In Nepal, you use the word “namaste” as a hello and as a goodbye. That is kind of how I feel about this whole trip. I logged in hours ago to post my final comments but instead got completely lost in the posts of my classmates which I had failed to read during the trip. The posts were so vivid, funny and insightful. They took me right back to the trip, I laughed out loud at some parts and felt teary eyed at others. It’s safe to say this trip was life changing for all of us.
We got to visit arguably one of the most beautiful countries in the world and in the process truly bonded with our travel companions, professors and hosts. I felt so incredibly close to the people I traveled with, we had the time of our lives and learned a lot. For me, this trip cemented my dream of one day working in a health field with children. In Pokhara we visited the psychiatric ward of a well known teaching hospital. While many of my classmates were very interested in this field, I found myself craning my neck to try to catch a glimpse of the pediatric ward. We later visited an orphanage (more like a group/foster home) and once again I found myself intrigued by the well being of the children. As we made the six hour ride back to Kathmandu, I stared out the window at the beautiful countryside and daydreamed about returning to Nepal as some type of medical volunteer after college.
Aside from pointing me in the right direction career wise, this trip has helped me grow as a person. Today I was rushing to make it to a summer class that I’ve already missed the first week of (I walked into the wrong classroom… a drug and alcohol recovery class oops) and was feeling myself getting worked up about the situation. But then I thought of “Nepalese time” and put everything back into perspective. I feel like I now understand that there is so much more out there that drives people and makes them happy. We go through our days rushing and stressing about crossing off all of the points on our to-do lists while somewhere else in the world there are people who actually take time to enjoy themselves and those they love instead of always trying to get ahead. I went out to breakfast with my parents the day in Watch Hill after I returned home and couldn’t help but staring at those around me, thinking of what privileged lives they live on one hand, but how on the other hand they are missing out on so much more. In Nepal, happiness means so much more than what we understand it to be.
I hope and believe that this trip has opened up many doors for me. This summer I vowed to eat out less and shop less (we’ll see) so that I can save up for my next big trip. I want to see more of the world and at some point I NEED to go back to Nepal. Maybe I’ll even do some traveling with some of the girls! So Namaste it is, not goodbye or hello, but like one of my classmates commented earlier, more of a see you again.
On our last full day, we visited the Ayurveda Health Home, and were honored to have the Medical Director, Dr. R. R. Koirala M.D. (Ay), speak to us about Ayurvedic medicine, an ancient health practice that strives to achieve health through harmony and balance. He explained that our bodies are in a constant state of transformation, so health is also a dynamic process. I believe this to be true even from a scientific aspect, since we are constantly exposed to antigens that stimulate our immune system in an effort to protect us.
Where Ayurvedic medicine and biomedicine differ, however, is in their goals. Dr. Koirala stressed that the goal of biomedicine is to avoid death, and when someone is ill, the symptoms are treated with surgery or through prescription drugs. Ayurvedic medicine attempts to find the root of what causes the symptoms, which is often linked to the patient’s psychological state. For example, someone who has high blood pressure can be prescribed drugs to reduce his blood pressure. An Ayurvedic doctor will attempt to find the source of the stress that is causing the rise in blood pressure so that it can be reduced. Massage is a large part of the healing process used at this facility.
Now that I’m home, I’ve had time to reflect about my experiences in Nepal. Being there made me appreciate the comforts of home, such as having hot water, drinkable water from the tap, real toilets instead of grated holes in the floor, and the availability of toilet paper. I found Nepal to be a country of gentle people. I only saw one act of violence, on our drive to Pokhara when a man threatened another man with a wooden club. Even the beeping car horns that I first attributed to road rage were really just a way to let other drivers know that the car intended to pass them. I also had the opportunity to compare Nepal’s collectivistic society to our individualistic society in the U.S. This was especially apparent in the rural areas of Nepal, where family members worked together. I saw children carrying buckets of water up a steep hill to their home. In a society such as this, everyone knows their place and what is expected of them. This creates a cohesiveness that makes ‘we’ the priority, and not of ‘me’ like in the U.S.
However, the penalties for not adhering to this can be extreme. Women who become pregnant before marriage can be sold by their fathers into the sex trade, where they not only may service 5-25 men daily, but may also have their organs removed and sold. We saw women at Maiti Nepal who had been rescued from situations such as this. Even though this is a small part of the Nepali culture, I have a hard time justifying that it’s acceptable in any culture. In my opinion, it isn’t really any different than the slave trade in the South that was a major component of the Civil War. As U.S. residents, we have laws that protect us from crimes against humanity and I now realize that this is the major benefit of our society. I have the freedom to set my own goals. So, both types of societies have pros and cons. Finding harmony between the two can make each one better.
