Friday, October 31, 2008

Bits and pieces

  • OK. My laptop is still somewhere in KTM. Anandaban's secretary is probably very tired of me asking about it. The repair shop says they need parts from abroad. Singapore, maybe or maybe not...nobody knows.
  • It makes a huge difference when evictions are performed on occupants that you did not know were there. Apparently, I was late for my routine deworming/anti-protozoal. Let's just leave it at that.
  • Tihar was an interesting festival. We (Elisa and I) stayed in Bhaktapur with friends for a couple days of it. We'd grown used to the relative quiet seclusion of Anandaban. Sorry, I have. Elisa travels frequently into villages etc to help organize community based rehabilitation groups, so she's slept in many different areas of Nepal. More densely populated village/city life is different from Anandaban.
  • On different days of Tihar, people worship the crow, dog, cow, bull and then a day for sisters to worship their brothers. The city shuts down, kind of like Christmas back home. With narrow streets maybe centuries old, there are strings of lights and candles on, around and in front of village homes. The dogs, which are mostly street mongrels (no animal control), are wearing marigold necklaces and have the red tika (dot) painted on their foreheads. Ditto for the cows (which roam free). We saw motorcycle rallies (parades); during which it occurred to me that if I were driving a motorcycle without a helmet, I would not want the guy riding behind me smoking a cigarrette. There is also the wonderful neighborhood vehicle that parks in front of your home at night with large speakers connected to the car battery. This is so the entire neighborhood can simultaneously share in the joys of a bunch of young guys' favorite Hindi tunes. There was one particular song they really liked; but for one or reason or another, the party-mobile moved on around 10pm or so.
  • Don't ask me what the dogs did all night. I did get up at first to see. They were acting as if they were on the most important mission in the world - having meetings, conferences and then spreading out over neighborhoods while maitaining communications. It culminated in an early morning (4am) festival in front of where we were staying; which Elisa says finally drew out a neighbor to pitch some rocks at them. People start moving in the streets around 4:30am, ringing the bell at the neighborhood shrine everytime someone completed their morning puja (worship). I recognized some of the dogs the following day when walking the streets. They were sleeping REALLY good. There is also a caroling tradition associated with this holiday, except you're expected to give money to the performers. The second night was much quieter. There were some more carolers that worked the neighborhood; but from the sound of it, the group eventually petered down to one groggy guy. They also had a favorite song (ie, one song).
  • We really had a good time and enjoyed the visit. We got to play games with our friend's kids, ate daal bhaat at least twice a day (cooked and seasoned exceptionally well). We walked around and saw places. It was beautiful. We had great company. We did not suffer. :)
  • We had another free medical camp last weekend in a nearby village. We had 10 doctors and a couple of volunteer nurses. In roughly 5hrs, 820 people saw a doctor, 500 received medication. Some were referred to surgery. I would love to show you some pics, but you will have to wait with me for my laptop.
  • The temps are already dropping. I'm using thermals on some days already.
  • Hey, if you read this, drop me a line (or a comment, at least) and let me know how you are doing!

An Indiana paper prints story of recent visitor

  • Remember the medical camp this summer with the dentist? Well, it looks like a couple from that crew went home to Indiana and was then interviewed for their local paper.

Trip to Nepal is eye-opener Educators studied schools, hospitals, way people live By Julie Young / Star correspondent Posted: October 30, 2008 It might not be everyone's idea of a dream vacation, but for New Palestine residents Betty and Bill Widbin, traveling to Nepal was an experience they will never forget. "We received a teacher's creativity grant through the Lilly Endowment to go to Nepal for a month. Our son, Kyle, works as a missionary over there, and we wanted him to lead us on a journey though the schools and churches of the region," said Betty Widbin. The Widbins and their daughter, Julie, traveled in June, loaded with care packages for children put together by the students at Belzer and Craig middle schools in Lawrence Township. Betty teaches at Belzer and Bill is athletic director at Craig. Not only did the trip give them a chance to see their son, it also gave them a deeper cultural understanding. "It was a renewal for us," Betty said. "We hadn't seen our son for a year and a half, so we relied on him to get us around, understand the currency and communicate." The Widbins spent their time in Nepal visiting schools, orphanages and a leprosy hospital. Betty said the hospital had a dirt floor and poor conditions, but it didn't stop the spirit of the people. Even the poorest of the poor were willing to open their homes and extend kindness to the strangers in their midst. She said it was a humbling experience to see how much people in the United States take for granted. "Education is the highest priority for parents in that region," Widbin explained. "It really makes you stop and think about what we have here in America." In Nepal, if students do not pass an exam after the 10th grade, they are not allowed to continue their education and are destined to work in the fields. In fact, she said, suicide rates among teens greatly increase when test results are released. Students are taught English, and they loved practicing their second language with the Widbins. "They all looked so dignified in their uniforms that it was easy to forget the poverty they come from," Widbin said. "We also learned that physical education is not taught, but rather students get their exercise walking miles to school each day." In the orphanages, the Widbins distributed the presents they brought from their students, who were given a dollar and challenged to "Pay it Forward." The Nepali children enjoyed the Frisbees, stickers and stuffed animals but also took the time to show the Widbins their games, which they have since brought back to their students. Since returning home, Betty said they have spent hours viewing more than 4,000 photos and eight hours of video footage they shot on their trip. They have shared their experience with family and friends and have even managed to stay in touch with several Nepalis through e-mail. "We will never be the same after this trip," she said. "It definitely had an effect on our roles as teachers and how we see students in America. The feelings of being an American in a Third World country made us realize how blessed we are."

