Wednesday, March 30, 2011

A jumble of thoughts...

We all had recent dental appointments here.  It cost each of us 95 cents, except for the one who needed an x-ray…that bill totaled around $10.  The contrasts between our two worlds are almost incomprehensible.

I also had a very small surgical procedure here for a bump on my foot that had been growing for about a year.  I pursued a resolution while we were in the U.S., but even getting an opinion surpassed $300, and then the doctor didn’t really want to operate.  Here, I have a friend who is a surgeon working at the mission hospital.  We went through all of the proper channels at the hospital.  I got the lump removed.  And the bill totaled just over $13.  I am thrilled with the outcome, and so happy that I could make this contribution to the budget here.  So many patients cannot pay their bills and need to use the funds that come from generous donors around the world, and that fund is running dangerously low.

I have had a blessed opportunity to receive training in neonatal resuscitation and in caring for burned patients (a common occurrence), as applicable to this place with our current set of resources.  I was thrilled when a few days after the resuscitation course, I was called to the operating room for a baby who was being delivered by c-section because of decreased movement and hardly any amniotic fluid.  I was so thankful to be equipped with an understanding of the local protocol.  The baby did fine.

In regard to adoption, every door we have knocked on has remained closed.  Our own government has erected a large barrier to adoptions because of insurmountable corruption in the system here in Nepal.  I recently read a book called Little Princes, which documents just one of the problems here: many of the orphanages in Kathmandu are full of kids with living parents.  Their parents gave money to a child trafficker (unknowingly) during the recent 10-year war in Nepal, believing their kids would be taken to the city where more food was available and where they could get an education.  Along the way to the city, additional funds were collected from foreigners who believed these children were orphans (and some false parental death certificates were sometimes provided to encourage that belief).  In the capital city, money was collected again as the kids were sold to wealthy people who wanted laborers in their homes.  Many of the children were neglected and some near death when they were discovered by international groups who established orphanages to save these kids from their slavery.  So now there are orphanages full of kids who are not truly orphans and yet reuniting them with their parents is fraught with difficulties and some are physically faring better in the orphanage than they ever could in their villages again.  I fear that not all parents would desire to take their children home again.  When I contemplate the emotional suffering that these kids have endured, I shudder.  This is only part of the story. 
We continue to see and know that there are many children wandering this country without parents.  Even if their parents are alive, they have abandoned their children, often due to hopelessness, in a world where they cannot adequately provide for their children.  Their inability to provide may stem from lack of resources, oppression as a single parent, addiction to destructive substances (most common being alcohol), lack of understanding of what children need, etc.  My heart is getting that ache again, even as I write.  So, the conundrum of our current situation is that we have the resources, the desire and the know-how to raise at least two of these orphaned children, and yet every avenue where we have pursued, our access has been denied.  We wonder why the LORD has put this on our hearts.  Finally, the next barrier that we may soon run into is our advancing age.  We have recently read some Indian documents in regard to adoption that say that once our combined age exceeds 90 years, we will be out of the window of opportunity to adopt in this part of the world.  This year, after our birthdays, our combined age will equal 90 years.  My current prayer: “We look to you, Lord Jesus…what have you placed in our hearts and for what purpose, and do you intend to move the mountains that stand in between us and some orphaned children?”  Will you join us in asking that He would grant us insight?  Thank you!

Finally, you might think that in our going back and forth between these two cultures, we might eventually become immune to culture shock.  Oh, I wish it were true.  However, I find myself in the doldrums of culture shock again, wondering how it was that I once saw beauty in this culture.  Don’t get me wrong, I still see beautiful people here, whom I admire and even love.  Yet, the dark glasses that my eyes seem to be wearing right now only see all the corruption, the darkness, and the dysfunctional aspects of this culture.  Yet, like all cultures, this one too is mixed with good and bad.  Please pray that I could soon remove my dark glasses and see more fully the beauty that is surely here.

Appreciating your input into our lives,

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Another Soldier Has Fallen; Who Will Take Her Place?

