Post from October, 2016

Rest and relaxation

Monday, 31. October 2016 23:46

Today was our second day off. After an early night last night I was awake for breakfast and then went for a walk with some other students. We headed towards the lake and after refueling on a coffee walked around the lake stopping to watch a snake charmer!

I am so not a snake person and should have held my camera landscape instead of portrait, but I think you get the idea. Please note the shadow of my left hand!

Walking around the lake gave us some gorgeous views of the mountains and also the boats and local fishers.

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We were game enough to hire a life vest and venture across the lake to a Hindi temple.


Whilst the boat was rickety, I really felt for the chap doing the rowing as he does this 6 days a week! The island was a little touristy, however being festival time there were plenty of families heading over to pay their respects.


The temple was quite beautiful and of course had lovely views.

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After returning Lakeside, I went for a leisurely walk along the shopping strip and planned what I would like to purchase in the coming 10 days or so. At one stage I came across a cow who I think had been nibbling on the apples and bananas people had left out as offerings last night!


I also came across some people dancing in the street celebrating the festival.

After writing some more postcards (please let me know if you would like me to send you one- it’s cheaper than sending a letter in Australia!) a group went out for a pasta dinner at an Italian restaurant- it was quite nice not having spicy food for a change! All in all a lovely relaxing day, even if I did manage over 15,000 steps!

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Sunday, 30. October 2016 22:15

Today was our first day of rest since we arrived so instead of sleeping in and taking it easy we headed to Sarangkot to watch the sunrise. The early rise was so worth it as not only did we see all the lights for Diwali/Tihar on our drive up but the views were spectacular. Apparently we were really fortunate as Cris mentioned she knew of someone who had to go up 12 times before they had a clear view. Apart from shopping, this was probably the first ‘touristy’ thing we have done and there were people there from all over the world, most suffering from under-caffeination! They say a picture tells a thousand words, well here’s thousands!

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After we returned to the hotel another traveller and I went into the city near the hospital we are working at. The taxi driver on the way over mentioned that not many tourists venture into the old market area and we did feel a little out of place. We had children following us for a while and lots of people staring! I was able to pick up some coloured powder which I will use to dye with when I get home and my Kurtas. We walked around for a while and still saw great views of the Annapurnas.


This afternoon whilst others in the group paraglided and took a zipline down the hill, I treated myself to another massage. This time I went to The Helping Hands Spa, a spa run by an organisation that aims to give people with a disability, in particular those who are deaf or blind, a way of working to earn a living. My masseuse was deaf but still gave me the most amazing massage! I paid a lot more than I did in one of the tourist spas, but it was so worth it. Not only was it a great social enterprise, but the product was also fantastic!

This evening we have been for a walk to see some of the displays for Tihar. Flowers, fruit, incense and colourful designs greet doors surrounded by candles and lamps with coloured footsteps inviting the gods to bring prosperity to the household or business for the next twelve months.

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Our hotel also lit up for the occasion…


For those wanting more photos, I did a bulk upload to Flickr today. Most aren’t labelled or anything, but tell a story I hope!


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Health Camp 1

Saturday, 29. October 2016 23:02

Today we participated in our first health camp of the trip. It was the most amazing experience. The camp was at a village on the outskirts of Pokhara which we reached in a 30 minute bus ride. It was held in conjunction with the Pokhara Lions Club, Fishtail Hospital and CQUni. In 4 hours we managed to see over 700 men, women and children.


I started on the observation station where we took people’s blood pressure, pulse and temperature. It was interesting that most people were on the lower side of normal or what we would term hypotensive (one as low as 85/60) however these people were smaller than a lot of westerners and are still fit and healthy.


I then spent time in the makeshift pharmacy. There were limited medications available however there was a good variety. What was interesting was that whereas in Australia we would have multiple types of medications (for instance several different types of statins to control cholesterol) here they have one.

After this time was spent sitting with the paediatrician as he saw so many children. Most consultations lasted around a minute. Some children came because they just wanted to see the doctor like others in their family were- one child told the doctor that when he runs he gets a pain under his chest (a stitch!). Although some would see this as wasting the doctor’s time, it also showed that people were not afraid of accessing medical care when it was available. One gentleman was pushed about 3 hours from home by his neighbour in his wheelchair. Knowing what the roads were like really surprised us all as this was no mean feat.

