Wednesday, 14 July 2010

The Last Word

Alright, so I've been back for a week and wanted to write a final post now that I've had a bit of time to think about the last three months.

So I landed on Tuesday evening after a pretty mediocre flight and spent time with my family over the next few days. On Thursday morning I had one of those moments which really made me sit up and think about stuff, not quite as extreme as my one in Pokhara, but powerful all the same.

I was in a cab crossing Waterloo Bridge, wearing a suit on my way to the Strand for a very fancy breakfast followed by a day of good old-fashioned indulgence. I glanced one way and then the other, taking in sights like St Pauls, the Gherkin and Canary Wharf, to name a few, and it hit me quite how far away from Kathmandu I was. The road was smooth and nobody once walked in front of the car. I did not hear a single horn being blasted, for a reason legitimate or totally random. I was enjoying the "fresh" London air. I really felt in a totally different world; and that's because I am.

There was a similar moment yesterday when Phil, who I am currently living with, had a total meltdown over some work related issue that in the grand scheme of things really wasn't that big a deal, he'd just wasted two hours. Annoying, yes. Worthy of a hissy fit? Probably not. I thought about the boys and their general attitude to the hardships they face, and they rarely complained or sulked, admittedly they didn't always do a lot about it, but struggling is all they know so instead of bitching about the crap stuff, they simply delight in the good and the simple things. It's a pretty good outlook if you ask me, and one I'm going to try and adopt more.

Most people have asked if I enjoyed my time out there, to which the answer is definitely. It was pretty taxing at times, but I wouldn't swap it for anything. It was one hell of an experience, and while not all of those experiences were great, they were always revealing and I think I took something positive out of everything that happened, at least I hope I did! I also met some super cool people, both from Nepal and the UK, and that is enough to make any trip worthwhile in my book. I did not achieve everything I wanted, but the Peace Nepal Treks website is finally live and can be seen by clicking here, while I've set up a You Tube page for them with a small selection of videos, which can be seen by clicking here.

The next question I get asked is would I go back? The best answer I can give is that had the right job come up I would have stayed for sure. So one way to look at that is should the right job come my way in the future I would certainly consider going back and having another crack at it. That said, I think it's more likely that my future visits will be to see friends and trek.

As for the obvious 'what's next' question; well I have no idea. I want a job I'm passionate about, that will be a bit of a challenge and get me excited to be working again. No disrespect to those still at Flight Centre, but I think I'm unlikely to find that there. I've had a few offers already from people at the old place, it's great to be wanted and I suppose it's probably likely I'll end up doing a bit of temping work if the search for a great job turns out to be prolonged, but that's just the way it goes.

I intend to stay in London for the time being, but should the right job present itself I'll go wherever it is. I've an interview lined up for August for a position that looks quite cool - on the job description it said I was required to smile every day and administer high-fives on a regular basis (seriously). Think I'll send them the video of me teaching little Ayush how to high-five!

So that's it, The Yeti Adventure has drawn to a close. I'm toying with the idea of setting up another blog that could be about anything. Should anyone think that's a good idea then let me know - I've even set up a poll to make it easy for you!

Thanks for reading and the to those who have taken time to comment (not enough of you frankly!), and to those I've not yet seen since being back I am sure it won't be too long.

All the fuzzy beast,


ps - I uploaded a load of pictures onto Facebook earlier so check them out if you wish.

Monday, 5 July 2010

End of the Road

Well, time's up. Three months has, as expected, gone very quickly and tomorrow I'll board the plane home. Not really sure how I feel about that; pleased obviously to be catching up with friends and family again, but sad to be leaving the guys here who have been such a bunch of heroes. It is also strange to be coming back to the UK without a ticket out again already booked, I realised today that hasn't happened since some time in 2007!

I'll do a final post on my feelings about my time here when I'm back home, for now I guess I should update you on my final few days here.

Pokhara was hot as hell and particularly cloudy, honest to God I was afraid to go outside from about 7:30am for the next 12 hours so severe was it. I did of course, and got sunburnt repeatedly as well as running through a lot of t-shirts. I went up to a place called Sarangkot for a night which despite the clouds was very much worthwhile. This is one of the places that offers cracking views of the mountains, especially at sunrise and sunset, and thankfully I did catch a glimpse just as I was walking out the following morning at about 10:30, which made my early start of 5am seem really rather unnecessary.
The bus journey home was going along rather smoothly until a particularly unwise overtaking move led to a truck hitting us. Thankfully it was nothing more than a glancing blow and as we skidded off to the side of the road in the pouring rain I was thankful that I had moved seats about ten minutes earlier as the impact was exactly where I had been sat. We were travelling pretty slowly and the damage was minimal and nobody was hurt but I think I've had enough of Nepali bus journeys and the heart palpitations they generally cause, I'll take a plane next time!

Last night Dan and I went out on the smash in Tom & Jerrys before the traditional rickshaw race through town and stealing of hats from official looking people. Kathmandu is pretty empty right now though, so it really did feel like we were the only people around.
Tonight is a quiet affair, I had lunch with Aamir earlier and he once again tried to persuade me to come back in the future - we shall see about that! I've got to head home shortly and do one of my least favourite things in the world - pack. I hate packing, I really do. I also have a considerable amount of crap, so think Nir will be benefitting from a few donations.