This morning we learned that a Wycliffe colleague of ours was killed in a bombing in Jerusalem (see  Our immediate thoughts?  Another soldier has fallen; who will replace her? I had read the announcement on Facebook where another Wycliffe colleague who also works in Africa had posted a link to an article about Mary.  
My thoughts then turned, in contrast, to how much time people of our Western cultures spend on Facebook, and just entertainment in general?  Over the past year or so it has been a little disconcerting as I periodically visited Facebook to observe how (for example) people are spending time earning virtual money to buy virtual animals for virtual farms, while here in South Asia they could be spending real time, providing real animals for real hungry people.  Or to learn exactly what someone is eating for dinner (even with pictures) while thousands elsewhere are dying daily from hunger.  Or to see how much time is dedicated to people posting photos of themselves in various poses and how much time others are spending telling them how beautiful they are.  Makes me wonder if all of this points to a subtle sickness in our society? Regarding the latter, perhaps we have self-esteem issues?  Or better yet a societal narcissism problem?   
Please don't get me wrong, there are some really positive aspects with things like Facebook.  Relationship is at the heart of God, and technological advances such as Facebook can certainly aid in relationship building.  And certainly people have used Facebook posts, blog entries, email updates, electronic newsletters (all things we do by the way) to educate themselves and pray more intelligently. But anything taken to excess can easily distract us from the more important.
Right about now you are probably just classifying me as a "ranting anthropologist," and certainly my training gives me a critical eye toward culture (even my own).  And perhaps I am in the stage of culture shock (it never ends no matter how long you serve abroad) that looks back more critically upon ones' own culture? And regarding the latter- paradoxically enough I realize that perhaps it is actually better access to (and my increased use of) the various things I am "ranting" against that keeps me better connected to home- which keeps the obvious disparity between cultures more obvious- and ultimately fosters stronger critical feelings toward my own culture than ever before.  As an interesting sideline, I have noticed this same trend (to spend more time "connected" with "home" and less time "connecting" with local people) among other missionaries of my generation (and to an even greater extent among the generation I am training up), unlike many of our missionary predecessors who often made this place "home;" And perhaps this has some interesting implications for missions in the future?  But no matter the cause, I think a little self-examination is important now and again to keep the priorities of God at the forefront of our lives.  And certainly the reality of a real spent life should challenge our various virtual realities as believers?
Anyway, just some thoughts spawned this morning by a fellow fallen soldier in a Facebook world.


Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Just Horsing Around

Hi all:

While out on the recent Chepang trip I picked up an interesting looking “rock” along the riverbed that I have since confirmed as a petrified pre-historic (Pleistocene epoch) horse tooth!  As an anthropologist I have had fun researching it and will turn it over (along with location found) to the National Archaeology Museum of Nepal when we are in the capital in a few weeks.    

Yesterday while confirming my findings with the family over tea (literally), some of the prehistoric tooth dust fell directly into my tea!  It tasted pretty good!  Although I seem to be now growing a mane!  Thought you all might have fun with the story and the pictures. (photos courtesy of Anastasia Carlson)

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Nepali Rules of the Road

Hey everyone, this is Nick writing.  I was recently at the Guest House at the Tansen Mission Hospital, and saw this neat paper that I thought I’d share with you.  The paper is called “Rules of the Road: Indian Style”, but it would seem that these “rules of the road” are also followed in Nepal.  India and Nepal share many aspects of culture.  So I’ve typed up my own version of the paper, with few changes such as changing the word “India” to “Nepal”, and a few other small changes, to bring you my version of Nepali Rules of the Road.  Here it is:

Nepali Rules of the Road
Traveling on Nepali Roads is an almost hallucinatory position of sound, spectacle, and experience.  It is frequently heart-rending, sometimes hilarious, mostly exhilarating, always unforgettable – and, when you are on the roads, extremely dangerous. 
Most Nepali road users observe a version on the Highway Code based on a Sanskrit text.  These 12 rules of the Nepali road are published for the first time in English: 

  • Article I:
    The assumption of immortality is required for all road users. 

    • Article II:
      Nepali traffic, like Nepali society, is structured on a strict caste system.  The following precedence must be accorded at all times.  In descending order, give way to:
      Cows, elephants, heavy trucks, buses, official cars, camels, light trucks, buffalo, jeeps, ox-carts, private cars, motorcycles, scooters, auto-rickshaws, pigs, pedal rickshaws, goats, bicycles (goods-carrying), handcarts, bicycles (passenger-carrying), dogs, pedestrians.  

      • Article III:
        All wheeled vehicles shall be driven in accordance with the maxim: to slow is to falter, to brake is to fail, to stop is defeat.  This is the Nepali drivers’ mantra.
        •   Article IV:
        Use of horn (also known as the sonic fender or aural amulet):
                                              Cars (IV,1a-c)

          1.      Short blasts (urgent) indicate supremacy, IE in clearing dogs, rickshaws, and pedestrians from path.
          2.      Long blasts (desperate) denote supplication IE to oncoming truck: “I am going too fast to stop, so unless you slow down we shall both die”.  In extreme cases, this may be accompanied by flashing of headlights (frantic).
          3.      Single blast (casual) means: “I have seen someone out of Nepal’s 32 million people whom I recognize”, or “There is a bird in the road (which at this speed could go through my windscreen)”, or “I have not blown my horn for several minutes.”

          Trucks (IV,2,a):

                All horn signals have the same meaning, “I have an all-up weight of approximately 12.5 tons and have no intention of stopping, even if I could.”  This signal may be emphasized by the use of headlights.

            Article IV remains subject to the provision of Order of Precedence in Article II above.

