I'm sitting outside on a hot, sunny day with a view of the village of Chapagoan and a crystal clear view of the Himalayas in the distance...and of course there is a cat on my lap. As writing is not my forte I have lamented for a week about writing this blog although thoughts about what I would say have streamed in and out of my head for the last two weeks. What would I say about an a experience where every moment is a richly layered ever shifting kaleidoscope of thoughts and feelings? How can I possibly express this in writing to other people when it feels so deeply personal? But part of opening myself up, opening up my heart is to share these experiences with others.
The first few weeks of clinic are overwhelming and exciting. Everything is so new...new patients, a long work week, working with an interpreter, living in close quarters with a group of people. It brought up feelings of insecurity and made me question my competence as a practitioner. I felt somewhat disconnected from my patients, from my teammates, and really from myself. But I got up every morning, felt my discomfort, and went to work anyway.
On a bus ride to Boudha something shifted for me. Riding the microbus in Nepal is quite the experience.... They will pack on as many people as possible and I felt fortunate to have a crowded seat. I was sitting next to a petite older woman who would look up at me from time to time with a sparkle in her eye and start talking to me in Nepali in which I would look at her say "I have no idea what you just said" and then we'd just smile at each other. She had her arm on my bag and when I tried to move it to give her more room she looked at me, gave a head bobble, and said 'tik chaa' which means 'it's ok I'm fine'. At that moment I realized she reminded me of so many of my patients... men and women that I have started building relationships with and look forward to seeing every week. I also realized how much I appreciate and rely on the interpreters I work side by side with on a daily basis to bridge the gap in communication so I can have these rich experiences with my patients.
I've felt myself gaining confidence and by allowing myself to be myself I started really opening up to my experience here. There is something beautiful that happens in the treatment room between myself, the interpreter, and the patients. I've stopped worrying so much about getting it right and started just feeling into the experience, connecting with everyone involved and although some days are still crazy there is a flow that is present.
I've fallen in love with Nepal and the people here. I've gotten close to my teammates and I'm starting to form friendships with the interpreters. Nepal in all it's glorious craziness and beauty feels like home and through shared experience I feel like I'm part of a community, a family.
In eighteen days I leave for Thailand and right now that is heartbreaking. The other day I had a particularly touching moment with a patient and when I went to the dispensary to fill herbs it hit me that I was leaving soon and I lost it. I let myself cry, wiped my tears, and went back to treating. These moments are happening more often as I realize I'm starting to grieve the end of my time in Nepal. The more I open up and allow myself to really be here the more I open myself up to the inevitable heartbreak of an ending. But within this heartbreak is a deep gratitude and appreciation for the people and experiences that have and continue to impact me. This is life.... Relationships, friendships, experiences are always in a constant state of flux. Endings allow for the freshness of new beginnings and when I'm in Thailand I will fully be in Thailand having whatever experiences arise then. And by us leaving the new team will get to have their own experiences here.
I asked Satyamohan, one of the interpreters, today if it was hard for him every time a group left. He replied yes it is difficult for him. I then asked if it's gotten easier as he's been doing this for quite a few years. He said it has but that he's a human being so it's never really easy. And that's it...regardless of culture, age, gender we are all human beings sharing our pain, our heartbreak, our laughter, our joy, and in all of that our love for one another. ---Natalie Gregersen