I chose my destination purely based on photographs of the area. I honestly did not know much about Nepal or Pokhara and thought it would be a great opportunity to learn about a culture having little to no knowledge of what the Nepali are like. I am so glad I chose this destination. It was truly a magical experience.
Back home we place a huge emphasis on infection control and sterilization procedures. This did not seem to be a major concern in Nepal. Latex gloves were rarely used and certain instruments and restorative materials were passed from patient to patient without being properly cleaned. Dirty patient bibs were used repeatedly without being washed.
You learn to use what you have, procedures get very creative sometimes.
I definitely became much more resourceful after this experience. There was only a limited number of tools available. Back home I was used to having a myriad of tools and restorative materials and this was not the case in Nepal. You learn to use what you have, procedures get very creative sometimes.
I had a patient come in who was only four years old. She was the cutest and most well-behaved child I had ever treated. I will admit when I was first handed her chart and saw her age and then saw her mother carrying her over to me I thought to myself “this is not going to go well”. Communication was already a barrier as it was, I knew a little bit of Nepali but not enough to comfort a child in a dental chair.
The little girl had a large cavity that needed filling. In the hospital where we were based, we did not give local anaesthetic for fillings, this made me more apprehensive about treating this patient.
The mother sat the little girl down in the chair and then went back out into the waiting room. She was so little that she had to pretty much stand on the chair for her head to reach the headrest. I remember she looked up with me with her big eyes and I was fully expecting her to start crying but instead, she gave me the biggest wide-eyed brightest smile I had ever seen. She opened her mouth without me even having to ask. She did not cry or complain once. She just kept looking up at me and smiling.
Part way through the treatment the power went out and the entire operatory plunged into complete darkness. I felt this little hand reach around in the darkness and grab hold of my finger. She held on for the next five minutes until the power returned. When the power returned we continued her treatment as though nothing had happened. When it was all said and done she reached up to give me a hug. I carried her out to her mother and gave her a thumbs up, letting her know everything went well. Her mother gave me a big hug and I could just tell from the expression on her face how thankful she was. It was a very rewarding experience and I will remember it for the rest of my life.
We would all go to placement at our respected hospitals in the morning and then a lot of us would come back to the house for lunch and then go out and explore for the remainder of the day. Some of our afternoon activities included hiking up to the Peace Pagoda, exploring the Mahendra cave, canoeing on Lake Phewa, and various hiking excursions which often lead to beautiful waterfalls and massive suspension bridges.
One weekend we spent the whole day white water rafting and the next day paragliding over beautiful Pokhara. One afternoon we were passing by a Nepali wedding celebration. The family of the bride saw us watching and invited us to come and join the celebration. They gave us food and introduced us to the newly wedded couple. They even taught us some traditional Nepali dance moves.
We all had an amazing time, it is something I will remember for the rest of my life.
Another weekend we had the opportunity to participate in the Paddy Planting Festival in a neighbouring village to kick off rice planting season in Nepal. The festival included mini challenges against the locals in the muddy paddy fields. We competed in tug of war, a relay, as well as a catfish catching competition, in which catfish were released into the flooded paddy field and you had to dig around in the mud to catch them. We all had an amazing time, it is something I will remember for the rest of my life.
I spent some time in Kathmandu before heading to my internship in Pohkara. After my internship had finished I spent eight days trekking to Everest Base Camp and then four days trekking back to Lukla. It was an experience like no other and I would highly recommend it to those who love trekking and adventure.
If I had to pick one thing about my experience that will stick in my mind forever it would be the friendliness and generosity of the Nepali people. I have never met such kind and giving people. They want you to enjoy your time while in their country and they instantly make you feel like they are friends you have known for your entire life.
If you’re considering a placement overseas, I would say don’t be intimidated by something that might make you uncomfortable. Try and experience as much as you can with the time spent overseas and keep an open mind because you will surprise yourself.