July 25, 2013- Trek back to Jiri

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Camp Site

July 25, 2013 - Trek back to Jiri

Number of survivors: 8!!!
Friends and family,
 Kim Pham, reporting for blogging duty.

On behalf of Lisa: HAPPY BIRTHDAY DAD! Wish you a wonderful day!

On behalf of all of us: We will be returning to Kathmandu around 3-4 PM Nepal time.  We will be getting WiFi at the hotel, so expect calls from many of us tomorrow afternoon and evening our time (early in the morning US time).  

I’m writing this blog post after trying Chaang and Rakshi as part of a medical experiment.  Please forgive any stray grammatical errors.  Mom, dad, we promise that we’re all okay!  For all those reading, please understand that we tried this in a very controlled setting.  Those who weren’t comfortable with it abstained.

Though our clinic days, we realized that many of our patients were alcoholics, so we wanted to know what many were consuming 3-4 liters of EVERY DAY.  Rakshi is a strong rice wine.  The Chaang we tried was the rice version (versus millet, corn, or wheat), which tastes like the liquid from those fermented rice balls you can buy from Asian bakeries.  The experiment was a success, in some ways.  We understand how people can drink more Chaang than we could ever imagine (Chaang is not strong at all), but it is still hard to imagine how people can thrive if they drink so much every single day.  We wondered what would have people feel that they need to turn to drink every day.  Ach.  Another hard thought to sit with.

On a lighter note, we’re done trekking!  Our last day of hiking was today!  It was okay, slick in many places because we came to roads with pretty high traffic.  We are sleeping the night at Jiri in our tents before we bus back to Kathmandu tomorrow morning to get to the Hotel Yak & Yeti.  We’ve all been excited to have our first real shower in almost a month.  We imagine that our showers will clog the hotel pipes because of a month’s worth of accumulated dirt.  Whew.  We’re looking forward to it for very long.

The final camping dinner was delicious, a celebration of many hard days.  The cooks made a cake for us with the following message to pass on to us: Thank You For Visiting Chyangba! See You Soon!  The frosting was delicious.
In all seriousness, this entire experience has been life-changing for many of us.  The trip has been an adventure in many ways, periods of hardship interspersed with periods of awkwardness, boredom, exhaustion, frustration, excitement, fun, camaraderie, and friendship.  Dr. Donald Laub was right: making sincere connections with people is the only sustainable way to do good, lasting work abroad.  We will all remember the people we met (especially the kids), and what we worked together to do to make the lives of the people in the region better.

In my opinion, I strongly believe in this project.  I believe that this particular endeavor will have a lasting impact and will ultimately succeed.  Our overall mission is to help facilitate the construction and sustained staffing of a small hospital in the area.  The important thing is that this mission is spearheaded by community health workers and business people who are natives to the area and intimately involved with those who live in that region.  The needs assessment we did this year has been informative and important, and we have a better idea of what the region needs in terms of healthcare needs.  Culturally, we have all learned a lot about what ideas stick and what people want to have.

In other news, today, our last day, was the only day that it didn’t rain while we were trekking.  Woo!  A day of firsts!  The second we finished trekking, the sky opened up.  According to Dr. Kelly, thunder rumbled, lightning flashed, and buckets of rain poured from the sky in gallons upon gallons.  Kelly wanted some literary embellishment, and I hope that was helpful.  It did rain a lot right after we finished, though.  Actually, that description aptly matches just about every single afternoon we had during our trek.

Andrew had a spectacular and completely safe fall on a completely flat part of a trail, hilarious because we had just finished the toughest day of hiking yesterday and were cruising on easy trails.  Wongchu threatened to beat him up for taking unnecessary risks.  I got a fashionable pair of bright blue rain boots (to match Alda!) at Jiri –  my first pair of rain boots ever! – for a cool $4.50 US. 

We’re heading to Kathmandu tomorrow, resting for a day, then starting on our hunt for souvenirs for ourselves and our friends and family.  Expect clothes, singing bowls, and sharp implements!  Yay!

I’ll finish by updating on the ear wound lady I saw during my clinic days.  If you remember, this lady has a wound behind her ear that was septic and had got infected to the point of extreme facial swelling.  The infection was heading towards her brain, and we could only give her antibiotics to salve off an eventual decline that could only be saved by surgical intervention.  On only of our last class days, she stopped by to have me change her dressing and to let us know that her husband would return during our last day and take her to Kathmandu to be seen.  We can no longer follow up on whether she followed through with her promise to seek higher care.  I’m still scared that she’ll be taken to Kathmandu on a stretcher, unconscious from the wound’s infection – by that time, it would be too late for her.

Her story showed me the importance of access to healthcare.  There are many regions in the world that are still remote and hard to get to.  In the region we were in, any supplies take days to come in, shipped in on the back of porters who must slip and slide through treacherous trails to bring important and life-saving items to the people who need it most.  There are many in the region who care about getting people the treatment they need, but there is a problem with getting education to places that are hard to reach.  In rural areas, it is very hard to get AND KEEP skilled healthcare workers to staff in places where there aren’t many resources.  This trip has shown me these hard truths in every day that I have worked for this cause.

I have been inspired.  I will not forget what I have experienced and what I have learned.  I am humbled, humbled by the hardworking people I have met, and humbled by my experiences I have had with the people I have met, gotten to know, and treated.  I will continue to learn from this experience long after it has finished.

Most importantly, I have learned that I am lucky (so lucky!) to have been born into the resources I have grown up with.  My upbringing blessed me with a wealth of resources and people in my life to give me love, safety, cleanliness, and care whenever I wanted and needed it.  I hope never to forget what great blessings I have, and I look to continue to have experiences that remind me of how different the lives of people in this world can be.

Really, friends and family, we are lucky.  Do not forget what love and resources you are surrounded by.  Value the tap water you can drink with ease.  Do not forget that you can trust roads that you walk.  And most of all, remember that healthcare – though it should be a right for all – is actually a privilege for many. 

Cheers to you all, friends and family.  We’re thinking of you so much, especially now since we are so close to getting to see you or hear your voice again.  Take care of yourselves.  Trust us, we are well taken care of here with these amazing people we have met and gotten to know.  We look forward to seeing you soon.

written byKim