Monday, March 25, 2013

When It Rains...

Yeah, it has felt like it's been pouring lately around here.  Life anywhere gets a little hectic with two young boys, but trying to do life in a developing nation that is not our first culture sometimes feels like it exponentially increases the chaos factor.  And, you hit stretches that just feel like you're in a downpour that might never let up.
Ours started in early February with an emergency room visit and hospital stay with my youngest.  As we got back home from that, my older son got the virus (croup), and then John and I both proceeded to have some form of horrible respiratory infection/virus, and my youngest got another cold or virus of some kind.  Coming out of that, John hit a super busy stretch at work here, and the boys and I got a round of vaccinations of stuff you never have to consider in the States.  We were supposed to get the 2nd round of one of those the following week, and we hit a major transportation strike, which led to our vaccination "adventure" that I wrote about earlier.  The following week was lice, followed promptly by an intestinal virus for 3 out of 4 of us.  In the midst of that, I decided that I would take advantage of John's brother visiting to come along with me to finally get some things that I have been needing in one area of town that I never bother to attempt by myself with the boys, only to be cut short by a bandh (strike) that got announced that morning as we were on the way there!  Just as the last one of us was finishing up the tummy bug, we discovered our bathroom covered in tiny bugs after a hard rain that day.  They seem to have been bird mites, caused by nemesis creatures here--the pigeons!  (Ok, I have a few nemesis creatures here!)  That, along with totally ruining the cake I was baking for the group I was supposed to be hosting the next morning, was my breaking point.
I have had some ups and downs over this last stretch, but I felt like God kept bringing me back to a good place, and I had just started to feel like God was using a reminder to focus on gratitude to renew my mind and focus on how much we really do enjoy life here and are thankful for how amazingly blessed we truly are here!
But, those (avoiding adjectives because only swear words are coming to mind) little bugs!
It was rain that drove them inside, it would seem.  A downpour of rain that turned into a hail storm.  Just as we were preparing to leave the house, Ezekiel handed me the umbrella, and I put him back, telling him we didn't need it.  Fifteen minutes later, the skies turned dark and opened up and just dumped on us.  I ran to the office, pushing the boys in our double stroller (please imagine the entertainment factor to the locals).  We got inside just as the pouring rain turned into hail--balls of ice falling from the sky ready to pelt you and the head in waves that just keep coming.  Metaphor, anyone?
The thing is that the hail storm turned out to be one of the highlights of our week, maybe even our month.  The boys had never seen hail before, and they were absolutely giddy.  From the top floor of the office building, it was quite an amazing site to see the streets filling up with the tiny white ice balls.  The boys insisted on going up to the roof and scooping up handfuls of the hail and dancing and laughing as rain continued to fall.  Even I felt light as I ran home through ankle-deep water that had run over from the ditches where garbage collects.
And, then a flood of tiny bugs turned it back into the head-pelting stuff falling from the sky.
An infestation of bugs?  Really?  How in the world do you give thanks when things are covered in little disgusting bugs that threaten to take over?!
I was trying, really trying to thank, to praise, but I really just broke.
And THAT is where I am challenged to give thanks...for the breaking.  Ouch.  It is painful and runs counter to most everything I or culture has sewn into me to celebrate the overcoming, the moments of human stretch, to suck it up and press through obstacles and endure.  But the moment of yielding...maybe there is the greatest victory.  Yielding my strength and my prove-myself endurance to One far greater, that brings "beauty from ashes," that redeems the messy and the painful, allowing my stubborn and prideful heart to be transformed into something for His glory.
Every single time in this last season that I have hit the end of myself, God has come through in amazing ways, and this was no exception.  We got a referral for a professional exterminator who turned out to live around the corner, and within less than 48 hours and with really impressive service, they had taken care of the bugs (and my other nemesis creatures here--the cockroaches)!  My dear friend Laurel showed up the morning of the group to host with cookies to replace my ruined cake.  Maybe only someone who is part Mennonite can truly appreciate the significance of that!  :)  The group that I was hosting is an amazing group of women who came around me as I cried in sharing about my bugs and the end of my stamina, and they prayed and lifted me up and encouraged me and refreshed my soul.  Not to mention the list of sweet gifts, like our new furniture arriving the next day, booking our travel plans for an upcoming trip to Thailand, and a whole leftover pizza to pull out to save dinner preparations and ice cream and care package toppings to end the night.
