Home again, home again…

I don’t feel that I have been to a market to buy a fat pig, however the last 3 weeks have been a market of experiences that I am still trying to decipher in my mind. I am writing this in Brisbane airport as a storm rolls in, possibly delaying this evening’s flight home to Cairns. I don’t want to think how long I have been travelling home for, but it feels like days!

I must give a plug for Thai Airways. They were magnificent on every flight. The food was delicious and the standard gin in economy was Bombay Sapphire! Our clearance at Brisbane airport this morning was the quickest I have ever experienced- from landing to clearing customs was 20 minutes. Unfortunately this means I am stuck in Brisbane airport for over 7 hours, but still…

We went to Nepal for a cultural experience and we got one! I said early on that ascribing value to differences was not always helpful, however there was one major difference which still irks me. Nepal is a very patriarchal society. Sons are valued much higher than daughters and as one obstetrician told me, she can tell all her patients that she is a successful doctor and has vowed to take care of her parents as well as her husband’s parents in their old age, she will have patient after patient returning for their fourth, fifth, six or even seventh child in the hope of having a son. Whilst international pressure has been placed on improving the maternal mortality rate in Nepal, it has been left to external agencies and overseas governments to fund this. As a group we were told by our lecturers from the start that we needed to be aware that we were in a patriarchal society and needed to keep our voices lower than normal and remember that it is uncommon for women to drink alcohol so to be careful. I think I have drunk more in the last three weeks than the last 12 months, and that was usually a beer or a cocktail each evening, sometimes more :) I knew that I did not want to take my values holus-bolus and impose them on another culture, but to me, equality of the sexes is one value I could not sit back and ignore. Would me drinking have made any difference to the way men see women in Nepal? Probably not, but to me it was a small stance I could take.

The biggest display of sexism I saw on the trip was at Kathmandu airport as we were leaving. After clearing immigration, we needed to have our hand luggage scanned. We were shown there were two lines for men and one for women. The mens lines moved very quickly and the women’s line dragged. There were not more men travelling than women, but the men did not have the time to wait. Oh and the mens lines had 3-4 tables for the men to arrange their hand luggage into baskets which were readily provided, compared to the women’s line that had one table and you had to ask for baskets. Whilst away I read Clementine Ford’s new book Fight Like a Girl. One of the things Ford argues strongly about is that we as white middle class women living in the west, need to acknowledge our privilege and use it to help women in developing countries, women of colour etc.

I wish I had been able to visit more hospitals in Nepal. We really spent most of our time at one so my experiences are based on this experience in a private hospital, recognising that private hospitals in Nepal are vastly different to those in the developed world. At Fishtail, Florence Nightingale is revered. We were presented with certificates on our last day and these even feature a portrait of Nightingale. As I noted last year in an assignment, Nightingale was a feminist and her values of eschewing marriage for a careers and seeing nurses as more than doctor’s handmaids is often forgotten by some who still see nurses as the handmaids at the beck and call of the doctor. The nursing notes in patient’s charts at Fishtail all followed the same formula- medications given as charted, patient observations as per chart, no abnormal activity this shift. With the families providing so much of the nursing care that nurses in Australia provide, nurses almost had minimal contact with their patients, save for taking vital signs- families often administered medication too, especially oral meds.

One thing that the trip reinforced to me was my desire to be involved in women’s health and to do my midwifery. Whilst I may not work as a midwife, it will give me more options to work in the future.

Being with 21 other people in close proximity for 22 days was a challenge at times, especially for me as I value solitude to regroup, however it was a great group of nurses. Everyone had their own strengths and found ways to add them to the group which was greatly appreciated.

Africa got under my skin the first time I visited, however now Nepal has too. I really want to take MIMLβ„’ and the spawns there one day as it was so eye opening. People have asked me about the earthquake and the effect it has had. Some places we drove through between Kathmandu and Pokhara had evidence of the earthquake, but people don’t like to talk about it. People I talked with said that although the death toll was horrendous from the earthquake, it was the downturn in tourism that has had a bigger impact. Tourism is one of the main income streams for people in Nepal and to them they asked that I encourage all my friends to visit. I can tell you that in visiting you will experience a culture so different to Australia’s, or perhaps any other developed country, but you will experience a culture full of the most lovely people.


Date: Sunday, 13. November 2016 14:19
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  1. 1

    Welcome home Fi and thanks for such a wonderful insight into the life in Nepal. Love, Mum

  2. 2

    Really appreciate the time you have taken to let me share your experiences …..glad your home safe and sound.Cant wait for your next trip!!!πŸβ€οΈπŸπŸ’œπŸπŸ’šπŸ’™

  3. 3

    Every entry here was eye opening. CBH will seem so tame. Welcome home. xx

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