Life in Nepal, Personal Ramblings

jisty, jona and the komodo dragon

Jisty and Jona (Jonathan) were quite the pair. They were as best of friends as eight-year-olds could be. They always got the highest marks and the most smiley faces in class. They spent every minute they could with each other. But, most impressive was what happened when their imaginations joined forces.

Jisty and Jona could be found everywhere on campus, always engrossed in whispers of conspiracy or adventure. The adults humored them; the other children had long learned to simply let them be. As a result, tales of tigers in the backyard and purple ants were generally ignored with a good portion of humor.

So when stories about a Komodo dragon lurking around campus surfaced, everyone smiled, nodded, ruffled their hair and said “uh-huh.” Only this time the Komodo dragon lingered on, his antics getting wilder by the day. One day, Jisty and Jona can running into my office yelling, “Aunty Fylvia, the Komodo dragon is chasing a snake in your backyard. You better keep the cat indoors or he’ll eat him up.” Like everyone else, I listened, nodded and smiled. I even asked them to describe the dragon to me.  “It’s brown and as tall as you, Aunty Fylvia,” they insisted.

A couple of days later, there was a big commotion by the entrance to the in-patient area. A crowd had gathered, and there was a lot of hand gesturing and concerned murmuring. There were even some hurriedly creating makeshift weapons out of the fresh bamboo stalks nearby. Getting closer, here’s what we saw. (When you figure that each tile is a square foot, I guess Jisty and Jona weren’t imagining it to be about as tall as Aunty Fylvia). And no, the “komodo dragon” was not harmed. He managed to get away and was never seen again.

Feature image by Kalle Kortelainen on Unsplash

Life in Nepal, Personal Ramblings, Places

neither shockers nor surprises

There’s so such thing as quality assurance or JCAHO certification in many hospitals overseas. So, after being shocked by things around Scheer Memorial Hospital for the first three months, we became immuned to pretty much everything. You would also be if you were witness to bricks used as weights for traction; sleeping bags strewn in the hallways for patients when the beds were full; the surgeon walking out of surgery to the maintenance shed so he could retro fit a cranial brace to fit a leg; or a child scream through stitches across his face for lack of anesthesia.

Yeah, you pretty much have to be ready for anything to survive. That’s why when we thought we heard some kind of bleating sound coming from the X-Ray department as we were walking across the hospital courtyard, from home to work one morning, Roy pulled me by the elbow saying, “Just keep walking. It’s way too early in the morning to wonder what that could be. Just keep walking.”

About an hour later, I saw Dr. Rick saying goodbye to his patient. There he was–affluent surgeon, who once lived in the same neighborhood as Tom Hanks, now turned missionary–taking care of the goat of a friend of friend of someone he barely knew. A couple hours of hospital time, x-rays, an orthopedic consult, follow up visit, medical supplies–all pro bono.

Yeah, we saw a lot of strange stuff in that hospital that one would never see in the Western world. And all that we saw made every day so fulfilling and meaningful.

Feature image by Tobias Federle on Unsplash

Life in Nepal, Places

remembering those 13-course meals

One of our favorite places to eat in Kathmandu was Nepali Chulo. We made sure every volunteer group that visited us experienced  it. For $7, you got a 13-course dinner that included folk dances and raksi on fire.

The food was always so good that I stopped taking pictures once I was served. These were taken on Roy’s birthday. The Klines and the Forbes spent the day shopping, had dinner at the Chulo and pampered ourselves with a night at the Soaltee Crowne Plaza.

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Feature image by Tiago Rosado on Unsplash

Life in Nepal, Personal Ramblings

some kind of mother’s love

I am good at burying memories of my not-so-proud moments. I’m really, really good at it. But then sometimes, something random and innocuous  trips my memory blocker and I remember the moment–in detailed clarity and with all the original embarrassment.

Today a cute little dog name Tia was what made me remember one of my moments.

