Holy Cow!

Sunrise over the Himalayas

One of the inmates in the Compound is a beautiful Spanish girl, 33, called Raquel. She has given up her high-powered job in HR to travel the world for a year and is like a walking ‘Lonely Planets’ guide. When I heard that she had planned a trip to watch the sunrise over Everest on Saturday, I asked if I could join her. This meant a 3.30am start but I figured that I could sleep in the car en route. How wrong I was. Once we got off the main road, the road literally stopped. Instead there was a winding unmade track full of craters 5 feet wide and 1 foot deep for the last 12km with a sheer drop on one side. This might have been bearable in a 4 x4 but we were in the Nepalese equivalent of a Ford Focus. On numerous occasions my new Samsonite back pack nearly became a ‘superior sick bag’ as we were thrown around every corner and crater. Suddenly I noticed a massive form in the headlights which I thought was a mound of earth. As we approached I realized it was a large black and white cow asleep in the middle of our path, which had absolutely no intention of moving. As cows are holy in Nepal I knew there was no way the driver was going to flatten it, and give us all a sirloin. He had to go round it. We reversed and shunted, reversed and shunted. At one point one of the back wheels was airborne and spinning above the abyss below. I nearly said ‘ Look! Just run over Daisy and I will take the consequences.’ A 10000 Rupee fine and 10 years in prison seemed more attractive than the alternative… I could just imagine the obituary:

Jayne Webb was sadly taken from us whilst trying to avoid a Holy Cow on the road to Everest.’

Still it does sound more glamorous than:

‘Jayne snuffed it when she was run over by a bus outside Crawley Railway Station.’

By the time we had negotiated the bovine roadblock we were pushed for time to get to the summit before dawn broke. We sprinted up a flight of 50 steps to the viewpoint and there it was, the most magical and mystical sight; a golden watercolor of light rising above the Himalayas with wisps of white cloud below. I stood in silence, awestruck by the beauty of the moment. Words failed me (for once) but the spectacle will be etched in my memory forever…

I came down to reality with a thud when I got back, and was told that I would be teaching a kindergarten class this week. I have to admit that very little people are not my forte. When Son was 3 I took him to nursery, after a particularly trying weekend, and asked if I could pick him up when he was 15. Sadly the staff declined. I like kids when they become teenagers with attitude and swagger, and you can have a good bloody row with them. Being all saccharine to gnomes was going to be a challenge.

This morning I walked to the hut-like school with 2 tiny classrooms which were full of the cutest and brightest faces, with eyes shining like chocolate M&Ms. I was hooked. These miniature people were polite, eager to learn, and with a command of the English language most people in Wolverhampton would be happy with. They were clearly very poor, but already knew that learning was the best way out of this poverty. They looked searchingly at me, hoping that I could help them with their quest. Good job they didn’t know I hadn’t got the faintest idea what I was doing. One girl, Rupa, aged 4, told me she was going to be an engineer. I have no doubt she will. I finished the day proud of the fact that there were still the same number of kids that I had started with, and they all knew the name of their new teacher, Jamuna.

I love these kids…

Bookcases and Head Cases

Shed with a view

My first few days in Kathmandu have been a challenge. When I arrived at the hostel (compound) I was surprised to see that the walls were topped with razor wire and there were huge metal gates. I innocently thought these were to keep the volunteers safe, but soon realized they were to stop us escaping. I had paid extra for a private room as I did not want to spend every morning surrounded by nubile 20 year olds in thongs, making me feel even more depressed about the toll age and gravity have taken on my body. My quarters are separate from the rest of the house and it appears that the last thing to live here had 4 legs. I think they shooed it out and threw a mattress on the floor hours before I arrived. The only other thing in the room is a bookcase off a skip. Why the hell do I need a bookcase? A wardrobe would have been good. A large padlock secures the door and I was advised to padlock myself in at night. I do this but then lie awake worrying that my iPhone, which is attached essentially to 2 live wires sticking out of the wall, might burst into flames and I would be totally buggered as the window only opens 6 inches ‘for my security’. These are my thoughts as I lie in bed trying to drift off, when I am bored of squashing giant beetles by torch light.

