Upon arrival to the ARP Clinic in Bajra Barahi, nestled amongst the peaceful tree covered hills in the countryside of Nepal, I sensed a note of an “uh-oh, what have I gotten myself into” sort of uncertainty. A freshly graduated, under-traveled, self-critical practitioner standing before the very place I would watch myself struggle and fall apart for the next six weeks. I’m supposed to say that I know what I’m doing and I can handle this, but let's not kid ourselves- I knew I was in for a wild ride.
One step at a time, I tell myself, don’t go beyond that one step- it will all unfold as it should so if I can just handle each present moment I’ll eventually get through this without completely letting myself or anyone else down. The first day is yet another wake up call; I sit and listen intently to my interpreter as I watch the body language and facial expressions of my patients. I often settle on gathering what information I can because my questions do not make sense or are not conveyed the way I need them to be- “keep it simple” I tell myself, “just start with the basics”. These internal pep talks would soon become a common occupant of my everyday thoughts.
Beginning treatment I place my hands upon the weathered knees of an elderly woman; rough, dry and full of years of hard labor and intense weight bearing. I hope that my smile and the confidence of my hands from nearly a decade of being a massage therapist are coming through to her as a form of trust and compassion. I want to give her everything I know to do in one treatment and must remind myself to take small steps and make a plan for future treatments. My desire to completely relieve her pain and send her out the door feeling better is clouding my judgement and confidence. It is already clear what one lesson is that I must face during my time here.
Patient after patient comes through the door and sits in the chairs in front of me. Greeting each one with a warm “Namaste” and parting with the same expression, I try to imprint their face and chief complaints into my memory so I can spend part of my evening researching how to better help each one. I am in this to make sacrifices and step out of my comfort zone, to see what I am capable of when resources are stripped down to a bare minimum, but what I truly want most is to see my patients coming in with less pain and suffering.
It is a tricky balance of suppressing my own desires and expectations while striving to progress my patients to a better place; to a place that works for them- not for me. I knew I would be forced to face fears of my own self-worth, but it’s funny how different that reality is when you’re standing in the present moment rather than the foreshadowing of it.
On my final day here I intend to take a step back and look at the clinic from the same standpoint in which I first was hit in the gut upon arrival and see what has changed. Will I feel triumphant? Defeated? Exhausted? Elated? Accomplished? Humbled? I imagine it will be mix of all those emotions, but the one I hope will be absent is the evil villain of fear- the unnecessary yet persistent pest that it is, I strive to loosen part of the grip it has on my being and leave it in the settling dust on the winding roads far behind me. --- Sandy Homer