Anyway, it'll be a busy few days with the family when I get back but I'll be going to Glen and Chloes engagement drinks on Saturday at the Avalon in Balham should anyone be around. Look forward to catching up with you all before too long.


Thursday, 1 July 2010

What make a cause "worthy"?

Some people may find what I am about to write a little controversial, and if it offends then I apologise, that is not the intention.

Since I began writing this blog it has basically been a tale of what I’ve been doing and how I felt about doing it, which unless you know me is probably about as interesting as watching paint dry. Since I claim to be a “writer” it is surely about time I wrote something worth reading. So here it is, I think.

Charity is a tricky and dangerous subject that can stir up all kinds of emotions. This was something I learned a couple of years ago on a random afternoon at work.

My company at the time, Flight Centre, has supported a specific charity every year and for the first time had decided to put it to the masses what charity they supported the following year, giving a short-list of six.

The previous charity was Cancer Research and this was again on the list. Now, I have to firstly state that I am incredibly lucky in that I have not lost a close friend or relative to one of the major causes like Cancer or Leukaemia that often dominate these kind of things. As a result, I kept my council in the vote.

Suddenly a discussion erupted; some chap said that he felt Cancer Research received a ton of money each year from all over the world and that it would be more worthwhile for Flight Centre to support a smaller charity where the money would make a real difference. The charity in question was the Smile Train, where £85 can fix a child’s face thus making a serious, tangible difference.

Clearly this was an emotive issue and the debate took off giving all kinds of arguments, but in truth I had to agree with the fella. Cancer Research gets a lot of money from all over, and always will. Flight Centre raises a (shamefully) small amount of money each year for charity; should that not go somewhere it could really make a physical difference?

Of course there is no right answer to this, and being over here - quite how apparent that situation is has really hit home. Everywhere I turn there is a good cause. The hospital I visited on Monday for example. They raise a lot of money already so should I, as one man, decide to support a Nepali hospital, would my money not be better spent going somewhere that doesn't already receive a load of funds from overseas?

Maybe, but then there is the age-old problem in third-world countries of: is the money actually going where it should, or vanishing into someone’s pocket? Who knows? Frankly, this country, as are hundreds of others around the globe, is full of good causes, so how can you justify what is worth your support, or to use the words so often heard; is a “Good Cause?” I hate that term; it suggests that other causes are not good.

As I said, I am lucky as I have never had need to support a specific cause through personal experience, at least I was until now.

Since I’ve been in Nepal whenever I had had to eat out alone I have picked the cheapest, most basic place I could find and generally ordered the cheapest thing on the menu, such is the life of the budget traveller. Those that know me will appreciate that I am a man who enjoys the odd expensive restaurant fit with a massive steak and fine glass of wine polished off with a good Cuban Cigar and Irish Coffee. Tonight I was in one of those moods and decided to head to one of Pokhara’s most fancy hotels and order myself dinner and drinks (for what it’s worth, it really isn’t that fancy). As I sat there enjoying the view and contemplating how hard things are going to be when I get home, my phone beeped.

I was enjoying curry and beer that was twice the price yet exactly the same as what I had eaten the previous evening and it was Nir asking how I was and saying he hoped all was OK. I replied saying that Pokhara was hot and cloudy and then asked how the family was. This was his reply:

Here also same weather. No rain village since long time. I am so sad and depressed. All maize dead. Very difficult this year. I don’t know. How can survive life. I am quite surprised today. Too much bad news man. Take care and have a nice time.”

How does reading that make you feel? I know how I felt. I wanted to puke. In fact, just typing it makes me want to puke again. This bloke has put me up in his house, and fed me, for three months never once asking for anything in return and even getting upset when I gave him money, yet his family in his village cannot afford to eat.

Nir is perhaps the most honest and hard working bloke I know. A few years back he had helped build a new school and medical centre in his village and since then he basically holds the weight of an entire community on his shoulders, which is why this latest situation has hit him so hard. He is 32.

Now, Nir himself makes enough money from his trekking business to survive in relative comfort, but what about all the family members who all look to him for support? He is not on the breadline and his village has running water, therefore they do not stand out as people in desperate need of government or charitable help. The school he built was done without any aid from within Nepal, but rather a charitable organisation from Holland that just thought it was a worthy cause.

How do you choose what a good cause is? In the last couple of weeks I’ve had friends cycle from London to Brighton all manner of causes I don’t remember and another mate who is about to drive to Mongolia to raise money for a charity over there. Sure, they are almost certainly worthy causes, but unless you have a personal affiliation with them why would you donate your hard earned?

Frankly, I don’t know why I’ve written this, or what I hope to achieve by it – since it will unquestionably achieve nothing – but this is the dilemma with which I am currently faced. I am unemployed and have no immediate prospects of a job that will enable me to actually change the lives of the people that I have come to regard as both friends and a “worthy cause” (how awfully patronising does that sound?). I do however feel it is my duty to do something, anything. Perhaps some of you reading this will feel the same, or even go looking for a cause that is special to you. For now I have found mine; I am grateful it didn’t take someone dying for me to work it out.