Saturday, January 31, 2009

Friday, January 30, 2009


The time has come to return back to the grind in the USA. My time in Nepal has been short in someways and long in others. Being here for a couple weeks this year compared to a couple of months last year made it all feel so rushed. Nepal is such an amazing place and I would love to be able to spend much more time here.

On the other hand several of my friends in Nepal commented that I seemed different this trip. Not as relaxed, more anxious and not as at home as I was last year. And I think they are probably right. I have been feeling this incessant restlessness over the past six months. I have thought a lot about a change of scenery in my life. Maybe moving out of state, maybe out of the country, I don't know. I am not even sure what the genesis of the restlessness is....I thought that returning to Nepal would help define it or maybe cure it...but I felt it as strong in Nepal as I have been at home. I think that is what my friends were picking up on. As excited as I was to be in Nepal, I was feeling ready to move one. I will always return to Nepal. It is my home away from home and the place where I can always readjust my compass.

The next two days will be spent saying goodbyes that come just days after saying hello. I have not even left yet and I am already looking forward to my return...when ever that might be.


The next morning I left from Ruben's home early to get back to the hotel. Dr. Harish was planning on being in Kathmandu for the day and wanted to get together to discuss the mobile surgical unit. After a nice long cold shower, and a change of clothes. I ventured out to buy a few things to take home with me, and to meet for tea with a guy from the UN who I had talked with a few days earlier. When he found out that I worked in the medical profession, he said he wanted to talk with me about a few job opportunities that the UN had in Nepal.

After a quick informative meeting with him, I was off to meet with Dr. Harish, the Tophams and Ramesh for lunch. We were meeting at an Australian restaurant called the Red Dingo. It was a great place with amazing food. It is now on my list of favorite places to eat in Nepal.

It was during lunch that Dr. Harish informed us that there are 600,000 women walking around Nepal with prolapsed uteri(plural for uterus...looked weird to me too). Sometimes-because of childbirth or difficult labor and delivery-these muscles weaken. As a woman ages and with a natural loss of the hormone estrogen, the uterus can collapse into the vaginal canal, causing this condition. He told us that often times the women will just wrap the exposed part of the uterus with a certain type of leaf to keep it moist. Most Nepali women don't know that there is a surgical solution for the condition. We went on to discuss the other surgeries that could be performed in the mobile unit including gall bladder surgery, hernia repair, skin cancers etc.

I was totally convinced about the need for this mobile unit before the lunch conversation, now I am committed to try and figure out a way of getting him the money needed to make this a reality. If anyone has any ideas on where and how to come up with that kind of money....let me know.

Sunday, January 25, 2009


Sunset from the top floor of the hospital that is still under construction

Laboratory area of medical school

Stairs in the medical building

The study cubicles in the library of the medical school

Another view of the medical school with the dormitories in the background

View of the Medical School Building

Entrance to the Medical School

Ramesh at the nurses station in the ICU

The Tophams, Ramesh and Dr. Harish in the corridors of the hospital


Temporary Emergency Department

Reception Area of Hospital


I ran into Summit today. He was one of the three guys who I met last year when they were our guides at a local tourist spot. They went on to become friends and to help me with some of the other groups that came to do humanitarian work. Overall they are great guys, but lacked vision and drive in their lives. I guess it is not hard to understand since opportunities here for education and success are somewhat limited by the level of poverty and problems with the government. They spent most nights at the bar until it closed at 2am,they had a cheap room they would rent by the night that was close to the bar. They would arise late the next day and head over to Durbar Square to guide tourist through the old palace in hopes of getting a few hundred rupees in tips, and then it was back to the bars.

Summit informed me that he had not spoken with Ravi or RubIn in nearly 6 months, which seemed odd since they were nearly inseparable last year. Summit and I decided that it would be good to get the four of us together for dinner one night and said he would try to get a hold of Ravi and Rubin.

Later that night I received a call from Summit saying that he had contacted Ravi's sister and was able to finally track Ravi down. We were scheduled to meet for dinner later in the evening.

As I sat across the table from Ravi later that evening, he told me about how his last 6 months had been spent in drug rehab. He had decided to check himself in a few months after I left last year. I have to admit i knew that there a lot of partying going on, but I knew nothing of the hard drugs that Rubin and Ravi were using. He grew very somber as he talked of the problems it had created with his family and his friends, how he had cheated and stole(even from me) to get the money for the drugs. He had decided one day that enough was enough and he checked himself into the drug rehab center. He went on to tell me of the endless nights laying on his cot withering in pain as he suffered through withdrawls, and the days spend cleaning bathrooms and hallways with a toothbrush. The cleaning, he said, was to break him and teach him humility. I normally would not share such personal information in such an impersonal forum, but I do because Ravi said it was okay for me to do so, and because it seems it will have a good ending. He was on his first outing from the rehab center to have dinner with Summit and me.

