Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Bits and Pieces of Life Here

There have been bandh's (protests, strikes, road closures) for 6 days straight, and then today the road cleared in Kathmandu. People were able to open their businesses and travel about to get what they needed. We were able to get in and out to provide services at the weekly leprosy clinic in a city hospital. Tomorrow, though, it looks like it will be another bandh. Sometimes they are for political reasons. Sometimes they are about fuel. Sometimes both. Sometimes it seems they can be about nearly anything. Someone told me that there are only seven roads leading into the valley. A few strategic roadblocks of flaming tires can paralyze city transport. And, no, the police do not typically stop them. In the city, common people rely on cheap public transport to be able to get to work and get food. Only the very, very, very few have their own car. By the way, I heard that the other day (while I was gone to India) several of the visiting foreigners at Anandaban partook in a jeep ride nepali style : 15 passengers in one jeep designed for 7-9 people. Cars here are not anywhere near as large in size as those in the US. :) They rode for a bit and then three decided they would rather ride on the roof: one nepali and two british guys. The roads here are not quite what you are used to. They are a "bit" rougher. A dutch visitor once commented that europeans sometimes pay money to be therapeutically shaken about like that. :) Anyway, when it began to rain - for it is the monsoon season - the passengers kindly passed up an umbrella through the window to the roof. The veteran roofrider Nepali easily held the umbrella aloft in one hand while the two foreigners clung to the bars with both of their hands for dear life. Luckily, they later on were able to catch a separate vehicle and did not have to do the worst part (around the mountain) of the journey on the roof. It is terrible that no pictures were taken. Such a thing would have needed to be posted here!! :) So, here are a few current headlines to share... Nepal fuel price protesters stone cars Thu Jun 19, 2008 1:41pm IST KATHMANDU (Reuters) - Hundreds of Nepali student activists, demanding a roll back of fuel prices and transport fares, stoned or set fire to several vehicles in the capital Kathmandu on Thursday, police said. State-run Nepal Oil Corporation increased petrol and diesel prices by about 25 percent last week saying the move was needed to cut losses due to a global oil price rise and to meet a domestic fuel shortage. Transport operators also raised fares between 25 and 35 percent for taxis and buses, sparking fresh protests. On Thursday, angry student protesters shouting "withdraw the fuel price hike" marched in the streets of the capital throwing stones on passing vehicles and disrupted rush hour traffic. Protesters threw rocks and destroyed window panes of the car of Nepal's Chief Justice Kedar Prasad Giri, a Reuters photographer on the scene said. Giri was unhurt and escaped with his security guard to a nearby house. "The street has turned into a battlefield with protesters throwing stones at the riot police," said Deepak Rijal, a local journalist at another protest site. A police jeep was also set on fire, Rijal said. Students are demanding a 50 percent discount in transport fares to students, from 33 percent now. Petroleum dealers say fuel was still in short supply despite the rise in prices. Nepal imports about 800,000 tonnes of petroleum products from India annually and owes millions of dollars to the state-run Indian Oil Corporation, the sole supplier of oil. In January, a similar increase in oil prices was rolled back after countrywide protests crippled life for two days. But, then I check the US news and see this. I've been here in Nepal for 6 months, away from home for a total of 9 months. Living here changes the perspective of how things look back in the US. Angry Kids Protest Gas Prices After Mom Cancels Cable TV,2933,371230,00.html SALT LAKE CITY — Sadie and Pyper Vance have had just about enough of high gas prices. The sisters are still years away from being old enough to drive, but that doesn't mean the $4 per gallon price tag isn't hitting them as hard as anyone else. Cable TV was one of the family's budget-cutting casualties, leaving Sadie, 9, and her 7-year-old sister without their favorite cartoons and shows. "Gas prices are too high," Sadie said. "I just decided to come and protest so they'd go down." The girls marched through downtown Monday chanting and carrying signs made from old campaign signs. "All of my mom's monny goes to the gas tank!" Pyper's sign read. Sadie carried a sign asking drivers to honk to lower gas prices — adding that her mom had to cut "cabel." The girls got some waves and a few thumbs-up to show support. "I think it's great," said Hamid Tayeb, who was walking past on his lunch break. "It's unfortunate that kids are doing it before we do." They lost cable TV? Here a family uses a portable tank of fuel for cooking their food and boiling their drinking water over a gas burner (me, too). Without the fuel, you cannot cook or have safe water to drink. With price hikes, a two week supply for a family of four can now cost nearly half a month's wages. For some, it costs more than a month's wages. Most families are extended - not just four members. They get frustrated. What can they do? The king was just ousted from the palace to be replaced by a government system that has yet to be decided. What can they do? The other day, I commented to one of the compound kids that I had not seen one of the other kids for some weeks. Where was she? They told me that the girl didn't come to play after school anymore. They think she now goes to work after school at the gravel pit with her parents - where most of the labor is by hand with shovels, hammers and baskets to carry. I'm not meaning to play guilt for what we have. I'm just trying to explain what things look like here - when I've been away, outside our culture for months now. It can be difficult to try to deal with or try to reconcile between the two worlds.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

So, tomorrow I fly to Delhi for a meeting...

