Old Knees in Their Countries

by Laura


This morning when we woke up Catherine and Lissa decided to try on some of my Nepali clothes.  As luck would have it, perfect fit!  So we are all decked out in local garb as we leave Kaskikot for our first of two days at the Tashi Palkhiel Tibetan Refugee Camp.

At the refugee settlement, we are in a palpably separate space as soon as we walk through the gate.  Everything feels different: the language, dress, faces, culture, the whole energy in the air.  There are people in this settlement who walked to Nepal from Tibet 65 years ago, and it still feels like its own nation, floating.

We reunited with Sonam as soon as we arrived and she took us to the camp clinic, where two the two Tibetan staff nurses joined us.  Our patients were already waiting.  This is a new and exciting experience for me too…even after ten years in Nepal, I’m in a foreign land at the Tibetan settlement.  The only people I know here are Sonam and her family.  I met the head nurse for the first time a few weeks ago.

As everyone got started with their patients, I sat down and went through our training manual with with all the trainees–Chitra (from Kaskikot), Sonam (who was with us for two days in Kaskikot), and the two nurses (who have the advantage of medical training).   This turned out to be a great morning in three languages.  The Tibetan nurses speak good English and our manual is in English.  So they’d read a page, discuss with each other in Tibetan, and then translate it in Nepali so that Chitra could make notes. And listening to their Nepali translation gave me a chance to see how well they’d understood the English (perfectly every time).  Then we’d all have a Nepali discussion about the topic at hand–for example about the difference between “routes of elimination” and “detoxification.”  Then we’d practice on someone, such as me, and then on to the next technique in the manual.

Treatment today was intense.  I think the others will write about it.  IMT offers the opportunity to engage physical problems on all levels, and in this displaced community, I’d say that was a life-changing experience for all of us.  Even more so because, without Tibetan language, IMT is the only direct communication we had.  Treating a knee problem in Kaskikot, where people have inherited hard rural lives over generations in a highly organized Hindu social structure, is completely different than treating the knee of an 85 year old Tibetan who walked here from her homeland 65 years ago and has barely had space to move right or left since that time.

Treatment at Tibetan Settlement

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