The first day was every bit of travel hell one can expect, starting with a car ride Grand Rapids and ending 32 hours later in Kathmandu. I recommend this kind of crammed travel route to no one – it was as awful as I had expected it to be, the worst form of self-torture. This included close to 23 hours in an airplane alone, with a 13 hour flight over the Pacific Ocean. Saying goodbye to my family wasn’t easy either – there were tears and puffy eyes as I Ieft them in the Chicago airport. The grief hadn’t hit me – quite yet at least.
There were two moments were I was on the verge of mentally losing, including one where I sort of did. The first was 4 hours over the Pacific Ocean, realizing I was still 9 hours away from another 5 hour plane flight. After pushing through another hour of mental anxiety, I recovered and armored up for the rest of the flight.
The second time I nearly (kinda) lost it was in my room the night I arrived. I had slept about only 6 hours in the last two nights and was exhausted, but my mind wouldn’t shut off. The ride from the airport to our guest house was culture shock well at work. I was able to survive customs at the Kathmandu Airport, I wasn’t ready for the barrage of taxi drivers that lay outside. Every person and everything I read warned me about what was going to happen, but it couldn’t stop me from being overwhelmed. I found the man with my nameplate (Kevin Lingell scribbled notebook paper) at about the same time I called out my new American Couchsurfing friend who had been waiting for me. I couldn’t process everything that was going on – fumbling through an abrupt greeting, giving her the mail her parents sent me, and quickly saying goodbye. She was thoughtful enough to have given ne a gift-bag full of goodies. In retrospect I felt bad about it, but my brain was functioning at low capacity.
As I walked over the van, I random man grabbed my suitcase and took it from me the rest of the way. At this point, I had forgotten the warnings about not letting anyone taking it. And he was taking it to my taxi, so I really didn’t give a shit. Well, of course he asked for a tip delivering it… and there goes my first Nepali scam. Oh well, $2 may not be much to me but will make that little baggage snatcher quite happy. I sat in the van trying to make small talk with a young taxi driver next to me, who didn’t really speak English at all. It was a serious of confused faces, but he was nice enough to try. Eventually, my other passenger David arrived – an Aussie who was going to volunteer at one of the projects for RDCP.
The drive into Kathmandu was overwhelming for me. There were scary roads, random cows walking the streets, men sleeping under trees, and everything reeked of diesel. It felt like I had just stumbled into hell. My senses and my mind were not on the same page. Settling down for the night, my mind kept running. I felt alone and immediately began to miss everything I had left behind in Michigan – my family and my close friends all so far away. I knew nobody well, and I was in a stake of pure shock. I was looking desperate something to cling to, but found nothing. I was stuck here for 6 months in this terribly frightening and unfamiliar place.
My challenge had worked well, perfect in fact. I pushed myself beyond my limits. I knew this would happen, but was helpless in preventing myself from going through the motions. I wanted this trip to stretch my boundaries and it was already working. For a few moments, several tears leaked out as I released all the stored up panic I had channeled in my chest. It was enough to get me about one hour of relief in the form of a brief slumber. Though I was exhausted, I had survived day one.