Saturday, October 18, 2008


  • (I still have not figured out how to make paragraphs work in blogger, so just imagine the bullet points as paragraphs, ok?)
  • Well, since I last posted, Holly has come and left. It was a tremendous treat to have someone from Baton Rouge in my house here in Nepal. We speak the same language, like food from the same culture and can crack jokes in south Louisiana slang. I cannot show any of the marvelous pics taken during her visit, since my laptop died again the day she left. The laptop is in KTM, but it is the biggest festival time of year and it can be difficult to get things done here in Nepal. Somewhat similar to the Christmas season in the US. Somewhat. Multitudes of turkeys and pigs "discreetly" die in the US during our Christmas season. In Nepal, it seems every family that can afford it sacrifices a goat or a waterbuffalo. I will spare you the details, but the details of the ceremonial dispatch and what to do with the remains are a little more "open" here than where you may live. So, it was my first Dashain festival. There was a definite dent placed in the goat population.
  • The hospital closed during the week of Dashain. The day the lab reopened, staff worked feverishly (some literally) all day. So many people had problems. Stomach and fever issues. What happens in a culture where refrigeration is not necessarily common, but festival cooking for large gatherings is made? Some do not eat meat all year except during this holiday. Great aftereffects. It would put me off meat, too. Someday, I may tell you about my experience with beef gel served at a feast we attended...
  • In the paper the other day, I saw that 47% of the Nepalese population cannot be accessed by roads. 50% do not have access to a toilet. It is easy to come to Nepal and stay in the tourist places accessible by roads. But those places do not give the whole picture of Nepal.
  • Elisa, the Aussie occupational therapist, is the other foreign employee at Anandaban. Her work is very different from mine (lab work in hospital). It is her job to travel out to communities and villages and organize small support groups among those afflicted with the after effects of leprosy or other debilitating handicaps. She helps them learn and maintain self-care so they can potentially limit their disabilites from getting worse. In a culture where most jobs involve alot of physical labor and career changes to suit disability are not a common option, Elisa's work is critical to helping leprosy patients live the rest of their life.
  • Anyway, it means that when Elisa travels to the field, she often returns with great stories.
  • A few weeks ago she had to go to Chitwan. During the community work, they found a family with six members affected by leprosy. Elisa stayed in the health department's quarters, a several story building. She heard noises at the bedroom door, so she opened it. Three goats came in. They were wandering upstairs in the building.
  • A recent foreign visitor in KTM had an earache. Someone offered to take him to a clinic (this is a very loose term here). Whoever the doctor was told the foreigner this advice: "Do not blow your nose or your brains will come out. Take these three medications. "
  • By the way, want to trek to Mt. Everest Base Camp? Imagine 21 days without bathing. Water for some washing can be heated in a bucket over burning yak dung chips, if you like.
  • How about unwinding bandages from a wounded foot in a clinic and having a frog jump out and scamper across the floor? It happened.
  • Anandaban is a haven, a quiet secluded refuge with clear air and beautiful trees. Patients can come here and receive good treatment in a accepting environment. But you do not have to go far off the compound to see the difference.
  • Next Saturday, we will be performing a free medical camp in a nearby village. Next month, we will have another one at village more remote. Holly brought donations that are going to help fund this one. We will drive partway and then have to walk the last 3 hours carrying whatever gear we need to treat the people (part of the 47% not accessible by road). Due to the travel time, we will also leave the day before and return the day after the camp. Sleeping bags, etc. I will take pics for you. Hopefully, I will be able to post them by then! As always, your prayers are greatly, greatly appreciated!