Allie Carpenter - Physical Therapy in Nepal
I took part in the Physical Therapy High School Special in Nepal with about 20 others on the team. This was an excellent program for someone like me, who was a bit nervous about traveling in a foreign country on their own for the first time. It gave security, structure and the guarantee of a great bunch of people to spend time with.
Before I decided to come to Nepal I couldn’t have even pointed to the place on a map. But I’ve always wanted to travel and it sounded somewhat exotic. I wanted to combine my love of travel with my wish to gain experience in physical therapy. I was hooked from the moment I read about the trip and I wasn’t disappointed. It was truly fantastic.
Arriving in Nepal
A wall of heat hit me upon arrival. It was not a heat I had ever experienced before, it was overwhelming. The journey through Kathmandu to the hotel was one of the most memorable moments of the trip. Everything was new, a complete assault on my senses; a chaos of bright colors and smells and noise. I couldn’t stop looking at the mass of cars and rickshaws, small stalls of fruit and fabrics tucked at the side of the busy roads and animals wandering carelessly through the traffic.
After spending a couple of days in the tourist capital of Thamel, there was a 6 hour trip from Kathmandu to Chitwan where we were based. Extensive queues delayed the journey but it didn’t matter as the view was breath taking - the road twisting through the gorges and mountains.
My placements were split between Chitwan Medical College Hospital and a small center for children with disabilities.
The hospital in Chitwan was unlike anything I’d ever seen before or ever imagined a hospital to be like. The main thing I noticed was the absence of the usual squeaky clean antiseptic smell. The resident physical therapists were great and I learned so much through observation both in the outpatient department and on the medical wards. It was an experience far beyond anything available at home, the physical therapists, doctors and nurses seemed to enjoy speaking English with us and explained the procedures they were doing. This was brilliant for me, a pre-physical therapy student, as I was able to learn much more about the profession I am hoping to enter.
At the center we spent the majority of our time playing with and supporting the children, helping at meal times and also with craft work. One thing did upset me, however, and that was the lack of specialist equipment available to the children. In England a child with additional needs would be given equipment to enable them to maximize their movement, in Nepal, there was an unmistakable absence. I couldn’t help thinking how fortunate I was to come from a country where this entitlement was taken for granted.
Chitwan National Park must be one of the most beautiful places I have seen. From the distant mountains to the endless forests and plain, it was lush and green and amazing. It was here we went canoeing down the river, looking out for crocodiles.
We were given plenty of time to visit various places of interest. These included outings to the local temples, climbing all 365 steps to the top of one. We also spent a lot of time visiting the towns and markets, having a go at bartering, which was something I never quite mastered.
One day when we went out for dinner, we thought we’d try fried rice became it sounded like the safest option. It looked good enough when it arrived on the plate but that first mouthful burned a hole through my tongue – a deluge of heat. I have never before tried anything that hot nor hopefully ever again, but it was fun to try different foods in Nepal. The traditional dhal was a frequent dish, a kind of lentil soup served with rice. Momos were interesting, comprised of a soft pastry-like substance and filled with vegetables or meat - we even had a go at making some ourselves. But again, the spice was not for the faint hearted!
The two weeks in Nepal ended quickly and it was time to leave. I wished I had signed up for longer but my time there was enough to know that I would plan to return.