A Travellerspoint blog

By this Author: Shantitraveler

Dental Trauma

We enter the rather dimly-lit, dental office and are greeted up front with a fairly threatening photo of dental trauma. Right next to this photo are horrific pictures of a dental abscess and dental implants. Is this reverse psychology? American dental offices greet one with pictures of unnaturally, white-toothed smiles. Is this any worse social conditioning?

My Nepali sister's daughter has a baby tooth that requires pulling. The tooth has been causing her pain. It won't budge with any extraction attempts. She is frightened. Who wouldn't be with the front desk horror story photos.

A friendly patient in the sitting area attempts to alleviate her concerns. His teeth are bright and white. Nepali teeth seem to be polar opposites. Either decaying and falling out or like those of this cheerful man. The patient is not distracted by his antics.

The desk clerk/assistant sits with her friend, their heads hunched over her cell phone, her mask tucked under her chin. The dentist beckons us down the hallway leading to the dental chair. The assistant follows us, pulling her mask up. We veer off before we reach a curtained room with X-ray written above it.

My nursing mind does a quick check of the place. It could be tidier.
A topical pain ointment is given prior to the lidocaine. Did the needle come out of a package? Pre-procedure, the young patient starts to cry. Anticipation of pain can be worse than the experience.

I conveniently step out to use the toilet and on return, the job is already done. A hand holds in a big cotton wad in the mouth. Efforts to talk are pointless.
Not as bad, it seems, as the pics out front depict.

Posted by Shantitraveler 03:51 Archived in Nepal Tagged nepal dental trauma Comments (0)

Routine: Fight of Flight

On the Road

On the Road


I am being gently pushed to practice routine. Some people thrive on set order, others whither. My petals are mildly drooping. Rural Nepali life survives on the necessity and completion of a long list of morning chores. As each day passes, I am adjusting, and maybe even finding some benefit and grace that accompanies routine. I am also spared repeated treks up and down four flights of stairs, if I stick to the routine, rather than lean toward the chaos of randomness.
I get my work done. I usually just shake up the sequence, depending on my whim. I confess openly that I am tardy by about two hours past the normal waking hour of my Nepali sister. However, I won’t budge on an earlier time. The sun hasn’t even risen for her first hours of the day. Even if I am awake, I can’t imagine getting out from under my 20-year-old down sleeping bag, which has retained its fluffiness, even after all these years. It’s old, but I can’t bear to part with it, nor my loveable backpack. These two have been my consistent traveling companions for many of my carbon footed miles. I digress. Prime example of what happens during my more lax style of ‘routine’.
So I try to systematically approach the day, when I courageously step out beyond my bedroom doorstep. I grab my plastic bucket (for nocturnal toiletries), my clothes to be washed and my jug of water to brush my teeth. It’s necessary to use the “thunder bucket” at night, as my family fondly called it, at our northern Minnesotan cabin. Fear of darkened stairwells and frogs sitting in the squat-toilet hole, put a squelch on any nighttime runs.
My main job in the morning is to get the clean buckets of water to the kitchen on the third floor once they go through the filtration system down by the pump. If I am late or negligent due to my randomness or tardiness, the duties are already completed by my Nepali sister. She has already swept the entire school grounds with a tree branch broom and is getting ready for her puja (prayer time) upon my awakening. I hang my head low. She only laughs. She knows most foreigners are light weights when it comes to Nepal lifestyle.
I make up for it by cooking the morning dal-bhat (lentils and rice) bi-daily meal, while she does her puja. Her chanting puja music blares out from the MP3 player, while I chop vegetables and sip chai. From my limited Nepali language, it sounds like the singer is saying chiso pani (cold water), so I repetitively sing this after her puja. Again she laughs. I guess that’s not exactly what is being said. At least I got the routine somewhat down. Now, I laugh.

Posted by Shantitraveler 10:10 Archived in Nepal Tagged life rural nepal terai Comments (0)

Festival Time: Amuwa

Dancers for Tihar Festival

Dancers for Tihar Festival


A 5 day Festival with honor given to a different animal on each day. Goddess Laxmi also has a special puja day. Tika and puja (prayer) given to cow today. We are told that cows give us milk and are like our Mother. Doors and windows of school opened during this time with candles and oil lamps placed in sills and door entrances. Candles and oil lamps are lit at night to welcome and guide Laxmi into homes as she likes darkness. The oil is refilled during evening. School yard is swept, bus is cleaned and everything is in good order for the Festival.
Groups of children visit door to door with traditional song and dance. Some groups more sophisticated technically, plug in CD players with speakers. At times, the music leans towards Hindi pop songs with dance moves to match. Performances are rewarded with money, candy, rice and fruit. A local who now lives and works in Goa, explains that children collect all of the offerings and then purchase what they need to make a party and enjoy.
One older group, whom were particularly technically advanced, and much enjoyed Hindi music, danced many songs and took many selfies for their Facebook page. Many requests made to become Facebook friends. Fairly certain this same group returned the following night, but much later to continue the celebration. 1:30 AM was too late to pull out of a warm bed to dance once again.

