Category Archives: Travel

Getting There

I love to travel, and I’ve been to several different countries and parts of this one. And though I always enjoy exploring the new places once I arrive, I enjoy the process of getting there as well. You know, ‘getting there is half the fun’ and all that. Well, I don’t know about half, but I always enjoy something along the way.  And with approximately 27 hours of travel time from LAX to Kathmandu, I knew I’d have fun people-watching and eavesdropping.

Take, for example, the very young family I heard behind me on the shuttle bus to LAX. I couldn’t see them, but from hearing them talk about which friends hooked up at which bars and then bicker about holding their baby the right way, I deduced that they were fairly young. At one point, the girl, whose voice was much louder, declared, “I’m so mad at you! You didn’t tell me that!” The guy answered, “I just now remembered.” And she responded, “You have to take care of the baby the rest of the night!” But my favorite, a moment later, was her response to his foolish statement, “I don’t get why you’re mad.” She said, “What don’t you understand? I’m wearing braces and I’m pregnant!” Classic. I doubt I’d hear that in most other countries.

On the flight to Bangkok, there is no one next to me, so not only can I avoid annoying flight chit-chat, I can also turn to my side and put my feet up while I sleep. I read, I watch movies, I am served three full meals, including wine that’s semi-decent. It’s probably the most enjoyable international flight I’ve ever had. Then I have four hours in Bangkok before the flight to Kathmandu. I walk around for about an hour, then sit and read, then walk some more. My ankles and feet are swollen with edema, and I massage my calves to help my circulation. I am allowed to go through security about an hour before boarding time, and I go to the gate and sit down amid a group of fellow travelers.

It is so humbling, to me, to hear people from different countries conversing in English. It surprises me at the Bangkok airport to hear a Philippine woman telling a Nepalese man about the internship she is completing for her Master’s program. They both speak in flawless English. Humbling. All I know in Nepali is “Namaste.”

So far there are five Caucasians waiting for this flight. A young couple, a lone man, and two lone women – including myself. There are a few Japanese and one Korean (who is also speaking English). Many travelers wear surgical masks for airborne disease protection. For this trip, I have been vaccinated against typhoid fever, tetanus, diphtheria, and hepatitis. I brought Deet spray, probiotic pills, and most of my medicine cabinet. I hope I stay healthy.

Another Caucasian man saunters down the steps to the gate. The Philippine woman is asking the Nepalese man how to say “nice to meet you” in Nepali. The Nepalese man tells her a very long phrase and she repeats it. He smiles and says that she can just say “Namaste.” Then she practices “thank you” and “you’re welcome” in Nepali, and I feel that I should have learned a little Nepali before this trip. I really wish I knew how to say “excuse me” for when I bump someone or commit some social faux pas, which is highly likely. I could ask the lovely Nepalese man who is talking with the Philippine woman, but I’m too introverted to join in. Not for the first time, feeling at a great disadvantage, I question the wisdom of taking this trip. Then another Caucasian man strolls to the gate, perhaps a clueless American like me. I try again to listen in to the conversation between the Philippine woman and Nepalese man and try to absorb something. It’s the least I can do. The Korean woman joins them and I feel simply ridiculous that I cannot bring myself to do so.

Moments later, I find myself behind the Nepalese man as we are in line waiting to board. His wife, an absolutely beautiful woman, turns and smiles at me, and I smile back. Her husband picks up a Wall Street Journal – in English – as we board the plane. Again I feel like the ignorant American. The plane is even bigger than the one I took on the 16-hour flight here (16 hours!) and appears to be fuller. I cannot put my feet up on this flight, and my ankles have swollen to twice their size with edema. It feels like the skin on them will split. I have endured this sensation now for at least eight hours. Fortunately this flight is only about three hours. But I’m disappointed to find that, although I have a window seat, it is not only directly over the huge wing, but it is on the left side of the plane. According to my online research, if you’re on the right side of the plane when approaching Nepal from the east, you can see the Himalayas.

We take off, and I catch my first glimpse of Thailand, having been in the airport for four hours. It is lushly green due to the monsoon season, which Nepal is also having. Not many tourists this time of year; I fear I will stand out too much, me and my blond, American “Namaste.”

After viewing a movie, a map popped up on the screen to show the flight’s progress. We are half-way to Kathmandu, looks like. And my swollen ankles and feet are sca-reaming. This has happened before on a trip – two years ago when I went to Greece and it was 122 degrees on Crete as we made our way to the airport to fly back to Athens. But now, I can’t put my feet up on this flight, and it scares me to even look at my ankles.

Clouds all across Myanmar and Bangladesh. We are above them. Ah! An announcement. We are beginning our descent and will land in twenty minutes! Relief for my ankles sooner than I’d thought. And the flight attendants come by with gorgeous purple and white orchid boutonnieres for each passenger. I put mine on and happen to glance out the windows on the opposite side of the plane. I see small, white pointy peaks, and for a second I think they are just the clouds. Another passenger’s head blocks my already limited view from all the way across the plane. And he is looking because – yes – it’s the Himalayas. The man next to him takes a photo. I strain to see again, and I catch a tease of a glimpse. But then the plane turns and, ohGodinheaven, I see them. I see the beautiful snow-covered peaks poking up through the clouds. I see them out my own window. They are truly magnificent. We turn again and descend lower and I can no longer see them. But I did. I saw the tips of the incredible Himalayas with my own eyes.

