I used to believe that you would go weeks without running across a place to email, but then I started traveling myself. Write me back. M
Under normal circumstances you would be absolutely right but this has been far from normal. You will understand better when you see the photos but really the towns and villages we have been staying in have little in the way of creature comforts let alone internet connections.
The other day we were staying in a village way out in the wops. These people had not had medical care forever, literally. The “Local Doctor” turned out to be not a doctor after all but a pharmacist. Upon further questioning we found out that he was not even that. He was just pretending and getting meds from the government and dispensing them as he felt fit.
The doctors on this trip were appalled at the attention these people had been receiving. Some had diseases that were horrendous. We saw 500 patients in one day at this place and were there a total of 2 days. This really has been no walk in the park. We have worked 12 hour days nearly every day and the only days we haven’t been working we have been travelling to the next destination. We are all a little burned out now and this brings me to my current location and the site of this internet connection.
I am in Mcleod Ganj; famous as it’s right next to Dharamsala.
We have a 3 day break and this is the 1st. It really is a wonderful place and I love the fact that tomorrow I can do what I want. It is still freezing cold but is becoming bearable so must be adjusting. This journey has been like no other. It is the first one of its kind I have done and also because it’s a group. All in all I am having a great time.
India continues to be just as crazy as ever. The biggest difference this time, from others, is the suffering and being so close to it. I have been with people aged just a few months to 85 years.
Some were ready to die right there.
One little boy was 4. He had the disease that prevented him from being able to be in sunlight except no one over here had ever diagnosed this. He now looked like he had been burned from head to foot and his flesh was just dripping off of him. His body was limp and it was suspected he had only a very short time to live even if at this stage he was kept out of the sun. His mother was overcome.
Other stories involve all types of deformities, growths, skin disorders, brain disorders, malnutrition…you name it and I have now held the hand of the person with it. I was there to triage and comfort even though at times I felt useless as I couldn’t speak to them. They all had local dialects and even Hindi was not used by most of them.
The cases of epilepsy were especially hard as it seemed fairly common. Upon reflection though it was just a few cases, maybe 10 or 20, but we saw nearly 2000 patients and of course these I took personally because most were kids with no way of getting access to the drugs I have.
There were definitely some sobering moments here. I do feel that even though my participation was at best supportive, my being here actually did provide some actual direct help to some people and for that I feel good.
I have a lot more to tell you but I am making myself a little sad if I keep talking and regurgitating the stories that I have yet to fully process. I will write again soon, Tim
Hi Tim – I can’t tell you what affect your letter had on me. Talk about an experience and a life changing one you are having. Nothing will ever quite seem the same. Creature comforts will be ever so much more appreciated. The pictures you painted with words are amazing and I can’t possibly imagine what your real photos will look like; memories of a lifetime. You will be back soon but I fear nothing will be quite the same. Can’t wait to listen to your stories on your return. Dave
Hi Tim – Wow! Your letter really got to me, but I’m sure not nearly the way it’s getting to you. You will probably never be the same again. I really do envy you this experience. It sounds as if India, once again, has gotten under your skin and gotten all of your senses and emotions stirring. I can’t even pretend to imagine what all of that is like. I have certainly seen people on the verge of death, as have you, but never in an uncontrolled environment and without people all around doing everything they can to prevent it. It has got to be an amazing mix of shock, compassion, helplessness and, no doubt, a lot of horror that you just can’t express. I am quite sure you have enjoyed your time off in Dharamsala. Michelle
Hi All – The group I am travelling with is made up of 10 people. By tomorrow only 6 of us will remain. The group has gelled wonderfully. I was going to say we do most things together but really all we have done up till Dharamsala is work. But that we have done well together.
At night we talk on all manner of subjects and curl up in our sleeping bags until sleep takes over and the next day is upon us and the clinic routine starts anew. The slumber party routine has become something of a trip pastime. It has rained a lot and most places we have stayed have no heat so body warmth has been essential; as well as five layers of clothing and hot water bottles. Not to mention the copious amounts of hot tea which make us all pee like race horses.
Fatigue and diarrhea have slowly begun to sneak into the ranks these last few days but I have luckily remained unaffected at this point…touch wood. There are plenty of medicines available if a bug does make its way in though.
Today I spent my morning at the Norbalingka Monastery and sat quietly in the temple and had a few things to think about. It was very peaceful and calming and intend to it again on my return.
Tomorrow morning we are off to our next clinic in the province of Chamba and this will be the last. Of this I am glad. I have no idea what to expect but unlike the other clinics this one will be tough. Not because the people are worse off but because I am mentally exhausted, as is the team.
We are also at 50% manpower now so the expectations to see the same number of patients as we have been seeing should be reduced…but it will not be. The reason is simple. The patients do not have any knowledge that our group is only 50% of its former self and therefore will be hoping for treatment. It could be tough.
On the 25th I will be back here and yes, I will be seeing the Dalai Lama. We have been very privileged as a team to have been granted an audience with Siang Tenzing the High Abbott of the Bonpo Monastery in Solan. This was several days ago. The Abbott is the Dalai Lama equivalent for the Bon Buddhist people and he met with us and we had tea privately in his chambers. It was a very humbling experience.
On the 25th the Dalai Lama himself is holding a teaching and we were allowed to register for this and attend for the morning session. I am excited about this even more. Let me simplify this paragraph.
The Bonpo Monastery is a sect of Buddhism and is the oldest. They do not recognize the Dalai Lama as their spiritual leader, only political. There are about 100,000 of them. The head guy is the Abbott. I met him and had tea, cookies and Yak butter tea of which he did not drink due to his high blood pressure.
Being up here in the clouds is something wonderful. I barely know how to describe it. Yesterday I saw a huge cloud roll in and envelope me. It was like heaven. I saw a cow walk into a man’s shop yesterday and eat a sack of potatoes. He started whacking him in the butt with a stick to chase him out. I saw a monkey come down from a tree and steal a bag of peanuts from a guys stall; the stall owner got out a bb gun and started shooting the monkey. The monkey was screeching at him but the guy kept shooting. Eventually the monkey got sick of being stung and threw the bag of nuts back at the guy and took off across the rooftops. India. Tim
Hi Tim – I can’t believe what a coincidence this is (referring to the snowballs) but I had a fight with a monk yesterday too, only it was over a parking space. He insisted that there was no way I didn’t see him in that orange outfit, but I tell you, I was there first. M
To find out how this all came about; click Beckoned Skyward by an Earthquake.