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Rachel Pearce Nepal

{s5_mp3}{/s5_mp3}One Minute View: Episode 4

My 33rd birthday was one I never want to forget. 

I woke up in the room I was sharing with Katie, covered by my sleeping bag I was using as a blanket.  It was the last day of our 7 week volunteer mission in Nepal.  The sound of barking dogs, roosters, and chanting monks  woke me from my slumber as it had every morning at around 5.45am.  It's amazing how such annoyances at first soon become a familiarity you grow to love.  I rolled over and awoke again around 6.30am.  I lay in my cocoon of  warmth excited for the day but not wanting to expose myself to the temperature of our brick and marble room.  We had learned early on that if we kept our bedroom door closed at all times it would stay about 10 degrees warmer than the rest of the clinic.  “In or out” became a phrase commonly shouted in jest to visitors of our living quarters.  The clinic opened at 9am but I planned on getting up early this morning.  I wanted to wander around the village while the sun came up.  I finally threw my sleeping bag aside while at the same time reaching for my jeans.  I quickly slipped them on over the long johns I had been sleeping in.  I pulled a fleece over the long sleeve shirt I wore to bed and zipped on my puffy coat.  Hat, hand warmers, camera and I was out the door. 

I walked down the hallway to the stairs with the sound of the clinic cat meowing from the roof.  It was too early to let her in, she would inevitably wake Katie with her never ending cry for attention.  An itch Katie could not scratch due to her skin breakouts caused by the feline kind.  I continued down the staircase where I reached the clinic waiting room.  The space that would be teeming with energy in a few short hours was barren.  The marble floor soon to be streaked with dirt and mud of distant places carried in on the feet of our patients, now gleamed from Uma mopping it the evening before.  The desk was empty, the interpreters would not arrive to work until 8.45.  I slipped off my grandmothers house shoes I brought with me, the distinct sound they made on the marble floor while walking made it easy for Katie and Maura to always know I was coming, put on my outdoor shoes and walked out the door.  

As I stepped over the three sleeping dogs on the steps of the clinic I saw the gumpa in the dawn light and realized I had been living next door for seven weeks and had never once taken a walk around it.  I stood at the front door for a minute enjoying the sounds of horns, gongs and voices being forced into my eardrums.  I began the ceremonial clockwise rotation around the monastery while spinning prayer wheels and greeting monks.  "Namaste"  (I see God in you). 

Nepal DogsI will forever have the picture in my head of Katie, hands in prayer position, leaning over in respect to people, big smile on her face.  She was the best at greeting people.  Finishing my circular path I again stood at the front of the gumpa.  I walked backwards until I could fit the tiered structure in my camera lens and snapped a picture.  I looked down to see my companion for my morning jaunt, Happy.  Happy, one of the gumpa dogs loved going on walks.  Unfortunately when you walk around the village with a dog mayhem ensues wherever you go.  The last time Satyamohan and I went on a walk with Happy a 15 member dog fight broke out.  Against my better judgment, not that I had a choice in the matter, Happy joined me for my birthday walk. 

Out the front gate of the compound that was unlocked hours before to let Buddhists in for there early morning meditation and past Lila's, the Mountain View Restaurant.  I thought for a moment about popping in for a hot sill and some milk tea before realizing I had left in such a rush I left my Rupees at home.  I continued into Chapagaon along the now familiar road I had traveled so many times by all types of transport, bus, micro, motorcycle, foot.  Watching my footing, traffic from all directions, and the distant scenery I continued on.  The mountain peaks northwest of the clinic were beginning to turn pink with the new light of the day.  I refused to take a picture knowing it wouldn't portray properly what I was seeing or feeling at that moment. 

I walked passed the tea shop Katie, Diane, Nicky and I sat and chatted in for hours after clinic one afternoon, passed the store in which Katie bought my birthday present days before but I had yet to receive as she was still fast asleep, and into town.  When I reached main street I took a left in the direction of the suspension bridge Satyamohan had taken me to earlier that week. 

Being in China for a month, and now Nepal for almost two I have become accustomed to the stares and double takes I get while walking down the street.  It's not often a white female with long dirty blonde hair towering over most of the men comes walking through town in the country side of Nepal.  I can't blame them and I take no offense.  Catching a glimpse of myself recently I was startled to see my own white skin after being surrounded by so many dark skinned beauties for so long.  Shop owners were busy sweeping and watering the street in front of there store, setting up merchandise for that days sales, while school children of all ages dressed in there identical uniforms laughed and chatted with each other on their way to school.  I adore the girls with their matching ribbons in each braid or piggy tail and the boys walking together with arms around each others shoulders.   

Vajra Varahi NepalNearing the end of main street I turned left.  Now strolling by homes, people were going about their morning routines.  Many where carrying offerings of flowers to their local shrine, women and girls combing each others hair, men shaving with hand held mirrors, bathes being taken from cold water spigots, and  babies hanging from there mothers backs looking through their thick black eyeliner taking it all in.  I knew my way through the nameless streets and alleyways from the many walks I had taken with Satyamohan after the clinic closed.  Our sunset walks were something I always looked forward to, leaving the clinic just as the clouds overhead were turning pink and returning home in the dark an hour or so later.  But today it was the start of the day, my day, and I was ready to enjoy every moment of it. 

Animals roamed the streets and paths I walked along.  Ducks, chickens and roosters wandered at free will eating from garbage piles and occasionally getting underfoot.  Cows and goats tethered to their owners house watched me walk by while slowly chewing their breakfast.  I came upon a litter of  puppies reminding me of the three born at the gumpa only days before.  Nearing home I looked up to see the sun just about to peek over the hills. 

I began walking faster, I wanted to take a picture of the gumpa with the sunrise behind it from the roof of our clinic.  As I rushed through the gate I heard a voice traveling in my direction.  I looked over to see Ty, one of the monks, shouting happy birthday to me.  At that moment I knew it was going to be a day I would never forget. –Rachel Pearce

Admin note: Acupuncture Relief Project sincerely thanks Rachel Pearce for her dedication, compassion and hard work in Nepal. We also wish her a very Happy Birthday.

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