Travel is not glamorous.
That’s the best way I can possibly describe the summer I spent in Nepal. Living in the small, landlocked country tucked between China and India came with a whole slew of challenges, but nothing could compare to the day I encountered a Nepali ice cube.
Stepping into Nepal is like stepping into the past. There are no paved streets and no street names. Air pollution from the dirt roads and lack of a garbage removal system makes it hard to breathe, especially considering the high elevation. Nepal is home to Mount Everest and a huge trekking industry. The third-world country cuts electricity nationwide for hours each day and all running water throughout the cities makes both tourists and locals sick.
After about a week of living in the capital, Kathmandu, I started to venture out on my own. I needed to learn the bus system so that I could get to and from my internship office at the Kathmandu Post in the Kantipur district of the city.
The busses were, to some extent, unpredictable and my in-country guides weren’t much help as they drove their own motorbikes. So, left to my own devices, I headed to the nearest main road. I looked for the golden busses I was told to scout out on the left side of the road near the temple with the old dogs.
I was not entirely sure of where I was going or how I would get back home; hesitant doesn’t even begin to describe how I felt. I paced back and forth on the street, from one bus to the next, afraid to stray too far from home.
Desperate for an excuse to do anything but actually get on a bus, I found a sweet little coffee shop on the side of the road. After all, what better than to have a drink in a café, break out my journal, and write down the inner panic I was experiencing? A honey melon smoothie? Sounds great!
I wrote in my journal as I peacefully sat in the corner, examining the small café cluttered with businessmen and teenagers. I sipped my drink but it was so unbearably hot outside that I just couldn’t take the overwhelming sweetness of the honey. I needed something to rinse away the syrupy taste that filled my mouth, so as innocently as could be, I used my straw to push an ice cube to the top of my glass. With my dirty fingers, I pulled it out and plopped it straight in my mouth.
Ew, I thought to myself. That tastes funny. I figured the ice must’ve been frozen in a freezer with a strange smell. Regardless, I couldn’t stay there all day hiding, putting off my dreaded bus experiment. I packed up my bag and headed on my way.
OK, I have to do this. I already took a break from the heat — it’s now or never.
No matter how many times I tried to convince myself, I still didn’t want to. I was so nervous my stomach started to churn.
Get on the bus. I don’t feel good. What if I get lost? It’s going to get dark soon. Just get on the bus. If you go home now you can ask for more details on the bus instructions again in the morning, but if you go home now you will have failed your only goal of the day: to make it to the office. Just do it, take a leap of faith and get on the bus, if nothing more it’ll be another Nepali learning experience.
Crap. I really, really don’t feel good. No, I need to go home. Forget the bus. Get home. Now.
Uh oh. Hang in there, Bri. You’re so close to home. It’s okay, focus, you got this.
Shit … is this really happening? It just happened. It just started to happen. Yes, I was still walking home. Yes, there were people in the streets.
I had to bow my head and just face the fact that this was happening. There I was, unwillingly crapping myself in public, an uncontrollable display of s–t.
Hey, it’s Nepal right? People do gross things like this in the street everyday. OK maybe not this gross, and especially not in this neighborhood, the home to the Prime minister of Nepal among others of the nation’s wealthiest.
If I had any sense of control over what my bowels decided to do that day, you better believe I would’ve done all I could not to look like that foreign girl. And yet there I was, covered in the results of swallowing that lone Nepali ice cube.
All I was left with was one final prayer that no one would be home when I showed up. I walked in the big blue gate and directly into the shower, clothes and all. I scrubbed my body head to toe and went to bed, grateful that I didn’t run into any of my housemates. For months I didn’t tell anyone; I was too embarrassed to even bring it up. And so that is the story of that one time in Nepal when I crapped my pants in public all thanks to one tiny, evil ice cube.
Getting sick abroad is not fun, but when you push yourself past your comfort zone even the worst and craziest experiences can turn into funny stories. Sometimes you just have to wait a few years until your emotional scars are fully healed. But hey, shit happens.