Trekking Day Four – Alan

Our wakeup call today is about 5:45. The guide brings me a cup of hot water and I add some green tea leaves that I have brought from home. I am really appreciative of the support staff on this trek. I sip my tea and pack up my gear into a duffel bag, then go out for a breakfast of rice porridge, eggs, plums, and a sweet doughy bread that has been prepared by the Kamal and Gimmoy. After breakfast, Wong and I put on our boots and head out with Sonam while the rest of the crew breaks down the camp and loads the horses with the gear. They then set out for the next camping site and set it all up again and are usually there waiting for our arrival.  The support crew really do make this a pleasant experience and quite frankly, probably the only way I could have done the trek this year.

Today is a short hike, should only take about 3.5 hours but the path is steep. We are climbing from our current camping height of 13,800 feet to our next camp at just over 16,000 feet. There are some spectacular view along the way today. This is what I came trekking for and I am glad I have my camera with me so I can share what I see.

Today we see more of the tables with the mantra carved rocks on them. Sonam tells me they are carved in memory of a loved one. Or, in some cases when a person is caught stealing or committing other crimes they are required to carve these stones or to build some of the primitive Stupas we see along the trails as part of their punishment. It is seen as a way to repair or clean their karma.

With the short hike today we have a hot lunch and get settled into our camp. We have a great pasta dish with grilled vegetables and are told to eat quite a bit and to rest this afternoon. Tomorrow is supposed to be a long day with a two hour climb up to a pass that will take us just over 17,000 ft and then a long 5-6 hour descent. I actually haven’t felt too sore from all of the walking. Sonam is telling us that the long descent is actually harder for some than the climbing….. will find out tomorrow!

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Reading List – Susan

I brought a few books on the trip I have always intended to read and never seem to start.  First I read Night, by Elie Wiesel, a haunting and beautifully written Nobel Prize winning, memoir about his Holocaust experience as a teenager. The book was originally written in French in 1956 and his wife, Marion revised the translation in 2006.  I highly recommend it.

Then I read Flourish by Martin Seligman, who is the father of positive psychology and a professor at University of Penn, who also wrote Authentic Happiness about ten years ago.  Flourish is an update on his happiness theory, moving to a theory of well-being, with more measures to create a fulfilling life.  I found reading the book calming, as I had defined the goal of this trip to increase my well-being.  When I stated that my goal for this trip was improving my well-being, I meant improving my health.  Yet as I read his theories, I realize that is just what I am after as my goal.

Seligman’s well-being theory is measured by:

  • Positive Emotion
  • Engagement
  • Meaning
  • Positive Relationships
  • Accomplishments

And I would add physical health to the list.  One must be healthy to pursue the measures above, which Seligman does address in the book. It is a fast and interesting read, with many psychological studies from other professors, case studies, well-being exercises and a fascinating recount of how Seligman’ work is being used by the US military, specifically to prevent and help PTSD.  After sharing it with Dr. Raju and Padma, they both asked to read it, so I will leave my copy for them to enjoy.

I did experiment with some of his exercises from the positive emotion section.  The first one in the book is called “The Gratitude Visit”.  You are to write a 300-word letter of gratitude for someone who is alive and then go read the letter to them.  I wrote a letter to my friend, Karlin who was the one who exposed me to the Ayurvedic approach and is a wonderful friend and support.  She was delighted to receive the letter, even without a personal visit.  The other exercise I did is called “What Went Well” (WWW), where you list three things that went well today.  At dinner at the clinic we have taken turns bringing different conversation topics, otherwise we end up taking about the treatments and our health, which gets dull day after day.  The WWW has been very well received and provided lots of fun conversation.

Now I am reading Through Time Into Healing by Dr. Brian Weiss.  Dr. Weiss wrote Many Lives, Many Masters a couple of decades ago. This book is the follow up to that book and was originally published in 1992.  Weiss is a Yale trained psychiatrist, who uses hypnosis and past life regression to heal his patients.  The book is full of amazing case studies.  He has several more current books, but I happened onto this one at the Indian mall and picked it up as I had been meaning to get his most recent book after hearing him on Oprah radio this past spring when I found his talk riveting.

Interestingly, Dr. Krishna told me yesterday during my pulse reading I should be careful about what I am reading during the treatments.  His comment was not from hearing the pulse, but my report of what I was reading. He said the goal of the treatment is have your body and mind at an even keel and to be careful that books don’t excite your mind.  He recommended spiritual books to calm the mind.  I figured the Dr. Weiss book fits into the spiritual category from my perspective and kept on reading, as I find it calming!