Jackals, lizards, raptors delay flights in India Jun 17, 3:14 PM (ET) NEW DELHI (AP) - Jackals, monitor lizards and raptors descended on a runway at New Delhi's main airport after heavy rains Monday, delaying flights, an airport official said. The animals were looking to dry off and warm up after the first monsoon rains hit India's capital, and their appearance on the runway forced authorities to stop planes from taking off and landing for about an hour, Indira Gandhi International Airport spokesman Arun Arora said in a statement. Animal welfare authorities cleared the runway of wildlife, including monitor lizards that measured as long as 2-3 feet, Arora said. Arora didn't say how many flights were delayed. The Hindustan Times newspaper said about 100 flights were affected. In the monsoon season, which runs from June to September, heavy rains routinely delay flights all over India.
So, the warmer weather has come. The snows in the Himalayas melt. Rain develops and the rivers fill. The water creates hydroelectric power and we have fewer power outtages. Nice, but the cloud cover is not so great for satellite internet! Ah, well, we can't have everything...

Monday, June 2, 2008

080531 Med Camp

Anandaban treats those afflicted by leprosy every day. It is an enormous task, as some need to stay a long time due to complications or needing surgery and physiotherapy to help reconstruct their ability to live outside. This can take months and sometimes recurring visits for years. Yet Anandaban also has the privelege of reaching out to the communities nearby that are in need of help. It will never be an understatement in Nepal: Life here is very different. While the US may be called the land of opportunity, people living in these conditions can live for generations with very limited options. That can be very difficult to understand, when we have become so used to always being able to "do something" about most problems we have. It is beautiful, but the foundational logistics of clean water, adequate power supply and food are issues here. This past Saturday, we were able to do another med camp in a village about 45 minutes further away from KTM (Kathmandu). It is really a unique opportunity. Someone donated funds. We take the funds, fill a the hospital bus with staff from the hospital, boxes of medicines and some local missionary type volunteers. We then travel to a site for a day to provide free medical checks. This weekend, we rode only 45 minutes further out into the hills. Someone had built a few buildings there as a school. We set up in several rooms there: a mens room, women, and pharmacy with med records holding a registration table outside. This trip, we had 8 doctors that traveled with us: 4 volunteer Nepali doctors, 2 Nepali doctors from Anandaban, an Irish doctor that previously worked at Anandaban who was back to visit (and could speak excellent Nepali) and a swiss volunteer (she had a translator beside her). That was the most doctor volunteers I had seen us to have, but we needed it! In less than 5 hours, they saw and treated roughly 435 people. Several cases were identified that needed surgery: several hernias, two with broken bones (1 from a month ago), and another who had had a perianal abcess for a month was carried in on a stretcher. We are so glad to have Dr. Indra, the new surgeon. These people are now scheduled to have surgery back at Anandaban this week. Because I'm lab personel, I can't really help the doctors much here! So, I help with crowd control. :) This helps to keep things orderly so they can properly work with each patient. I stood at the door of the room where women were seen by the doctors. I know how to smile and say "please come in", "please sit down", "please wait" and "another person please come". I can also take pics to help communicate with people back home. Sometimes, many of the people come with colds, stomach parasites/problems, aches and pains. Sometimes it is things more serious (like the surgery cases). At another camp, there was a young girl who had been unable to walk for months; but she had just been left in the house. We transported her to a hospital that day. And then there are the little ones. Nepalis usually have beautiful tar black hair, but some of the little ones in the villages don't. It's because of malnutrition. Sometimes, they are not usually responsive like normal, healthy babies either. They sometimes just stare or cry. When it looks like highlights, it can show seasonal changes in diet. Sometimes there is good food, sometimes not. Also, some of the girls marry very young (12-15 yrs, sometimes into homes of multiple wives), have many children and the cycles that occur for generations just keep going. How old do you think this girl is? And the child in front of her with severe malnutrition? (I do not think it was hers) Some of the volunteers also collected clothes and shoes in KTM to distribute. Here are some of the shoes that were donated to give to the kids in the village. These are the communities we are posted to work and live amongst.

Some of these things, it just hurts to see them. And it should.