Excerpts from Nepal Journal
Cover photo by Vierra Reid
Sunrise on the rooftop in Kathmandu. Pastel tones and birds circle over the LEGO land of colorful buildings.
Four hour car ride to Kumari clinic on the “dancing road”. Dust is pervasive. I wear two masks in an attempt to filter out the black exhaust and sandy dirt kicked up from our convoy of four SUVs. Eight humans per car bump along letting our slack bodies absorb the constant jerking. Up the mountain through a river. Still more dust. It coats the leaves and reminds me of the famous first paragraph of Hemingway’s “A Farewell to Arms”.
Everything is very spread out. We pass villagers, mostly women, carrying big woven baskets with handles going across their foreheads to support the weight. Silver nose rings. We are here and here is very much...elsewhere from our normal.
Arrive around midday to the white and blue cement archway welcoming us to Kumari Polyclinic. It’s framed in magenta bougainvillea and a welcoming group waits to honor each of us with a red tika made from rice and ground up red flowers. The paste is placed on our forehead as a welcome and we’re draped with a silken cloth.
Jagget, our host and HELP partner, has been running this clinic with his family for years and recently had to rebuild after the devastation of the 2015 earthquake. He grew up in this remote mountain village and managed to get his dream of a health facility funded after guiding a group of physicians on a trek. The clinic sits precociously on the edge of a sloping mountain (as it seems everything is here) and from the flat roof you can see 180 degrees down the encircling valley and across to the terraced mountains rising on the other side. Jagget is an avid hiker and to have chosen such a spot to do his life’s work seems fitting.
After lunch we get to work setting up stations: eyes, teeth, and one specifically for women’s health. As I’ve done the visual acuity testing and registration on two previous trips, I opt to organize the flow of people on the dentistry side. Between directing people where to wait and who to see, who needs fluoride or tooth brushing education - I get to watch our dentist, Eric, partner with a local dentist to check, extract, or seal 74 people’s teeth. One man has cancer in his cheek. A little girl bravely lays still while her rotten tooth is pulled. Julia is good at cajoling all the kids into getting fluoride. They sit with mouths extra wide slightly laughing as this American woman seemingly paints on their small teeth. Vierra is good at making the shy girls laugh. Rich has written himself a sign in Nepali to better communicate. I am on this trip with 20 deeply driven and compassionate humans who I like so much, most of whom I have already volunteered with.
People filter in until sunset. We take five minutes to walk up the hill behind the clinic and watch the orange sun set over distant mountains. The sky is cloudless and the gradient of burnt sienna to pink to blue only intensifies after the sun goes down. Dinner is white rice, Dahl, and vegetables which seemed to be stewed in a thin yellow ginger sauce. It’s warm and delicious. Ginger lemon tea wards off the encroaching coolness of night. I nearly fall asleep at the table and we all return to our tents at 8:45 and instantly close our eyes.
Im awake suddenly at 3:30 and step outside my tent. Even with the soft night light around the clinic, the points of light in the sky seem equal to brilliance of scattered lights here on earth. I feel like I’m in a giant snow globe with glowing stars circling both above and below me. This is where I’m writing from. A tent on a plateau in the soft darkness.