I am breathless now, not even thinking about my ankles, or the fact that I only know one word in Nepali. Namaste. Yes, I am here. And Namaste again.

Home Again

How can I even begin to tell you about my trip? I guess I can start by saying that what Meg from The Pages of Our Crazy Life commented about (me) “coming back a changed woman” turned out to be entirely true. And I knew that the trip would change me, but I had no idea in what ways and to what extent. It was the kind of experience that makes you question and/or appreciate so many things about your life. Questioning my priorities. Learning new truths. Appreciating what we have – and what we don’t have. Realizing that friendship transcends culture and language, and that the emotions we experience as autism parents are universal and run so deep, even on the other side of the world.

I came home three days ago to a 108-degree heat wave, a cat-scratched leather couch, and an ant infestation. I have three-foot-high weeds in my yard (that somehow grew in the heat), a major work deadline (that was already extended because of the trip), and about two hundred unread/unanswered emails (that I can’t even begin to tackle). I’ve missed blogging like crazy. And let me just say that this 108-degree heat wave actually feels good compared to the 87% humidity and heat in Nepal. I’m serious.

I think the only way I can write about this nearly month-long trip is to break it up into segments – because that’s exactly how it happened. I started off by celebrating the Fourth of July with the SoCal contingent of my extended family. Then I went with my brother and sister to visit our childhood homes, picked up my sons and took them to the Grand Canyon, spent a day on the beach with my dad, went winetasting with some relatives, and then flew to Nepal for two weeks, where I experienced so many amazing things. And all of it begs to be written about.

So, my friends, if you’ll indulge me, I’ll feature a particular part or topic of my trip in several different posts over the next couple of weeks. I wouldn’t be able to do it justice otherwise. I’ll also need to spread the posts out a bit because my boss was right about something (as she often is).  I dragged myself into work Tuesday morning, after approximately 22 hours of plane time. My boss gave me a hug and told me it’ll take a week for me to get over the jetlag. I waved it off and said, “Oh, I’ll be fine in three days.” Well, today is the third day, and all I can say is – What the hell do I know?!

Carved wooden doors at the Kathmandu Airport. More pics and stories to come!

The Adventure Begins

 *

Some of you may recall that a couple of weeks ago I mentioned that I would be taking Nigel and Aidan to the Grand Canyon when I go to visit them during their two-month stay at their dad’s house. Some of you may also recall that in April I mentioned that I would be going to Nepal this summer with Knowledge for People to do an autism educational volunteer program. And some of you may be as excited as I am when I tell you that I am doing both trips!

Friday morning I fly to LA, and I’ll spend the 4th with my extended family members who live there – Dad, brother and sister-in-law, and my sister. (In case you’re curious – I’m actually from LA. I moved up to Oregon to go to college and ended up staying. It’s that beautiful. Funny thing, Nigel and Aidan’s dad is also from LA, but we met and married in Oregon. Just a little Tanya Trivia for you.) Anywaaaayyy, then I am renting a car and picking up the boys to go to the Grand Canyon for a few days. This will be my fourth time there, and the first for them. I’m looking forward to sharing it with them, but really, I just can’t wait to see them and hug them. I’ve missed them so much already.

After I return Nigel and Aidan to their dad’s house, I will fly out of LAX for Nepal. I’ve spent the last week preparing two presentations I’ll be giving – one on sensory issues, and the other on my parenting experience. I’m the only parent of an autistic child on the team going to Nepal, and I feel so humbled to be speaking to these parents and teachers (through an interpreter). How can I talk about the challenges of raising a child with autism, when I have no idea how challenging their lives already are? Who am I to talk to them about challenges?! They are in a country with no resources for their child! But we are hoping to help with that, and I am honored to be a part of this.  I prepared outlines of my presentations and sent them to the director of Knowledge for People, and she will forward them to the founders of the newly-formed autism center in Kathmandu who, I hope, will have the outlines translated prior to our arrival. That way the parents will have something to refer to while the interpreter and I are speaking to them, and they’ll have some written material to take home with them.

And in case I sound all nonchalant as I’m mentioning that I’ll be traveling to Nepal and speaking to a group of people and having my words translated and all, don’t let the casual tone of my writing fool you. I can’t believe I’m doing this!!! I can’t believe, after months of planning and preparation and thinking can I really do this?, that the time has come and I am doing it!! Talk about taking a leap! I’m a little nervous, but fortunately my excitement seems to be overriding my butterflies.

So, my friends, the blog will be quiet for a while. We’re supposed to have internet access in one of the places we’re staying, but I am laptopless, so I’m not planning on posting during my absence. That just means I’ll have plenty to post about when I return! (And I’ll be swamped with work to catch up on, but we won’t talk about that now.) I’ll be back in Oregon on July 28, and I promise I’ll post as soon as my jetlag fog clears. Namaste!

 

*photo courtesy Wikipedia