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Medicine in Nepal by Barbara Lomba

A traditional Nepalese dish

I am currently a nursing student in the sunny state of Florida. I decided to do the Medicine Project with Projects Abroad in early August. Choosing Nepal was easy for me because I knew I wanted to go somewhere in Asia. I had already traveled to South America so I wanted to experience something very different from what I was used to.

I remember waking up bright and early that very first morning after a 24-hour flight. I was woken up to the sound of cows mooing, motorbikes and bustling streets. After a short tour of Thamel, I was taken to my placement to meet my supervisor and then taken to my host family where I would spend the rest of my trip.

My home away from home

Barbara exploring Nepal

My host family was definitely a huge part of what made my trip amazing. I was placed in a home in a city called Bhaktapur, about a 40-minute drive from Kathmandu, with three other lovely volunteers. My host mom was very kind and loved to talk to us over the breakfast and dinners that she would make. Every morning we ate Dal Bhat, which was rice and lentil soup with vegetable and potato curry. At night we would eat bread called roti with curry vegetable, and sometimes she would spoil us by making pumpkin. The first few days I had to adjust to eating such a huge breakfast, but I soon found out that I needed all the energy I could get for my long days ahead. The house was super comfortable and I was even lucky enough to have hot water.

My Medicine placement

Barbara in the streets of Nepal

I was placed at a local cancer hospital. My day began at 10 am and was about a 25-minute walk from my host family’s house. There, I was able to shadow doctors throughout many departments within the hospital. This is where I was able to watch my first surgery! It was quite the experience. I was also able to volunteer in the outpatient department as well as the radiology oncology unit. All the doctors were very kind and would always translate any time they had a free second from their busy schedules. For lunch, I would eat at the hospital’s canteen, which was not only cheap but they made the best momos and aloo paratha too.

I did experience some culture shock along the way. I found myself missing my family and wanting to eat some American food. There were days that the differences in things such as hygiene practices, social interactions, and just common activities really hit me and some of the other volunteers pretty hard. But we just stayed opened minded, talked through it all and reminded ourselves about how lucky we were to just be having an experience like this.

Free time in Nepal

Children in Nepal

On the weekends I was able to go on trips planned by myself and other volunteers or with Projects Abroad. Every Friday, Projects Abroad would also do outreach projects. I was able to volunteer at a school where we taught the kids about the importance of eating fruit and having a healthy diet. It was so great meeting all the kids. They were super excited to see all of us and seemed to really enjoy learning. There were plenty of social events that I could go to as well, like Nepali dance classes and suturing classes.

Traveling on the weekend was something that I’ll never forget. I stayed with a couple of volunteers for a few nights in Thamel where we spent the days wandering small shops and eating at the delicious local restaurants and coffee shops. We spent a night in a city up in the mountains called Nagarkot where there was a beautiful view of the Kathmandu Valley from the hotel. It’s definitely something I’ll never forget. I met amazing volunteers from all over the world, and was able to meet plenty of locals who we would spend hours chatting with over delicious coffee learning about their different customs and cultures.

Nepali life

Medicine volunteers outside their placement

Even on the week days, there was always something to do. The Nepali people love to have festivals and are just generally laid back and relaxed. There were two holidays in the two weeks that I stayed in Nepal. I remember the sights and smells while walking around, seeing all the cows and stray dogs, street vendors and not to mention the temples on every corner. I was able to experience a completely different culture from my own and loved to see how people can live so differently from the way I do.

I’ll never forget the amazing people that I met on this trip, along with all the laughs and stories we shared. Traveling truly is the best way to learn about yourself. You realize just how tiny your corner of the universe is and just how large and beautiful the world is. This trip was eye opening for me and I was humbled by my time in Nepal. I hope that many other people can have the opportunity to share in this experience!

Barbara Lomba

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