The rest of the group, as one would expect, are mainly gap year students, full of youthful optimism, and wanting to see the world. I am the only English person, but fortunately English is the spoken language in the hostel. At the introductory meeting I jokingly introduced myself as the ‘Gappy Granny’. Big mistake. I have nothing against Chinese people per se, apart from the giant mobile phones, excessive use of selfie sticks and appalling dress sense, but one particularly annoying Chinese girl, Xo Siang Ho, really hacks me off. Every time she sees me she says ‘Hilo Garpee Grawnee.’ I swear if she says it again I will poke her in the eye with a chopstick and strangle her with her Huawei headphones,

The other person of note (or not) is an extremely dull German called Jorg. I know that a nation that prides itself on ‘precision engineering’ is not going to be full of people you want to go down the pub with on a Friday night, but this guy is a particularly fine specimen. He is 46, single (I wonder why)? And a software engineer (exactly). He drones on incessantly in a thick Germanic accent about how he comes to Nepal every year ‘to find himself.’ If he hasn’t found himself by now perhaps he should consider going back home and jumping under an Audi on the Autobahn, to put us all out of our misery.

This week has been a Cultural Immersion Week (initiation by fire) on the way of life here, before I am let loose on my class on Monday. As well as trying to learn some Nepali (impossible), I have witnessed abject poverty, but also the immense pride and contentment of the Nepalese people. One wise old man said to me ‘we expect little, so are happy with little, whereas you Westerners expect so much and are never happy with what you have.’ So true…

Reflecting on Nepal (after a long climb)!

.

Jesus Christ and any other gods…

Goodbye Jayne…

Well I made it (just). Midlife Crisis Jayne from leafy Lingfield is now in Kathmandu 4469 miles from home. I am actually very proud of myself for getting here all on my own. To be honest, I very nearly failed as early as Gatwick when I found it virtually impossible to lift my ‘super’ rucksack onto the baggage belt. Mrs Moody from Turkey Travel (aka Turkish Airlines) then pointed out that I had only paid for 30kg and had in fact 34kg of shoes and mosquito spray. That is only 8 lbs which is nothing, unless it has attached itself to my hips, then it is a bloody disaster. Anyway I managed to talk her down, but realized at that point there was no chance of talking her up to a free upgrade to business class.

My trip to Istanbul was uneventful but disaster struck on the second flight, to Kathmandu. As it was a night flight I was looking forward to a nice long sleep in my extra leg room seat, but when I got to seat 24A the world’s largest man was already wedged in there. I politely pointed out to the XXXXXL Yank that he was in the wrong seat then had to watch as he grunted and sweated and attempted to extricate himself from between 2 arm rests and wedge it all into the seat next door. As soon as we took off the supersize lump decided to fall asleep, and snore. Each snore reverberated around the cabin at 100 decibels as it found its way out from the vast adipose depths. Then it just got a whole lot worse. XXXXXL decided to lean on me, making me into a human pillow between his hulk and the window. You have no idea how cold your left ear can get when it is pressed against an airplane window at 39,000 feet for 6 hours…

I breathed a huge sigh of relief when I arrived at Kathmandu and there was a cute little Nepalese man waiting for me, who bowed and said ‘Velcome to Nepal, Mrs Veb’. ‘Phew I have made it!’ I thought, but then we got in his little van and headed into the kamikaze craziness of the capital. No rules, no brakes, no tyres and no safety chips. The journey in the 1952 Toyota minivan was utterly terrifying. At one point my Little Man overtook a moped and we ended up on the wrong side of the road with 3 motor bikes and a donkey and cart heading straight for us. The problem is that Hindus believe in fatalism, so when your number is up, your number is up. I do not share this belief but at that point I prayed to every bloody god under the sun (Hindu and otherwise) to spare me. It seemed such a damn shame to get wiped out, without at least trying my mosquito net.

Needless to say we made it, and I now go by the name of ‘Jamuna’. But that’s another story…

Hello Jamuna…

Pythons, Pervs and Packing

I leave for my trip in less than 48 hours, so my preparations are really ramping up. Unhelpful Son decided to do something helpful!  He Googled ‘Things that can kill you in Sri Lanka’ and found:

‘Sri Lanka is home to a spider the size of a dinner plate. With a leg span that can reach up to a rather terrifying ten inches, the Fringed Ornamental Spider is the second largest in the tarantula family’

And

‘Sri Lanka is known as having the most venomous snakes of any country in the world’

Thanks Son, if only you had applied as much enthusiasm to your university research you might have kept out of the Uni Bar for a few hours longer last term. However, I did decide that I must get better at dealing with these critters, so I have allowed one daddy long legs to enter my office without fear of being squashed to the door frame with the sole of a Kurt Geiger.  I have also folded 3 fitted sheets this week, which I feel is good practice for wrestling with any boa constrictor.

