We were about to start day two of our three-day session in ayurveda when news of the Nepal earthquake reached us. The news alone caused a big heartbreak for all of us, but the fact that our visiting faculty was from Nepal made it so much more devastating. Our teacher, Dr. Sarita Shrestha, an internationally recognized ayurvedic physician and head of Devi Ma Ayurvedic Hospital had visited the very area at the epicenter of the 7.9 earthquake just a few days before the tragedy to provide healthcare to about 300 villagers.
The moment I heard about the earthquake, I knew I wanted to do something. And when our teacher showed up for class surrendered to the reality that it would be a while before she could return home, I was determined to somehow make my way over there. So Jenna, a dear friend from school who was going to India for a few weeks anyway and I raised our hands to go to Nepal.
We were not sure if Dr. Shrestha would say yes to us and we certainly had no idea when we would know. But I knew this: I wanted to go and I was lucky enough that at this point in my life, I could pack my bags and leave on relatively short notice.
Before I go any further, I want to catch you up on my life a bit so you understand how I even learned about ayurveda. The Reader’s Digest version of the story is this: I was your typical high achiever high-tech marketer working in Silicon Valley when, let’s call it a “system overload” knocked me off my feet. I was burning the midnight oil without a break and I knew it wasn’t sustainable. I was desperately trying to change the situation. I knew it was a matter of time before things would catch up to me. And they did. I wanted to find a way to help myself and eventually help other people. “There must be other ways to thrive in our demanding society without going crazy or sacrificing our well-being!” I thought to myself.
As a former gymnast and ballroom dancer (before ballroom dancing was cool), it was almost natural that my love for movement and focus brought me to yoga. I had been practicing yoga for many years when I found ayurveda, a form of natural medicine originating from India. While working full time in marketing and leading teams at respectable global companies, I enrolled at Mount Madonna Institute, a place known for its ayurveda expertise. My plan was to obtain the ayurvedic health counselor diploma, but got quickly hooked and stayed for the health practitioner program; and here I am several years later, finishing up my Masters degree in ayurvedic medicine. Very different from marketing but the principles I learned in class greatly influenced how I viewed and organized my work, and built and managed teams.
For those of you not familiar with ayurveda, it’s a nature-based healing modality that works with the person on a holistic level and through natural means, such as lifestyle, diet, herbs and treatments. Ayurveda works with the body, mind, spirit and senses of a person to affect change and induce healing. As much as I respect Western medicine, I prefer to manage stress, anxiety and other issues naturally first before reaching for a chemical drug.
Back to Nepal. I had one month to get ready. I quickly went into research mode to learn as much as I could about rural life in Nepal.
How do I pack for that?
We booked a room at the Pagoda Guesthouse in Bhaktapur and arranged for transportation from the airport to our temporary home. The instructions Dr. Shrestha gave us were simple: “Come with an open heart”. No concerns in that department…but how do I pack for that?The instructions were simple: “Come with an open heart to post-quake Nepal”. No concerns there. But how do I pack for that? Click To Tweet
My experience with third-world countries was rather limited before Nepal. Not to mention third-world countries struck by a natural disaster. I knew that it was monsoon season and that I should expect heat, humidity and rain. I also had many discussions with people who were from there or had been there to know that the infrastructure and road conditions were challenging enough before the earthquakes so I pictured them to be worse or possibly nonexistent in some places. I did research online and browsed blogs, Facebook posts and pictures of people who had written about their experiences in Nepal. (Many thanks to all for sharing!) That’s how I learned about leech socks (which I figured could double as Christmas stockings), LED water purifiers, Chlorophyll, GSE, towel-sized Action Wipes for my super sensitive skin, and other things I normally wouldn’t think about. I made several trips to REI, Target and even enlisted eBay to prepare for a trip I didn’t know too much about.
When in Rome…I mean In Bhaktapur
At the time of writing this, California is experiencing a severe drought. In Nepal, on the other hand, it was monsoon season. Just as we checked into the Pagoda Guesthouse, it started pouring. Our room was modest but comfortable and we even had a basic private bathroom across the hall. My decision to opt for backpacking this trip instead of using a suitcase paid off right away since storage in our room was very limited. I didn’t pack a lot of clothes so I could easily lay them out on the bed next to me.
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I hope you found inspiration in the first 5 stories. Proceed to Part 2 for 4 more.
We’re interested in finding a way to help provide an ultrasound machine to Devi Ma Ayurvedic Hospital in Bhaktapur. Anything you can do is greatly appreciated.
A million thanks to Gita Sharma for editing this story.