Posted by Shantitraveler 09:51 Archived in Nepal Tagged festival time nepal puja terai Comments (0)

Sabita's Special Puja

My Nepali sister is one of the greatest teachers in the art of discipline. Every morning and evening, without fail, she performs puja (prayer) at her little prayer table in the kitchen corner. Oil lamps are lit. Fruit and milk offered. A small cup sits, stuffed with rupee notes. She places tika (blessing with colored powder) on the foreheads of the statues and pictures of Ganesh, Shiva, Krishna and more.
For the past full month, she was on a special fast: Garlic and Onion were abstained from on certain days. The main staple of the diet, dal (lentils) was not consumed for the entire month. Her bi-daily puja’s were longer. Stomachs grumbled as we patiently waited until we heard the bell ring, signifying the end of her prayers. My ears perked up at this sound, like Pavlov’s reflex.
This morning, the local Brahmin priest is holding a special puja to end the fast for my Nepali sister. Yesterday, a trip to the market was made to prepare and purchase necessary items. Flowers were picked, red and yellow tika powder bought, and fruit gathered.
Sabita ran around as last requests were given by the priest. She would sometimes shout out for items to those of us lingering in the background. In one quick movement, she grabs a machete like knife and requests assistance from her Didi. (older sister) She moves fast, with machete in hand, as if a mission of slaughter is pending. What are we after? She nears a bamboo patch and eyes it up and down. With one quick scoop, the young outgrowth is chopped off. She counts the bamboo sections and is pleased that it is an auspicious number.
Back at the ceremonial site, the priest uses the colored powders to make geometric patterns in the dirt. A holy book is read from, oil lamps are lit and ancient rituals performed. A marigold plant, that Sabita places oil lamps in front of every morning, is placed near the site. It is tied with a string to the bamboo branch that is now jammed firmly into the earth. A string with an orange and some marigold flowers dangles from the top of the bamboo. The tied string indicates that the bamboo and the marigold plant are married, Sabita states. They represent Tulsi and Krishna. Marriage is important here. However, the difficult life in rural Nepal can strain many domestic relations and cause quiet suffering, especially for women.
Puja completed. The blessed fruit (Prasad) is share with the youngest of students along with a 5 rupee note. They smile, bow their heads and say Namaste.

90_Sabita_s_special_puja.jpg90_Marigold_m..d_to_Bamboo.jpg

Posted by Shantitraveler 21:11 Archived in Nepal Tagged life rural nepal puja Comments (0)

Sitting by the Fire

I squat down to sit with Mama by her small flame of a fire. Not much sunlight lands in her makeshift bedroom in the school, so the room’s temp stays on the cool side. The fire is built for warmth. A circular concave pan sits in front of us with a few twigs burning. The fire is just big enough to see the glow of the flames in her eyes. She rearranges the twigs frequently for optimal flame height.
Above on the third level, a quiet low humming sound comes from the 10th class students, who are attending special evening sessions to prep and pass the Secondary Leaving Certificate Exam. This very important exam determines whether one can further their education beyond secondary. The principal insists they all study diligently to pass. They repeat their lesson a loud in unison, like Tibetan monks that sit for hours repeating mantras in their ancient monasteries.
A family relative rides up on a bicycle through the darkened school yard. He is heading to a new job in Korea and wants to pay his respects before departing. He states he paid 7 Lakh (700,000 Rupees or $7000 USD) for the opportunity. He signed a two year contract and won’t return until the end. His two children attend the school. They have more western name, which are more pronounceable, and more easily remembered: Monica and Mona Lisa. Monica may stem from the Clinton-Lewinsky ordeal. I met another Monica in Nepal with that same namesake and for that very reason. He admits going is a hardship, but feels his choices here give him little or no chances in life.
Although Mama and I don’t exchange many words, we are able to communicate. Does she ever wonder why I have not advanced beyond my monosyllabic sentences? I have to see the written word to speak it. Here in Nepal, folks seem to be able to pick up a language easily by ear. My vocabulary is about 50 words or “short” sentences, as I prefer to think.
I say tato ( hot) and warm my hands by the fire. Mama laughs. We understand each other.
Mama at the fire

Mama at the fire

Posted by Shantitraveler 23:03 Archived in Nepal Comments (0)

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