Next up is And the Mountains Echoed by Khaleo Hosseini, the author of the Kite Runner.

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Second Day (a tough one!) and Third on Trek – Alan

The second day of the trek was really a tough one. What was supposed to be a 7-8 hour day on the trail I turned into 9 hours. My guide, Sonam stayed with me the entire time and ultimately, the horseman came looking for us when we were about 1/4 mile from camp and gave me a ride the rest of the way. I snoozed for a while in the kitchen tent while being encouraged to eat and drink.

In the pictures above, back row (left to right), are Sonam, our guide; Gimmoy,  the cook’s assistant; Thinly, the horse man, and in the front row with the trekkers is Kamal, the cook.

We had left camp at 7:00 am and up until noon I was in good shape, taking in the scenery and keeping a good pace. We stopped for lunch (we carried a box lunch that Kamal made) and about an hour into our the afternoon hike I started getting intense abdominal pains. They kept getting worse and I kept getting slower for the rest of the day! Another bout with altitude sickness. Who knew that altitude could be such an adversary. Leh is about 11,500 ft above sea level and today we are probably another 1,000 ft higher in altitude.

We camp near the village of Markha and Sonam tells me they have a public satellite phone. If I don’t feel better in the morning they will arrange to have a horse take me quickly down in altitude. I went to my tent to sleep and Kamal brings me some plain rice. “You must eat” he says!

I wake up the next morning about 6:00 am and the cramps are gone! I actually felt pretty good, a little sore from the 9 hour hike, but OK. Disaster averted, no need to call in the cavalry. I had a simple breakfast of rice and soup, plus a little green tea. We left camp about 7:15.

We are climbing again today (Friday) and we will be camping at an altitude of about 14,100 ft. We actually start out pretty flat, like yesterday we had a river crossing where  we take off our boots and socks and put on sandals. I have pants that turn into shorts by unzipping part of the leg so I make the conversion and wade across the river. The water, coming from the melting icecaps nearby is pretty cold and quite the eyeopener!

About 3 1/2 hours into our hike the rest of the crew comes up behind us with the ponies and all of the gear. I did not know, but the Sonam and the Thinly (the horseman) had made a plan that I would ride for about an hour and then they would drop me off by the tea tent where we are going to have lunch. After lunch the climb gets pretty steep so they wanted me to conserve my energy for the climb. Given the events of yesterday, I couldn’t really turn them down so I got up on the horse and took the ride. Wait a minute, you might be thinking, Alan you are allergic to horses, aren’t you? Don’t they cause your eyes to water and an asthma type reaction? Well, I trusted it was the right thing to do and aside from a couple of sneezes (probably from all the dust!) I didn’t have the usual reaction and it was actually quite fun!

We clomped through streams as well as up and down some pretty narrow trails.  I am actually quite impressed with how sure-footed these horses are. They dropped me off at the tea tent and my guide and Wong are soon there. We had lunch and then started the climb up to the camp site. Two hours later we are at camp. We actually made the hike in the suggested time frame! Although warm now, they tell us we should probably sleep in our coats as it will get cold tonight. Sundown is about 7:30 so I have about 4 hours to relax, clean up a bit, and have dinner. Then it is off to sleep and getting rest for the next day. I feel like today I turned the corner and finally got used to hiking and climbing at altitude. I can’t wait for tomorrow!

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Catching up with the trek in-progress – Alan

Wednesday, the first day of my trek, Predome picks me up at the hotel at 7:00am. The hotel staff has just set up the buffet, so I hurriedly eat a couple of eggs and we hit the road. For gear I have a duffel bag, a day pack, and my camera bag. The duffel bag will be carried by the horses and has my clothes, sleeping bag, etc.  During the day I will just have to carry my day pack and camera bag, which makes the hiking much easier! Predome takes me out to the “car” and I find we are in a four-wheel-drive truck. Much different than most of the taxis I have seen running around town. I am soon to find out why!

We begin heading out of town, south I think, past the airport and army base. We are headed to the village of Chilling but I don’t see any mention of the village on the road signs telling the number of kilometers to different places. I am beginning to think that it must be a long way to Chilling when we turn off the main road onto a very bumpy, single-lane, dirt road. Chilling is only 28 kilometers away but I am thinking it is going to take a very long time to get there if the road is all like this!