It was about the third week of our  life in Nepal. We were still the fresh, drenched-behind-the-ears missionaries getting used to many things–a stone and marble home without heat in the Himalayan winter; scrawny chickens that looked like turtle doves at the dinner table; boiling and filtering water to drink; showing some respect to the soldiers carrying machine guns at the army posts along the highway; topping off a sandwich with Yak cheese instead of Swiss.

Life was exciting and adventuresome. Even in that which we didn’t care for, we reveled in the experience of it (like the first time we realized the delicious treat was buffalo innards). Even when listening to warnings from the US Embassy officials about living in Maoist territory, we felt a Superman-like wave of the thrill of danger.

I was like Super Mom, Super Wife and Super Missionary molded into one tough, good-looking woman. At least that’s how I saw myself–until one dark, so-quiet-you-can-hear-the-silence night. It must have been about 2 in the morning. I was fast asleep. So were Roy, the kids and the dog. Then, all of a sudden, out of the stillness of the night, came the loudest thunderous sound I had ever heard. In that instant between sleep and wakefulness, I knew it was a bomb.

Screaming, I jumped out of bed and began running down the hallway towards the front door. Alongside me was Wrinkles, also running, trying to beat me to the door. I was out the door, in the middle of the open yard before I realized that I had run out of the house without thinking of Roy or the kids. I was just thinking of getting myself out to safety. Looking through the open front door, I saw my family looking at me like I was crazy.

Some Superwoman I turned out to be. The fact that Wrinkles was far from being man’s best friend that night by trying to get out before saving her family didn’t make me feel  any better either.

Life in Nepal, Personal Ramblings, Places

i remember skies like this

This photograph of  the Milky Way through the rugged Annapurna, brought back memories of the sparkling canopy of stars in the Banepa skies and the lessons learned my first few months there. (I found the photo  here)

Life in Nepal, Personal Ramblings

scheer during the civil war #3

April 24, 2006 (In response to the headquarters in Hosur asking Roy if there was anything they could do for us from India)

Come to think of it, you can FedEx me some Chicken Biryani. All there is to eat is rice, lentils and potatoes. Crops are rotting in the fileds due to the extended bandh. After three weeks of this diet my eyes are starting to slant ever so slightly, and I’m beginning to speak East Baltimorese with an Irish brogue. I’m not sure what that’s all about.

The hospital is held in high esteem by the demonstrators, which is basically 99% of the Nepalese people. We are one of the “martyr hospitals” now with the first shot demonstrators having died here. We are as good as gold. When one of our ambulances approaches a mob of demonstrators, they part like the Red Sea did for Moses. The U.S. Embassy has appointed me to the Overseas Security Advisory Council, so we have all bases covered. I’m already the U.S. Embassy Warden for Kavre District. I have contracts, MOUs and personal understandings in place with all factions over here. We would survive and do well even if the Smurfs took over.

There’s only enough petrol in the country for the next 4 days, but we’ve made a premptive move to garner the gas in Kavre District. Mobile phones have been cut. International lines are OK for now. I am using a satellite phone when I’m in the mountains or on the move. Ambulances going in to Kathmandu need a white man in the front seat. Anyone can call me on my sat phone in an EMERGENCY. It costs me a dollar a minute or fraction thereof, so no idle chat. The # is 8821654260895. There’s talk of internet being yanked like they did on Februay 1, 2005. But we’re ready this time. We’ve started our own internet services provider on campus, with a VSAT downlink. The king can cut off all phone lines and we’ll still be able to communicate by both email and Skype.

I’m eyeing up this one particular cow that hangs out on the road going to the Chandeswari Temple. The longer this morass drags out, the more I fear for this particular cow’s chances of survival. I’m worried that he’ll disappear one night. Nepal has a high rate of disappearances, you know. Tell the folks in India that our spirits are high; our healthcare services remain excellent and uninterrupted; and the beacon is burning bright as hell. Also the Nepali Church growth is BOOMING. I’ll have Fylvia email you about that.

God save the King for the Hague!


Life in Nepal, Personal Ramblings, Places

scheer during the civil war–#2

Brief emails from Roy to the head office during the civil war in Nepal.