Time spent with the obs/gynae consultant was also interesting. Although the camp was relatively close to the city, a lot of patients did not know what was available for them, for instance women with prolapses did not realise they could have them repaired for free. Sadly it was evident that the rate of hysterectomy was very high in the region as there is no other way to deal with gynae issues.


It really was the most rewarding day thus far of our trip. I felt like I was making a difference and really helping people who needed help. The surroundings were gorgeous and the people so happy to see us.

Today was the first day of Diwali or the festival of lights.

Hotels around us have decorated with fairy lights and candles and as I type I hear fireworks. Today was the festival of the dog where people venerate their dogs. When I dropped off my laundry and the shop a few doors down I had to snap a photo of their pet.



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Kurta, leprosy and downtime

Friday, 28. October 2016 22:40

A brief post tonight and alas no photos. This morning I spent time in the obstetrics and gynecology ward. There were new babies and women who had had hysterectomies. Over here hysterectomies are performed through the abdomen as they lack the tools to perform them vaginally.

On Monday the Festival of Lights begins. We are going to celebrations as a group so I ordered a kurta, one of the traditional dresses of Nepal to wear. Others in our group ordered saris. The colours to choose from were magnificent!

After lunch we listened to a lecture on leprosy. Whilst it has been eradicated, it has not been eliminated from Nepal and the doctor speaking to us still sees several cases per month.

This evening we have gathered as a group for dinner and a few drinks. A great way to wind down before our first health camp tomorrow.

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Culture Shock

Thursday, 27. October 2016 23:35

It had probably been building for a few days but the culture shock hit me today. We spent the morning on a ward at the Fishtail Hospital and things were done differently to how we are used to doing them in Australia. It is not that they were good or bad, but just different. I am trying to be especially mindful that I am in a different culture and I am not a wise woman from the east coming to tell others how things should be done, but rather an observer in a foreign land. I will admit though that processing all the differences at once was exhausting. One of the main differences was the ward had 15 patients with one nurse in one large Florence Nightingale style open ward. Admittedly every patient is also accompanied by numerous family members who take care of the activities of daily living (ADLs) such as feeding (they go and purchase food from the hospital canteen for the patients), wash them, toilet them and make sure they are comfortable. They also take the doctors prescription to the hospital pharmacy and pay for the medication before bringing it back to the ward for the nurse to administer.

The medications were slightly different to what we were used to in Australia with all patients receiving IV antibiotics having a small amount injected intradermally to check for a reaction. Cannulation was predominately between the thumb and wrist. Observations were taken using manual instruments (sphygmomanometer, thermometer with temp taken under the arm, and oximetry and pulse taken with a small portable pulse oximeter. Respiratory rates were not taken. Interestingly no patient had their blood sugar checked, even those admitted with pancreatitis and type II diabetes.

After lunch we visited Naulo Ghumti Nepal, an NGO set up to help people with drug addictions and/or HIV. They offer drug counselling, treatment and rehab programs of 3-4 weeks and provide community engagement with needle exchange programs and education aimed at reducing the stigma of IV drug users, people with HIV and those with mental health problems. Over 40,000 Nepalese people live with HIV with 37% of these people not using antiretroviral therapy. We were pleased as a group to present Naulo Ghumti with money we had raised prior to our visit which they will use to continue their efforts in Pokhara.

We then visited the Himalayan Eye Hospital where we were able to present the items we had collected for this hospital. Being at such a high altitude with people living way into the hills surrounding Pokhara, there is a high incidence of cataract of the eye. The eye hospital provides over 5000 surgeries each year and is responsible for restoring and maintaining sight in many Nepalese people. Our donations were very well received and we were promised will be put to good use.


Tomorrow we are back at the hospital. I will keep observing and trying to make sense of what I see, however I think that a lot of this will not become concrete until towards the end of the trip or even once we are back in Australia.

