Today was a very quiet day during which I spent a lot of time sleeping and reading. I’d been feeling increasing more ill with the passing of the past three days, so yesterday at the insistence of my hosts, I went to a doctor. I didn’t want to go, because I knew my symptoms were viral (and I was correct, as it turns out), and I refused repeatedly until Tara put his foot down and insisted. He wanted to be sure it wasn’t serious, and he said he wanted me to respect him and go for an evaluation. How does one say no to that? So despite my better judgment, off we went in the unseasonable rains on his scooter to a community clinic, which made me incredibly grateful to be an American (not that I wasn’t grateful already, but this just reinforced my gratitude).
The hospital staff treated me like royalty just by virtue of the color of my skin, which made me incredibly uncomfortable. I did nothing to deserve to be moved to the head of the cue. My skin color doesn’t entitle me to have tests performed that aren’t typically performed for the beautiful people who live here. But that’s exactly what happened. It is a community clinic, a clinic for the poorest of the poor, but that’s where Tara brought me because I suspect that that is what he knows best. It was discrimination in the form of favoritism, and while I appreciate that they wanted to treat a western foreigner well, it felt so wrong to get VIP treatment when others were just as deserving, indeed more so.
I was whisked to the front of the cue, where they drew blood (I saw no hands being washed, and afterward a yellowed piece of cotton was placed on the site where my blood had been drawn), then asked for a urine sample in a thimble-sized container (squat toilet with mold growing nearby, a mildewed mop in the corner and mildew stains on the walls), and finally, a chest X-ray (the most antiquated equipment I have ever seen, and a hospital gown that was last washed who knows when?). Tara told me that they wouldn’t perform such tests for the Nepalis; they would simply administer an antibiotic and send them on their way.
I didn’t have to wait for my tests at all, whereas the locals would likely be waiting 3-4 hours or more, Tara informed me. And they put a rush on getting the results, too. In no time, I learned just what I suspected: my lungs are clear and in general I’m as healthy as a horse (ok, they found a slight urinary tract infection but nothing more); I simply have a good, old-fashioned (albeit pretty brutal) cold virus. So the doctor gave me something for sore throat and headache, and an antibiotic for the UTI, and told me to rest. Which is exactly what I have done, and it has felt marvelous. I feel exhausted by this damnable bug, so curling up in bed with my book, drowsing and reading in turn, has been wonderful. My inclination is to see and do as much as I can in the time I have left, but I am being an obedient patient and resting, and I feel infinitely better for it.
I finished my WWII novel and have moved on to a revisit of A Game of Thrones. I’ve never read the most recent book of the series and since I have forgotten so much, I decided to begin anew. Besides, I find the plot so complex, what with the myriad characters and locales, that a revisit clarifies a great deal in my mind. It’s a great story, although undeniably violent. I’ve not watched the HBO television series, but I think I will. I don’t watch much television at all, generally, as I always prefer a good book to television. But I’ll give it a go and see if it lives up to the hype. I often like “loftier” types of reads---something edifying or informative, but sometimes a good tale is just what the doctor ordered.
I’ve begun preparing for my trip home, sorting belongings and washing clothes, trying to fit two new drums (Hindu drums: tabela) and a big wheel of yak cheese, along with numerous other gifts for my loved ones, into my two allotted bags. I am so grateful to my trekking companion and friend, Sue, because she was kind enough to bring me an extra piece of luggage when she came for our trek. I knew I wouldn’t be able to fit all of my gifts into my already-overstuffed bags, so I contacted her before she came and asked her to bring another, as she was only using one bag of her own. She happily complied, and after our trek she returned to Austin with a suitcase already filled with gifts. Now I just have to deal with the drums and the cheese, plus my clothes and sundries. Thank you, thank you, thank you Sue! I owe you one…
I have loved Nepal immensely, so much so that I plan to learn to speak Hindi (the closest language to Nepali that Rosetta Stone might offer, and sufficiently close to allow meaningful communication) and return to do some volunteer work. I have seen many beautiful places, but it’s the people who have touched my heart here the most. They are so kind, especially those in the remote mountain villages. Many of the trekking routes we took were the same paths and trails that the villagers use to get from one village to the next for visits or trade, and these routes traverse right through people’s homesteads. As a result, curious villagers were delighted to see the rare western trekkers passing through, and almost invariably stopped whatever they were doing to shout out a warm and hearty “Namaste!” as they greeted us with hands folded in the traditional prayer-like attitude. Such a greeting is utterly charming, especially when uttered by eager and earnest children who love to have a chance to see a foreigner. And how often did these Nepalis invite us to share a bit of racksi (moonshine) or a cup of tea, perhaps some yak milk or dried cheese, when they had so little themselves! Their kindness was enchanting, endearing, and utterly wonderful. Their generosity was overwhelming. These are a good and kind people, a very peaceful people, and they have stolen my heart. I want to come back and bask in their loving nature as I do what I can to enrich their lives as they have enriched mine. Kathmandu lacks much of the charm and warmth of the mountains, but the people here are generally good, too...yet it is the mountain people who truly warm my heart, and when I return it will be to them I devote myself.
I love Nepal!