So when you travel to another country all people tell you is “Don’t drink the water !”. Is that all we get out of it? No, of course not. This is what no one tells you about:
1. The toilets are weird. They are on the ground and they are sprays for your…yea. But hey the whole experience is about trying new things right? So I used a sprayer (which initially I thought was how you flushed the toilet, wrong) Used a bathroom in the hospital, a toilet on the floor with no lights and no TP. Used a hole in the ground at a rest stop, sprayed myself in the face. Awesome. When in Rome, do as the Romans do.
2. No one cares if your hot. It will be hot. It will get sweaty. Bring extra underwear and prescription anti-perspirent and get over it. The people there are used to it so they don’t understand why your complaining.
3. Water is a precious resource. Don’t take for granted your hot showers, brushing your teeth with tap water, ice cubes, pools etc. All water is precious. You have no idea until your drinking hot water from a water bottle in the back of a hot van.
4. Bring iodine tincture and/or a water bottle with a filtration system built in. Don’t add to another countries pollution problem.
5. Bring Anti-diarrehal, enough said.
6. Take pictures of everything and anything. Your memory will fade and you will want to remember everything and anything.
7. Cold food is amazing. When you can’t eat veggies or fresh fruit because you can’t drink the water, and the veggies and fruits are washed in the water you miss out. Cucumbers, watermelon, peppers, bananas, apples, oranges, juice in general and cold milk. You will miss these things terribly. Enjoy them.
8. Your feet are your first and best form of transportation. You will walk. You will walk a lot. And when you begin to sweat and get tired. Look behind you and stare at what you have walked so far and remember that people twice your age walk it 6 days a week to get to work.
9. Hills and mountains are not created equal. What the Nepali people call hills we call mountains, what they call mountains we call the tallest range of mountains in the world.
10. Namaste. It means that I bow to you. I respect that our inner God and spiritual being is equal to mine. I respect our differences and put them aside to acknowledge this oneness within us. So I put my hands together to represent that and I bow my head to show my respect.
11. Children all over the world love to be greeted with a smile and taking pictures of kids can make their day. As four kids playing soccer outside with a homemade ball and no shoes on told me when I showed them a picture of them “Nice! Nice! Nice!!!!”
12. We respect our elders everywhere. Anywhere in the world.
13. Not everyone in the world gets adequate access to medicine and medical treatments.
14. In Nepal all the women dress beautifully, the most exquisite cloths and the most beautiful colors. And they are very modest.
15. Education is so immensely valuable. All children deserve access to schooling, an education and a means of getting to their school. In Nepal going to school is a privilege and it is treated as a gift.
16. It is incredible easy for a U.S. Citizen to travel, it is not so easy for a foreigner to come onto U.S. territory.
17. The cost for an apartment in Kathmandu, with all utilities, rent and groceries is about 80 US dollars a month. My old apartment was 900 US dollars for rent alone. Just something to think about.
18. If someone makes 30,000 Rupees a month which is a considerably good amount they will make 450 US dollars a month. This is if you have a college degree.
19. The happiest people on earth don’t have very much at all in comparison to our standards.
20. When you step foot outside of a plane in another country everything changes. A shock goes through your whole body and when you look at a map of the world and see how far you have come you can’t help but think about how far you still have to go.
Nepal is the place of Never Ending Peace And Love
So grateful to have gone on this trip, it changed everything.
I can’t believe the trip is actually over! I had the most amazing time with great people and I will never forget it. Access to computers on the last days of our trip was limited so I will start with our trip to Pokhara, back to Kathmandu and our trip home.