            • Article V:
            All maneuvers, use of horn, and evasive action shall be left until the last possible moment.
            • Article VI:
            In the absence of seat belts (which there is), car occupants shall wear garlands of marigolds.  These should be kept fastened at all times.
            • Article VII:
            Rights of way:  Traffic entering a road from the left has priority.  So has traffic from the right, and also traffic in the middle.
            • Article VIII:
            Lane discipline:  All Nepali traffic at all times and irrespective of direction of travel shall occupy the center of the road.
            • Article IX:
            Roundabouts:  Nepal has no roundabouts.  Apparent traffic islands in the middle of crossroads have no traffic management function.  Any other impression should be ignored. 
            • Article X:
            Overtaking is mandatory.  Every moving vehicle is required to overtake every other moving vehicle, irrespective of whether it has just overtaken you.  Overtaking should be undertaken only in suitable conditions, such as in the face of oncoming traffic, on blind bends, at junctions, and in the middle of villages/city centers.  No more than two inches should be allowed between your vehicle and the one you are passing – one inch in the case of bicycles or pedestrians. 
            • Article XI:
            Nirvana may be obtained through head-on crash.
            • Article XII:
            Reversing:  No longer applicable since no vehicle in Nepal has the reverse gear.

            I hope you all enjoyed this; it sure made me laugh, because it is so true!
            Have a nice day, and be safe on the road.

            Making Ice Cream in Nepal (by Nick)

            Hey everyone, it’s Nick again.  Just one more interesting thing I thought I’d share with you… 

            A few weeks ago, my dad and I were in a shop buying supplies to take on the Chepang Trek we recently returned from, when I found a pack of ice-cream mix.  I turned it over and read the instructions on the back.  I thought they were hilarious, so I took a picture on my iPod of the package, so I could share them.  Some of you may have heard us talking about these instructions before, so here they are, word for word.  Enjoy! 

            (Sorry I forgot to get a picture of step number 1, but two and three are the best anway)

            2) Pour the mix over a metal cup of 15X20 cm. sizes and wait it in the deep freeze for 34 hours or icebox of refrigerator adjusted to the coldest temperature for 56 hours until hardening. 
            3) Take the ice-cream into the refrigerator and wait it for 20 min.  After forming desired consistency, you may serve ice-cream into dishes or over deserts.  

            I thought it was pretty funny, and it sounded a bit hard to make…

            Thursday, March 3, 2011


            The hospital is currently not getting enough water; they have to buy truckloads of water on a daily basis.  They would like to build another underground tank where water can be stored during the months when it comes in abundance.  That will cost $200,000.  So far, less than 5% of that has been raised.  (See for more information.)
            Yesterday, we cared for a woman who was losing her pregnancy.  She had already aborted two because they were girls.  She wasn’t intending to lose this one, but the baby turned out to be a girl anyway.  My heart aches…so many places in the world, girls are not adored and can be considered worth so little compared to a boy.  I am abundantly blessed to have been born in a place where I was wanted, to parents who valued me enough to keep me.
            There are currently nineteen missionary kids in this hilly Nepal town/city; they all need an education, even while they contribute to the ministry of Jesus Christ in this place.  After three months, something new will have to come: A home school cooperative? A new teacher? Send the children somewhere else?  Change locations of service?  It’s a challenging choice.  Hardly any of us here have training in education.
            In the outpatient department, I see a significant number of patients who are addicted to medications that should not be taken on a long-term basis.  (Like the elderly lady who has been given an anti-anxiety agent for many years, and now she cannot walk due to her imbalance and loss of coordination.  This is not an environment where people have alternatives to walking—no wheelchairs allowed in this hilly region).  I begin to more highly value the regulation of medications.
            This last year, the hospital gave $147,000 in charity care to some of the world’s poorest people.  Now the fund for charity is nearly drained.  We look to the LORD to touch the hearts of the generous, to resupply the fund.
            There is very little in the way of social service in this country for people with social or emotional problems.  God bless each of you who are engaged in that type of work!  I know it is a tough profession, and I see all the good it does.  Here, where there is so little, there is an alarmingly high level of suicide.
            Heart disease is extremely common here, particularly from damaged heart valves.  The top cause of this is rheumatic fever, a disease caused by bacteria (group A streptococci).  My favorite text book says that this disease has been largely eliminated from industrialized countries through improved hygiene, less crowded living conditions (which decreases transmission of the bacteria), and the appropriate use of antibiotics.  Nepal seems to be a long way from conquering this debilitating disease.  This too is a challenge.
            I want to end this entry with one uplifting thought.  I am so blessed to see the maturing effects on our sons of encountering so many challenges.  A muscle only strengthens when it is used to do work, to contract against some opposing force.  I see the spiritual, emotional and physical muscles strengthening in our boys, and I am blessed to see them face the challenges without shrinking back.  It is a joy to watch the process of their moving toward manhood.  Thank you, Father God, for these challenges.

            Kimberly, one challenged, but joy-filled servant