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Time to Heal

Tara Gregory | Acupunctrure Volunteer Nepal

Over the last 6 weeks treating in the clinic here in Nepal time has flown by.  As I prepare to leave in just 3 days patients tell me that it seems like I have only just arrived days ago.  I agree, I'm not ready to leave this new family and community that has been building.  I should have known that time would do funny things here in Nepal before I arrived, given that the time difference between here and my home in Oregon is not the standard 13 hour time difference.  No, there is also a 15 minute difference added into the time change.  So much is packed into each day it seems as though a month is fit into every week.  I feel that all I can do is surrender to the process, just flow with the fast pace, and hope that in time everything will settle and my consciousness will catch up!

Tara Gregory | Acupunctrure Volunteer Nepal

As time flies by I'm left with questions whirling in my head. Most questions center around what my role is here in Nepal as a health care provider.  Is my role to get patients better quickly so that they can stop coming in for treatment in the shortest amount of time possible? Is my role to provide a safe space for patients, a place for them to experience a pause from the rest of their week?  A receptive ear to listen to the suffering experienced and the joys of their lives?  The abusive husbands, the grandchildren abroad, the weddings planned, the abandoned children adopted. Do I help provide a place where community can build, a place where bonds between patients establish themselves.  Offerings made... One patient quietly slipping another money, who can not afford necessary medication. The answers come and go and shift in response to the day and the patients who arrive in my treatment room.

Tara Gregory | Acupunctrure Volunteer Nepal

Throughout this process I'm faced with so many questions and unknowns, I'm constantly challenged to just stay engaged and be present.  With time moving so quickly it is easy for me to want to slip away to a quiet place for a moment, to reflect, replay experiences, and in that way process all that I'm learning and witnessing.  Instead I challenge myself to just stay engaged with this moment.  Sometimes it is easy, watching the sunset reflected on the Himalayas, welcoming 8 new puppies into the world, the excitement of our building being under siege by the neighborhood clan of monkeys. Other times it is harder, holding a 11 year old epileptic monk as he seizes in my arms, days when the trembling of my patient suffering from Parkinson's Disease is hard to calm down, and knowing that my patient with high blood pressure will never get the necessary medication due to lack of finances and family support. These challenges have helped me cultivate an ability to stay grounded and present during intense situations. 

Tara Gregory | Acupunctrure Volunteer Nepal

Gazing at the Himalayas this morning I hope that my time here will shape me like the elements have shaped the mountains.  Cultivating strength, groundedness, and perseverance on the inside while being soft enough on the outside to be touched and shaped by what comes my way. ---Tara Gregory

Happy Holidays from Nepal

Happy Holidays: Acupuncture Volunteers Nepal

Happy holidays and thank you to everyone who supports our work in Nepal. We appreciate all of the good wishes we receive from the readers of this blog and our FaceBook page. We would also like to send a special thanks to our Didi's (sisters) Uma and Umilla. They are our behind-the-scenes support who cook for the entire crew and clean the clinic everyday. We could not do what we do without them. Please check out this short video (courtesy of our friend Tristan Stoch) showing our Didi's in action. --- Andrew Schlabach, Director, Acupuncture Relief Project

Beginnings and Endings

I'm sitting outside on a hot, sunny day with a view of the village of Chapagoan and a crystal clear view of the Himalayas in the distance...and of course there is a cat on my lap.  As writing is not my forte I have lamented for a week about writing this blog although thoughts about what I would say have streamed in and out of my head for the last two weeks.  What would I say about an a experience where every moment is a richly layered ever shifting kaleidoscope of thoughts and feelings?   How can I possibly express this in writing to other people when it feels so deeply personal?  But part of opening myself up, opening up my heart is to share these experiences with others. 

The first few weeks of clinic are overwhelming and exciting.  Everything is so patients, a long work week, working with an interpreter, living in close quarters with a group of people.  It brought up feelings of insecurity and made me question my competence as a practitioner.  I felt somewhat disconnected from my patients, from my teammates, and really from myself.  But I got up every morning, felt my discomfort, and went to work anyway. 

On a bus ride to Boudha something shifted for me.  Riding the microbus in Nepal is quite the experience.... They will pack on as many people as possible and I felt fortunate to have a crowded seat.  I was sitting next to a petite older woman who would look up at me from time to time with a sparkle in her eye and start talking to me in Nepali in which I would look at her say "I have no idea what you just said" and then we'd just smile at each other.  She had her arm on my bag and when I tried to move it to give her more room she looked at me, gave a head bobble, and said 'tik chaa' which means 'it's ok I'm fine'.  At that moment I realized she reminded me of so many of my patients... men and women that I have started building relationships with and look forward to seeing every week.  I also realized how much I appreciate and rely on the interpreters I work side by side with on a daily basis to bridge the gap in communication so I can have these rich experiences with my patients.

I've felt myself gaining confidence and by allowing myself to be myself I started really opening up to my experience here.  There is something beautiful that happens in the treatment room between myself, the interpreter, and the patients.  I've stopped worrying so much about getting it right and started just feeling into the experience, connecting with everyone involved and although some days are still crazy there is a flow that is present.

I've fallen in love with Nepal and the people here.  I've gotten close to my teammates and I'm starting to form friendships with the interpreters.  Nepal in all it's glorious craziness and beauty feels like home and through shared experience I feel like I'm part of a community, a family.

In eighteen days I leave for Thailand and right now that is heartbreaking.  The other day I had a particularly touching moment with a patient and when I went to the dispensary to fill herbs it hit me that I was leaving soon and I lost it.  I let myself cry, wiped my tears, and went back to treating. These moments are happening more often as I realize I'm starting to grieve the end of my time in Nepal.  The more I open up and allow myself to really be here the more I open myself up to the inevitable heartbreak of an ending.  But within this heartbreak is a deep gratitude and appreciation for the people and experiences that have and continue to impact me.   This is life.... Relationships, friendships, experiences are always in a constant state of flux. Endings allow for the freshness of new beginnings and when I'm in Thailand I will fully be in Thailand having whatever experiences arise then.  And by us leaving the new team will get to have their own experiences here.

I asked Satyamohan, one of the interpreters, today if it was hard for him every time a group left.  He replied yes it is difficult for him.  I then asked if it's gotten easier as he's been doing this for quite a few years.  He said it has but that he's a human being so it's never really easy.  And that's it...regardless of culture, age, gender we are all human beings sharing our pain, our heartbreak, our laughter, our joy, and in all of that our love for one another.  ---Natalie Gregersen

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