The blazing afternoon sun and heavy cloud cover maliciously combine to create a steam filled oven that threatens to prematurely end this day’s impromptu quest. Fighting exhaustion, I stubbornly wipe away the stream of warm salty sweat flowing freely from my face. Gradually I fall into a focused rhythm. Muscles tense as each foot is thrust down with all available strength forcing worn out pedals to turn round rusty gears. The condition of this “mountain bike” is not as advertised and with each kilometer new problems emerge. Kickstand will not stay up, brakes almost useless and shocks seized. I had initially rented the sad bicycle for a quick loop around town, but then I spotted the Stupa and that leisurely cruise quickly evolved into a two hour climb up to a 3500 foot peak. The stone-paved twenty five to thirty degree ascent is no amateur ride and my undersized and under-serviced bike is not fairing to well. Whilst huffing and puffing up steep rocky switchbacks one thing keeps running through my mind: I’m climbing a mountain with inadequate equipment in less than ideal weather but, make no mistake, I will reach the top. “Insert business/life metaphor here.”
When I finally summit and arrive at the World Peace Pagoda I am utterly fatigued and drenched in sweat. Actively ignoring strange looks received from visitors that took the easy air conditioned route I stroll around the beautiful monument and take in the sights. The views from this vantage are supposedly vast and dramatic but not today. At present they are hidden behind thick clouds in all directions and while the vista of the lakeside below is stunning, I can’t help but wonder what I’m missing.
It is a feeling I have had often during this assignment. Not necessarily negative just a sensation that I’m not always previewed to the whole picture. This happens innocently enough either through cultural differences, translation losses, or just plain oversight. I have discovered that finding those gaps has often been where I can be most helpful. It’s not always easy to ask the tough questions that uncover the root of problem. One of my sales managers used to say “get comfortable being uncomfortable.” A phrase that I have become very well acquainted with both literally and figuratively during this assignment. But living in that space and understanding how to ask the hard questions in a tactful manner while not ruffling to many feathers is a skill that I am grateful to have had the opportunity to sharpen. The screening process for the PULSE program is long and intense and I always assumed it was just a way to sift through large numbers of applicants. But now, well into the fourth month, I have realized how integral the application process has been to my success. That process resulted in a PULSE match that not only allowed for a productive partnership but also space for me to develop and hone new skills through varied and challenging experiences.
During a white knuckle decent back to my hotel while praying that the corroded brake lines don’t snap or the warped wheels avoid flying off, cliché business/life metaphors continue streaming through my head. I’m in the home stretch and my time is starting to run short here in Nepal. I can begin to see all our well laid plans starting to come together. With a little luck I will leave this position having been a productive member of the CARE Nepal team and without too many of those plans falling apart, which is more than I can say about this bike.
P.S. Feel free to write in the comments section those cliché business/life metaphors that may have run through your head while reading this article.