We were not able to get a hold of Rubin by phone, so we were going to try going to his house to see if he might be there. He lives quite a ways from Thamel(where I am staying) and it was getting late, but we decided to go anyway. He was there and we sat and talked for about an hour. The three guys seemed pretty happy to be back together and shared stories about the past year. Turns out that RubIn was in Rehab too, although his was of a different sort. His parents had not allowed him to leave the house when they found out he had been using drugs, and it had been 6 months(talk about being grounded...and he is like 25 years old). He had some of the same experiences as Ravi. Long, painful nights, and boring days spent cleaning around the house. In the end both had been drug free for over 6 months. As frustrated as I was about the situation, being lied to and stolen from, I was happy that they had worked their way through it.

It was very late now and finding a taxi back to Thamel was going to be difficult. Rubin's mother was concerned that i was going out so late and insisted that I stay the night with them. I was opposed to the idea, but no amount of protest on my part seemed would change her mind. I was shown to a small room with a bed that was about the width of a double bed, but much shorter. I didn't even have to test it first to know that my legs would be hanging off the end. I climbed onto the bed fully clothed as i saw there was only one small blanket to cover myself with. I laid there trying to get comfortable and noticed that if the bed was about three inches shorter I would be able to sleep with my knees bent and my feel firmly planted on the floor. Suddenly Rubin walked in the room and laid on the bed. It took me only a second to figure out that I was on his bed and, like happens here often out of necessity, we would be co-sharing the bed. It was only a few minutes later that his brother walked into the room and also joined us on the bed. I wrapped my coat tightly around myself, knowing that there was no chance of getting any part of the blanket on what would be a very cold night, and prepared for one of the longest nights of my life.


I was mistaken when I thought that the first week of my trip when we traveled around the country would be the busy week and the rest would be R&R. Since returning to Kathmandu, I have been busy almost non-stop. I moved over to the Kathmandu Guest house to be closer to some friends and to the area where I am doing some shopping for items that I hope to sell when I return to the USA (with the hope of offsetting some of the costs associated with the trip). It has been interesting, to say the very least, to return to Thamel and see many of the same people doing the same things. The same street vendors are walking up and down the same streets selling the same wares, the same beggars are still begging, and Thamel is still as crazy of a place as ever. The one thing I have noticed is the continual move from traditional Nepali culture to Western culture. I commented on it my last trip and things have just gotten noticeably worse. Most notable are the new drugs that are being offered on the streets. In previous years it has been hash and marijuana that have been discretely offered as you walk down the streets, now it is cocaine and heroin.

Some things have not changed in Nepal. Although the elections last year brought the Maoist political party into power, the government here continues to be in shambles. The Maoists were elected after months, if not years, of violence, threats of violence, lies and manipulation. I have had the unfortunate experience of meeting several Maoists, some of whom were leaders in the party, and I have yet to find one who is intelligent, articulate or honest. The knowledge that they are in a position of leadership in this country causes me to shutter when considering the future of Nepal. This fear was only supported by a comment made by the current Prime Minister in a recent speech. He basically said that if anyone tried to take him or his party out of power for not doing what they said they would do, they would start killing people again. I fear that Nepal will soon be completely controlled by communists.

It has been nice to catch up with some old friends. Ganesh, from OR2K, was at the airport to meet me and I have had the chance to spend some time with him. He wants to start a restaurant her in Thamel someday. We have talked about it quite extensively, and if either of us were in different financial situation, I think we would probably do it. Kiran came to visit yesterday. He came to say hello and to meet with Ganesh about the school building that we still want to build in his village. The design and cost estimating has been finished and we are now starting the process of organizing the funds. Due to the shortage of land in the area, we will need to make this a 2 story building, which increases the difficulty and the cost. Bishnu from CHOICE Nepal has done a great job with the design, and now, like I mentioned, it is all about raising the funds. The overall cost of the building will be $30,000 US dollars. The overall cost will be shared between the village, perhaps the government, and then the money that we will contribute. In the end I think we will need to raise about $12,000 to $15,000 US dollars. I am hoping that we will be able to raise the funds and make this school a reality.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009


The next morning Ramesh, Lynn, Krishna(the driver) and I spent the morning walking around Bharatpur. Sam was back at the hospital with Bishnu and Dr. Harish looking over their new equipment. Sam is a retired bioengineer who now volunteers at a hospital here in Kathmandu. He and Lynn live here 6 months of the year and in the USA the other 6 months. They started a nonprofit here called Nepal Hope. I have spoken of Nepal Hope many times before… I won’t go into a lot of detail. Sam is going to volunteer his time to help Dr. Harish get the equipment in the new hospital set up and running.

As we walked through town we just window shopped, tried different foods being sold on the street and bought a few items for Krishna our driver. As we walked down one back street there were three boys playing Cricket. I watched for a few minutes and was as confused as ever about the rules of the game. I guess I will go to Wikipedia and try to figure it out. I took a few pictures (I posted one below) and loved to intensity on their faces as they played this confusing (to me anyway) game.

The ride back to Kathmandu was uneventful…..again just hours longer than it should be. Even though the day was laid back, I was exhausted and quickly made my way up to the bedroom where I was staying at the Tophams. Their hospitality has been above and beyond, and not just on this trip, but all others as well.