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Tamang

Acupuncture Relief Project  | Good Health Nepal | Mallory Harman

She sat there like a queen, or a dictator, regally poised in a red plastic chair, her gold-tasseled nose ring eclipsed by her broad nose. Faded tattoos traced the corners of her chin in the shapes of upside down “E”s — symbols she later said have no meaning. Wisps of silver hair framed her face and pulled back into a small bun, displaying the sizable golden plates gouged through the centers of her ears. Their worth could be seen in their weight — thick, circular slabs resting uncomfortably on the cleft above her earlobes, a ruby shimmering at the center. The large beaded necklace she wore weighted by a heavy studded golden cylinder indicated she was a married woman. This necklace was the cleanest thing she was wearing, the neon green beads sparkling atop her dirt-laden choli (traditional top).

Acupuncture Relief Project  | Good Health Nepal | Mallory Harman

As I approached her, she sat stoic, still. Her vibrantly colored clothes countered the message of her icy demeanor — I felt unsettled by this contradiction, and the air of peculiarity around her. I sat down on my mudha (a brightly colored Nepalese bamboo stool), pretending to finish my previous patient’s chart, and finally looked up. Her eyes pierced mine — strong, sharp, intimidating. She stared at me as if she was sizing me up - all 4’11” of her. For a moment I sized up myself, too. “Namaste” (hello), I said in my best Nepali accent, holding my hands up in prayer at the center of my chest. Before she responded, the interpreter looked from me to her, mimicked my greeting and said, “Lasso” (“lah-so”). To my embarrassment, and subsequent confusion, I learned that this was the proper greeting in Tamang language. My patient, like many of the patients I saw in Tistung, was a Tamang woman.  

Tamang Women

Read more: Tamang

The Best Medicine of All

Acupuncture Relief Project  | Good Health Nepal | Andrew Schlabach

I’m totally overdressed, now sweating in my puffy jacket that only a few hours ago seemed totally adequate to stave off the morning frost. The Nepali middle hills tower and surround my small team of companions as we examine a man whom we came to see. The small, thirty to forty square foot shed made of corrugated sheet metal that is cobbled together with wire, serves as a house for him and his wife. It becomes our backdrop as we sit on a blue plastic tarp spread over the dusty, hard-packed ground. The stench of gangrene burns my nostrils and I am thankful for the thin latex barrier provided by my examination gloves as I probe the bone deep wounds on his feet. His three goats and a small mangy black and white dog look on at the strange scene with indifference.

Acupuncture Relief Project  | Good Health Nepal | Andrew Schlabach

Just an hour earlier, I was witness to one of the loneliest human beings I have ever encountered. About a two hour hilly and steep walk from our Bajrabarahi Clinic -- basically two valleys over-- lays a small settlement of about a dozen stone and mud houses. Some have traditional thatch roofs, where others have a mixture of terracotta tiles and newer corrugated metal. A small creek supplies water to a population of about fifty Tamang people. The Tamang people may have been the original inhabitant of the Kathmandu valley originating from Mongolian tribes who migrated through northern Tibet into Nepal. Today they remain a very isolated ethnic group maintaining their own language and customs, rarely intermarrying with other ethnic groups. Typically they are very superstitious with a healthy skepticism of foreigners and have a higher than average poverty and illiteracy rates-- especially in these more isolated areas.

Read more: The Best Medicine of All

My Home Away From Home

Acupuncture Relief Project  | Good Health Nepal | Kallie Harrison

After living in Bajrabahari at the Acupuncture Relief Project headquarters for 3-1/2 months it has become my home. As I think about my “other home” in Portland Oregon it seems like a lifetime away. I never thought I would get use to living here but now I cannot imagine anything different. Elissa, Andrew, Tsering, Bibek, Didi, Chandra, Litle Bimala, Bimala, Gunaraj, Milan, Amrita, Sushila, Sunmaya, Anupa and everyone else all have become my Nepali family. The thought of leaving them in three weeks pulls deeply at my heart. But it is not only them that I will be saying goodbye too. After seeing many of my patients 2-3 times a week for this long has created a bond that I hope to never forget.

