I know you are all shocked and amazed at my premature return to filling your inboxes with random babbles (also thrilled and ecstatic and definitely not racing to get to the delete button before having to read a sentence more).
I last left you on the eve of my mountain adventure – I was heading up to Kalikastan to visit the Kalika Community Hospital for a week. Word was, there was a public health doctor up there who I would be able to work with around the hospital. So, 5:30 Monday morning I was up and out the door to catch the bus for a six hour ride to Kalika – I had been told it would be bumpy, but no worries, I’m a trooper.
(this is what your 11th grade English teacher would have called foreshadowing)
The lovely Namuna offered to take me to the bus station so I wouldn’t get lost or ripped off my the bus ticket guys. We got there, she purchased a ticket for me and after a very long time came back towhere I was sitting and announced that the bus wouldn’t be leaving for two hours. No worries – still a trooper. I bid Namuna adieu, went into a street stand and ordered tea and beans while befriending two Swiss trekkers named Andrea and Laurie and their guide.
(OK, I promise I’ll return to the story, but I just have to mention that these two ladies were elementary school teachers who had decided they had had enough of it all and had put everything into storage and went to see the world for a year – no plans, no bookings, just hop on a plane and travel till the money ran out. Their first stop was Nepal where everything fell into place to go trekking, so that’s what they did. They were awesome.)
So the bus arrives and my assigned seat is in the back of the bus on the bench – typically seats six. By the time we left the station/street, I had 12 cases of beer and a suitcase at my left shoulder, one knee in the aisle, one knee behind the seat (Nepali buses are not made for the leggy amongst us) a didi asleep on my right shoulder and a family of five crammed in next to her. In front of me I had two backpacking packs with two people sitting on top of them. The road was fine for the first five km and then I started to wonder what I had gotten myself into. Ever seen this thing? http://www.oddee.com/item_96660.aspx Yeah, picture a cross between the Bolivia one and the Russia one. No guardrails, half washed out from the monsoon and bumpy doesn’t begin to describe it. The driver was determined to make a ton of cash so he kept piling people in the bus – at one point we had 97 people in a bus made for 28. It was 90+ degrees and 90% humidity in the flats. Because the bus was so overloaded, it broke down three times, making the 6 hour ride 8.5 instead. Every bump drove the frame of my pack into my leg and my left knee into the back of the bus seat. I can officially say that I have never been more uncomfortable in my life. It was so hot that the older folks and the kids were getting heat stroke and the people on top were throwing up over the sides of the bus…into the open windows. Which combined with the aroma of of the 150 lbs of onions that had been loaded into the asile while I was looking elsewhere and made me very glad that I hadn’t eaten much breakfast.
Good times, I tell you. Lessons learned: Do not ride a public bus over long distances in Nepal. Do not ride a public bus over long distances in Nepal during the monsoon season, as the roads will be 40% gone. If you must do these things, leave your claustrophobia at home along with your motion sickness. Do not eat. Do not drink. Take lots of painkillers and maybe hallucinogenics to get you through.
Got to the town, was ejected from the bus along with my baggage by my equally disgruntled fellow riders. Put on the pack, hiked to the hospital only to find that the doctor I had just spent all day coming to see had left for Kathmandu that morning.
In fact, both of the staff doctors had gone, leaving a staff of two medical assistants, one lab tech, three nursing students, a medical tech and a house mom type lady. Collectively, I think they spoke as much English as I did Nepali. They promptly put me to bed to recover from my fiasco until dinner (some amazing daal bhat from the house mom lady who taught me the names of all the ingredients in Nepali).
Next morning I decided to make the best of it, but it turns out that this little hospital situated in the center of the district only has about a dozen patients a day. The day I was there, there were a grand total of 6 patients and absolutely nothing for me to do. The doctors weren’t supposed to be back for a week and I had work to do at the hospital here, so I spent the remainder of Tuesday gearing up for another bus ride back.
The morning before I headed back, the Executive Secretary stopped by and he spoke some english. The entire staff and I sat around chatting about the US for an hour or so. They absolutely refused to believe that there were people without health care in America – or poor people for that matter. They thought I would have found the Kathmandu beggars exceptionally shocking and I said there were a lot more of them in Nepal but we have homeless people and beggars in the US too. They thought I was pulling one over on them, and I could not convince them otherwise. It was strange, amazing and a little uncomfortable to listen to people in a country with an annual per capita income of $300, who sometimes go hungry and never know what could be coming next, be horrified at what people have to go without in the US.
Anyway, the bus trip back was about 80% as brutal as the one there, but I got back in one piece. I’m covered in bruises and scrapes, but have been back at the hospital since Thursday, finishing up my project before I head off to the next one. Turns out that everyone in my house (at least all of the volunteers) are leaving this weekend which means I’m flying solo from here on out.
I’m traveling to Chitwan this weekend – yet another bus, but this time I’m springing for the cushy tourist bus with actual seats and nobody on the roof. I’m aslo staying at the same resort the other volunteers have stayed at – filled with tourists and hot water and the weekend comes complete with jungle walks and elephant rides. Next week will be interesting – not sure how I’m going to do ALL by myself, kicking around this three story house. I might end up pestering you people with even more emails 🙂 I might switch things up and put this stuff onto a blog, so you all can just go read at your leisure instead of being forced to deal with inbox inundation. I guess it will depend on exactly how much time I have on my hands.
Alright, lovies. I’m off to enjoy my last night with friends and will check in later – sorry for the whiney pants nature of this goofy letter. I’ve had two full days to get over it too – imagine what my poor roommates had to deal with when I returned!
Ta-ta for now!