If you are ever fortunate enough to travel to Nepal, make sure you visit the town of Pokhara. I’ve enjoyed my time in Kathmandu and Duhlikel, but neither of these places charmed me quite like Pokhara. With gorgeous views of the Himalayas, serene lakes, and friendly people, it is my favorite location in Nepal by far. Where Kathmandu is busy and slightly chaotic, and Dhulikely is quiet and rural, Pokhara was the perfect balance of peace and activity. The people there were just as hardworking as anywhere else, but it seemed almost as if time moved just a bit slower and there was more space for leisure and entertainment. It was exactly what I was talking about earlier when I said I would hold out for more authentic Nepali wares before I bought too much, so as you can imagine I did quite a bit of shopping within the past two days!
While in Pokhara, we visited the psychiatric unit of the local hospital. Of all the hospitals we’ve visited on this trip, this one was actually the most disappointing. The clinical psychologist they had on staff was sweet and seemed very proud of the work she was doing with her psychiatric patients, and I definitely don’t want to say anything bad about HER, but the methods she and the hospital use to diagnose patients is severely outdated and have actually been proven to have terrible accuracy. The tests were also extremely culturally-sensitive, and because they were developed in the states about 3 or 4 decades ago they bear almost NO relevance to the community of Nepal. Sanitation in this hospital was also sadly lacking. At one point we actually saw human excrement on the floor, and a woman attempting to clean it up. The woman walked away, and about a half hour later when we walked back past that area the mess was still there, just as bad. On top of all of that, the doctors we spoke to were very cold and insensitive to their patients, trooping us all through their rooms while telling us in loud voices very private, personal details about their cases and conditions. The entire atmosphere had my skin crawling. Later in the car as we were about to leave one of our professors, Geeta Pfau, explained to us that at this particular hospital the amount they charge for care is ridiculously high, and that the majority of the doctors that work there are retired and only bother showing up to rake in some extra money from people that have no other choice but to pay up.
The only other location on out itinerary for Pokhara was a small orphanage. When we arrived it definitely wasn’t what we all expected, but the arrangement was very touching. Instead of the orphanages we think of at home (big buildings with many, many parentless children), these children lived with a foster mother at about 6 to a home. Some of them were true orphans, and some had parents who were simply unable to provide for the them. In any case, they found family amongst each other and all seemed happy and healthy. They were very happy to have us and answer all of our questions, and we had a great time just getting to know them all (and playing with their baby goats).
Without getting into too much detail and worrying my family, I’ll just say that while in Pokhara I got to experience the medical system firsthand! I’m perfectly fine now, and I have a lot of new material that I can’t wait to write about in my final paper for this class. (Mom, Dad, Mima & family: don’t freak out. I’ll explain in a bit! Just know that I’m all better =] )
I’m sure there’s so much more I should mention and I’ll regret not writing about later, but after the 6 or so hours in the car driving back to Kathmandu today I find that my brain is just not quite functioning properly. The next opportunity I have I’ll try to come back on and fill in all the blanks.
Can’t believe we leave in a day and a half, and to everyone back home, I can’t wait to see you!! It’s going to be a sad departure for sure, though. I’ve made so many great friends here, and I really hope we’ll all be able to stay in touch.
Until next time, Namaste!