Well, after spending my last few days in Nepal helping out at the Moonlight Foundation school and assisting Moonlight Trekking with a couple of large school groups, I was dragged to Kathmandu airport like a cat into a bath and herded onto a plane bound for Perth. Needless to say, after such a wonderfully fulfilling, eye-opening and adventurous three months, it was a sad farewell- not because I was particularly adverse to coming home, but because I know just how much work there is left to do on what we’ve started in Nepal.
As a way of summarising part of the last three months, here’s a few of the lessons we have learnt from our experiences and the villagers of Kerausagawara, Nepal…:
Respect and nurture…As we run through the busy days of our lives here in ‘western countries’, it’s easy to forget what is truly important in life. Money, cars, fashion, gossip and so much more tend to cloud the fact that the respect you pay people and the quality of your communication with them is far more important than what you wear, what you have, or how you look. There is nothing greater than nurturing friendships, family and a supportive, united community.
Paramedics are ideal for Humanitarian work…! Why? Most people know Paramedics to be the ‘cool-under-pressure’ type individuals- the ones you’d want around in a crisis. But there is so much more to our profession than dealing with crises. Particularly, Paramedics are highly adaptable, always able to think outside the box, willing to experiment when needed, have a vast range of knowledge and experience, and can often diagnose and treat problems with little (or no) diagnostic gear. I think everyone involved in Backpacker Medics is proud to say that on this project we were able to shed some light on a possible new direction for our profession.
When people say you can’t, you can…Actually, when people say you can’t, it’s all the more reason that you should! Before we left for this project in Nepal we had unbelievable support from all quarters. However (as with all things in life!), there were some who played the Devil’s Advocate; how are you going to manage this? Do you have the knowledge/qualifications/ authority/ skills/ etc to do this?…etc, etc, etc. To be fair to these people, our answers to these questions were probably often ‘no’, however sometimes all you need is genuine intent, a will and a way.
Less medicine, more education…Whilst working in the village, we soon found that our work was to be as much about education, perseverance and giving a good example as it was about ‘medicine’. Many of the problems we encountered were directly related to poor hygiene, misunderstanding (toothpaste stops gaping lacerations from bleeding, for example!) and simply not knowing any different. As a direct result of this, we have begun processes (such as daily toothbrushing and washing sessions for the children) that will positively impact these problems.
Lucas’ Pawpaw Ointment fixes everything…! Sure, this could be perceived as an outright plug for one of our supporters, but it’s TRUE! The vast majority of our patients had some kind of dermatological condition- partly due to the harsh living conditions, and partly due to poor hygiene) and the legend of the mighty healing powers of Pawpaw ointment is now spread far-and-wide throughout Nepal. Indeed, on more than one occasion, we had patients trek 1.5 hours from a neighbouring village just to ask for some Pawpaw Ointment! How could we refuse such commitment!?!?!
Everything takes longer in Nepal…There is simply no avoiding the fact that EVERYTHING takes longer in Nepal- no matter what it is! If someone tells you it will take one hour to get somewhere, you can bet your life on it that they really mean anywhere between 3 hours and, say, 10! Add to this fact the weird time/space phenomena that we came to call ‘The Law of Annoyance’, which states: the length of time something takes in Nepal is directly related to how annoyed or frustrated you become by it*. As the sign at the airport says: just chill out and relax!
So, there we have it folks- a brief selection of some of the wonderful lessons we learnt from Nepal. Of course, there are many, many more (some printable, some not), but I think it is fair to say that everyone involved with Backpacker Medics has left a little piece of their heart in the wonderfully mystic land that is Nepal.
I guess now would be the best time to say a HUGE thankyou to our wonderful Nepalese ‘brothers and sisters’ that made all our dreams come true…Santosh, Sushant, Subash, Annapum, Sappana, Asmita, Uttam, Nar, our ‘Nepalese families’ and many, many others. For your kindness, hospitality, understanding, patience and humour, we will forever be in your debt.
*(This is not a real law of physics, by the way).