It doesn't seem the rain storm is done quite yet.  John had perhaps the longest few days of work he's had yet, which meant long days for me with the boys.  As I sit here typing, my big toe on my right foot is throbbing from what would seem to be an infection, which I tried to get a quick consult for at the local hospital, only to be told that I need to see a doctor, and there weren't any there today.  While I'm excited about the upcoming retreat for the company in a couple days, it involves an 8-hour bus ride with two little boys.
Given my track record, it is likely I haven't "learned my lesson" in any final sense, but I can pray that I will keep growing in seeing the breaking point as a gift in itself and have eyes that stay tuned into all the many gifts around it as well.  When it rains, it pours.  And sometimes hails right down on your head.  And, I can only hope and pray that I will more and more often dance and laugh and yield to the wonder and the gifts of it all. 

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Bandh Days

They have these things called a "bandh" here.  I have seen it transliterated a bunch of ways, so I'm not sure if I'm representing the word accurately, and I have a feeling I won't do it justice trying to describe it either, but basically, it is a strike that is protesting something.  Sometimes they have one just for one aspect of things (education or transportation or something), but then there are ones when most things are closed down.  No taxis or buses run, and if you try to drive your own car, friends have told me that you will get harassed and usually have your vehicle damaged by those who are protesting.  What are they protesting?  That is a good question and one that I have rarely been able to get an answer for.  I have stopped asking because the response has almost always been a shrug or "No one knows."  Seems pretty effective then, huh?
Up here in our area, it really just plays out as most shops being closed and no transportation running (though it seems to be acceptable to use motorcycles).  In some areas of the city, there are actual protests and/or demonstrations and people actually preventing others from traveling or having shops open.
Since we have lived here, we haven't hit any that lasted too long.  Mostly for us, it just means things are quieter up here, and it is just kind of inconvenient if we had hoped to go somewhere that day.  A lot of the guys who work at the office here but don't live in this area stay over in the bunk beds in the guest flat the night before a bandh (and sometimes the night of it as well) so that they are able to be at work that day.
Last week had a bandh that turned out to have a bit more impact on us.
As I have mentioned before, a hospital near us has a private clinic at which they have some time set aside every Wednesday morning with two British doctors and a nurse specifically for expats to come in and be seen.  I took the boys in last week on Wednesday, thinking I should get Zeke's immunizations done after just turning two, and it turned out that all three of us (Zeke, Isaiah, and I) needed to have some shots.  It caught Isaiah off-guard, and he melted down.  The nurse there is so sweet and gentle and patient, and it is a very low-key environment for here, and he was still just absolutely hysterical in fear of the shots.  The bad news was that one of the shots was part 1 of 3 needed for the rabies vaccine!  Part 2 is supposed to be given 7 days later.  So, we needed to go to the Wednesday clinic again this week to get the second dose.  I was certainly not looking forward to it and knew Isaiah would get all worked up again.  Even though he acknowledged the shots barely hurt, the experience for him was dramatic because he got himself so worked up and scared.  I figured I would just step up my game and take the iPad along and let him zone out, get the shots, and then go out for lunch to sweeten the deal.  The problem was that Wednesday ended up being a bandh.  That meant no taxis or buses or any way to get down the hill to the clinic.  There is a small hospital up quite near us that I had heard had the rabies vaccine, but given Isaiah's reaction in what seemed the most likely to be comfortable situation here, I was not eager to try the local hospital here, as the few times I've tried things there have been a much bigger cultural gap and less than impressive care.  I emailed our pediatrician friend, and he said 1 or 2 days off the timing should be ok, so I thought we would wait and see if we could get down to the clinic on Thursday.  I knew it wouldn't be the same context or people as on Wednesdays, but I thought it might still be a better setting and experience for the boys.
Thursday...still a bandh.
