Life in Nepal

size matters

Oh yeah! In Nepal, the bigger the name badge, the more important you are.


jisty, jona and the komodo dragon

Jisty and Jona (Jonathan) were quite the pair. They were as best of friends as eight-year-olds could be. They always got the highest marks and the most smiley faces in class. They spent every minute they could with each other. But, most impressive was what happened when their imaginations joined forces.

Jisty and Jona could be found everywhere on campus, always engrossed in whispers of conspiracy or adventure. The adults humored them; the other children had long learned to simply let them be. As a result, tales of tigers in the backyard and purple ants were generally ignored with a good portion of humor.

So when stories about a Komodo dragon lurking around campus surfaced, everyone smiled, nodded, ruffled their hair and said “uh-huh.” Only this time the Komodo dragon lingered on, his antics getting wilder by the day. One day, Jisty and Jona can running into my office yelling, “Aunty Fylvia, the Komodo dragon is chasing a snake in your backyard. You better keep the cat indoors or he’ll eat him up.” Like everyone else, I listened, nodded and smiled. I even asked them to describe the dragon to me.  “It’s brown and as tall as you, Aunty Fylvia,” they insisted.

A couple of days later, there was a big commotion by the entrance to the in-patient area. A crowd had gathered, and there was a lot of hand gesturing and concerned murmuring. There were even some hurriedly creating makeshift weapons out of the fresh bamboo stalks nearby. Getting closer, here’s what we saw. (When you figure that each tile is a square foot, I guess Jisty and Jona weren’t imagining it to be about as tall as Aunty Fylvia). And no, the “komodo dragon” was not harmed. He managed to get away and was never seen again.

neither shockers nor surprises

There’s so such thing as quality assurance or JCAHO certification in many hospitals overseas. So, after being shocked by things around Scheer Memorial Hospital for the first three months, we became immuned to pretty much everything. You would also be if you were witness to bricks used as weights for traction; sleeping bags strewn in the hallways for patients when the beds were full; the surgeon walking out of surgery to the maintenance shed so he could retro fit a cranial brace to fit a leg; or a child scream through stitches across his face for lack of anesthesia.

Yeah, you pretty much have to be ready for anything to survive. That’s why when we thought we heard some kind of bleating sound coming from the X-Ray department as we were walking across the hospital courtyard, from home to work one morning, Roy pulled me by the elbow saying, “Just keep walking. It’s way too early in the morning to wonder what that could be. Just keep walking.”

About an hour later, I saw Dr. Rick saying goodbye to his patient. There he was–affluent surgeon, who once lived in the same neighborhood as Tom Hanks, now turned missionary–taking care of the goat of a friend of friend of someone he barely knew. A couple hours of hospital time, x-rays, an orthopedic consult, follow up visit, medical supplies–all pro bono.

Yeah, we saw a lot of strange stuff in that hospital that one would never see in the Western world. And all that we saw made every day so fulfilling and meaningful.

remembering those 13-course meals

One of our favorite places to eat in Kathmandu was Nepali Chulo. We made sure every volunteer group that visited us experienced  it. For $7, you got a 13-course dinner that included folk dances and raksi on fire.

The food was always so good that I stopped taking pictures once I was served. These were taken on Roy’s birthday. The Klines and the Forbes spent the day shopping, had dinner at the Chulo and pampered ourselves with a night at the Soaltee Crowne Plaza.

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some kind of mother’s love

I am good at burying memories of my not-so-proud moments. I’m really, really good at it. But then sometimes, something random and innocuous  trips my memory blocker and I remember the moment–in detailed clarity and with all the original embarrassment.

Today a cute little dog name Tia was what made me remember one of my moments.

It was about the third week of our  life in Nepal. We were still the fresh, drenched-behind-the-ears missionaries getting used to many things–a stone and marble home without heat in the Himalayan winter; scrawny chickens that looked like turtle doves at the dinner table; boiling and filtering water to drink; showing some respect to the soldiers carrying machine guns at the army posts along the highway; topping off a sandwich with Yak cheese instead of Swiss.

Life was exciting and adventuresome. Even in that which we didn’t care for, we reveled in the experience of it (like the first time we realized the delicious treat was buffalo innards). Even when listening to warnings from the US Embassy officials about living in Maoist territory, we felt a Superman-like wave of the thrill of danger.

I was like Super Mom, Super Wife and Super Missionary molded into one tough, good-looking woman. At least that’s how I saw myself–until one dark, so-quiet-you-can-hear-the-silence night. It must have been about 2 in the morning. I was fast asleep. So were Roy, the kids and the dog. Then, all of a sudden, out of the stillness of the night, came the loudest thunderous sound I had ever heard. In that instant between sleep and wakefulness, I knew it was a bomb.

Screaming, I jumped out of bed and began running down the hallway towards the front door. Alongside me was Wrinkles, also running, trying to beat me to the door. I was out the door, in the middle of the open yard before I realized that I had run out of the house without thinking of Roy or the kids. I was just thinking of getting myself out to safety. Looking through the open front door, I saw my family looking at me like I was crazy.

Some Superwoman I turned out to be. The fact that Wrinkles was far from being man’s best friend that night by trying to get out before saving her family didn’t make me feel  any better either.

i remember skies like this

This photograph of  the Milky Way through the rugged Annapurna, brought back memories of the sparkling canopy of stars in the Banepa skies and the lessons learned my first few months there. (I found the photo  here)