 

We bump and bounce our way to Chilling and a little beyond the village the road comes to an end. I see they are constructing a bridge across the river we have been following but I soon surmise that the only way across this river is via a zip line! We put down my gear and I go have a seat under a tent that is setup close to the crossing. My guide smartly starts helping the crew running the crossing. They are loading a bunch of gear for a trek that is starting from this point.  Predome jumps us to the front of the line and soon the two of us and my gear are headed across the river in a box on the zip line!

Once across we had some tea in a tent that was conveniently placed next to the crossing and we head out about 9:30 in the morning. For about 2.5  hours we meander up and down some hills and through a couple of villages until we come to Skiu. Here we stop for a lunch of dal (lentils) and rice, then wait for the rest of the trekking group to come thru the village.

After lunch we headed up the trail for about an hour before we come to the camp-site. The trekking crew has already arrived and is in the process of setting up the cooking and sleeping tents. About 4:00pm Sonam and Wong(the other trekker, a 30 something woman from Malaysia) arrive in camp and after a few greetings we sit down for some soup and then retire to our tents for rest while Kamal (the Cook), and Gimmoy (the helper) prepare dinner and Thinly (the horseman) makes sure the horses have their dinner and plenty of water.

As I sit here writing this I hear a chorus of bells ringing, kind of like wind chimes. The horses wear them and as they eat and move around it makes the bell ring. I like it, it is a calming sound. There are no lights in the camp so dinner is served about 6:30 and the sun starts to set about 7:30. After dinner we are off to our tents. I write and read using the small flashlight attached to my cap, before going to sleep about 9:30.

Thinking about the drive today on the single lane dirt road, the zip line across the river and the climbs during hiking I would never be able to bring Susan along on a trek like this……unless she was blindfolded! Which of course kind of defeats the point…..hmmm, maybe Jacob would be interested.

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Alan’s Arrival – Susan

Alan was scheduled for three flights on India’s Jet Airways to fly from Leh in the north to Hyderabad in central India on Tuesday, the 16th.  I rode out to the airport to meet him with the Senior Dr. Raju as he was flying back to the clinic in Delhi.  Getting to ride with him was an unexpected treat. Dr. Raju is 60 and has a very youthful energy and delights in everything. The conversation was a gift for me.

P1020130When we (Murty and me) arrived at the airport’s waiting area, there was an Indian movie being shot, complete with an Indian movie star.  I snapped a quick photo before being told, “No photos, Madame” by the uniformed guards that are all over the airport.

Alan arrived looking a bit sun soaked and tired, yet healthy and happy from his adventure. P1020132Murty, the driver is in the photo with Alan. As we road through the streets, Alan tried to recognize familiar streets from his previous visits.  I smiled that I was the comfortable one with the rhythm of the clinic’s daily patterns. This was certainly a 180 from our arrival last year, when I was so uncomfortable and he was the old hand at how the place operates.

Seeing the Doctor

P1020140We saw Dr. Krishna together for our pulse readings the following morning.  Alan updated him on his health and showed him all his recent medical reports.  Dr. Raju suggested some new herbs to be taken daily throughout the year to ensure his continued good health.  The doctor was not happy to hear that Alan planned to only stay for 15 days of treatments.  He encouraged him to change his return plans, so he could have 23 days to have all the various treatments he felt he needed.  We will see if that can be worked out between the airlines and his office.

Update from Camp

Jacob left last week for the 21 day canoe trip and this is a photo of the group at trip departure.  Jacob looks so huge to us!  Jacob 21 day departureHe is the third from the left, in the red shorts. Camp reports he is one of the stronger kids on the trip and is loving the experience.  Sarah is having a blast and the counselors report that she keeps the cabin in laughter much of the time, teaches them her songs from the play and is enjoying wind-surfing. She did write last week with what sounded like a bit of homesickness, which is always hard to hear when you are half a globe away!  Camp reports that it has passed and she is in good spirits, enjoying the second session of camp.

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Treatment Update – Susan

My original motivation for coming to the Raju family clinic was to cure an autoimmune thyroid issue.  I am back for year 2, based on a positive first treatment last year.  I have come to realize this may take several years.  Honestly, I am so impressed with the benefits to my well-being in two weeks here I am open to future visits, even with how overwhelming I find life in India.  Yesterday we had a lecture by Dr. Raju, Senior on benefits of the ayurvedic approach.  I learned more about their daily herbal practices that will make a big difference in my healing and that I will be embracing at home this year.