I had considered walking on Wednesday (and now wish that I would have), and I just decided to go for it on Thursday.  So, I set out with the boys in the double stroller, walking down our hill.  An advantage of the bandh, actually, is that it makes it a little more feasible to walk down that hill that is usually busy with big rattling trucks and buses going up and down and motorcycles zooming all around on a road that is not super wide and has no sidewalks.  Without the usual vehicle traffic, it almost felt calm going down the hill.  Almost. After clutching on to my heavy load as we went down the steep hill, we bumped through the roads with giant potholes and the parts all torn up from construction to get out to Ring Road.
Ring Road is the major road that circles around the city of Kathmandu and is always busy.  Though the hill is an obvious challenge for walking, Ring Road is probably the biggest barrier to walking down to the area we go to often for shopping or seeing friends because it just seems absurd to think of crossing it with the boys.  There are floods of all sizes of vehicles zigzagging around each other and often big traffic jams.  So, it was a bit surreal to come up to Ring Road and just turn and walk right along it with no vehicles around us.  Not next to it; ON it.  Rolling along Ring Road with a double stroller and no vehicles anywhere around us.
I wasn't totally sure of the turn-off from Ring Road to get to the hospital, so I asked a few people when I came to one that I thought might be it, and they nodded and pointed up the road.  Turned out it was not the road I had been on via taxi.  In fact, "road" is perhaps not the best word, as it soon turned into a narrow, winding path filled with rocks.  Hey, that is why we got a stroller with those giant tires!  Isaiah commented on how many people we were asking about getting there after about the 4th person, but we kept pressing on, as it seemed we would eventually be able to wind our way through there and come out somewhere I could identify.  We came across one older Nepali woman who seemed to say that we could walk together to go there (turns out, I was right on that, which is notable since my Nepali is really lacking still!).  That seemed so great on one hand and so sweet of her to offer her help, which I needed, but a part of me was thinking about how most Nepalis walk quite a bit slower than I usually do, and with a long walk already, I was kind of eager to wrap it up.  I was shocked at this spunky woman who was kicking along at fairly close to my usual pace!  She was kind and chatted a bit with us as we walked with a few phrases in English, and I tried a few in Nepali.
She had to turn off to her destination before the last little bit but pointed us in the right direction, and we finally came out just around the corner from the hospital gate.  John looked it up on google maps, and it seems like it is about 2.5 miles total.  Isaiah commented on how tired he was as we rolled into the hospital driveway.  I guess riding in a stroller really takes it out of you!
When we went into the private clinic at the hospital, the person at the desk said we needed to see and doctor and have a prescription written in order to get the vaccination...and none were available.  As we were told later, there weren't even any doctors on duty at the clinic that morning.  I was pointing out that we got the first part at the clinic there the week before and had it on record and that the nurse had even filled out the dates we were supposed to come back and get the other doses.  It is significant to note that medical records are completely kept by the patient.  For example, when we were in the hospital with Ezekiel, and he got an x-ray, they just handed us the x-ray, which was then our responsibility to take to the doctors and keep track of, and it is now here in our file folder, which Isaiah actually found super interesting.  No records are kept at the hospital, and honestly, records are quite basic and not very detailed, which is a shift from America where they seem to make notes of absolutely everything.  So, when we go in, we bring any of our papers with us.  In this case, it was just our yellow immunization cards.  All that to say, there wasn't anything that could be consulted to show that we were set to have our second round.  They said they would call the primary doctor who does the Wednesday morning clinic, which I thought meant they would be able to just ask her and get permission to give the 2nd dose, but after a bit, they told me she was teaching a class and couldn't come.  Yeah, I wasn't really expecting she would be able to just drop whatever she was doing and COME.  Apparently, verbal permission over the phone was not an option.
The man said, "It would have been better if you had come yesterday."  You think?!
