Scalpel's Edge

A surgeon's notes

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Mountain view

I remember arriving in Nepal eleven months ago and feeling excited.  It was a new place, a new experience.  We settled in, challenged by the work.  I learnt countless new procedures.  The patients I met were similar to those from my previous hospital, but sometimes with incredibly advanced disease. We dealt with everyday challenges – learning the language enough to speak to our house help, figuring out where to buy our necessities and meeting lots of missionaries, all of whom were doing amazing things and had it all figured out.  It was even confronting to be meeting all these people and living so close with them, while trying to deal with our misbehaving kids, who were also undergoing transition.

Over time we settled in.  We have no physical home in Australia now, and we talk about Tansen as “home.”  When the earthquake came, we didn’t feel disrupted and felt no need to escape.  (Although it still feels unbelievable that we experienced a 7.8 earthquake – something not common to the Australian experience.)  We started to thrive in this town.

For the last few weeks I have been trying to write to update what we are doing here, but it seems hard.  I feel a bit flat.  Living in a different culture has become more familiar, but more tiring as well.  I was disappointed to return from our recent holiday and immediately feel like I was back against the grindstone.  I start to fantasise about living in Australia again, if even for a few weeks.

And sharing this has been difficult.  I feel ungrateful.  I have great friends and live in one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen.  I am respected and loved, and patients are grateful to see me.  I am valued by my hospital.  My kids are settled and productive, and laugh and play with their friends.  They have an excellent teacher.  I am finally starting to get a handle on the language and feeling like I can communicate when I need to.

So how I can I share that I crave a packet of salt and vinegar chips, or jelly beans or sandwich ham with crunchy salad and its getting tedious that I can’t just go and buy those things. I miss going to the pub for chicken parma while the kids play.  I miss 5am mornings lifting weights at my gym.  I would like to not worry about water.  I miss my favourite laparoscopic grasper.  (Graspers here are generally donated, so we make do.)  All this seems crazy to me and ungrateful.  Everyone has times when they feel down and grumpy and life is difficult, but I think while overseas, I focus on the things that are inaccessible because I am here.  So the natural follow up thought is “when I go back to Australia (or if I had never come) all these things will be changed.”  It tarnishes the fact of living here.  And the fact that these thoughts occur embarrasses me.

However, I can keep telling myself this place is amazing.  I know that earthquakes and border blockade, medication shortage, and poor people with burned feet are what makes this place memorable, not what makes it unlovable.  And my mood will change, and I will again feel recharged.  I look forward to a friends wedding.  I look forward to a day off today with my children.  I look forward to travelling to Thailand soon to meet a baby that I should have met months ago.  I look forward to finishing my current knitting project.  And I look forward to being warm.

May your winter doldrums be experienced in a place as beautiful as I am experiencing mine!

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