Due to the fact that the roads were windy and we were going up and down hills everyone had to pack one bag to take with us for our time in Pokhara. The drive was a total of six hours each way, but it was so worth it with the amazing views. The road we took was the only road in Nepal that had trucks importing things into the country. We saw many accidents on these roads because people drive so fast and the roads are kind of tight. We had a great driver, so I was not worried at all even though I was sitting in the front seat! In Pokhara we visited Manipal hospital. The hospital had a psychiatric ward with some psychiatrists and lectures and a clinical psychologist. They talked to us about the hospital and the psychiatric ward. We were also given a tour of the psychiatric ward. I was so surprised when the doctors walked right into the rooms and told us to join and he would walk over to patients and say exactly what was wrong with them. I was also surprised to see only one woman in the women’s psychiatric ward, when the men’s ward was almost full. After we went to the lake in Pokhara to go on a boat ride, but I didn’t join as I have horrible motion sickness. Also we did plenty of shopping! We also visited an orphanage. I learned that the definition of an orphan is very different from what we know in the U.S. In the U.S. an orphan is someone who has no parents. In Nepal an orphan is any child who is in a child who is at risk. This means that they could have both parents or just one parent, but those providers can’t properly care for the child. The house we visited had six children and one foster mother that cared for them. In the whole organization there was a total of 86 kids in care. We talked with the kids and they told us their stories, which were sad, but it was great to see them doing well at the orphanage. Most of the orphans were girls, with only a few boys.
On our last days in Kathmandu we visited an Ayurvedic health home. The minute I walked inside I felt a relaxed sensation all over my body. Ayurvedic health is seen as a practice of health through a holistic approach. It incorporates the mind and body and many more things. There are four dimensions that include physical, sensorial, mental and spiritual. The Dr. who spoke to us gave us so much information and I learned so much about Ayurvedic ways. One thing I really took away from it was that we must learn to love ourselves and be happy with ourselves before any healing can occur. He also said that mixing Ayurvedic methods with western medicine is helpful and a good idea. I really enjoyed going to the Ayurvedic home and hope someday I can return. On the drive home to Kathmandu the sky had finally cleared for us to see the most beautiful sight of the Himalayas and white cap mountains. The driver pulled the bus over for us to take pictures and look in awe. This was definitely an amazing way to end our stay in Pokhara and the end of our trip. The sights were amazing and I am so grateful I was able to experience the beauty of Nepal. On our last night in Nepal we were invited to the host’s house for dinner where we said goodbye and showed our appreciation for everything they had done for us. The night was great and I was so happy to be a part of it
The flight from Kathmandu to India was quick and easy. The layover in India was 11 hours and we congregated in one area for the whole time. We walked around, talked, ate, and reminisced about our trip. Our flight to JFK took about 14 hours and seemed to go by quicker then the first flight to India. I was happy to be back home, but also sad that the trip was over. I wish we could have stayed for a little bit longer, but I was so grateful to have had to opportunity to go on the trip. I met so many amazing people and had wonderful experiences that I will never forget. I also learned so many things and have different views on life. I really feel that I have changed as a person for the better and truly appreciate everything I have. I couldn’t have picked a better group of people or staff to join on this amazing adventure. Thanks everyone for making this trip such a wonderful experience.
This story may come to an end but it will live inside each of us for the rest of our lives. I called our group the guinea pigs of this course and trip because we were the first group to go. Dr. Escoto and Geeta realized things that worked out perfectly and things that needed change. I was totally fine with being a guinea pig because we got to see A LOT and we got to know more about each other as we went from situation to situation and place to place. We established the friendships and relationships between the people that will be assisting the group in the future. We became a family and I loved each and every moment of this experience.
On our last day in Kathmandu we visited the Ayurveda Health Home. This was the first time I had even heard of Ayurveda, and I really was intrigued. It is a natural science based health practice that takes a holistic approach. It is based on the dynamic process of health which incorporates not only mind and body but also everything in between. It’s 4 dimensions include physical, sensorial, mental, and spiritual. Nepal seems like a great place to practice Ayurveda because there is so much spirituality in the culture. We all wanted to stay at the clinic at experience their many different massages…maybe the next group will get to do that!
In Pokhara, the tourist city of Nepal, we shopped, canoed on a lake, visited the psychiatric ward of a hospital, were the well-respected guests of an orphanage, and oh yeah…we saw the Himalayas on our ride from Pokhara. The hospital we visited, Manipal Hospital, had a psychiatric ward with a few psychiatrists and lecturers, as well as 1 clinical psychologist. They took us on a tour through the ward and we learned about their ethics code, or lack thereof. In America a doctor would not be able to take a stranger, let alone a group of 12, into patients’ rooms. They also would not be able to tell you what sicknesses or problems the patients have. Apparently in this Nepali hospital there are no codes against that. It was quite a shock for us but normal for them to tell us, “This guy is an alcoholic.” We were still happy to see there was a psychiatric ward at this hospital with a good amount of staff.
