a good friend. She even helped me carry my heavy duffel bag to the check-in desk!
My bag was 22-24 kilos….eek. As a novice hiker, I definitely “over-packed” to experienced standards…but I wore every thing I brought and was happy for the layers and variations in jackets, socks, and hats I had. And my bag was NOT the heaviest in the group :)
I was surprisingly content being sedentary on my 15 hour flight to Hong-Kong. I slept the majority of the flight. I still was quite zombie-esque for the majority of my 11 hour lay-over in Hong Kong. I was not feeling confident enough to leave the airport and explore Hong-Kong. Instead I walked around the airport, found deserted sections (not quite The Terminal status, but unused gates) and fell asleep across the seats. I’d wake up as people were filing into the seats for upcoming flights and move along to another section. The Hong Kong airport has water dispensers where you can choose the temperature of the water: cold, luke warm, or hot. Sensitive to different cultural preferences. Cold water for me :) About 5 hours into the lay-over I decided I couldn’t stick to my
snacks for sustenance and ate some ramen, airport style. This may have been my downfall. After waking up sprawled across some airport seats with 30 minutes before my expected departure, I jumped up and started walking quickly to the updated gate…my legs felt like lead and my body was wondering what I was doing at whatever hour it was and without sleeping in a bed for over 27 hours, ha. I had stayed pretty subdued since leaving OC, and finally felt a little relief that I was on the segment of my travel that would take me to my final destination. My stomach started cramping as we were taking off and I spent the rest of the flight in the small airplane bathroom expelling my Hong-Kong ramen. Not a way to start your trip, with no nutrition, dehydrated, and with all my rib and back muscles sore. Eh, I guess this is why you train…so hiccups don’t derail you.
Arrival in Kathmandu, baggage comes around the carousal, roll my cart out to the crowd of taxi drivers, family and friends of arriving passengers, and my designated driver holding a “Madison Mountaineering” sign. This sign had gold beams shooting out from it, I spotted it in the crowd and smiled from ear to ear. Here’s where my responsibilities felt like they disappeared. I had placed my trust in Garrett and his company to take care of me in Nepal and now I was under his company’s care. I met my fellow trekker Martha who had flown in on the same flight and we headed off to the Yak and Yeti Hotel.
We arrived in Kathmandu on the night of one of Nepal’s main festivals. One where the streets were EMPTY and every one is home with their families. I didn’t see a single car or person walking around from the airport to the hotel, which I was told is the opposite of normal. Laying down in the hotel’s bed was the greatest feeling after being reclined but not horizontal since sleeping in my bed in OC.
I woke up the next morning feeling pretty refreshed. Martha and I meandered down to a buffet breakfast and met up with the rest of our group. Every one gave welcoming hugs and I looked around at the food not sure what to test my stomach with. The food was all familiar food, I just didn’t want to repeat my experience from Hong Kong to Kathmandu. Bread and water it was.
I had a gear check with Garrett after breakfast. I unpacked my duffel on the bed and walked through all my gear with him. What a way to get to know someone! I ended up leaving behind my Mammoth knit ski hat, a rain coat (‘cus I had 2 other water proof jackets), and clean travel clothes. I acknowledged my “excessive” clothes, but he encouraged me to bring along what I packed. As a group we took a tour of Kathmandu visiting two world heritage sites:
and visiting an art school that explained the mandalas and the bare bones of Buddhism. I was soaking it up and eager to learn about the culture and country. As we walked into the area of Pashupatinath a wood pallet with a dead body heading to the cremation blocks along the river crossed my path. The jet lag and empty stomach probably contributed to a visceral pull back to the site. I watched as they started the ritual of shaving the eldest son’s hair to prepare him to light the mouth of his mother on fire. Welcome to a different world. I took pictures with my new friends who conduct prayer ceremonies along the river…or may be collecting money from tourists, we’ll leave the jury out on that one. At Boudhanath Stupa I walked clockwise in a complete circle turning all the mani-wheels; purifying the soul. I’ll turn as many of these as I can before heading up the trail to have as many good fortunes stored up as I can. We visited an art school and learned about the Wheel of Life and Mandalas of wisdom and meditation. I’m now on a hunt for a mandala symbolizing meditation.
We came together for a group dinner at one of Bill’s favorite restaurants in Kathmandu. This was the first meal that I ate and enjoyed in Kathmandu and decided veg was the way to go for the rest of the trip.
We had an early wake-up call to catch one of the first flights from Kathmandu to Lukla. The domestic terminal was quite a different experience than the international terminal.
Small stands representing each airline had scales behind them where we passed our duffels, then back packs. Pat down security lines for men and women….a call of our flight, and then walking out onto the tarmac to board a bus that drove us out to our plane. Circa 19-a while ago. One person can climb the steps onto the plane at a time. No seat belts, no partition from cabin to cockpit, and no pressurized cabin. A tray of cotton balls and hard candy came around as we taxied to take off. I will say it over and over again, that our weather was consistently perfect. Our little prop plane didn’t experience turbulence and clear skies welcomed our landing at the Lukla airport. An airport famous for turning flights back around due to cloud cover, plane traffic only in the morning due to clouds coming in early afternoon, and a “committed” landing as Bud, a climbing teammate who is a pilot, explained as we approached the landing strip. At a certain distance there are no other options, with mountains on both sides and at the end of the runway, there is no turning away from the landing if something was to happen….you are committed to land the aircraft. Our pilot yelled “hubba hubba here we go” as we landed and out we hopped to the cooler air of 9000′. My transportation from here is my own two feet.