As if this was not stressful enough, I am trying to condense ‘How to Run a House’ into one document for Husband to follow.  Having run my own business for 20 years, I am not bad at Excel, but never have I had to concoct such a complicated spread sheet.  No wonder I am buggering off.  I need a break from trying to remember website passwords and whose mobile phone is with which provider.  Let alone being on top of who has finished all the blueberries and granola, so no one turns into a cereal killer.  

Yes, I did buy that hat…. But it will never appear on an Insta post…

To be honest my biggest challenge is the packing.  Being super-organised, I have bought everything I needed to get, ‘plus a bit more’ and now I am worried about fitting it all into my 110 litre ‘super’ rucksack.  There is a lot of kit.  3 months’ supply of anti-wrinkle cream weighs a serious amount. I am guessing at least 2 kg.  I also have 2 large bottles of anti-frizz hair product and I AM taking my Babyliss Hot Brush. If I am going to put any photos on my shiny new Instagram page, I am not having my mates saying, ‘Christ Jayne looks rough when there isn’t a Toni & Guy around the corner.’  I already have a few Insta followers (6) and one is called ‘MILF Hunter’. Unhelpful Son thinks I should delete ‘that perv’ but, you know what, at my age I am bloody delighted he is following me….  The problem will be actually carrying this 10 stone back pack into Gatwick Airport.  I do not want to fall flat on my back at the check-in desk and resemble a stranded Ninja Mutant Turtle.  I am not looking an arse until I have at least left the country…

Goodbye Lingfield, Asia here I come! Next post from Nepal, if I don’t get lost in Istanbul…

Do follow me on Insta! hownottohaveamidlifecrisis

Fashion disaster! Modesty clothing

Well, this is a first…. I have actually walked past the enticing windows of Hobbs and Jigsaw and I have ended up in……. Millets camping store! Yes, really!  This place is so alien to me, I might as well be in a Hoover factory.  The last time I ventured in here I had to get Daughter a tent for a festival.  I selected a bargain £25 pop-up tent which blew away at 3am on the first night of her trip.  This meant she spent the next 2 nights sharing a tent with her best friend and best friend’s boyfriend.  The downside was that she learnt way too much about her mate’s sex life.  The upside was that she has never had any desire to go to a festival again.

So, I have my list: ‘sleeping bag, mosquito net, water bottle, head torch etc’, but worst of all…. SANDALS. I have an aversion to any sandals with Velcro straps normally seen at country pubs and at Gatwick Airport in summer, in the check-in queue for Switzerland.  They are normally accompanied by socks and trousers with detachable legs.  Sorry, I just can’t do that.  I really do want to blend in on this trip and not look like the Middle-Aged Suburban Misfit, but there are some bridges I just cannot cross, and wearing Merrell sandals is one. In fact, I have huge problems with the entire wardrobe requirement for this venture.  I am Jayne Webb with the silk shirt, skinny jeans and loafers and this signature look does not, and never, will include amorphic sack-like baggy attire.  The dress code reads ‘shoulders and knees must be covered at all times.’  This would not be a problem here in winter, a good quality cashmere coat can do that stylishly, but in 30°C heat and 80% humidity, I am going to have to adopt a whole new look.  The ‘Glamourous Granny Look’ with long floaty skirts, linen blouses and chinos.  And, it gets worse. Normally when westerners go to Goa, Sri Lanka and the Maldives they stay in resorts where Western dress codes apply, but I am staying with the Muslim natives and women swim in ‘Burkinis’.  I Googled this word and was utterly horrified.  The model actually had a complete hijab headdress on as well! Suddenly my fear of looking ridiculous was replaced by fears of actually drowning, as the tails of my headdress got caught in some speed boat propellers.  Fortunately, I worked out that this addition was because she was a Muslim model.   Anyway, I have come up with a solution.  I am going surfing.  By that I mean I have bought a cool pair of multi-coloured surfing leggings and a coordinating Lycra rash vest.  No one said it had to be black….

