What a country….

Tonight son1 and I are in Nagarkot, a small conurbation about 20km from Kathmandu. We are staying in a hotel perched on a hillside with panoramic views over the Himalayas with (on a good day) a view of Mt Everest in the distance. People flock to Nagarkot for the beauty of the sun rising over the mountains, turning the ice of the Everest summit pink in the morning light. Sunrise tomorrow is at 06.50 or thereabouts, and we will be up, hoping for a clear morning.

In the last seven days we have really pushed ourselves. We have travelled to 4 different parts of the country and crammed in the most intense, immersive experiences. We have visited both Buddhist and Hindu sacred places, observed the funeral and cremation practices of Hindus. We have jumped off mountains, climbed to a world peace Stupa, rowed across lakes. We have ridden elephants, walked through jungles, canoed past submerged crocodiles and followed rhino as they went to drink.

What a country where all this is available …

it’s not easy in Nepal.. the water is not fit to drink, nothing has a fixed price, it’s dirty, dusty, and smelly. The roads have no markings, are full of potholes and being driven anywhere is an alarming experience if you are used to traffic lights and the Highway Code. The poverty is all around you, grinding desperate examples of humanity literally scratching a living from the earth. Cows wander the streets (they are sacred) and are avoided and venerated; stray dogs are beaten and have stones thrown at them. Electricity goes off randomly, there are no trains; buses are crammed to capacity twice over… hotels are SO variable, it’s pot luck (slightly improved by the power of trip advisor) … the Nepalese drop litter EVERYWHERE, and seem to care nothing for dustbins, they spit in the street, and double the price of everything the minute you walk into their shop…

But …. but: The Nepalese are friendly and welcoming, they are genuinely kind. They smile and try to help you, it feels very safe here. The scenery is breathtaking and the ongoing efforts at conservation of endangered species are really special. In Chitwan, for example, poaching of tigers has been eliminated by the stationing of significant numbers of Army living IN the Park, regular checks on visitors / permits and guides (four times in the day we were in the park) and rigorous prosecution of any offenders. Tiger numbers are increasing, slowly, but they are increasing. The new government is investing hugely in infrastructure – new roads, safe reliable internal air travel and there are a few small local co-operatives (eg in Sauraha there is one selling jungle honey where all the bee keepers join together, pool their honey to make the best and all charge a fixed price)

I’ve fallen in love with this country with all its problems, and below I’ve posted a few photos to give a taste of the infinite variety of experiences we have had over the last week.

There are so many more things I want to write about, to do with my relationship with Son1, about his maturation and experiences , about what I have learned about myself this week… but these can wait till the thoughts have percolated a little …

just a small word about alcohol. It has not crossed my mind to drink this holiday. I have not missed it at all. The one evening we went somewhere quite nice I had the most delicious minty, citrusy virgin Mohito … I could NEVER have done what I have this week with a hangover, fuzzy head or pre-occupation with the next alcoholic drink… I truly feel like an adult who does not drink because she doesn’t want to – and I have gained so much from this on this trip .. I wonder why I ever drank at all ?

So what’s different when you are sober… 

Sunday morning, cocooned deep in the soft luxury of our hotel bed. My only significant decision for the next few hours is what to chose from the extensive breakfast menu ! And I am appreciating being clear headed and having a bit of time to think…

I did “miss” drinking yesterday, in an esoteric kind of way, as we sat outside and ordered a lunch platter, I did envy Mr Lily’s glass of sav blanc, and I noticed how droplets of condensation collected on the glass, and could imagine the ….. Ok ;stop. It’s not helpful. Suffice it to say, I would not have stopped at one glass , so I  played the tape through and stuck to Diet Coke.

So, Mr Lily is taking a swim, and I’ve been looking at my list of definite sober benefits – I’ve been compiling this list for a couple of months….

  1. I am not  attractive when I drink a lot. This is particularly bittersweet, of course, because I FEEL more attractive. There are plenty of photos to prove otherwise  The smeared eyeliner, the vacant look, the staggering to the bathroom: and worse, falling over. Not pretty, not classy. A woman in control is much more attractive. And I feel more attractive.
  2. A LOT of people have told me how well I look. Mostly my patients, many of whom I have known for a long time. That’s nice.
  3. People who pay attention to what’s in my glass are generally people with alcohol issues. I’m not judging them – but it’s true
  4. It’s surprisingly easy to talk to people when not drinking. I used to fret that without liquid courage, I wouldn’t be able to manage at social events. What would I say? How would I make people laugh? Sober, I manage quite well, actually. What I notice is that most people are also struggling a bit with social anxiety , and they enjoy it when you laugh at their jokes and ask about their lives.
  5. Conversations without alcohol can be astonishing. Without the distraction and numbness of a bottle (+) of wine, I can string an argument together, debate, and LISTEN!
  6. Related: Drunk people talk much louder than they need to, and their jokes are not nearly as funny as they think, and they tend to repeat themselves a lot.
  7. I have noticed how easy it is to leave. I have no guilt about driving home or unattaching myself if I’m bored or tired or have to work the next day, instead of staying until the bottles have all been drained and suggesting we make a beer run for more.
  8. Not drinking is also an amazing way to halve the dinner bill. A nice dinner without alcohol is so much cheaper ! Who knew!
  9. When you’re sober, it is a sad fact that there are some people  you feel comfortable around, and some  who make you itch for an open bar.
  10. There are many less arguments in our house, especially between me and Mr Lily. I have more patience and perhaps more tolerance. I can wait for things to be resolved, as long as there is some movement in the right direction. This is the subject of another post I think.

Against that lot, and the promise, and expectation that there is more good stuff to come … What’s the value of a glass bottle  of wine ?

Nope, day 135, and I’m keeping on…