November 11th – Walking, Workshops and “Why not?”

So we left off while waiting for our ride to Nuwakot…

Eventually the driver arrived… and a little while later Sudarshan and his best friend Rabindra did too. To honest, we were somewhat frustrated as we had wanted to arrive early afternoon in order to get a sense of where the first workshop and clinic would be held (we had hoped to leave Kathmandu by 8:30am). Unfortunately since we did not leave our place until 12:45pm… that was unlikely. Multiple other stops meant that we did not leave Kathmandu until close to 1:30pm.

It was agreed as we went along that this had been a terrible delay, as we discovered Haiti does not have the market on impassable roads when headed to remote locations. In fact our driver finally refused to go any further for fear that his vehicle would be unable to get back out. Between the sand hills, large boulders, river crossings and sharp drop offs, we really couldn’t blame him. However, this meant that there was still another 3km to walk with all of our gear – over very rocky, sometimes treacherous, and generally steep trail. Somewhat thankfully our arrival had been noticed by the school children… as a result we admittedly engaged in child slave labour, as each of the young boys took turns lugging the bins of equipment up the hillside. Even their enthusiasm waned after 20 to 30 minutes of back breaking work, and randomly we lost them… one by one. Perhaps if we had thought to bring candy along we would have stayed more popular.

After awhile Sudarshan gave up and suggested that we just leave the bins in the middle of the road… and he would send his brothers and cousins to come and collect them. As he has 5 brothers and innumerable cousins, this seemed like a sweet deal. And given the bins ended up exactly where we needed them, we can’t really complain. Lol…

Getting to his house, we met Amma-gee (his mother), two brothers, several sisters-in-law, and a seemingly endless stream of cousins and other relations. Everyone was incredibly friendly and helpful, and eager to tell us all kinds of important information… (such as “don’t fall off the mountain” and “you should have come by the other road”). All laughs aside, they have tried hard to include us and make us feel like family. We even spent a couple of hours sitting all bunched up in a small room watching Nepali soap operas. Gin kept everyone entertained by providing a synopsis of the storyline based on facial expressions alone – to the extent that at one point Sangita elbowed her and told her she needed to stop because if she laughed anymore she would wet her pants.

The ladies of the house had been fasting with prayers to Lord Shiva, to ask for their husbands’ long life and good fortune. We were lucky enough to get to participate in the breaking of their fast and were included in part of the ceremony. It was very special. Tonic especially loved the popcorn.

After such an arduous day, we exhaustedly fell asleep at 10pm… in a room where we even had beds! Sudarshan’s family’s home was completely destroyed in the earthquakes, and they are still in the process of rebuilding. But with such a big family they have made sure that there are plenty of beds, and so we have our own little room at the top of the house – which is comfortable and warm (did we mention how lucky we are?).

Today dawned bright and early, earliest for Tonic who got woken up by both Sangita and Gin’s side effects of being sick (between coughing, stuffy breathing, etc… the two of them apparently sounded like hibernating bears). The view however was spectacular – and worth getting up for.

The trek to the school, where the workshop was to be held required that one was equal parts mountain goat, acrobat, and log runner… and very reminiscent of the first community visited in Haiti. At one point Gin’s thought process ran along the lines of “this is beautiful… ok… this is crazy…. Ok I am crazy…. What the hell was I thinking?? I am sick… am I going to die here? I am dizzy and I am going to fall off this mountain…. Even though they told me last night not to….”

On arrival at the school, we were greeted with smiling children excitedly presenting us with saipatri (garlands of marigolds). They were over-the-moon to have us using one of the classrooms at the school where they were also learning. Within an hour we had a full room of listeners, in addition to the 5 workshop participants being trained. And over the course of the moment we were informed numerous times how happy and proud they were to be there. Apparently this is the first time that any real capacity building and community empowerment has occurred for them. We were simply happy that they were interested, engaged, and willingly discussed any and every topic that we threw at them. And because they had been so attentive, when it came time to the practical portion of the workshop, they were all fairly quick studies. Hopefully that learning carries into tomorrow’s community clinic.

We wrapped up the workshop a little later than expected, as our patients kept wandering off… as roaming animals are apt to do. However, even once headed home, random and sundry people kept popping up to ask us to stop and examine their “sick” animals. It became simply expected, as our entourage’s attitude was “why not? That’s why we are here…”. In the end it wound up being good practice, as the participants were able to see the concepts we had discussed applied to real cases.

And apparently it is an honour to host us, as we have already been asked to stay for meals, tea, and overnight in multiple other people’s homes. We even received the gift of a chicken for dinner from one student, while sitting and having tea with another student Krishna and his wife. It was dark by the time we headed home, and even though it was only perhaps 200 yards away, it was a 10 minute walk, as we had to negotiate rocks, several cliffs, and a stream.

It’s now late (10:30pm!!) and we are all nodding off… Life starts early here and tomorrow is another long day. We are all sick now (hopefully just sinus colds) so we had best get some sleep.

Love to you all

GTS xoxo (we thought Sangita deserved to be included!)

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