Eric Kramer - Medicine in Nepal
Over the first two days in Nepal, I visited a Nutritional Rehabilitation Center (NRH) for malnourished children in Patan. This was such a learning experience. Malnourishment is a huge problem in Nepal. NRH not only helps children get proper nourishment and gain weight to get back into proper form, but also teaches mothers how to properly feed their children. The children at these centres were really adorable and enjoyed our company. There was also a great view of the terrain and I met other volunteers: one from Nepal, one from Paris, one from Colorado and one from Italy.
Living in Kathmandu
The hotel, Hotel Excelsior, which I stayed at in Kathmandu, was very nice considering the conditions in Nepal. It had working wifi almost always, which made it easy to keep in touch at home. All of the staff members were also extremely nice. The food was also delicious. My favourite food that I had in Nepal is definitely momos (buff momos and chicken momos). They are basically dumplings but they are absolutely delicious. I must have had them almost every day.
I then spent a few more days in Kathmandu doing touristy things, visiting the magnificent Monkey Temple and a few other sites. The Monkey Temple was unlike anything I have ever seen before and I really enjoyed seeing the monkeys freely roaming around and the beautiful religious sites.
I also went on a 4-hour trek in a national park in Kathmandu. That was quite the challenge. I had never done anything as physically exhausting, but after taking many breaks I was able to make it to the top. I did suffer many leech bites but it was a wonderful experience and there was a spectacular view at the top.
Thamel is a nice area where you can get all of your shopping done. It does take a bit of getting used to walking through the streets because of the hectic lifestyle there. There are no paved roads, no traffic lights and drivers barely follow lane markings. People just drive everywhere chaotically, cars and bikes alike. It can be a bit scary at first but you get used to it.
Everything is so cheap compared to in America. There are shops to convert money everywhere along with tonnes of souvenir shops. All the shop owners are extremely friendly and willing to sit and talk. I got stuck in the rain at one point so the shop owner let me sit in the shop until the rain stopped. We talked about American movies for almost an hour. He was only 18 years old and he explained to me how only two Nepali children get chosen each year to go study in America. Many of the Nepali children want to go to America but they cannot afford it so the only way they can go is if they are chosen. I wished him luck.
Volunteering in Chitwan
I then went to Chitwan where the hospital medical placements were. The 5-hour bus ride from Kathmandu to Chitwan was very scenic. It was also quite scary because of the winding roads and high elevation. I spent a few days in Chitwan Medical College (CMC) where I spent some time in radiology, ECG and the operating theatre. The staff in the radiology department was extremely nice. One doctor showed me how to run an x-ray and explained the whole process behind it. The methodology there is definitely different from in America because of the technological disparity.
I absolutely loved the time I spent in OT because I got to watch several different surgeries including cancer removal and neurosurgeries. This was wonderful experience that I would never have the chance to do in America. It really reinforced my idea that I want to become a surgeon. Most of the doctors are extremely friendly and willing to explain procedures to you. Some nurses even made me tea and taught me some Nepali!
Observing in the operating theatre was definitely the best medical experience I have had in my lifetime. I saw the removal of a Brenner’s tumour in the uterus and the doctor allowed us to take pictures of it. He even explained the procedure to us and cut open the tumour for us to see. He then invited us to see all future surgeries. In the cancer hospital, a doctor explained a neurosurgery to us as he was performing it! He showed us all the incisions they made and explained the process of skin grafting. It is fascinating to see a complicated procedure like a neurosurgery performed outside the United States because due to the lack of advanced technology, the surgery is much more invasive.
As for the Projects Abroad staff, they are mostly former volunteers so they know what it is like. They are very friendly and willing to help in any way possible. Also, it is advisable to bring everything on the recommended to bring list since you will probably need it.