We had a fried egg with channa and white bread this morning. As we sat at the table, enjoying our day off, we heard Bibek laughing out the window. We looked to see that the buffalo, nicknamed by Ritesh as "Momo," was running across the soccer field and the farmer couldn't catch him. A young girl with a sweeping brush of straw walked slowly towards him. He let her fan his nose for a moment before running off with a comical skip in his step. An older neighbor who had tried to help finally gave up and went walking home through the alley. When the buff saw this, he ran full boar towards where the man had gone, making it clear that this was a game for him. Through the laughter in the kitchen, somebody said, "It doesn't get better than the Buff Channel."
This went on for about twenty minutes before the animal was captured by his tail and ears. The four foot rope that tied him securely to the ground was wrapped around his neck again. We laughed at the playful spirit of this adolescent animal. Ritesh and Hong began talking about when he would be eaten. I thought about the simplicity of life here. I feel torn, wanting to see my children and wanting to stay here at the same time. We only have two more weeks of the clinic and I feel heavy at the thought of it. There is so much valuable work to do here. I want to keep working. I want to keep growing at the rate that I am growing here.
I went to the market today and bought a volleyball, a kick ball and some tubing to make two hula hoops. The kids gather in the field every night to play games. Anywhere between 20 and 30 kids are there and our cook and his wife play with them. I've started doing this too. Last night, Bibek took turns pushing them on the mountain bike and then we played a game of tag. They play with a little toy they make from piping or an old tire, with a wire wrapped loosely around the tube and then connected to a stick. I haven't gotten good at it, it takes quite a bit of coordination. Sometimes they have a wooden top. Every time, they are covered in dust with big bright smiles on their faces.
Part of me is wishing my children had this group to play with at night. I am wishing my children could be happily entertained with a wooden top and a filthy string to suck it back into their arms with. I am wishing that it felt safe in our US neighborhood for children as little as three to walk to the field and play with each other. This kind of wishing and comparing doesn't do anything for me or my children. It just takes me out of enjoying the present moment. In the present, I think that the Bajra children will love the hula hoops that I can make.
Some of the school children, their teachers and workers from the health post joined us yesterday afternoon to clean the temple grounds. The goddess, Bajrabarahi lives there. We spent an hour with our 60 or so helpers, picking up litter and burning it in a large pile by the river. Jessi deconstructed a huge garbage dam and the river flowed freely again. After this, our ARP team spent another hour sweeping and carrying water up from the stream to wash the floors of the small meeting houses. Some of the structures had been used to sacrifice animals, others for people partying at night and others were just filled with buffalo dung. The work was hard, but by the time we left, I was hoping that Bajrabarahi was smiling and she will continue to help us move Ignorance out of our paths.
When Andrew Schlabach first started this organization, ARP was housed in an area next to a different temple to Bajrabarahi. I don't believe that it's a coincidence that ARP was invited to this village, which not only has a temple dedicated to her, but is named after her. I don't believe it's a coincidence that that the Diamond-Sow Goddess who Vanquishes Ignorance is so intimately connected with us. We spend the days educating patients about their bodies and how to stay healthy, or at the very least, not let their diseases progress too quickly. We spend the evenings talking with each other so that we can increase our knowledge base as care providers, but also our wisdom as human beings.
I can see the gate to the temple from my bedroom window. I greet her every morning and look out at the full moon over her entrance in the evening. Rather than descending upwards, as with so many temples, her steps go down, as if deep into the Earth. At the bottom of the steps is a humble waterway, where one can listen to the days thoughts or reflect on the meaning of everything around. I look at my window, to these steps retreating into the metaphorical unconscious and I pray that she might show me a similar path that rides more deeply into a connection with myself and my own truth.
A walk down to the temple leads to a series of concrete slabs covered in chicken and buffalo blood, dried flowers and salt. The nethermost depths carry the most base aspects of our psyche. This is where, it seems, we would trade the blood of others for our own stability. If Joseph Campbell is to be believed, some time ago, this might have been pig's blood and before that, the blood of our most beautiful young person.
In this life, I've heard it said that the only constant is change. Everyday, we grow older, the Earth spins, the stars shift, our children mature, our parents die, the world becomes something we don't recognize from before. If I pray hard enough, if I am willing to spill the blood of another, if I make the most precious deal with something all-knowing, can I stop the changing nature? Can I prevent the Earth from shifting and bringing another quake? Can I stop myself from dying?
Ten days ago, I let the practitioners off work early and Ritesh and I treated a number of patients. A stroke patient came late in the afternoon. He lives in an area that would be a thirty minute walk for me to get to. Due to his hemiplegia, it takes him six hours to walk to our clinic for treatment and another six hours home. This man sat down in front of me and I immediately noted that he looked like a dusty, Nepali version of George Clooney. I told him he looked like one of our most handsome movie stars and he smiled.
He begged me to use electro-stimulation on his needles and complained that he hadn't gotten enough of this from his visits the previous week. I threaded two long needles through the belly of his brachioradialis and then two more through his extensor digitorum. I connected the tiny leads to each needle and turned the electro machine up until his hand slowly unwound from it's fist. His fingers spasmodically jumped into extension and he smiled wide.
"I will give you everything if you can fix me," came the translation from Ritesh. I jerked up with wide eyes and caught myself in my own surprise. I have heard this too many times to be surprised.
"Yes, I will give you all of my money, all of my things, everything I have," he said. In front of me sat a very strong, very determined man who was willing to give me all of his beautiful, human power. He was telling me that he was willing to accept that I, as a mere mortal in front of him, have more power to heal him than he has inside of his miraculously complex, self-healing body.
The Nepali Clooney will never be as he was before the stroke. We have impressive successes at our clinic: patients walk again, they are able to feed themselves again, they are able to participate in some of their farm chores again. What we do not have is the ability to restore someone's decade-younger, pre-stroke body to them. We do not have the ability to take anyone back in time, to stop this cycle that we are all a part of. We cannot make the change stop happening and neither can Bajrabarahi, yet somewhere in our unconscious, a belief that this is possible bubbles up in us and it makes us willing to give away everything we have.
In a couple more seasons, Momo will be walked down the temple stairs on a festival day. His happy neck will be slit open so that his blood can be spilled out to Bajrabarahi. Women will pour red and yellow tikka powder on top of the blood. Duck eggs, folded rupees, cups of river water, uncooked rice and salt will be sprinkled on top. The people will smear all of this into a red paste on their middle finger and mark the tikka on each other, offering a blessing for life as they do so. With this death and sacrifice, we wish each other happiness.
What is true Ignorance and how does it coincide with our inability to accept the world and it's changing cycles? Tonight, as the sun sets behind these beautiful hills, I say good night to the goddess at her gate. I feel bonded to her, held safely by her and so happy that many hours of my day were spent in her service. I must return to the U.S. and I hope that the spirit of this relationship I am forging with her will come with me. I pray that she fills me with the strength to know and accept what is inevitable.