Ben Turney

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June 5, 2009

Statler & Waldorf? Beavis & Butthead? Stan & Ollie?

Friday is a half-day at the hospital, with regular business winding up at about noon. As I don't have an official schedule yet, I spent the morning shadowing Dr. Paudel, an orthopedic surgeon who was seeing general patients, 20 or so in the space of a couple of hours, with one patient or family group coming into the room before the previous one left. You future dermatologists, this is the place to be: about half the patients were here for some sort of skin condition. Three Swiss third-year medical students are, at the moment, the only other folks here in a capacity similar to mine, and as this is an official rotation for them, as I'm writing this, they're spending the afternoon working on a report on their time here.

Yesterday was the last couple of legs of the travel to get here (and "here" is Lalgadh Leprosy Hospital, in Lalgadh, Nepal). Rattling around in my head for a while has been a brief comparison of Boston and Norfolk drivers, or more directly, the different shortcomings of each, and after a trip from and to the Kathmandu airport, I'm not sure I have much to complain about anymore. I nearly had to use my right hand to unclench my left hand upon arrival - some combination of driving on the left hand side of the road, the center line as an extremely abstract concept, and an almost non-existent seatbelt encouraged a fairly firm grip on the handle above the passenger-side door. A 25-minute smoother-than-expected flight on a Buddha Air 18-seater delivered me from Kathmandu to Janakpur (and ended what seemed to some merely a tour of airports), where a gentleman from the hospital picked me up. We made a couple of stops in Janakpur to pick up plane tickets for other folks and a couple of boxes of medications, and headed to Lalgadh and the hospital.

I'll admit that the last flight and the first portion of the drive to the hospital had me thinking, "I've come to a country best known for its mountains and I've managed to find the absolute flattest part in which to spend the next eight weeks," but low hills appeared as we approached the hospital, and the grounds themselves are at the top of a small hill. Rumor has it that on a clear day, I'll be able to see Everest from the top of the water tower, but I haven't yet made the ascent.

I'm still learning my way around the grounds, and I'm just getting started on learning everyone's names and the etiquette for various interactions, but I've been assigned residence in the Annapurna cabin, where, at the moment, my housemates are two lizards, a smaller one who seems to patrol from the roofline down, and a larger one who patrols the ceiling. I was supposed to be joined in a couple of days by another medical student, but he's a no-show, and apparently that's not all that uncommon - folks make arrangements months in advance to come, then drop out of contact and never show up. The cabin has everything I need: running water, filtered (drinkable) water, electricity (as much as anywhere on the grounds - apparently a good share of Nepal's electricity generation is hydroelectric, so the supply is dependent on the meltwater runoff and the rainy season, so we're headed into the 16-20 hrs/day of power part of the year), and I'll be damned, wireless internet. I've got a good strong connection to the hub from my front room, but the available bandwidth seems to be in the 36-56k ballpark, so videoconferencing is probably out. And I'm learning the finer points of mosquito netting use ("Mosquitoes: outside netting. Mosquito-eating lizards: also outside netting. Self: inside netting."). It's hot and humid, and it's going to take a few days to adapt to that, but frankly, so far it's about as hot and humid as Norfolk in July or August, so I don't have anything to complain about.

Saturday is the day off here, with most folks attending a church service mid-morning, and Sunday is apparently the busiest day of the week, with the staff seeing 300 or so patients on average. I'm not sure whether that's because most other folk have Sunday off, or for some other reason, but I'll report back when I find out.

Other wildlife of note, mostly not inside the cabin or the netting: 1 semi-feral white cat who patrols the grounds with a yowl that sounds Siamese in origin. Semi-feral as in one of the physicians pointing to bite marks on the ankle of another member of the staff and demonstrating the water-toss employed as a deterrent towards any future bites. 1 monkey being chased off the domestic terminal building at Kathmandu airport. (I don't know why, but the latter made my day.)

Posted by Brenden at June 5, 2009 4:17 AM


wireless! lucky you. the times, they are a-changin'.

Posted by: Rachel at June 5, 2009 11:25 AM

I'm interested to know about the "interaction etiquette." Like, what?

Posted by: Carol at June 5, 2009 1:05 PM

Poor phrasing on my part. That should have been just "etiquette." (Is there any etiquette that isn't interaction etiquette?) For example, my instinct as a westerner/American with a modicum of manners is to extend my hand and introduce myself, and it's clear that that's not always what's expected or appropriate here. Under which circumstances it is and isn't, I'm just starting to learn. For example, greeting is usually "Namaste," done with hands pressed together at fingertips in front of chest in a manner we'd think of as prayerlike, with a slight nod of the head towards the fingertips.

So far I haven't been ejected bodily from a room or anything, but I'll keep you posted.

Posted by: brenden at June 5, 2009 8:37 PM

Incredible. I'm reading in reverse order, so it's like time travel.

Posted by: Elrond Hubbard at June 10, 2009 9:03 PM
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