Acupuncture Relief Project  | Good Health Nepal | Kallie Harrison 

In the beginning of my clinic camp, the patients were wary of us as "the new doctors”.  However, once the patient/practitioner relationship forms, they start to tell you more and more about why they are here, that story turns into more stories of their life, A bond starts to form. Everyday in clinic I look forward to our "Namaste" exchange and to hear the continued story. My favorite days are when they tell me about their families and how many animals they have. Two of my patients have continued to ask me to visit their homes on Saturdays. This is not an easy task, as I need to find an interpreter who will take me on their day off and also one who knows where they live.

Acupuncture Relief Project  | Good Health Nepal | Kallie Harrison

This past Saturday, Gunaraj (a senior interpreter) agreed to take me on his motorcycle and visit two of my patients that live in the same village about 15 minutes drive from the clinic. Once we arrived at the first house I was instantly reminded that I should have not had lunch before we left. Immediately my patient was handing me two full plates of food and told me to eat. One plate of Dal Baht another place of rice pudding and fried doe, both piled high. Once Gunarj and I ate, she sat down and held my hand. We talked about her family and whom she lives with: husband, son, daughter in law and two grandsons. We talked about her pain and also me leaving. She asked me twice to take her back to America with me.  She said she would love to go to America and take care of me. We both laughed and smiled at each other.

Acupuncture Relief Project  | Good Health Nepal | Kallie Harrison 

Acupuncture Relief Project  | Good Health Nepal | Kallie Harrison

The second house was up the hill from where we were. I jumped on back of the motorcycle and held on tight, as it was a bumpy and steep road. As soon as we arrived, my patient came out and said she had been watching the road all day, as she was excited for my arrival. She invited us in and told us to sit. She instantly went to her stove and started warming up friend doe patties and a potato curry. Her mother, whom she lives with joined us as well. I began eating another big plate of food plus she gave us sweet tea with milk. We talked about her home and her animals. She asked questions about my family, if I had kids and if I was married. She was disappointed on my answers but said I am still beautiful and young and have time. She explained how it use to take her two hours to walk to the clinic and now she can get there in one hour because her knee’s are less painful. She told me how sad she was for me to go and disappointed that she cannot call me because we do not speak the same language. We took pictures, held hands and talked about her garden.

Acupuncture Relief Project  | Good Health Nepal | Kallie Harrison

Acupuncture Relief Project  | Good Health Nepal | Kallie Harrison

Acupuncture Relief Project  | Good Health Nepal | Kallie Harrison

Acupuncture Relief Project  | Good Health Nepal | Kallie Harrison

Reflecting on this day, I am overwhelmed with so much Love for my patients and my experience in Nepal. These four months have forever changed my life and I hope to come back again very soon. ---Warmest Namaste, Kallie Harrison RN, LAc, McAOM

More Articles

  • Tamang

    Tamang

    She sat there like a queen, or a dictator, regally poised in a red plastic chair, her gold-tasseled nose ring eclipsed by her broad nose. Faded tattoos traced the corners

    Read More
  • The Best Medicine of All

    The Best Medicine of All

    I’m totally overdressed, now sweating in my puffy jacket that only a few hours ago seemed totally adequate to stave off the morning frost. The Nepali middle hills tower and

    Read More
  • My Home Away From Home

    My Home Away From Home

    After living in Bajrabahari at the Acupuncture Relief Project headquarters for 3-1/2 months it has become my home. As I think about my “other home” in Portland Oregon it seems

    Read More
  • This Is A Place I Call “Home”

    This Is A Place I Call “Home”

    Sitting in front a window at the Roadhouse in Thamel, realizing I’ll be leaving Nepal in less than 8 hours, feel like unreal. There is a strong voice inside me

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  • Heart Wrenching at Times and Exhausting at Others

    Heart Wrenching at Times and Exhausting at Others

    It has been a month now I have been living in Bajrabarahi, Nepal and I am in a nice groove. I am consistently seeing around 15-20 patients a day in

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  • Ten Years in Nepal: A Tale of Three Brothers

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