So, they told me I could go out to window #1 and get a ticket.  The directions were a bit unclear, and I wasn't really sure what they were suggesting as a solution.  Thankfully, one of the guys came out from behind the counter and walked out to show me where he was telling me to go.  As it turned out, in the general (non-private) portion of the hospital, you go up to a counter, pay a fee, and they then assign you to a room to go to for a consultation or service.  I paid 50 rupees (roughly 75 cents) to get tickets for me and the boys.  They told me to go to room 6.  When I walked around the corner and finally located room 6, I saw a few benches with about 35-40 sick people piled on them, coughing and some of them looking barely conscious, waiting to be seen.  I feel like I totally wimped out, but I just couldn't do it!  I went back and asked the woman in the private clinic when a doctor would be available, and she said evening.  (It was about 10:00 a.m. at the time.) She said I could just wait at the other room, and I told her I wasn't going to wait for hours piled in with a bunch of people who were clearly quite sick when my boys weren't sick!  We just needed a shot.  Sort of had some emotional flashbacks to our recent hospital stay, and I just couldn't do it.  She said she would take us over and tell them to take us in "soon."  And then we would just have to go to the pharmacy to get the viles for the vaccination and take them to room 8 (another room at the far, dark end of the main area there at the hospital with more sick people waiting).  That is when I told her I wouldn't do that, started crying, and loaded the boys back into the stroller to go.
We walked through what is normally a busy area, past shops all closed up, and no traffic running.  We were aiming for a restaurant that Isaiah was requesting, but that was also closed, so we kept walking a bit, and a fairly new restaurant that we had tried was open, so we went in and had a really nice brunch together.  The boys were in surprisingly good spirits, which helped me shake the frustrations of the clinic.
After lunch, I geared myself up for the walk back up the hill.  We walked back out to and across a still empty Ring Road.  As we came close to the base of the big hill, I contemplated just making the boys get out and walk, but the chaos of trying to corral them both up the hill while pushing the stroller didn't seem entirely worth it, so I opted to just take a deep breath, pray, and power up the hill pushing roughly 70 pounds worth of boys and stroller.  Needless to say, we entertained more than a few people as we passed.
We obviously made it to the top, and as we stopped to buy a few potatoes at the veggie stand, a street dog came and snatched the chocolate donut the boys had left setting in the stroller.  Icing on the cake.
After our whole trek, the discouraging fact remained that we still hadn't completely the vaccinations!
Friday morning came, which was sort of the critical point of either getting them or...well, I don't actually even know what would happen if we didn't get them, but I know that was the last day that it really was ok for us to complete the 2nd dose.  I resigned myself to just going and getting it at the local hospital here, so we went, got seen pretty quickly, and with a fairly short jumble of communication (which included them asking me why I hadn't gotten the shots on Wednesday), got the prescriptions, took them to the pharmacy counter at the front, and he said, "Oh, we don't have this today.  We are out."  He said he could get them for later that day around 5:00.
We were kind of out of options.
So, on the way back from an outing to the library later that afternoon, we went back, and the pharmacist told us it would be "some time."  Now, I have learned enough to know that is not a great sign.  I asked him how much was "some" time.  He said 6 or 6:30.  After asking him 3 times if it was at least DEFINITELY coming (not a safe assumption that it was), he said yes, it was DEFINITELY coming!  I took the boys back home, fed them, bathed them, and took them back to the hospital there in their pajamas, connecting up with John as he finished work to go with us.  We arrived at 6:10 or so.  He said, "Ten minutes, coming."
At 6:45, someone finally came up on a scooter with the vaccinations.
Ezekiel had a 20-minute nap that day, and bedtimes are usually soon after 7, but we were in neck-deep, so we had waited and were finally going to get these darn shots!  They looked at the immunization records for a long time and told me how they are different from the ones here in Nepal and asked me what they were supposed to do with the records.  They also asked me, "Why didn't you get these on Wednesday?"  Seriously?!  What on earth?!  I may have lost my sanity for just a moment there and asked them if no one else had noticed the bandh the last few days.  I really may have lost my mind completely if one more person had asked me why I hadn't gotten them on Wednesday.
Ezekiel gave a half second "meh" when he saw the needle and was giddy as could be the rest of the time, having great fun climbing on and off of the bed in the "emergency" room we were in.
Isaiah was a different story.  I had started to think maybe we were going to avoid the drama since he had been talking about the shots so calmly for the last day or two.  I think he had just started to believe they weren't ever really going to have to happen!  After a huge and completely hysterical resistance and finally just being held to get it, he sobbed, "That...didn't...really...hurt."
Whew.  Did I mention that this vaccination has three doses for the series?!  Something to look forward to.
Hey, but at least we got our pictures in the paper!  HA!
Kantipur--Front Page!