Find out what we're up to in Nepal and India
Our journey across India has been great so far. And aside from all of the stares, which have been seriously off-putting, the touts, the rickshaw driver yells, it has been really great!
The trains have been very good - very relieved that we booked them though as Indian queues are an experience - and we have been to a peaceful Bodhgaya, a crazy Varanasi where we took a lovely dawn boat ride with a tiny 10 year old rower (we thought it would be his dad taking us but it was him!!), and a stunning Taj Mahal.
We arrived in Rajasthan to discover that there is a festival here, so we saw an amazing parade and finished with an unusually luxurious dinner in a revolving restaurant. It looked weird from the outside and was very surreal! It also made me a bit dizzy after all the rocking from our train journeys.
Further west into Rajasthan this afternoon and then north towards Chandigarh...
Ok, you've guessed from the title i've been ill again, but don't worry, i'll spare you all the details. It was amoebic dysentry for my health worker friends.
Talking of near lethal illnesses, here is my report on the medical tent.
The set up was simple - dirt floor, tarpaulin and bamboo frame, 2 chairs, a chest of drawers and a bed-sized straw mat.
The provisions were basic (though mostly in date) - a large box of various size plasters, equipment for basic wound dressings and some basic medicines.
The expectations were great - a broken arm and a blind man both in the first week!
My friends at work had kindly made me a good luck card which had a picture of "Dean's Magical Medical Tent". I think the sick and needy of Nepal had heard about this but interpreted it literally, as a queue of expectant people gathered daily, eager to see the "magician" from England and witness his magical powers.
Luckily i was not alone. Luckily i had a fellow nurse to share a puzzled look with. Unfortunately she was 17 years retired and had specialised in midwifery. Luckily we were not alone. Luckily we had an interpreter. Unfortunately he only spoke sketchy Swahili. Okay, only kidding on that last bit. He was an ex-Rokpa street kid who spoke good English and had been the interpreter in the medical tent for the past 8 years.
So, i knew i had to dig deep to serve these desparate people who were looking to me for help, and with encouragement from my wife, i searched my memory for the knowledge i had learnt at university. The void was discouraging. The regret was sincere. The panic, absolute. My final option... "Look into the eyes, into the eyes, not around the eyes, directly into the eyes" only kidding, i'm no Paul Mckenna, my final option... the power of the placebo! I was amazed at what my paracetamols could fix. Thank the Gods for the power of the mind and good old blind faith and trust.
Kathmandu has specialist hospitals for leprosy, the blind and orthopaedics and there was also a clinic nearby run by the neighbouring monastery where we could refer those who didn't respond well to my placebos, such as lepers, the girl with the broken arm, the blind, major organ problems, grossly rotten teeth (only seen previously in textbooks) and a man with his big toe missing, which oozed green pus when i squeezed it, but who had the biggest smile!.
The patient who made my adrenaline surge the most was being seen by the other nurse one morning while i was finishing helping serve breakfast. I heard his screams from the tent and went in to see him sat on the chair with his mum behind him and the other nurse holding a dressing to his forehead above his right eye. I looked at the interpreter who looked back and said "monkey bite! monkey bite!". It turned out that this 4 year old boy had been attatcked by a monkey at a nearby temple, which bit him above his right eye and scratched his face with its hands. This had happened 4 days previously, but the mother could not afford treatment, and therefore, with no free health care, the boy had just been given a simple dressing. The wound was still actively bleeding and the skin had started to retract, leaving an ugly wound which would need plastic surgery.
The good news is that Rokpa paid for his operation and a few days later he was back playing around and smiling. Until i tried to take his stitches out. Apparently the hospital would not take them out so his mum held him, but he screamed and wiggled around every time i got close. They left and his mum went to buy him a small toy. He returned smiling but had the same reaction when we tried again. So the other nurse held him and his arms on her lap, while the mother held his head and i managed through screams and tears, to take them out. Amazingly only a couple of minutes later as he left, he gave me a smile and a wave.
All in all, it was a fantastic experience, and although sometimes overly trusting, generally the patients were friendly and very grateful. My nusing has definately benefitted, and my appreciation of the NHS has increased.
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Quick note to say we have safely arrived in India and things went just about as planned. A lovely flight with mountain views!
After being hustled at the airport by about 20 men trying to tell us we couldn't cross the border there, we finally got someone to drive us. He waved us in a general direction and we walked along with crowds of Indian and Nepali border-crossers until we were finally waved into an immigration office and told that we were in India. They only had forms for Indian nationals but despite trying to explain that maybe we needed one for foreigners they insisted that it was ok and finally we were allowed through! Very weird experience, but a big relief.
The official was really helpful and explained which trains to take and luckily we were soon on one - 2nd class with wooden seats - and then changed to another, to discover it was 6hrs, but at least these seats were slightly padded!
Arrived 1am and discovered the wonders of 'retiring rooms' in Indian train stations, it was enormous and cost about 1.50!
Then a jeep ride and the toy train to Darjeeling - now enjoying very cold weather and nice tea!