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Fishtail Hospital

Wednesday, 26. October 2016 23:17

Preconceptions can be troubling things. We had been told so much about what we would be experiencing in the Nepalese hospital system. We are based at Fishtail Hospital which is a private hospital here in Pokhara. It is not the same as an Australian private hospital in that you need private health insurance to access the services, however there is a small fee for services for those who can afford it. The hospital will not turn away patients however and it receives some government funding for its community health work in particular.

Fishtail is a 100 bed hospital with medical, surgical, ICU, obstetrics and gynaecology, radiology, pathology and a CT scanner. There are also consultant specialists in fields such as neurology, psychiatry, endoscopy, ENT and others which you would expect in an Australian hospital.

We were greeted by the hospital chairman and hospital’s matron and presented with leis made of marigold flowers. After a talk from the chairman and another from the matron we were left with the matron who gave us a talk on the community health initiatives of the hospital. These were so similar to Australia in particular dietary education, immunisation, antenatal care and encouragement to meet the world standard of exclusive breastfeeding for 6 months. Whilst our lecturers met with the matron, we visited the roof of the hospital and had amazing views of the fishtail mountain and the Annapurna ranges, part of the Himalayas.

The glare from the snow topped mountains was pretty intense and it was hard to get a non squinty shot! Please note I am also holding Bob Woolly, the mascot of our trip crocheted by the daughter of one of our lecturers!

A tour of the hospital followed which was fascinating. Whilst there were so many differences, we still saw dedicated nurses using evidence based practice and showing they really cared for their patients. We first met in the library where the Florence Nightingale pledge was displayed both in English and in Nepalese.

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I am still trying to process a lot of what I saw on the tour and no doubt will reflect on it further on in our trip.

After lunch we returned to our hotel and a group of us went on a long walk around the lake here in Pokhara. It really is such a beautiful place and one I really want to bring my family back to.

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Our plan is to hire a boat one day and go for a trip on the lake, possibly after hiking up a hill to the temple. Over 15,000 steps today and 49 flights of stairs, and my calves are feeling it!

Finally, this afternoon outside our hotel we had a visitor- apparently they walk up and down the street and graze on the weeds and grasses! We have seen them along main roads, side streets and in the middle of town.


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Teaching, touring and treating

Tuesday, 25. October 2016 23:04

The morning started with some eduction sessions on the history and geography of Nepal and a session on language. From there we headed out for a traditional Nepalese lunch which we ate with our fingers.


After lunch we went on a tour of the Tibetan Settlement in Pokhara. The highlight of my day, and possibly trip so far was seeing the fibrecrafters at work!

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And yes, that is a lady sitting cross legged on the floor spinning using a supported spindle, the support being a tin with the lid hollowed in! I managed to even get some video…


The large looms were also amazing.


From here we visited their shop where they showed both their weaving and also the amazing rugs and carpets they had for sale. If only I had money I could have gone crazy!

We also visited Davis Falls…


a Hindu shrine which had the most magnificent views…

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and some white water rapids that came down from the mountains and passed through this narrow spot


Upon returning to our hotel we divided up the goods we had been donated as a group. Everyone was super impressed with all the woollens, hats and medical equipment I had been donated and they will be distributed further on in our trip.

After dinner, I treated myself to a one hour massage. The masseuse kept commenting that I was such a big lady and said that my thighs were very sexy and my husband must love them! The massage also included a chest massage which was different and again gave an opportunity for the masseuse to comment on my breasts!


With the teaching, tourism and treating today I feel like I achieved a lot. My roommate and I have decided we will try and have a massage each week as we need to treat ourselves during our work here. Tomorrow we have our induction at the hospital. I am so looking forward to seeing what the hospital is like and the acuity of patients. Until then, subha ratri!

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Of windy roads and reaching our destination

Tuesday, 25. October 2016 0:11

After three days of travel we have arrived at our destination of Pokhara. After an interrupted night of sleep due to me not being used to the sounds of Kathmandu, we awoke to try and see the sunrise- alas the low lying fog prevented this. It is something we will attempt to do here in Pokhara however.

