Out of everything we’ve done in Nepal the past 3 days, today was probably the most educational yet. We visited two of the most important sites on our itinerary, and somehow still managed to squeeze in a little sightseeing and shopping.
Our morning started off with a trip to Maryknoll Nepal, the first and only psychiatric hospital in this small country. I knew psychology was still a new concept to the Nepali people, and the more traditional methods of using healers and shamans for mental health issues were still in use, but I had no idea how few psychological resources Nepal truly had. Just to give you an idea, for the population of 26 million people, Nepal has only 58 psychiatrists. Of those 58, only ONE is a child psychiatrist. With those numbers you can see how getting sufficient mental health care for all of the Nepali people is nearly impossible. We learned of awful situations today where families were so ill equipped to provide care to their mentally ill loved ones, that in order to prevent them from harming themselves or others they were forced to chain them up, or make them live out their lives in a cage. Maryknoll Nepal has an Outreach Program that finds cases like these and provides the much needed help and support to these families by taking in the mentally ill individuals, and giving them the medications and therapy they require. After a tour of their facilities the staff provided us with coffee made from the milk of the cows used as “agricultural therapy” for the patients (which was delicious) and cookies. We each contributed a small donation to this great cause, and were on our way.
The next stop was to see the very famous temple Bodantha Stupa. At first sight the temple is breathtaking, standing tall above the buildings before it and glinting in the sun. The eyes painted on the tower are of course the first thing you notice, and you can see right away why the Buddhist people feel that they represent a god watching over them all. We were able to climb the stairs and walk around the whole temple, taking several amazing pictures along the way, but entrance into the temple was prohibited except for the monks. Speaking of the monks, they were extremely friendly people and enjoyed posing for my pictures. I would get huge smiles from those of them stretching beneath the trees to escape the heat, and the whole atmosphere was one of friendship and tranquility. In addition to visiting the temple, we had lunch at a great restaurant (Boudha) and did a little shopping. The other girls got some gorgeous traditional Nepali clothing and jewelry, but I’m still trying to hold out for the more authentic Nepali wares in the rural areas we’ll be visiting later this week
Our last trip today was to Maiti Nepal, the shelter for women and children who were victims of sex trafficking, slavery, organ trading, etc. Pictures were not allowed at this location, and for very good reason. Maiti Nepal is a safe haven for these traumatized women and children, and it should be treated as sacred. It was very hard to listen to our presenter speak of the horrors that occur in the world today, where children as young as 7 are stolen from their homes and forced into a life where they are exploited, beaten, and even tortured. I’m very thankful for Anuradha Koirala (founder of Maiti Nepal and CNN’s Hero of the Year) and the people like her that are dedicating their lives to rescuing these poor individuals. While touring Maiti Nepal our group came across a bunch of very small children, probably about a year or so old, who we came to learn were all orphans. If anyone reading this blog is considering adoption the people at Maiti Nepal say that the process is very easy in their country! The children were so sweet, even at such a young age they put their hands together in the “Namaste” gesture as we approached. They all looked happy and healthy, and that too is all thanks to Maiti Nepal’s efforts.
Now we’re all back at Little Angels College where everyone is as kind and generous as ever, and we’re soaking up some much needed AC and internet time. It’s a two hour drive from here to our next hotel in Dhulikel, but I’m definitely looking forward to it. I hear we’ll have a great view of Mt. Everest and Dhulikel is outside of the city so we’ll get a taste of traditional Nepali life, and hopefully everything will be much less influenced by Western culture than Kathmandu. Don’t get me wrong, Kathmandu is an exciting and lively place and I thoroughly enjoyed our time there, but a little peace will be welcomed. We go on our hike tomorrow, and I’m definitely looking forward to that as well! You can’t visit Nepal without at least attempting some sort of trek (even the baby trek I’m sure Dr. Escoto has planned for us). Hopefully I’ll have another opportunity to get on here tomorrow and tell you all about it!