After six visits to Nepal, I have finally had the opportunity to learn some Nepali. I have no idea why I never thought of it before – maybe it was too easy to speak English as those Nepalis who are schooled are taught in English. I love the country, it’s vibe and it’s people; so now being able to communicate (albeit very briefly) has just made me want to learn more – whilst also feeling a little guilty that I hadn’t really tried before….
I first came to Nepal in 2006 as part of my medical elective. The original plan had been to spend all of my time here however with the political situation at the time, plans changed and I arrived into Kathmandu after spending the first half of my elective in Canada and then travelling to the USA, Fiji, New Zealand, Australia and India. Once established in a hotel for the month, I ventured to the Kanti Children’s Hospital to find my supervisor for the time I would be spending in Anaesthetics. Much to my surprise, I learned they spoke English very well and in fact, had learned medicine in English. So the only hurdle in terms of communication was the occasional attempt to get some information from the family prior to theatres – which I rarely had to do. And so a trend was set – I indulged in the culture, travelled by tuk-tuk to work and ate daal bhat – that seemed to be enough.
In the visits that followed, I spent time in villages that had never seen westerners before and completed two trips to Everest Base Camp as an Expedition Doctor. They were brief visits but nonetheless important to spend more time in this beautiful country.
Last September was my first visit back in four years and I arrived with Reuben to a sunny, post monsoon season in what was his first visit to Nepal. Like myself eight years earlier, Reuben was completely taken by Kathmandu and the bustling vibe and assault on the senses as you hit its epicentre, Thamel. After what felt like an age, we boarded our flight to the mountains and spent three amazing months volunteering in a remote mountain post in Machermo.
So, having returned again to Nepal for a further three months to work for the Himalayan Rescue Association at Pheriche on the route into Everest Base Camp, we were a little wary about attending Nepali language classes for two hours a day. Admittedly, the first lesson was exhausting as we were hit with an abundance of new words and verbs. But after ten hours, I am absolutely amazed at the turnaround and how great it feels to finally be able to say hello and ask how my Nepali friends are doing after so many years! It’s also a long time since I have taken language lessons and the way we were taught was really straightforward. I am very much looking forward to practising some basic phrases once we are in the mountains – hopefully it will one more step to working out here at the CIWEC clinic sometime in the foreseeable (but distant) future…..