The orphanage was also quite a shock. We learned that America has its own definition of orphan that is actually much different from most other country’s definitions. An orphan in Nepal is a child at risk. The child could still have parents, or at least one parent, but either the parents cannot provide or the mother has become a single mother. It is much more difficult for a single mother in Nepal that it is in America. We think of orphans as children without any parents. Many of the kids in this home actually did have parents, but they were given more opportunities while being at this home. I like this system. It allows for more opportunities for these at-risk children, education being the most important.
As we left Pohkara we were greeted with a pleasant siting of a Himalayan mountain range. It was totally breath-taking. A week prior I thought the hills I was seeing were the mountains. Those hills had nothing on these snow-capped mountains. This siting made my trip complete. The van was filled with so much excitement as we ooo’ed and aahhh’ed and snapped our cameras.
This entry will be shortly followed by an entry summarizing my experience. I must admit, it is difficult to put this story into words. I have been talking about it for a couple days now and I still haven’t even told it all.
Our last few days went by so quickly. We had a 6 hour car ride to Pokhara through the hills of Nepal. The views were amazing as we traveled down the road from the top of the hill to the river. Even though the ride was long it was worth it. We filled our time with shopping in between our scheduled visits to clinics and an orphanage. We also found a surprisingly good place for pizza. Who knew?! While we visited the orphanage we learned that the definition of orphan was far different from what we know it to be. Their definition was a child that was in risk, so a child in the orphanage could still have parents but were taken because it was not a safe environment to be in. There were 6 children living in the house and 1 mother that cared for them. We were able to meet the children and hear a little bit about each of them. There were mostly girls in this house with only a couple of boys. The orphanage was supported by some people in Australia. We also were able to see an Ayurvedic clinic. This was a clinic where treatment is based on nature. The doctor was very nice and told us a lot about the background of Ayurveda. We learned that there are 4 parts involved in treatment. Those parts are physical, sensory, mental and spiritual. Balance is an important part of treatment and the goal is to have a person become balanced again. Massage is one of the treatments that are used in the clinic. We were also able to take a boat ride around the river, even though it was raining it was still a lot of fun. On our way out of Pokhara and heading back to Kathmandu the sky was just clear enough to be able to see the Himalayas. We pulled over to the side of the road to take pictures of the mountain range. They looked fake and like they couldn’t be real but we were seeing them in real life. It was quite the experience! On our last night in Nepal we went to dinner at our host’s house and said our last goodbyes and thank you’s. It was a great night as we all got ready together and helped each other out.
As we are home now I can’t believe that it is all over. It seems like we just left. Yet we are home again so soon after just about 2 weeks away. There was a great group that traveled together and there were many moments we spent laughing together over funny situations and jokes made. The trip back home was bitter sweet as we waved goodbye to our amazing guides Geeta and Laxman. We flew from Kathmandu to New Delhi. We then had an 11 hour layover where we spent our time playing cards, walking around the airport and telling stories to each other. We then had a 14 hour flight back to New York. It was good to be back home yet sad to have left the amazing times and things that we had seen and experienced over the last 2 weeks. I had such an amazing time and met so many wonderful people. I can’t explain how thankful I am to have been a part of this trip the first time that it happened. I am hoping that next year I am able to go again. If I am unable to head back to Nepal next year, I am lucky enough to have the memories of this time around and the great people and new friends that I have made. I can honestly say that I have been changed and am truly grateful for what I have here at home. It was a great time and I am sad that it is over. I wouldn’t have picked a better group to have gone with or a better professor to have taken this trip on. Thank you to all!
None of us were looking forward to the long, long, long trip home. Being with this group, though, made it much more enjoyable. We found an area at the newly built Indira Gandhi Airport where we camped out for 11 hours. There were some upscale shops for browsing, and several types of restaurants, including a McDonald’s that served chicken but no hamburgers. Sarah braided everyone’s hair and even got Natalie to try her hand at braiding. Stacee had the foresight to bring playing cards and beat Melissa over and over again 🙂 Barbara had a nice conversation with the luggage department, attempting to find her forgotten bag. We were happy to finally board the plane headed to JFK and some of us actually slept a little during the 13.5 hour flight. Since the conditions in Nepal, such as sometimes having to shower with cold water (brrrr!), forced me to move out of my comfort zone, I had a more relaxed attitude about the whole ordeal. My first stop after leaving ECSU was at Dunkin’ Donuts for coffee and a bagel, although I would have rather had milk coffee in Nepal!