Alexis Popich Treats Patients in Talamarang Nepal
I have been in Nepal for just over three weeks now. It has been a whirlwind settling in. So many new sights, sounds, tastes, smells, people for my senses to absorb. It is difficult to put into words what I have experienced thus far, but I will do my best. The purpose of this blog is to just write out my first impressions, with a focus on my first impressions in the village primarily.
When I first arrived, I spent three days in Kathmandu, the capital city of Nepal. I got a fever, sore throat and congestion literally right when I got off the plane. So I spent most of the first couple of days here recovering and sleeping. For those acupuncture students/practitioners out there - shout out to bleeding LU11 and the adventure of performing gua sha on my own UB channel to help in my recovery. I was met in Kathmandu by Hasta, a man connected to Mindful Medicine Worldwide and lives here in Nepal. Hasta is from a village that is about six kilometers away from the village of Talamarang where I am staying. Hasta took me to a few different temples in the city before we embarked on our journey to the village.
We took a four ish hour bumpy bus ride up to the village. Talamarang is situated in the Sindhupalchok district of Nepal, about 50 km northeast of Kathmandu. The village is nestled within lush mountainous land and a large river. There was a devastating flood about two years ago that destroyed many houses in the surrounding villages and destroyed parts of the road. The people are resiliently still building back their houses and recovering from the loss of fields and crops. Alas, the village is incredibly beautiful and the people are for sure skeptical of me but after a genuine smile and greeting they are extremely friendly, warm and inviting. I have never spent time around people who are so hospitable and take care of each other so well.
I have been settling in well with my host family. My host moms name is Mina and she has been an incredible source of support and adventure for me. She has so graciously invited me into her home and takes me around the village daily on her errands of cutting down a bunch of bananas from the banana tree and chatting with local community members. We have been exploring the village and surrounding villages on foot. She also works every day with me in clinic. She helps to translate the initial patient interview and then helps me make sure the patients feel safe and comfortable on the table. I seriously could not run the clinic without her.
Overall clinic is going well but has been quite the transition from only having seen patients in the PNW pocket of the US. I have had great support though, as I have mentioned. Mina and I also work some days with the school nurse, Durga. It is great to be building a small but strong team to see the influx of patients that have been coming in every day. The most patients we have seen in one day is 27 and a slow day is about 20. Often times patients line up in the mornings and wait to be treated. It is as other volunteers have written, people will walk for hours to come to acupuncture and wait for hours to be treated. From what I’ve experienced in Nepal, there isn’t much rush in doing anything. So although clinic has been busy, I don’t feel any pressure from patients or my team to go faster - being thorough and precise seem to be valued more than speed. Which I am thankful for!
I am currently in Kathmandu writing this blog - I have had one week off for the national holiday of Dashain where the many people celebrate the mother Goddess Durga. I highly encourage you to look up this holiday and the story behind it if you haven’t heard of it before. I spent a day or so celebrating with the family, went on a solo day trek into the nearby mountains and then made my way to Kathmandu to meet with some new friends in the city. I have been lucky to make some local friends who have taken me on many adventures and hikes this week. I am actually able to write this blog because of a new friend I made that is letting me borrow his iPad for charting purposes while I am up in the village as my laptop unfortunately broke on my travels to Nepal. To be showered in the generosity, reciprocity and curiosity of the people in this city and country is truly incredible. I am really getting to know Kathmandu and a bit more about the diversity and vastness of Nepalese culture and I am immensely grateful. I will return back to the village tomorrow to jump back into the clinic flow.
I will be returning back in a couple of weeks with another update.