March 10, 2006

We’re on a mass casualty alert –the first one in the history of the hospital. Banepa is a war zone. The police station has been destroyed, the municipal building sacked and burnt, and now there’s about 1200 demonstrators battling police. The difference between yesterday and today is that there is about a 500-man army contingent holding the  high ground outside the Hospital that I don’t think the demonstrators know anything about. The army moved in last night under the coverage of darkness and the curfew. We look for them to be moving down to join the fray shortly. All three fatalities yesterday were head shots–no rubber bullets here. There is a 7:00 am to 9:00 pm military curfew in effect for Banepa, and the normal 9:00 pm to 4:00 am government curfew for Kavre District in effect. That leaves us the bustling hours of 4:00 am to 7:00 am to take care of our affairs. We have enough food to hold out for about 4 days, fuel for about 6 days. We’re digging in.

April 17, 2006

There are enough war stories around here to write a best-selling book. The problem is that the government would come down on us quicker than Jack Sprat if we were to go on record relating just 10% of what we have seen. No sense alarming you or anyone else with anecdotes. Rest assured that all employees are giving 100% and Scheer is enjoying one of its finest moments. At some future point in time, when people reflect on this era in Nepal’s history, Scheer will be well-respected and appreciated for having been in the vanguard of providers that treated the injured on all sides without regard to any factors other than need. I’m very proud of all of our staff members–from the gardeners to the surgeons, and the Church should be also. Adventist or not, they are exemplifying the best in compassion and care rendered in a difficult practice setting.

Life in Nepal, Personal Ramblings

memo from the ceo

Cleaning out my hard drive today, I came across this email Roy wrote the expatriate staff at the hospital in Nepal, at the height of the civil war.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006, 7:26 a.m.

Please be apprised that I have been in contact with both Elder Ron Watts, President of the Southern Asia Division, and Elder Matthew Bediako, General Conference Secretary. These compassionate and eminent church leaders are concerned about the escalating domestic situation in Nepal and, even more so, for our safety. I have assured them that while we have no control over the spiraling unrest gripping the nation and lurching towards an unpredictable finality, we absolutely do have control over what transpires here at the hospital. All of you are doing your jobs under trying and stressful circumstances as well as any employee of any Adventist mission hospital in the world. I am extremely proud of your pulling together, contending with the ephemeral deprivations of the little luxuries that make life a little more bearable here even in the best of times, tolerating the limitations of travel associated with the ongoing bandh and the government’s daily curfews, overcoming the natural anxiety and fear that you might be experiencing as you watch everything that is going on in Nepal, and a host of other feelings that we share.

Firstly, remember that God is in control at all times. He will ensure that his angels protect us through even the most difficult of times. Secondly, remember that Scheer has been serving Nepal longer than the lifespan of most of the protagonists involved in today’s conflict. Scheer is both a nationally and internationally well-respected institution on whose service the community depends. And how they have rallied around to assure us of their full support!

Lastly, remember that I would not ask any of you to do a single thing that I would not do myself. We have all worked together for several years, doing the Lord’s work. This hospital is in its 46th year of operation and has never been more viable. We are resisiting Satan’s best efforts and are winning. The hospital will survive this turbulent period with its head held high and its reputation for uninterrupted quality of care intact. Your individual and collective work efforts, your prayers, and your continued support for hospital administration’s watch care will ensure that the hospital remains unscathed. In this sea of turbulence, the nation is counting on its few anchors of stability to remain in place. Let’s work together, as we have been doing, and ride this out like the professionals and people of faith that we know we are.

In His service,


Favorite Photos, Life in Nepal

the face of revolution




In the center of Banepa, in the middle of the only major intersection was once the statue of the king. At the start of the revolution, we woke up one day to find it covered with anti-monarchy/pro-democracy posters. In the middle of the revolution, it lost its head which was miraculously restored overnight. But by the end of the revolution, the statue was a mere heap of rubble in the middle of town.