Ainslie’s Reflections From NepalApril 2, 2019
A Brave Woman Takes on Nepal.
The things about Nepal that left the biggest impression on me both occasions I have visited (separated by nearly 20 years) are the beauty of the mountains, how genuine the people are and the distinct odours. While some of the latter are quite, shall we say, pungent, it is also the smell of the spices in the Nepali tea and freshly cooked roti, both of which greeted us each morning when we stayed at the Chaujahari Hospital, as the guests of the hospital and Human Development and Community Services (HDCS).
I must admit I have struggled to explain the experience of the trip to friends and family. It was such a mixture of highs and lows, laughs and tears (choked and actual), immense gratitude, extreme reality checks, badly behaved politicians, physical exercise and stress. It honestly is like trying to explain how breathtaking the Himalaya are – there are no words or pictures that can make the listener truly understand. But I will try to explain.
The highs. The staff of HDCS and the hospital provide such a vital service to the communities in Rukum, and they are relentless in their pursuit of betterment for that community. They were incredibly generous with their time and patience while explaining the project and showing us the hospital. On the morning hospital rounds with Dr. Kaleb, we saw how he interacted with the patients and how they responded to him; we also saw this while walking around the hospital and the village with Dr Kaleb, how people would stop to speak to him and shake his hand. While I spent most of the time during the hospital rounds with my back pressed against the wall and my mouth squeezed shut to stop myself bursting into tears, the passion and commitment of HDCS and the hospital staff is something tremendous. As someone who cannot deliver medical services to anyone (I faint near blood or pain) the opportunity to financially support this project is such a positive thing.
The lows. In a country that has the second highest reserve of water of all the countries in the world (I was told by two separate Nepali people), it is just unbelievable that so many people do not have access to running water, and not even clean water. Women walk for hours each day to collect water for cooking and drinking, which makes them and their families sick, because it is not clean. The effort in obtaining any water is so great that they do not use the toilets, as water cannot be ‘wasted’ to flush them, leading to further significant health issues. If even running dirty water is provided to communities, toilets can be flushed and hands can be washed and water can be boiled for consumption and people can be healthier and work and earn money and look after their families and their kids can go to school. It’s such a simple thing with such a profound impact.
Our tour guide in Pokhara told us she had risked her life to have a third child at her mother-in-law’s insistence (otherwise she planned to marry her son to another woman) in an effort to have a son (they already had two daughters) and how she aborted three unborn girls before becoming pregnant with a boy. How that same tour guide is ‘lucky’ that her educated husband gave her ‘permission’ to finish her studies and gives her ‘permission’ to work but not permission to work outside a certain distance from Pokhara. That in both towns full of educated people as well as remote villages, women with their period are not allowed in the kitchen or to touch their husband and that menstruation huts are not uncommon. This is in 2019.
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