05.11.2012 37 °C
Our 4th day has taken us deep into the heart of Nepal. The "real" Nepal. The region we have arrived at is known as Lumbini and the small town is called Bhairahawa. There is an omnipresent swelter of heat that smothers the lungs, despite the fact that there is no trace of sun; Only a bizarre desaturated grey-blue sky. The entire sky remains unchanged throughout the day, a sunless grey blanketing the entire horizen. The oddness makes me think its smog, however, Bharawai is nested in the Nepals plain-region where very few factories, cars, industry or much of anything is around. The sky should be clear and sunny, but it is not.
The temperature is around 36 degrees during the day, resultng in an inescapable heat that is always at your throat. The smell of pollution and garbage fills the air. We settle into the best hotel in Bharawai has to offer, the Nirvana hotel. Unfortunately I have strong feelings that this is the only hotel Bharawai has to offer. Despite the lack of housing competition, the hotel is dead, save for the small number of employees floating through the empty halls of granite and dark, fraying wood. The lighting is both scarce and dim, and frequent power outtages don't help set the mood to anything but a hotel in a horror film (My mind imagines the Shining).
Stepping out into the town only adds to the mood.
After speaking with one of the hotel employees, we discover that a majority of Nepal has decided to partake in a nation wide peaceful strike to persuade the government to rewrite the constitution. From what I've gathered, the government has failed to contribute back to its people as much as the citizens want, and by law, the constitution must be written by the end of the month, causing all business to come to a halt.
As we walk down Bharawais main street, all I can think about is the mood of the entire town. Eerie. There is a stream of rusted bikes slowly sailing by, mixed with the odd person sauntering to their destination. Every window, gate, and door is closed, yet no one is inside. Not a single car passes us despite us walking for over an hour. Each and every person is simply sitting on the cusp of their door, shop or ledge, observing the crawling traffic. There is no laughter in the streets and little conversation. As we walk by, dark glares and thrown our direction, apart from the children who smile and wave. No one approaches us to barter and sel their goods. No one is interested in approaching us and all we receive are stares.
Clearly, tourists do not visit this part of Nepal. Everyone seems to be just ... waiting for something to happen. Perhaps anything to happen.
As we wander past the endless street of 2 story building it is quickly becomes very apparent that Nepal is truly a famished country. The smell of garbage and manure fill the street, alongside the view of poorly built buildings, many of which remain unfinished. Cows carelessly roam the streets, browsing through the garbage for a light snack as the traffic meanders around them. Shoeless children dance in and out of the small alleyways and doors, stopping only to stare. If you google "Nepal" and look at the images, this is certainly not what appears.
Despite the very eerie aura, it is comforting to be reminded why we are here. we did not come here to bask in luxuries, but to help those in need, and the nepalese are certainly in need.
Our trip takes an interesting and positive turn as we arrive at the Lumbini Eye Instute; A small and seemingly isolated complex entirely dedicated to eye care thrown into the centre of Bharawai. We are warmly and very enthuastically greeting by many of the staff members of the hospital. They make a very strong point of making us feel very welcome and very grateful. It is also apparent that the members of SEVA have spent a great deal of effort to ensure our travels are safe and smooth. The facility is old and worn, but the staff are hard working and the flow of patients is cleverly designed and effencient. The streamlined design allows the institute to accommodate the massive volume of patients they must address. During the busy months, the Lumbini Eye Institute can see up to 1500 patients a day.
After a quick tour of the facility, they put my father, Dr. Peter, to work. We all scrub in and my father begins cataract surgery as the attending residents and doctors eagerly watch.
After much travel, we are now settling in and streamlining our efforts to help the people.
We are all excited and nervous for what is to come.