I have been doing the basic treatments for about two weeks, which include taking herbs upon waking, also before the simple meals and daily massage type treatments with oil and herbs.  I am definitely slowing down and feel calmer, and am losing my American speed that I normally feel throughout daily life.

Thyroid Prep
I went to have an ultrasound on my thyroid gland to ensure all is well before we started the thyroid treatment.  Once again, Murity came to get me.  As we drove through the congested streets, I thought of myself as a character in a movie where I was the American or European protagonist living in a foreign land.  I respect the local traditions and am respected by the locals even though I am from a different land; and I was given some extra help to understand how to navigate this world. I am ever so thankful for that extra help!

P1020113Murity showed me into the ultrasound office, which looked just as a previous guest had described to me last year. The scan was completed quickly and the doctor and her assistant were kind and spoke English.  P1020111The doctor said everything looked fine including that the gland was a bit sunken. She said she expected that it was previously enlarged, which was true some years ago.  The bill for the scan was 700 rupees or about $11.  No insurance required and I was given the scan photos and a positive report.   Done and out in 20 minutes.  American healthcare could learn a thing or two from the Indian medical system!

Next, a tech came to the clinic to do a blood test to ensure all was good; it was fine.  To give me the results, Dr. Khrisna logged in to my iPad and downloaded them.  Very cool!  I was able to forward them to my US doctor with a few clicks, and she sent her comments back within a day.  India is such an interesting contrast of its old customs and the benefits of modern technology.

An Outing
I wanted to go out and have a good meal before I started the days of rice meals and the doctor said it was fine.  I went to a 5-star hotel called, Taj Krishna Hotel with another guest for a good lunch. Firdaus_S[2]The hotel and restaurant were beautiful and a huge treat for me to go out in the world.  I thought I ordered simply, however half way through the meal I was not feeling well and spent the balance of the time in the restroom.  At one point, I thought I would have to get a hotel room, thinking the one-hour ride back to the clinic would be too much.  I was able to rally and we were driven over to a large mall where we had promised to meet Natalie, one of the Australian guests.

The mall looks like an American one, an open mall filled with Indian stores, including a food court and Subway.  We headed to the top floor and went to a spa for a one-hour reflexology foot massage.  P1020128The spa was dark and quiet, except for the movie theater playing through the wall.  The foot massage was intense, almost painful, yet I still was able to have a good nap for a bit of it.  The ride back was quite something, with Friday night traffic overflowing through the streets.  I was so happy to return to the quiet of my clinic room after the crazy afternoon.  I did well up with tears the next morning when telling the doctor about how overwhelmed I felt by the city streets.

A Change in Direction
All treatment decisions are made based on your daily pulse reading.  I was ready to begin the week-long thyroid treatment on Sunday, which would include 18 meals of rice only with different herbs, and a special herbal paste applied to my neck.  When I had my pulse read that morning, the doctor said I wasn’t ready for the treatment.  I understood, I was quite tired.  Instead I would be given the week of bastis (enemas) to help release the toxins and allow my system to become stronger for the thyroid treatment. He just changed the order of the treatments to fit my system needs. Last night I had the first basti, a small oil one and interestingly, I had the best sleep since I arrived almost two weeks ago.  Today I will have two more, after lunch and dinner.  They mean business on clearing out the toxins!

Update on Alan
Alan has returned to his hotel after a fabulous trekking trip.  I got to have a quick chat with him today and he raved about his trip.  He will be flying down to southern India tomorrow and will arrive at the clinic in the afternoon.  He will post some blogs and photos soon, so we can get a sense of his adventure.

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Gratitude – Susan

Reasons I am grateful for Christopher Alan Myers:

  1. He loves unconditionally and teaches it each day.
  2. He is a wonderful husband, father, son and in-law.
  3. He enjoys helping the kids with their schoolwork and projects.
  4. He makes me laugh at the most unexpected times
  5. He makes everything we do better.
  6. He brings interesting projects to our lives, like Ricki (the dog), the ducks and now a rowing boat.
  7. I feel his love deeply when we are not together and it always makes me smile contently.
  8. Even when I am mad at him, I am happier and calmer when he comes home.
  9. He reads the web extensively on many subjects and never shows off.
  10. I enjoy Judaism more because of his commitment to it.
  11. He is patient and kind when I don’t feel well.
  12. I am healthier because I live with him.
CAM, taken 8/24/12

CAM, taken 8/24/12

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