I once was lost and now I’m found


After six straight days of teaching, the idea was to “get out of dodge” for Saturday and get some exercise. Two years ago I did the hike from Changu Narayan to Bhaktapur and it was excellent. So – – – why not?

Dawn Chorus

The usual morning routine of rising at 0500, writing in the leather-bound journal, then coffee and two fried eggs with toast. I can hear the dawn chorus starting at 0400, lately the nightingale seems to have moved somewhere else….. What would my life be without songbirds???? (Do songbirds have a purpose?)

Joined at breakfast by Chris, the Canadian videographer here on assignment with Wycliff Bible Institute, also staying at the Guest House. After each day Chris and I talk about how the day went. He’s been listening to me crow about how well things are going for me, to the point where he can predict what I will say – it’s not just my two daughters who find me predictable!

Arrogant? who, me?

Chris has a way to help me to recall pride and arrogance, gently. Chris travels quite extensively in Asia and Africa through his job. He truly has been there and done that, and has the kind of patina for which we all search. He is Evangelical but has more of a sense of humor than most other Evengelicals I have met, when I put this in writing it makes me wonder why some others are so serious…. Chris is also an excellent interviewer, as befits a trained journalist, so he does a much better job of “drawing me out” than others might. I have been telling him how happy I am that things are going well, and he has reminded me that God is in there, somewhere.

The meaning, and application of, grace. ( the kind from God)

Makes me stop and think. I am just doing what I do, right now…. I want God to be in this, but I would never presume to see the hand of God in what I am doing… O if I ever forget to praise thee Lord….. We can all contemplate….. By God’s grace I am able to be here doing this right now; but If it grace that got me here, how does that work, exactly? I need a refresher on the ins and outs.

So this was food for thought as I packed my water bottles and walked to Lagankhel, the bus depot near Patan Hospital. Asking around I found the Bhaktapur bus, not in the large open space packed with buses, but down a side street. There was the usual twitter from other passengers as I sat down. The only foreigner on the bus; the only one in the depot. Also “moto manche ho” – (see that fat guy over there!) Yes, the average Nepali is thin compared to me.

Only in the past year or two did they finish the superhighway between KTM and B’Pur. I had never been on it. I half-jokingly call it a superhighway; it is “divided”, it is wide, it has lanes and lots of space on the shoulders. No cows on it; not much traffic right now. So – by Nepal standards it is quite different.

What is also different is the amount of development along this road, buildings shoulder-to-shoulder despite the fact it’s only been open a couple of years. Brand spanking new high rise offices with lots of tinted glass. So, I was a bit disoriented on the ride to B’Pur. Couldn’t remember ever being on that road…… Turning over in my brain ….. Nope. It is all new. In two years? What happened to the old road?

Got a taxi to Changu for four hundred nrs. The road there is uphill; narrow with switchbacks and areas where crews are fixing landslides. At the bottom I could see people walking to the rice paddies from town carrying telltale implements for cultivation. Nice to get out of Patan, which is a very urban scene. Neat piles of compost in the dry paddies waiting to be worked into the soil. Small areas of bright electric green nursery beds for shoots, awaiting transplant. Bamboo structures that turned out to be chicken farms, by the smell. Tomatoes being grown under plastic, with walls rolled up…. Neatly cultivated.

The houses got further apart and there were more lots where farming was taking place. I say “more” because it’s all relative – in an empty lot right in front of my guest house somebody is growing maize and beans, which by the way are two feet taller than they were two weeks ago.

At the top, a parking lot where tourists are disgorged, then visitors pay 100 nrs. There is a neat little brick village at Changu, on a steep stoneflagged street punctuated by staircases. Too steep for vehicles, and though there were little ramps for motorcycles I did not see any bikes. Village activities here – sitting on the stoop knitting winter hats, or sorting rice, or drying grain on a blue tarp in the street. Small shops for Thangkas, masks, pottery etc.

The Temple was as nice as I remembered it. The small mandir for Kali was open, I took off my shoes to look at the icons inside. I noticed details I had not recalled seeing before. Pored through my guidebook to remind myself of the statuary in the courtyard.

A dozen or so Chinese tourists taking photos, no other foreigners.

Sat for awhile and just took in the serenity. Ate the bananas I bought. A dozen small ones for 50 nrs.

Striking out down the trail

I found the trail leading downhill, through a pine wood where animals were grazed, giving it a manicured look. Sure enough, small herd of goats and the odd cow ambling through the area. The herder also ambles along under an umbrella.

Somewhere up high, in the woods just after leaving the town, is where I failed to bear left the way I was planning. I’d been able to find that junction two years ago; not this time. I don’t know where exactly. By the time I figured this out I would have to backtrack uphill five hundred vertical feet. And so, to bear right brings the hiker down a separate shoulder, closer to KTM. And that is where I went. Reminds me of a Boy Scout hike on Monadnock in New Hampshire years ago….similar error.

Oh, it was pleasant enough but it stuck to the road ( not the same road I came up) and didn’t pass the section of paddies I recall so clearly. Took me awhile to figure out that this was not the same path.

Stopped at various “chautaras” along the way. The usual scenes of village life – men playing carom; everybody chillin in the mid-day heat; goats tethered at various stations in a weedy field; machine shops, barber shops, small ravines filled with the arc of paddies, red dots in the distance indicating that a crew of women are there using mattocks. The ubiquitous blue roto-tiller type tractors hauling stuff along the road. Some old Newari style houses mixed in with newer-designed mansions painted in bright colors. At one point I got lost and went down a side trail and was guided back to the road by a teen names Ramesh who had been brushing his teeth by the stream that ran in front of his farmhouse.

Another time I was accosted by six schoolkids asking for money
“I don’t give to beggars” –
“but we are not beggars,sir!”.

“Then why are you asking for money?”

Finally found the road, this one was the old road to B’Pur, parallel to the one I took in the morning; this one I remembered, it comes out behind the airport runway at one point then curves to the south. (Three years ago on the day of a bandh, I’d had a driving adventure in this area with a friend of mine, which involved riding in the taxi as it charged through a puddle nearly deep enough to float the vehicle. We were so rattled we were both shaking….)

Waited for the bus, the very next one was going straight to Lagankhel. And the trip was over.

It was worth while even if not perfect. My feet were sore and I took two aspirin.

I decided to spend as much of Sunday on mega-code as possible – we are wrapping this up!

Joe

About Joe Niemczura, RN, MS

Experienced nursing educator and problem-solver. I have fifteen years of USA nursing faculty background. Add it with fifteen more devoted to adult critical care. In Nepal, I started teaching critical care skills in 2011. I figure out what they need to know in a Nepali practice setting. Then I teach it in a culturally appropriate way so that the boots-on-the-ground people will use it. I travel outside of Kathmandu Valley as well. When the recent violence happened, I knew the cities - I had trained people in those locations. One theme of my work has been collective culture and how it manifests itself in anger. Because this was a problem I incorporated elements of "situational awareness" training from the beginning, in 2011. Global Health Nursing is not all sweetness and light; not solely milk & honey and happy moms and babies.
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