Yes…. Really …

Breaking News

Preparations for my Trip over the past few months have been extensive.  Firstly, I had to make the announcement to Husband.  Normally when I say ‘Darling’ in a semi sexy voice over supper, I am about to admit to yet buying another Ralph Lauren shirt, or some Take That tickets.  This time the ‘Darling’ was sexier than ever… Husband coped very well with the announcement that his wife of 23 years was buggering off to Asia for 3 months to find herself.  I actually think he saw a green light for more tennis matches, meals out with the Boys and to get his motorbike licence.  Which led me to believe he, in his own way, is having a mini midlife crisis too.  My grown-up kids, to be honest, were shocked.  Reliable Mum, always at the end of a WhatsApp message and ready with a roast dinner when required, was doing something so “un-Mum-like’ they could hardly believe it.  Eyes widened, mouths opened, then eventually came the words ‘Mum, that is so Cool!’  Rarely in all my years as a mother, have I done anything is my kids’ eyes which is ‘Cool’, so I am taking this one and I am taking it Big Time.  Worryingly my friends all asked the same two questions, and in the same order ‘What will you do with your hair?’ and ‘What does Husband think?’ I told them I was going to tie up the first and might well do the same to the second.  Why do my friends think my peroxide bob comes before Husband?  That is worrying.  I guess I can at least hide the fact that one is very grey.

I have also had to cope with a lot of pricks lately, and I don’t just mean the guy in the camping shop who tried to sell me a £350 sleeping bag.  No, I mean vaccinations!  I have actually had so many that if I keeled over in the high street and someone saw my arms, I would be carted off to the nearest rehab centre.  I thought Japanese Encephalitis was something on the menu at YO! Sushi but, it is in fact, a rare, but often fatal brain disease, carried by mosquitos and it requires 2 bloody great needles full of serum to prevent it. I have also had 3 jabs for rabies and guess what?  It actually does not STOP me catching rabies!  It just means that when I fall to the ground, foaming at the mouth and barking with a limp tail I have more time to get to hospital.  Great….!

Midlife Crisis ‘A period of emotional turmoil in middle age characterized especially by a strong desire for change’

Who is having it?

Jayne Webb, middle aged, middle class, middle income, mid-range interior designer from the Midlands living in Surrey, UK.

I had always thought that the term ‘midlife crisis’ was a bit of a joke.  An explanation for why 40-something men suddenly find their 25 stone receptionists extraordinarily attractive and whisk them off on shiny new Ducatis.  And why women take up tennis to sleep with the 23 year-old tennis coach and dye their hair blonde.  So, when It dawned on me that I was having my own ‘midlife crisis’ I faced two huge problems: 

  1. I don’t like tennis
  2. My hair is already so blonde I could be mistaken for a Marilyn Monroe look alike (sadly from behind only)

So, what could I do to quench this over whelming and all-encompassing feeling that I needed a change? I needed to change?

I reached this crux in May and after weeks of trying to ignore my sense of unrest, I decided that perhaps I should embrace this stage in my life.  I should stop putting my family and my career first and I should damn well do something for ME. Not a face lift (although that was tempting), not a toy boy (although that was tempting), and not a personal trainer… I already have one.  I just needed to find that ‘something’. 

Ok so I admit it, I am an internet addict. Hours of ‘research’ every week on various sites have led to me being on first name terms with the UPS, FedEx, Parcel Force, My Hermes and City Link couriers.  Sadly, I also know most of their kids’ names as well.  I have actually just received my 271stparcel from Amazon this year.  That’s a lot of ink cartridges. But this time my research took me in a very different direction.  No cardboard boxes, no Jiffy bags, and no ‘Sorry We Missed You’ cards.  I planned a trip.  The mother of all trips and, all on my own…

Jayne Webb, middle aged, middle class, middle income, mid-range interior designer from the Midlands living in Surrey, UK is leaving the UK on 15th September 2019 to:

1) Teach young children in Kathmandu, Nepal how to speak English

2) Work in the slums in Goa

3) Travel to a remote island in the Maldives, 3 hours by speedboat from the capital Male, to work on turtle conservation

4) Work with a street dog rescue charity in Sri Lanka

She will be back in time for Christmas. 

Just to let you know, any ladies reading this who went the route of the 23 year-old tennis coach and are bored with the amount of waxing this involves, there are places still available.