Thursday, March 17, 2016

My Most Memorable Experiences........

My most memorable experiences

Following the earthquake in Nepal in April 2015, there was mass destruction.  I saw many, many piles of bricks, evidence of devastating structural damage.
These bricks in Nepal were handmade by men, women and children.  The masonary yards dot the countryside surrounding Kathmandu.  These bricks are handstamped with pride.
I like to think the bricks represent the people of Nepal.  They have suffered, but remain strong and resilient, the founding stones of rebuilding.
I hope that I was part of that rebuilding.  I hope that the work we did as the TWECS team made it a bit easier for the people of Nepal to rebuild their cities, buildings, houses and their lives.

My experiences on this trip were overwhelming and complex.  I could cry because I was happy or sad and it flip flopped greatly.

Here are a few of my favourite memories:

Buying oranges at a roadside stand and them being weighed with old scales and weights

An early morning run in the foothills with my new friend, Dr Rita.

Getting a sour face from an elderly woman when she didn't like the glasses I dispensed (+13D) and trying -6D and she was happy.  One eye was +13 due to aphakia and the other eye was -6 but had a dense cataract.  I thought she would appreciate the correction in the eye with clear media but I was wrong).
Pollution:  Noise (vehicle horns, dogs barking), air (smog, exhaust, need to wear masks), garbage and litter

Seeing the beautiful women in the red dresses on Saturdays for weddings.

Being upset that I had to tell many people I could not help them.

Learning to use a squat toilet and remembering to bring your own toilet paper.

Hearing thousands of "Namaste"s everyday.

Crazy driving!!!  Potholes, dueling buses on narrow mountain roads. But our driver was calm and I felt safe.

Our very talented translators, who by the end of the day had learned so much about eyes, they were telling me what to do.

"Rock 'n Roll"  Dr Nixon White coined the phrase very early into our trip.  Any patient who had good vision, didn't need glasses and had healthy eyes, were told such but it was just easier to say a code word/phrase for the translator to tell the patient.  So our code was Rock n Roll.

Challenging conditions in clinic.  Dirt floors, dust, direct sunlight, never enough blackening out of the windows, no electricity or running water.

Food and beer (Gorkha, Tubourg), bento box lunches

A four year old patient grabbing my water bottle and taking a swig and returning it back to my bag.
Being included in a team in which I didn't know many.  Fabulous group of volunteers.  I learned a great deal from each one and laughed heartily with all.

Witnessing Dr Annu's donation of clothes, backpacks and shoes to a local orphanage. 

The best leaders organizers:  Marina, Derrick (and their twin 13 year olds, Evan and Emma) and David Sakaki.  Without your vision, hard work and generosity, this trip would not be possible.  I am humbled to be part of it.

A tree shaped as a heart

 I feel extremely fortunate to have participated in this project.  I think it is human nature to compare the lives we have to the people of Nepal and to feel thankful for all the comforts we have.  But that's not even the start of it for me.  I am fortunate to have met and served these kind and beautiful people.  I feel great love and gratitude. 
By Dr. Dana Blakolmer

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