It’s unbelievable that it is only day 5 of our time in Nepal, because when I think about all we’ve done and learned I could swear that I’ve been here a month. Our days seem to somehow stretch into a three days, but in the best way. We’ve been keeping ourselves so busy and really seeing as much of this amazing country as humanly possible, though its definitely hard at times when we are confronted with all of the poverty, illness and suffering in addition to all of the good.
Since my last post, we’ve visited Kathmandu University in Dhulikel (which was unfortunately closed on Saturdays, Nepal’s holy day), and the Dhulikel hospital. The hospital was a strange sight for all of us, because it was so drastically different from what we’ve all come to expect from the medical standards in the States. For what they have, the medical community in Nepal has made great strides and worked very hard to provide care for their people, but it is obvious that they are still in great need of funding and up-to-date equipment. It was very difficult to walk into a room filled with metal beds only a foot or two apart, occupied by people who are extremely ill. Knowing how hard it is for the Nepali people to pay for medical care, you realize that these patients must have become so sick that they are finally unable to care for themselves on their own. Most wait until it is absolutely necessary, or a life-or-death situation, to seek care from a hospital where they will have to spend so much of their hard-earned money.
After our visit to the hospital we headed back to the High View Resort for lunch, climbed the 215 stairs to our rooms (yes, Melissa counted), and prepared for our first-ever trek in Nepal. After spending all morning out in the sun, it was a little difficult to get motivated for the hike, but just after starting you could see everyone’s demeanor completely change. After only 10 minutes of climbing, we were already at the peak of one of the smaller hills, with an absolutely gorgeous view of Dhulikel and the mountains. We saw a school in that same area, and learned that the children climb up the hill that we were just huffing and puffing about 6 times a week. It’s extremely eye opening to just how easy school children have it in America, where oftentimes the bus will pick them up right from their front door. In the more rural areas, most kids go for a hike everyday just to get to class, and absences are unheard of.
After another 15 minutes or so of hiking we came across a temple for the goddess Shiva. Our guide, Laxman, explained to us that the Nepali men visit this temple with their wives to pray for a long and healthy life together, and others visit with sacrifices of food to pray for good luck. We took our shoes off to explore the temple (this is customary in Nepal) and saw a plethora of gorgeous statues and shrines to Shiva. We soon came across an elderly Nepali man, who did not speak English and was dressed in the traditional garb of a Brahman Guru (a type of priest). Laxman explained to us that he lives in the temple, and cares for it. He allowed us to take pictures of his modest home, which really wasn’t much more than four posts and a canvas roof, but when asked if we could take pictures of him he refused. Apparently people have been coming to the temple to photograph and publish stories about him, and he felt disrespected by this. In fact, while we were speaking to him a group of men sat outside of the temple and attempted to take pictures of him despite his protests and attempts to hide his face. As we left, we all stood around the entrance of the temple, blocking the men’s view of the priest. Eventually, they gave up and left. In thanks, the priest gifted each of us one of his prayer beads, used to make the necklaces the Brahman Guru’s wear around their necks. It was very touching and I can’t wait to make a necklace out of my own!
After a while longer of hiking (which I honestly loved every minute of) we reached a tower at the very peak of the tallest hill. When we climbed to the top of the tower, we were all a little in awe of the view. All of Dhulikel was layed out before us, and the mountains loomed high and majestic. You could even see the very tips of the snow-capped Himalyas among the clouds. The sun was just about ready to set, and we got the most amazing pictures with the lighting. We took it all in for a good 10/15 minutes, then finally set off for the hotel.
On the way back we came across many locals who were pleased to stop and pose for our pictures, and at one point Laxman somehow just appeared with a tiny baby goat! It was SO cute, and was passed around between a bunch of us to be cuddled. Trust me, it was perfectly content with that. Farther down the trail we also came across a group of young boys that were break dancing (yes, break dancing in the rural hills of Nepal) and doing all sorts of flips and tricks. Nicole and I couldn’t help pulling out a few tricks of our own from cheerleading, and every one seemed impressed! Oh, and we don’t need to mention Natalia’s unfortunate fall into a hole, but just know that it was hilarious 😉 She wasn’t injured, except maybe a few sore ribs from laughing so hard.
Today was a little more busy than last night, and we were up at 6am to fit it all in. It started off with breakfast at the hotel, followed by yet another hike up 1100 steps to see the giant Buddha statue and temple in Dhulikel. That definitely was a bit rough, but just like our hike the night before we all made it through and it was quite rewarding. The next stop was at a monkey temple (for anyone who knows Dr. Escoto, you can imagine what that was like). The monkeys were absolutely adorable, especially the little babies, and I got some pictures that I absolutely cannot wait to share with everyone at home. At one point, I tried taking a picture WITH a monkey and got just a bit too close. I could tell he wasn’t happy when he reached out, grabbed hold of my necklace and flung it all the way around my neck. I, of course, apologized and took another teensy step back. Just another life lesson I can take home from Nepal!
The most educational stop we made today was at the Chattrapati Free Clinic. We listened to the incredible story of its growth from a 10 rupee start up (less than one American dollar), to a completely non-profit organization that provides health care and emergency services to thousands of Nepali people who cannot afford to go to a hospital. The people that run the clinic volunteer their time, as well as much of the staff. For the staff that they do have to pay, as well as power and utilities, the clinic rents out space in their building and runs off of donations. It was extremely inspirational and got all of us wondering how Eastern could help raise money for their organization. Though they have been in business for 50 years and was recently honored by the government as the first and only free clinic in Nepal, they still find themselves constantly short of funds and struggling to provide the best care for their patients.
Tonight we’ll be staying at Little Angel’s College, and tomorrow we begin our 6 hour drive to Pokhara. I’m definitely excited for this, because Pokhara is exactly the rural, traditional setting of Nepal that I’ve been dying to see. So much of our trip so far has been in tourist areas, and though its all so new and interesting, I’d still much like to see how the rest of the nation lives outside of the city influence. Not to mention, in Pokhara we’ll be taking a boat out onto the lake… who wouldn’t look forward to that?!
Until next time, Namaste!