Joseph Jablonski at Chapagoan Clinic
After over thirty hours of travel, two hours of customs in Kathmandu airport, and an hour thrill ride in a cab I finally arrived at my location: Vajra Varahi Healthcare Clinic at Vajra Varahi Gompa in Chapagoan, Nepal. When they opened the large gates of the gompa (Buddhist monastery) to allow for the cab, I knew that I arrived at my location and at my new station in life.
Marcella, the clinic manager, was the first person to greet me. After a warm exchange of Namastes she showed me around the building and led me to my living quarters – my new home. Within an hour Macferson, her husband Lee, and Ben arrived. The new clinic team has been assembled: two acupuncturists and a massage therapist.
During and after dinner we were given our orientation: clinic procedures, working with the translators, case loads and scheduling, meal schedule, expectations, and load shedding. Load shedding is an interesting Nepali concept of power delivery. To ensure that the country receives adequate electricity the government has scheduled black outs. Chapagoan, for example, receives about eight hours of electricity a day. Usually we get two four-hour blocks of scheduled power. Each day the times are different and the schedule isn’t always accurate.
After an evening of talking, sharing our experiences, and exchanging wide-eyed amazement we all retired to our respective rooms: Macferson and Lee to theirs, Ben and I to ours. After some brief chatting we both decided to turn in for the night. Incredibly, as my heavy eyes began to close, the wildlife (all the stray dogs) awoke. It turned into a night of tossing and turning to the serenade of barking and howling. Ahhhh…glorious.
Saturday morning at breakfast we all decided to head into Boudha with Marcella as our guide. The trip would take about ninety minutes and three busses. Public transportation in the Kathmandu Valley is an adventure. Busses, mini-busses, and tuk tuks make random stops along the road. A barker hangs on the side of the packed vehicle and scans for possible riders. He yells out the destination and when someone shows interest he bangs on the side to let the driver know to come to a stop – or at least slow down enough to let people jump on. This, my friends, is a far cry from the CTA…much more exciting.
Boudha is a spiritual center of Nepal. It is the home of the Great Stupa. Travellers and pilgrims come here to walk around the stupa three times, pray, burn offerings, and heal karma. The mass of humanity is incredible. As a special treat, Marcella suggested that we pay a visit to the White Gompa and offer kata scarves as offerings to Chokling Rinpoche, Chokyi Nima Rinpoche, and our benefactor Phakchok Rinpoche for blessings. This was done during a Drupchen, a nine-day holy observance of non-stop mantra chanting. We reverently entered the gompa, walked alongside the left (clockwise) to the back of the altar and then we each presented our katas to the respective Rinpoche. Each blessed us and presented us with a book and herbal medicine. Before our departure we were stopped by one of the monks and invited to a back room for an audience with Phakchok Rinpoche.
For over an hour Phakchok Rinpoche talked to us over tea about his experience as a Lama, Buddhist philosophy/theology and his thoughts of and experiences in America. As well, we had a candid and very cordial conversation with him about our lives, experiences as healthcare/body-worker practitioners, our relationships, and expectations. Phakchok Rinpoche shared with me his painful experience with Thai massage. I promised him that when I’m honored to have him on my mat, we will by-pass discomfort and win him back to the honored practice of Nuad Boran.
The following morning we had breakfast at Saturday Café which overlooked the Great Stupa, did some grocery shopping and headed back to Chapagoan. Sunday, the first day of the Nepali workweek meant that the streets and all of the busses would be crowded. Our first two connections went without much drama. The third leg of our adventure was a bit more challenging. One packed bus after another passed without stopping. After waiting for almost an hour and no luck, we decided to walk the several kilometers home. Soon after we started walking, like a chariot from heaven, a packed bus pulled over and invited us aboard – on the roof. We scampered up the back of the bus and found places on the roof among other fellow Nepali travellers. Before we reached our destination the driver pulled over and ordered all of us off of the roof. Apparently, it’s against Kathmandu traffic laws to ride the roof of vehicles – blahhhh.
The night is now getting late and we start working in the clinic bright and early tomorrow morning. I still have to pick up my laundry that’s drying outside, do some studying, reading and prepare for a new experience – new life.