Here I am on my way back to Pokhara.
It is going to be a readjustment being just myself again. Even though 99.9% of the time I’ve spent here in Nepal has been this way, I think the intensity of the last few weeks will take some time to dissipate. I’m used to keeping track of just myself and my meetings and tasks, and during this project I’ve been consumed with monitoring other people, moving between languages and perspectives, translating words, cultures, experiences, emotions, trying to keep things stitched together to the extent that’s possible to control that at all (editor’s note: it’s not). A lot of it is untranslatable, and you just have to watch everyone on both sides go through it, which after all is the whole point. Now it feels strange to be standing here in the solitude that’s one of the main reasons I love being in Nepal in the first place.
With a little time to reflect, one of the first things I’m appreciating about this experience is that each of the four of us had a unique but indispensable importance. I’m obviously the one who knows the Nepal thing, and can do critical pieces of planning like the schedule and pronouncing our weird American names, and I ended up with a large role in community teaching. Catherine is the only one of us who can handle details for more than three seconds, and by details I mean she has an encyclopedic knowledge of every IMT-related piece of paper she’s ever collected and is fully responsible for the the creation of the training manual and the self-treatment cards that were the centerpieces of our teaching. Lissa is the most experienced therapist and was our clinical leader and emerged as the head trainer as well, far surpassing any expectations we had with our trainees. And Will with his easygoing way and photographic eye brought a spirit of openness and delight to each and every situation, contributing significantly to our presence as an exchange rather than a “visit.” Take away anyone, and the whole thing doesn’t make sense anymore.
After all the happenings, there are a few simple instances I keep thinking of. One evening Will was sitting in the kitchen with Aamaa and I dropped something in the next room and Aamaa shouted, “Ke BHAYO!” which means, “What HAPPENED?” and instantly Will copied, “Ke BHAYO!” mimicking the sound exactly with a super-thick village accent and no idea what he was saying. It was so funny Aamaa and I immediately exploded laughing. A minute later he called to Lissa on the porch, and she’d learned that when someone calls your name you answer, “hadjur!” and she yelled back “hadjur!” and Aamaa says gleefully, “‘Hadjur!’ She speaks Nepali!” One night Lissa wasn’t feeling well and didn’t come to our community teaching, and when we got back she and Aamaa were just sitting silently in the kitchen while Aamaa cooked over the fire. And also I keep thinking about treating Aamaa with Catherine, just sitting there quietly with our hands on her. Can you even imagine how we all got in the same place?
Time will tell how successful our treatment and training were, and obviously, that’s important. But I also think that showing up matters a lot. Sometimes the thing you think you were doing turns out to be the thing you were trying to do when you did something else that mattered more, you know?
Like in many places, people live hard lives here. It’s hard to say how this week fits in to the big picture: backs that have hurt for decades and will carry heavy loads for many more years…a systemic lack of medical care that defies any comparison to most if not all of the U.S…social and political trauma and oppression. What we can say is that we were all here at the same time, everyone doing their part according to their capacity during that time. No more than that…but no less.
Seems like a fair place to begin.