After an early breakfast we walked through the streets of Kathmandu to our coach which took us to Pokhara. Along the way the sounds and smells of Kathmandu were amazing, however it was challenging when I was approached by a child begging in the street. I did what we had been instructed to do and ignored him, however this really tugged at the heartstrings and went against so many of my values. Fortunately someone else in the group ignored the advice and spent 15 minutes with the child going through Nepalese phrases and laughing and communicating without a lot of English.


Driving out of Kathmandu was challenging- traffic was gridlocked a lot of the time, however this gave us time to wave and smile to people on neighbouring busses.



Once out of Kathmandu we met the most scenic roads and travelled down into valleys and up over hills over and over again.

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We stopped for a pitstop after a couple of hours where I tried my first street side food- potato curry. It is no secret I adore spuds in any form and this was amazing! Potato, tomato and spices, served in a bowl moulded out of a leaf.


After over 8 hours of driving we arrived in Pokhara.


Here the housing was lower density and appeared to be more completed than those in Kathmandu. In Nepal land taxes are only paid on completed houses so it is very common to see houses with room for additional floors, roofs etc as these are still habitable, but attract no tax.

Our hotel is lovely and we were made to feel very welcome…


Again a lovely dinner with our group and representatives of the local Lions Club who are taking us under their wing for our visit.

Oh and all the bouncing around on the coach had some benefits. Although I would have walked over 10,000 steps today and been up a couple of dozen flights of stairs, the bus travel was picked up by my fitbit- best day ever!


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Sunday, 23. October 2016 23:03

Namaste! We have arrived in Nepal. It was an early start this morning which left us with a couple of hours at Bangkok airport prior to departure. We had been told that due to the death of the King there would be tributes around. All airline staff wore black ribbons and many wore badges with the King’s image on them. There was a stunning memorial at the airport with the most beautiful flowers and a place for people to sign the condolence book.


The flight from Bangkok to Kathmandu was rather uneventful, however towards the end what we had assumed were clouds turned out to be the Himalayan Mountains. Not the best pic, but I hope you get the gist…


The approach to the airport was a little hairy- a quick descent after we had cleared the mountains. The density of the housing was immediately noticeable from the air- no yards as such and most dwellings were apartment buildings.

After collecting luggage and clearing customs we were met by Sonam, our in country guide. Leaving the airport reminded me a little of Fiji with the number of bikes, scooters, cars and busses trying to merge into narrow roads, but it was also vastly different. I was surprised cyclists were not collected by larger vehicles, however drivers tended to stand their ground. No traffic lights to be seen, however a strong police and military presence around places like the Old Palace and some directing traffic along the way.

The hotel we are staying at tonight is in the tourist area of Kathmandu and allowed us to change currency (you cannot obtain Nepalese Rupee outside Nepal) and pick up some bottled water. Of course I just turned on autopilot and brushed my teeth in the basin with town water. Let’s hope my constitution is as good as I claim it is!

We ventured up to the rooftop garden on dusk which was well worth it…


For dinner we went to a Tibetan restaurant and were treated to the yummiest hotpot…


Another early night for my roommate and I- these early starts are taking their toll. We do hope to be up early tomorrow though to look at the sunrise from the rooftop.

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Makes the hard one humble….

Saturday, 22. October 2016 23:26

We have arrived in Bangkok and settled into our hotel for our one night- well 7 hours really! Can’t get that song from Chess out of my head!

The joy of an early morning flight from Cairns is watching the sunrise, although at this time of year even a 5.30am flight takes off in daylight. Still got to see some beautiful colour as we ascended however.


In Brisbane was wonderful to catch up with Tess, Ants and Dan and have breakfast together before I met up with our group. Our excitement and nerves was evident as we waited to check in. Fortunately my 53kg of luggage, of which I estimate about 40kg is donations, got through from Cairns (Qantas was amazing!) and checking in as a group with Thai Airways meant it was all averaged out and for the 20 of us travelling we were around 60kg under limit!

The flight to Bangkok was semi-uneventful- I scored the middle seat of three in the middle section of the plane with two burly gents either side with elbows and legs to spread. Managed to get up and walk around a few times and made some progress on my Sockhead Hat– had to restart it on the way down from Cairns as I missed the ‘being careful not to twist’…


Loved Thai Airways- great service and amazing food! Super exhausted now and in need of sleep.

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