Waiting to fly
Saturday, 16 September 2017
Even while packing up, considering what the essentials of life will be, deciding what to take and what to leave behind, it seems hard to believe that I’ll be back in Kathmandu tomorrow – after 19 years away. We’ve been on tenterhooks about this move for a whole year.
I hear things in Nepal have changed. More young men than ever travel to the Middle East to work and some of those who are left behind still sleep under plastic after the devastation of the earthquakes in the spring of 2015. There has been some rebuilding but progress is slow. We’re joining the efforts to help people get their lives back. S is heading up a team who will rebuild roads, footpaths, bridges and water supplies but the work will be reactive according to local requirements and in these early days the programme is organising and gathering information.
I don’t know what I shall be doing, which is exciting and liberating. At this stage of my medical career I’ve picked up some skills which should come in handy and I shall see who can use me. I can’t say whether my role will be village-level health promotion, colleague training, clinics or community motivation, or whether it’ll be a ‘proper job’ or voluntary.
When we last lived in Nepal, the family was young so I did a lot of short-term consultancies, evaluations (making sure charities or governments were doing the kind of work donors would be pleased with) or helped plan effective new work. I would work full-on for a couple of weeks then return to being a full-time, and more contented, mother for a while. These professional roles were fascinating as I was privileged to sit and chart with men and women of all castes and ages and I heard so many stories. I was repeatedly moved and inspired by my informants' resillience and their ability to accept the inevitable and look for ways to move on and make the best of things.
One assignment had me talking about peoples’ experience of accessing health care and one grandmother enthused about how good things are these days. 'Young women have it so easy compared to the time when I was giving birth. These days they have all sorts of modern facilities and equipment..’
I asked her what she meant.
‘These wonderful birthing kits! You know.. there is a big blue plastic sheet, a razorblade for cutting the cord and string to tie it…. It makes giving birth so much easier, and there is no problem cleaning up afterwards.’
Giving birth is a spiritually dangerous and polluting process so women in this village chose to go to the cow shed and deliver alone. If the baby died, it’s ghost would bring trouble into the house and might kill all subsequent babies.
I wonder how many young Nepali women still give birth alone with only the family buffalo for company. This is one question I aim to answer….
Posted: 16/09/2017 19:52:22
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